New theme page has caused a large drop in referrals for commercial shops

The new WordPress.org commercial theme page — which was launched just a couple of weeks ago — seems to have greatly reduced the number of referrals to commercial theme shops.

Many commercial theme providers featured on WordPress.org are noting 80%+ drops in referrals. Bill Robbins, of Organized Themes, noted in the WP Tavern comments, “WordPress.org has been a reliable referrer of tens of thousands of dollars a year in sales. I wonder if anything can be done to boost the visibility of that link again.”

The issue was brought up in the WordPress Meta Trac, and project manager Sam Sidler said the following:

Overall, traffic is considerably down on the commercial themes page.
Just to keep a record of the changes on this page:

  1. On the morning (EST) of March 4, we switched the “Upload Your Theme” and “Commercial” links.
  2. This morning (EDT), we changed “Commercial” to “Commercial Themes”

The former change resulted in ~30% increase in traffic to the commercial themes page (comparing week to week; but still preliminary data). We don't yet have data on the latter change yet.

Also note that overall “exit” traffic to the page has increased by ~2% since the switch to the new theme directory. This indicates that, when people get there, they are more likely to click through to a theme page.

However, given that traffic is down considerably, the increase from switching links and the increase in “exit” traffic is likely not noticeable to commercial theme shops.

Additionally, Hugo Baeta proposed a design change to bring “Commercial Themes” into more relevance, next to other theme filters:

theme-repo-ux

I wrote a blog post last April on the power of WordPress.org on freemium products. The same applies to this situation. Relying on a third party for revenue opportunities is a very dangerous game.

Obviously, I don't think anyone maliciously wanted to reduce referrals to commercial theme providers, but a small change on WordPress.org has had a huge effect on some theme shops. I am glad, though, to see that the team is open to improvements to make commercial themes more visible.

A note on featured themes

I also had someone email me about how featured themes are chosen. This has been a big debate over the years, as at one point it was quite game-able for folks that were seeking featured status, by reviewing themes.

I confirmed with Konstantin Obenland how a theme gets featured, and it's very simple, if inelegant: themes that have been updated in the last year areΒ randomly selected to be featured. They're open to ideas if you have them for making that better.

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