How to Start a WordPress Gutenberg Block Plugin Business — Freemius

It’s been more than two years since Gutenberg made its public debut. While it had a rocky start, the team has made significant improvements and the slow uptake has accelerated to over 68 million active installations. This shows that there is a clear demand for new blocks-based plugin businesses to enter the market. So, if you’ve been thinking of taking the leap, now’s the time.

Why Is Gutenberg Such a Unique, Time-Limited Market Opportunity for Plugin Developers

Gutenberg is a giant leap forward for WordPress as a CMS. With it, users can easily publish custom-designed pages, posts, and (soon) their entire website’s design using the upcoming Full Site Editing. This is all made possible with simple, intuitive drag-and-drop actions.

Vertical Leaders Are Waiting on the Sidelines

Up until now, the core team has been releasing unstable — and sometimes non-backward compatible — updates and features for the editor. Due to this, many well-established plugin and theme businesses have been content to wait on the sidelines until the editor becomes more stable. With several updates planned, that stability shouldn’t be too far off.

There are 198 million+ posts published with the Gutenberg editor with approx. 289 thousand posts written daily.

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With that many posts already being built with the block editor, it makes Gutenberg a very lucrative market to tap into, and one that could prove game-changing for developers who get in early.

Different Mindset, UI, UX, and Set of Expertise

Remember when Instagram was a little-known platform with image-sharing capabilities that weren’t much different from Facebook’s?

The Power of the Blocks Category on the WordPress.org Repo

If you’ve been following Gutenberg’s growth, you’ve no doubt seen the new block directory on the WordPress.org repo.

The WordPress Ecosystem & Its Leadership Are Collectively Pushing Gutenberg

If you visit the main plugins page on WordPress.org, the new feature section is — surprise — Block-Enabled Plugins:

The Recipe to Build a Block-Based Gutenberg Plugin

To help you get your foot in the digital door and take advantage of the time-limited opportunity, we’ve rustled up a straightforward — yet thorough — recipe for starting a freemium Gutenberg plugin business:

  • Develop free Gutenberg block plugins and block-based plugins (start with one).
  • Leverage the distribution of the WordPress.org repository by submitting the plugin to the new heavily pushed categories.
  • Amplify the buzz and exposure of your free plugins by reaching out to WordPress publications like WordPress Tavern to spread the news.
  • Optimize your WordPress.org plugin(s) listing(s) for SEO to maximize visibility.
  • Build your reputation, brand, and audience.
  • Introduce a paid offering and upsell it within the free plugin.

How to Find Opportunities for Block-Based Gutenberg Plugins

Feel free to skip ahead if you’ve already got an idea for the next big thing in Gutenberg. If you’re still mulling over potential ideas, read on for some tips and thought-starters.

Get Familiar with Gutenberg Editor

This is obvious but it needs to be said — use Gutenberg religiously. By immersing yourself in the editor, you’ll be able to identify what it lacks and how you can fill the gaps.

Do Demand-Based Keywords Research

Remember the “recipe” example that returned just two block plugins? This is because the current search mechanism only pulls results from the WordPress.org block category when there are no native matching blocks found in Gutenberg and the already activated plugins. So, a simple “algorithm” to decide on which idea to develop would be to identify high-volume keyphrases that don’t match native Gutenberg blocks and don’t have popular plugins with matching block names in those verticals.

Get Inspiration from Existing Page Builder Ecosystems

Apart from using the block editor to identify opportunities, spend some time browsing existing page builders (both within and outside of the WordPress ecosystem).

Developing a Gutenberg Block

The Block Editor Handbook is a great place to start. It’s a detailed guide to help you get comfortable with the new blocks model and to set up your development environment and tools.

Submitting Plugins to the WordPress.org Repository

To host a free version of your plugin in the WordPress.org repository, you need to get approval from the plugin review team. The review process is manual and it can take anywhere from 1 to 10 days (depending on the complexity of your plugin). Before submitting, however, you need to have a few assets in place such as the readme.txt file, screenshots, and icon.

How to Get Your Gutenberg Block-Based Plugin Featured on WordPress Media

Getting your block-based plugin featured on popular WordPress publications can give it the credibility and traction necessary for quick uptake and momentum. This is an ‘OG marketing strategy’ and many successful products in the WordPress space started with this kind of outreach.

Ranking Your Plugin Higher With SEO Techniques

There are only a handful of block-enabled plugins in the repo, which gives you time (but not much!) to establish yourself with data-backed SEO techniques. Early adopters have an advantage over latecomers in that search algorithms are already familiar with their business and products.

