We’ve regularly written about the state of WordPress searches over the years: from the first article analysing a 52% spike in searches in 2020, to an in-depth look at a search lull in the summer of 2021, looking at how search traffic and volumes are faring usually reveals a lot about the status of the whole industry. 

A lot has changed over the last few months which will have had an impact: post-COVID, one would expect the online transition of retailers to have slowed down significantly, particularly after the first few months of lockdowns which forced most people online. Paired with the economic and political turmoil of the last few months, we went into this edition of the research expecting to observe a dip.

The CMS market share story seems to support this view: WordPress’ market share is almost flat year-on-year, and has dipped by 0.7% since its peak of 65.2% in August 2021

In the same period, Shopify has grown 1.2% market share YoY, and Wix 1.1%. eCommerce is particularly interesting for these platforms: Shopify reported merchant growth is up 47% year on year, in Q4 last year. Shopify’s SEC filings show it spent spent $300m on marketing in same period for that 1.2% market share.

WordPress, of course, directly spent nothing for its 65.2% share. The perennial question remains: can WordPress continue to compete? Search volumes for WordPress topics remain some of the best data to get more insight into specifically what people are trying to do with WordPress.

For this study, we’ve upgraded our methodology significantly to increase its accuracy. Last year, we used this basket of 600+ WordPress + WooCommerce keywords. This year, helped with FALCON AI‘s database, we have 58x more keywords. We’ve looked at 35,000 keywords for this post.

35,000 keywords obviously means we can get more accurate data than ever before. We cover literally everything with this data.

Searches for WordPress keywords are up 7.4% year on year, Woo up 12.0%

Let’s have a look at the headlines, then look at more detail below:

  • WordPress searches are up 7.4% YoY
  • WooCommerce searches are up 12% YoY 
  • Themes have seen a resurgence in interest with search volumes back up by 11% YoY. Shoutout to themes!

After the dip in the first half of 2022, 25% growth in a single quarter 

The headline news this year is that last year’s Q2-Q3 search interest dip was indeed only temporary: Q4 rallied significantly and brought with it the largest volume of search traffic for WordPress we’ve seen yet, with a growth of 25% in absolute volumes from Q3 to Q4

This aligns with what Dr. Oliver Crook found when performing a linear regression on our data last year: when eliminating the seasonal trend for searches, the trend for WordPress searches remains one of growth.

The total monthly searches for WordPress keywords hit over 10 million searches per month in Q4. This is the first time the absolute number has hit over 10 million.

Q1 2022 has also followed this trend: there has been a decrease from Q4, but the results currently show an absolute growth of 7.4% in Search Volume year on year.

This means there are currently 8.8m monthly searches for WordPress terms, up from 7.7m at the start of 2021.

For some nuance: removing outlier keywords (mostly related to general usability) gives us 7.4m monthly searches for WordPress terms, up from 6.7m 12 months ago (9% increase).

Numbers like these show you why we’re so bullish on SEO Content as a marketing channel, and why we see so much success with it.

There are at least 10-20k searches per month for nearly every product category: get in touch and we’ll happily run a search volume analysis for your product.

WooCommerce searches grew by a further 7% in Q4, and 12% YoY

The story for WooCommerce searches is even more positive: recovery started earlier in Q3 and continued with 7% in Q4. This translated to a 12% year on year growth in volume for WooCommerce searches, based on the 10,000+ WooCommerce-focused keywords in our database.

These positive patterns correspond closely to what we’ve observed across WordPress businesses’ revenue over the last months: after the expected peak of November’s Black Friday rush in Q4, December showed a relatively normal dip for the Christmas season, but one which was quickly reversed in Q1.

Note, that whilst WordPress searches dipped in Q1, but we don’t see this with WooCommerce keywords. Woo seems to be “sticking”.

In most cases, Q1 sales for WordPress businesses have been significantly stronger year on year. This matches with the search data.

Themes seem to have found the middle ground

We’ve previously reflected on the role of themes in WordPress: after the huge drop in sales and interest as the market changed considerably with the growth of Gutenberg, Elementor and similar tools. However, themes have mostly been swift to adapt, and their relevance, while substantially different to what it was in the past, remains significant. 

A look at their search trends (based on 5,000+ kws) reveals that themes have seen a growth in interest too: not at the same levels as the rest of the ecosystem, but strong and still ahead of last year. Overall, it looks like the interest in themes has found its middle ground: 

While we don’t have any sales data we can quote which can corroborate this view, the news here seems to indicate that the future for themes is stability, if not marginal growth overall.

There are still 1.5m people looking for WordPress themes, every month. Themes remain a great market to be in.

CPC levels have cooled back down

The story with Google ads is surprising: our expectation was that CPC could only be higher as competition grows alongside the industry.

This doesn’t seem to be the case. In our last update we highlighted 10 keywords which saw a 563% increase in CPC, year on year. That average has now dropped 61%, taking us much closer to the starting level:

KeywordCPC/USD
(May 2020)
CPC/USD
(Jul 2021)
CPC/USD
(Apr 2022)
Average (top 8)$1.22$8.11$3.12
% change (top 8)n/a563%-61%
woocommerce backorder plugin$1.13$11.16$1.11
woocommerce customizer$1.74$13.50$2.30
woocommerce membership$0.56$4.15$2.35
wordpress crm woocommerce$1.83$11.74$5.35
wordpress analytics plugin$0.80$4.53$6.03
wp woocommerce$0.89$4.96$2.39
woocommerce catalog plugin$1.18$6.37$3.17
woocommerce product page plugin$1.65$8.45$2.29

While levels are still generally higher than they were 2 years ago, the huge spike we saw during the dip in search levels last year has abated.

This offers the theory that when search trends are down, WordPress businesses rush to advertise to make up for the loss

This isn’t the best strategic decision: the return on search ads is already generally very low for most WordPress businesses. 

Framed in this light, it looks like the industry all reacts in a similar fashion at the same time, meaning costs will be even higher during slower periods, making it much harder to get a good ROI

As we’ve reflected in the past, investing in SEO Content is a much more efficient long-term use of marketing funds: get it right, and it’ll keep giving your business return over time. The traffic might fluctuate, as this post shows, but content delivers in the long run. With search ads, the minute you stop spending, all traffic is switched off.

10 million people per month search for WordPress terms; search growth outpaces market share

At Ellipsis, we’re privileged to work with clients who operate across different parts of WordPress: from diverse plugin and theme creators to hosts, agencies and freelancers, we get a lot of insight about what’s going on in the industry.

Mix this with our regular work to improve marketing strategy for all our clients, and our groundbreaking FALCON AI, and we get a lot of insight into current trends.

Ellipsis leads on WordPress + marketing, and we have a duty to share our insights with you! This post does that. The next question we get asked is is what’s going to happen next? Have we hit “peak WordPress”?

Certainly not: even with stagnating CMS market share, our data shows usage of WordPress is getting more complex. We will need to start looking beyond market share in the future, and this data gives some colour to that.

We are seeing some changes that reflect the current status: branding is becoming more important, and it’s more important than ever to have the right strategy.

We can, of course, help: drop us an email and we can chat about the right approach for your business.

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About Alex Denning

Hey, I'm Alex! I'm Managing Director of Ellipsis. I'm @AlexDenning 👏

2 comments add your comment

  1. Super interesting analysis!

    Would it be possible to share which WooCommerce keywords were tracked in the study?

    • Thanks Tim! We looked at 10k WooCommerce keywords, so a sheet isn’t that practical – will reach out via email!

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