Searches for WordPress are up 52% in the last month: understanding the surge

There’s been a lot of media noise about uncertainty over the last couple of weeks — and there is a lot of uncertainty — but not from our clients who sell WordPress products.

We work with WordPress businesses from small to very large on Effective SEO Content Marketing and we noticed that, during April, there’d been a surge in clicks for WordPress search terms. This was happening even when rankings didn’t change, suggesting there was a surge in interest in WordPress.

At the start of May, when April’s search data became available, I took a deeper look, and the increase in WordPress searches was bigger than I realised. This post is about that, and what it means.

Searches for WordPress have increased by 52% compared to the last month

The results we saw internally showed us we were on to something, but we needed to investigate further. To figure this out, I took a “basket” of 300+ WordPress keywords and looked at the change in monthly search volumes.

The basket idea is the same way inflation is calculated: you take a selection of products, and then work out the average change.

I took 310 WordPress and WooCommerce keywords and removed extreme outliers, giving us representative data. We noticed this with clients, but I calculated this only using public data from two of our SEO tools and the related keywords which were automatically selected from “WordPress” and “WooCommerce” searches.

The headline figures here are huge: 52.29% increase in searches last month, 67.33% increase since January, and an 85.10% increase over the last 12 months. I plotted the % change in search volume each month over the last 12 months: you can see a huge acceleration:

Graph showing monthly percentage change in search volume for 300+ WordPress keywords over the last 12 months

To reiterate: searches for WordPress solutions have increased by over half in the last month.

It’s reasonable to assume this increase is driven by the pandemic and, most likely, businesses suddenly needing a web presence. We often hear of the X million small businesses without a website, yet within the last month, many of those businesses have needed a website, and WordPress is an obvious solution.

Matching this data with WordPress’ overall CMS market share we can see that the pace of growth in WordPress searches slightly outpaces WordPress’ overall market share increase. We saw a ~0.5% increase in market share each month this year up to April, and then April to May a 0.64% increase. That’s a ⅓ increase in growth rate in April. The discrepancy can be explained as sites that were already set up needed rapid improvement.

If you look very closely at the graph of CMS market share, you can see a small uptick:

Chart showing CMS marketing share over the last 12 months

This is very good news for WordPress. I was curious as to the ratio of these users searching for free WordPress solutions versus those searching for paid WordPress solutions, and so I dug a bit deeper.

Do the new searchers want free or paid WordPress?

A huge increase in searches for WordPress solutions is good for the WordPress ecosystem, but in a pandemic are people buying products? Or are they looking for freebies?

There has been a ~20% bump in WordPress searches with high purchase intent in the last month.

This makes sense: there has been a noticeable increase in searches with high purchase intent (ie “is the searcher looking for something to buy?”), but it’s much lower than the overall increase. I calculated this change by splitting up the keywords by their estimated cost per click (CPC).

Anything with a $2+ CPC probably has moderate purchase intent, and $5+ is probably high purchase intent.

Here are the results:

Type of keywordMonthly change (March to April)Change since JanChange over 12 months
All keywords52.29%67.33%85.10%
$2+ CPC keywords31.14%40.56%72.69%
$5+ CPC keywords14.13%16.28%20.22%

Overall, it’s safe to say that a 20% increase in searches has a high purchase intent. 20% sounds less impressive when anchored against a 50% increase, but any other time of the year a 20% increase in sales would be a cause for celebration. If you’d like to see the full raw data, my spreadsheet is here.

The final question: what does this mean for sales? Should you have seen a 20% increase in sales last month?

What does this mean for sales?

You’ll only see sales change if SEO Content Marketing is an important part of your sales funnel.

We’ve seen an increase in sales corresponding to the increase in search volume from clients who’ve invested in SEO Content Marketing.

Now is an obvious time to mention: we do SEO Content Marketing which gets sales. If you’d like to see if we’re a good fit, please get in touch.

Whether or not SEO Content Marketing is part of your sales funnel explains why data from our friends at Freemius suggests an overall slowdown in sales. Interestingly, the Freemius team saw an increase in free downloads broadly matching the trend we see with search volume, but a decrease in paid sales.

Image source

This is not what we’re seeing, and leads me to think freemium plugins may have a more difficult time making sales than paid-only plugins.

You can see how there’s quite a lot of nuance here. There are a couple of other factors to consider when working out if you should see an increase in sales:

  • The relevancy and purchase intent of search traffic: have you got good “revenue keywords”, good content, and good rankings?
  • The quality of the on-page conversion rate optimisation for visitors to product sales
  • The quality of your general sales funnel: do you have any mechanism of capturing people not ready to buy yet?
  • Necessity vs luxury products: do I need your product to build my website?

You can see this creates more nuance. That said: the increase in search volumes is big enough that even poorly optimised content is going to see the benefit here. And, an increase in free installs is good too if you can convert those customers later.

The new normal and what happens next

What happens next? I don’t think things are going to go back to “normal”: this is the new normal.

If you’ve just set up your free WordPress website, you’re going to see the benefit from that for years to come. Your website will become an ever-more important part of your business, at which point you’re going to invest in functionality.

That investment will be seen throughout the WordPress ecosystem for many years. It looks like we’re seeing year+ of “digital transformation” take place in a month.

SEO Content Marketing is one of our favourite marketing channels for WordPress businesses. Where it’s a good fit, it’s perfect as you get traffic with high purchase intent each month. The findings here only validate that further.

There has probably never been a better time to invest in SEO Content: you can find out more about what we do here, and do get in touch for a chat.

The benefits of this aren’t going to be spread equally amongst the ecosystem, so whether you’d like to work with us on content or want some free advice, I’m very happy to talk.

Alex Denning

Alex Denning

Alex Denning is an SEO Content expert and the Managing Director of Ellipsis®, a world-class SEO Content agency. Alex is the inventor of FALCON AI®, the next-generation AI SEO platform that helps you predict how your content will perform – before you create it. Alex is an international speaker and publishes regularly on the future of SEO. @AlexDenning on Twitter

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