Track Your WordPress Plugin With Plugin Rank. An Interview With Iain Poulson.

I’ve recently seen something that caught my eye from the people behind WPContent (a ManageWP.org replacement) that I think could be of benefit to WordPress plugin developers. 

For the record, LayerWP isn’t WPTavern so forgive my slow uptake, that said, I saw something called Plugin Rank, and it piqued my interest. So, me, being me, I thought, why not have a chat with the person behind it?

To the uninitiated, Plugin Rank aims to help plugin developers improve their WordPress.org SEO game, with keyword tracking, competitor analysis, and more.

I’m waffling….

Over to you Iain.

I’m Iain Poulson and I’ve been working with WordPress professionally since 2012 after I started using it for client sites and then built my first plugin. 

I run a couple of WordPress plugin businesses, Intagrate and WP User Manager, as well the WordPress news and community site WP Content, and co-hosting the Pressing Matters podcast. I also work with the WordPress product company Delicious Brains.

Q. How did the idea for Plugin Rank come about?

After we started doing some optimization of the readme.txt for one of our plugins at Delicious Brains, we set up a spreadsheet to track the positions changes over time in the wordpress.org search results.

I then started to do this same work for my plugins but became frustrated at the manual process of monitoring the results of my work and how easy it was to forget to check the positions. 

So I started to build something to do it for me, and it turned into Plugin Rank where other people could do the same.

Q. How important is it to have an optimized Readme.txt file and can you give an example? (I’ve got to be honest I didn’t even know this was a thing!).

The plugin listing on the WordPress.org plugin directory is driven from the plugin’s readme.txt file.

The listing page is important in how it ranks in search results. So if you have a free plugin with a premium version or add-ons, it’s extremely important to optimize your readme.txt so the plugin ranks high for the search terms you care about.

I’ll take my Instagram WordPress plugin as an example. The readme.txt was written as soon as I had finished developing the plugin when I was ready to release it on WordPress.org.

The description was probably rushed, and I didn’t put any thought into writing a proper copy that was useful for users and the WordPress search engine.

As soon as I started to use keywords in the readme.txt copy strategically, I managed to see some impressive results in my rankings.

This then led to more users finding my plugin and using it, which in turn has converted users to my premium version.

Freemium is a great business model when done right, and using the WordPress.org plugin repository as a marketing channel is a no brainer.

Q. What other ranking factors (that you know of) affect a listing on WordPress.org?

Aside from using keywords in your title, tags, and readme description, the WordPress.org search algorithm takes into account a number of other factors:

  • Title 
  • Last updated date
  • Compatibility with core version 
  • Number of active installs
  • Percentage of resolved support tickets
  • Average rating
  • Slug
  • Author name
  • Contributor names

The description also takes into account the FAQs, so that’s a great place to add more keywords. I go into much more detail about optimizing these ranking factors in this guide to optimizing your WordPress plugin readme.txt for higher rankings.

Q. How can Plugin Rank help with these factors?

Plugin Rank, at the moment, can help you stay on top of the results of changes you are making to your readme.txt. It also surfaces the ranking factors for your plugins so you can make changes where necessary. 

The resources on the site also help inform plugin developers about what they can do to help improve their results in the rankings.

Q. WordPress.org SEO is a time-consuming process (time better spent elsewhere on developing a plugin) how much time could developers save using Plugin Rank?

Plugin Rank takes away the manual process of checking your plugin positions and makes sure you get the data reliably every day, with a weekly or monthly email report showing a summary of your plugin’s position data.

This means you can see the changes that are happening to your rankings without needing to remember to do anything.

You can see when they are improving or perhaps when they are declining due to competitor plugins moving up.

In real terms, manually monitoring 10-20 keywords for a plugin each week would take you just over an hour, so over a month, using Plugin Rank would save you 4-5 hours, which could be spent on plugin development.

Q. How can Plugin Rank help with competitor analysis?

When you track a keyword with Plugin Rank for your plugin, you can see the top 50 plugins for that keyword, along with the crucial ranking factor stats for each of those plugins.