  1. Excerpt (short description)
  2. Description (including FAQ, changelog, etc.)
  3. Tags
  4. Slug
  5. Author name
  6. Contributors names
  7. Translations
  8. Releasing an update every 180 days
  9. Tested up to (compatibility with latest core version)
  10. Resolving support tickets

Key Actions to Build Reputation, Brand, and Audience

Apart from creating a valuable block plugin, you need to devote time to building brand authority and thought leadership in your niche. Start with the basics:

  1. Pay attention to your users: Listening to your plugin’s early adopters will help you map the development of your plugin and decide on which features to introduce, fast track, and do away with. You’ll also discover how people are using your block plugin — often in ways you didn’t envision initially. Also, when users see how committed you are to the quality of support and the product as a whole, they’ll be more likely to use and recommend the plugin to others.
  2. Collect testimonials and market your plugin: You can capitalize on release updates and resolved support tickets to get positive reviews and testimonials. For example, if you successfully solve a support ticket, you can politely ask the user to leave a 5-star review on the WordPress.org repo. This will improve your block plugin rankings, increase visibility, and ultimately, help you get more users.
  3. Learn about your users and incorporate insights into your marketing strategy: To connect and resonate with your target demographic, you need to first understand your current customer base and their activities. Having a clear idea of who your users are and why they take their actions will help you reposition your marketing efforts accordingly. While WordPress has its own analytics board, I’ve found it to be quite limited. If you are selling a blocks plugin (and not a single block) in the WordPress plugin directly, you can integrate with Freemius to better understand your user base.
  4. Create a website (even if your paid version is still in development): A website is your product’s digital storefront, a nodal point for your audience to gravitate towards should they have any queries, suggestions, or just want to self-solve/troubleshoot problems using your FAQs or knowledge base. Sometimes the best customer service is empowering users with the information they need to fix things on their own, which creates a positive impression and nurtures consumer trust.
  5. Start content marketing: It takes time to see results, but consistently publishing in-depth, well-researched content is well worth it in the long run. High-quality content that addresses your target market’s needs and pain points will boost your brand profile and go a long way towards creating thought leadership/authority in your niche. Read More: Promote Your WordPress Plugin With Content Marketing.
  6. Email marketing: Collect emails from day one so that you have a way to communicate directly with your audience. You can add a newsletter subscription form on your blog and create marketing assets — such as eBooks or white papers — that require a user to submit their email address to access.
  7. Send regular newsletters: Keep your subscribers interested by deploying monthly newsletters to update them on forthcoming features and topics of interest in the ecosystem. You don’t have to keep them to once a month either — newsletters are a great way of announcing special events like product launches or partnerships/collaborations.

Turning a Block Into Freemium and Upselling It Within the Free Plugin

There are two ways you can go about implementing the freemium business model for your block.

Single Block Plugin

If you decide to monetize a single block plugin, you need to strictly adhere to the Block Specific Plugin Guidelines. This means you have to keep the code lightweight, with minimum server-side code dependency. Meaning, the block needs to be mostly JavaScript-based. Regardless, and just like with regular plugins, you cannot “cripple” the plugin by restricting logic behind a paywall.

Blocks Plugin

If you decide to build a plugin with multiple blocks, you need to comply with the General Plugin Guidelines. Though your blocks won’t show up in Gutenberg’s block search before the free version is installed, you get more flexibility for upselling the paid offering, such as with admin notices, upgrade links, and (if you’re extremely brave) you can even add a giant GIF banner to advertise it 😉

Single Block Plugin or Single Blocks Plugin?

To maximize the benefits of this new, underutilized distribution channel, I recommend that you:

  • Submit them to the WordPress.org Block category
  • Then either upsell your free, fully-fledged WordPress.org blocks collection plugin or directly nudge users to a pricing page of your paid blocks plugin.

Integrating a Block with Freemius

For paid-only blocks, integration is pretty easy as there’s no free version, and paid features don’t need to be removed during deployment. This type of block can be structured pretty much as you want — as long as the code to load premium scripts is wrapped with the usual Freemius licensing logic.

if( fs()->can_use_premium_code__premium_only() ) { // paid logic here }

Ready to Launch?

WordPress is an ever-evolving ecosystem, and with the introduction of the Gutenberg block editor, there is a whole new spectrum of possibilities for innovative and unique block-first plugins. As the market is still relatively untapped, proactive developers have a truly unique opportunity to make an early impact and establish themselves before saturation sets in.

Monetization & Insights platform for #WordPress #plugin #developers.

Monetization & Insights platform for #WordPress #plugin #developers.