WP Business Ep. 03: Theme Launch on WordPress.org

In this series I give insights into my WordPress theme business and report on ideas, plans, challenges and activities of the last month. In WP Business Ep. 03 for May 2018 I tell a little about a (successful) theme launch on WordPress.org.

You can find all episodes of the series in the My WordPress Business category .

Theme launch on WordPress.org: top or flop?

In spring I published my latest WordPress theme called Donovan , which was activated by the Theme Review Team after several weeks in the queue and has now been available in the theme directory on WordPress.org for some time.

Donovan theme

A successful theme launch on WordPress.org can generate a lot of free traffic and theme downloads, but it's far from easy these days. After all, almost 6,000 themes are now vying for the attention and favor of users.

Like so many marketplaces, WordPress.org is also subject to the winner-takes-it-all effect . Just as the top search results get the most clicks on Google, a small portion of the themes listed at the top on WordPress.org generate the majority of the downloads.

For comparison: My best themes get an average of 200-300 downloads per day, my worst themes are downloaded a maximum of 20-30 times a day. A good positioning in the theme directory is often decisive whether a theme is top or flop.

The lists in the WordPress theme directory

At the moment there are three categories in the WordPress theme directory:

  • Featured Themes (Featured)
    Shows 15 randomly selected themes in daily change
  • Popular themes
    Shows the most popular themes: ranking based on active installations and time in the directory
  • Latest themes
    Shows the latest themes: ranking by date of publication

WordPress Theme Directory

In addition to the three lists, themes can be filtered by function and found with a search. The download numbers that can be achieved with this are manageable. The list of Featured Themes brings many downloads, but it is a rare and one-off event.

A theme gets a lot of downloads right after it's published because it is at the top of the list of the latest themes. This start bonus ends relatively quickly, because newer themes are constantly being added.

The first two weeks after the launch

In order to get over 100 downloads per day through the theme directory, ultimately only the ranking in the popular themes plays a role.

A new theme will be added to this list after exactly two weeks . For a successful entry into the popular themes, it is therefore crucial how many active installations the theme was able to achieve in the first two weeks.

Here, too, the dynamism of the marketplace has an immediate effect. A good ranking results in better download numbers and an increase in active installations. There is a chance that the theme will stay on the popular list for longer or even establish itself in the long term.

A bad position means stagnating numbers and passing the topic down, because newer topics follow up here too. Usually after about 4 weeks I can already estimate whether a new theme will be economically successful.

Increase active installations

To increase the daily downloads, the screenshot of the theme is one of the most important starting points. The appearance or design of a theme is an influential selection criterion for users and a good theme screenshot with the correct images helps ensure that a theme is downloaded and tried out.

WordPress Theme Downloads

After maximizing the downloads, it is essential to win as many users as possible for permanent use of the theme. The conversion of downloads to active installations is extremely important because only these are included for the ranking.

My strategy for this is to pack as many features as possible into the free version of the theme and to ensure good usability. My assumption: the easier it is to set up and configure a theme and the shorter it takes to achieve a result like the one in the screenshot, the greater the likelihood that someone will choose my theme.

Aside from optimizing the theme, the active installations can of course also be increased from the outside through external sources. Larger theme shops, well-known blogs or web hosts have the advantage that they often already have a large follower base and customers with whom they can provide additional traffic and downloads themselves.

Translation of my new WordPress theme

For the launch of Donovan, I tried something new and had the theme professionally translated by WP-TranslationsPro . The agency specializes in translations of WordPress themes and plugins and the team consists almost exclusively of experienced members of the Polyglot teams at WordPress.org.

Only about half of all WordPress installations use the English language, the rest is spread across a large number of other languages, led by Japanese, German, Spanish, French, Russian, Italian and Dutch.

WordPress languages

I had Donovan translated into eight other languages ​​and, as always, provided the language file for German myself. Overall, these languages ​​cover around 30% of WordPress installations, so that, together with English, 80% of all WordPress users can now use the theme in their native language without having to translate themselves first.

Here too, of course, the idea is that the theme becomes more attractive and the active installations can be improved if it is completely translated and all texts are displayed directly in the correct language.

The cooperation with WP-TranslationsPro was very professional, pretty quick and extremely friendly. Clear recommendation! At € 0.17 per word, the translation cost just under € 70 per language. In addition to the theme, I also had the Donovan Pro add-on translated for the theme, so that a total of € 1,100 was invested.

An investment that has definitely paid off. It will not have been solely due to the translations, but after two months Donovan has now had over 4,000 active installations and thus a successful start.