This gives you valuable insight into what those plugins are doing well to result in higher rankings, allowing you to focus your efforts in the right area to push your plugin up the rankings.

That might be an increase in the keyword usage, working on getting more reviews for your plugin, or making sure you keep on top of the support.

Q. Where do you pull the data from, and how reliable is it, how often is it updated?

The data is pulled from the WordPress.org plugins API, which is the same API WordPress itself uses when you search for a plugin on WordPress.org or from within your WordPress dashboard.

The data is refreshed daily, and as a large number of WordPress sites use the API, it appears to be extremely robust.

Q. I see you can track keywords across multiple languages. How many languages are on offer?

WordPress, the core software is translated into 161 different languages, and the searches for plugins between various language installations can return different results. 

If you are on the Plus or Pro plan, you can track keywords in any of these 161 languages. This is extremely useful if your plugin is targeting a specific country or language, for example, a WooCommerce add-on for a French shipping provider.

Q. Will Plugin Rank offer actionable tips/guides for members on how to rank their products? (will it only be accessible to members)

The resources area of the site is the place where I will be publishing content to help plugin authors increase their SEO in the WordPress.org repository and generally improve their plugins – and that is open to all.

I’ve also got an email list where folks can subscribe to get regular plugin tips and updates about Plugin Rank.

Q. Plugin Rank surely is one part of the process in terms of SEO, what other tools would you recommend developers use to optimize the written content?

Not all developers are writers, and that’s ok.

Writing a conversion-optimized copy is an art form, and not everyone has the time to upskill in that area.

If that’s the case, then I recommend hiring a copywriter or WordPress focussed marketing company.

Q. I like the idea of receiving emails with stats on how plugins are fairing on WordPress.org, can you increase or decrease the rate at which emails are sent, to keep up to date?

plugin rank email

The Plugin Rank email summary can be configured to be sent weekly, monthly or not at all. 

Q. Will you add tracking for freemium WordPress themes?

It’s on the ideas list, but it depends on the response from the WordPress developer community to see if it’s something they want.

I think at the moment, there is a bigger ecosystem of freemium plugins that leverage the WordPress.org repository to get users and potential customers, so plugins are the initial focus.

Q. I’ve noticed you offer a free 21 day trial for Plugin Rank, how confident are you at converting to paid for customers?

21 days is a good period to get to see how the app works and make some changes to see results being monitored.

I’m confident that developers will see the value, but as with anything, it’s an experiment that feedback and user experience will help mold the service going forward.

Q. The pricing seems fair, considering the return developers can receive from a Freemium plugin (upgrading etc.) Do you plan on adding more pricing packages?

Not at this point in time, although there is an option to contact me for a quote if a customer is looking to track more plugins and keywords than is currently available with the existing plans.

Q. Will you offer a white label version of Plugin Rank?

There are no plans to make a fully white-labeled version of the app. Still, I can see the email reports working really well as a white label if the Plugin Rank customer is, for example, a marketing agency serving multiple clients.

There’s also on the roadmap the ability to group plugins, which would help for this type of customer.

Q. I’m assuming that Plugin Rank had a beta period, how successful were the beta testers using Plugin Rank? Do you have anything you could share stat-wise?

I had several developers using Plugin Rank while in beta and were really happy with the time it saved them and insights it gave them.

Q. Any tips or tricks you can share with ranking plugins on WordPress.org using Plugin Rank?

👉 Read this 😉

Q. What’s on the horizon in terms of features for Plugin Rank?

The next feature I’m planning on adding is true competitor tracking, where you can add several plugins as competitors to your plugin.

Then Plugin Rank will chart how you stack up against those plugins for the rankings of the keywords you’ve been tracking.

Then it will be working on inbuilt insights on how to improve the SEO of the plugin readme.txt.

Q. How can people get hold of you?

I’m @polevaultweb on Twitter, find me at polevaultweb.com, or you can ask me questions about Plugin Rank here.

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Ben Owner of LayerWP

Written By Ben

With ten years plus working with WordPress, I guess you could say I’m a bit of a whizz with it. That said, I’m still learning just like you. If you’d like more reviews, news, tutorials, don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter.

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