WordPress Marketing Team Launches Case Studies and Usage Survey for Agencies, Clients, and Enterprises

photo credit: Lukasz Kowalewski

WordPress’ Marketing Team has launched a set of surveys to gather case studies and usage data from agencies, clients, and enterprises, with the goal of providing more resources for adoption. The Usage Survey was created to capture feedback on the factors that influenced an organization to select WordPress as well as any barriers to using the software. The team plans to use use the data to provide resources, such as fact sheets, FAQs, case studies, testimonial videos, and other marketing materials.

During the State of the Word address in 2016, Matt Mullenweg said the project could no longer get by on “marketing happenstance” but needed to form a more coordinated effort to counter the millions of dollars that proprietary systems are spending marketing their products against WordPress. These research surveys are one of the first steps in that direction, along with the WordPress Growth Council that Mullenweg formed to bring together more people with large-scale marketing expertise.

With the proliferation of user-friendly, DIY commercial website solutions, WordPress has reached a critical time where the project needs to shed its image as a clunky, legacy CMS and demonstrate why it’s the market leader. This not only requires WordPress to deliver from a technical standpoint, especially in the areas of editing and customization, but also requires the 14-year-old project to step up its marketing efforts.

WordPress’ Marketing Team exists to “help people market WordPress as open source software and the WordPress community.” The need is evident, as even the most experienced WordPress professionals struggle to properly articulate the difference between WordPress.com and the self-hosted software in a way that newcomers can understand. This is an intractable marketing problem for the self-hosted community.

David Skarjune, a contributor on the Marketing Team who helped put the surveys together, describes the problem that WordPress professionals face in marketing the free software:

Here we have the classic WordPress.COM and WordPress.ORG duo that encompasses the nature of the WordPress free software system. This twosome drives the project and sometimes it drives us crazy—only because it instills wide-eyed confusion trying to explain these companion entities to the rest of the world. Simple enough: get a free blog at .COM or get free software and help at .ORG. However, free software makes no sense to the average person, and too many writers, marketers, and designers don’t much care how the InterWebs actually operate.

The confusion between WordPress.com and self-hosted WordPress is just one of the many factors that make the software a unique marketing challenge. Mario Peshev, CEO of DevriX, identified many more obstacles that enterprises find in using WordPress. Several of these include misconceptions about security, scaling, and limitations for functionality beyond blogging. WordPress’ Marketing Team aims to provide agencies with free resources to combat common misconceptions and show real-world examples of where the software is quietly powering enterprise websites behind the scenes.

If you have an interesting example of how WordPress solved a client’s needs, feel free to submit a case study. If you represent an organization that is using WordPress and can offer feedback on why you selected it and any obstacles you continue to face, please take the WordPress Usage Survey. Both surveys will be open through July 14, 2017, and the results will be published on WordPress.org.

12 Comments


  1. Thanks for the report.

    Sarah, what would really help WordPress marketing would be to improve the product for integrators and agencies so we would want to put and keep our clients on WordPress. Breaking WordPress updates (4.8 text widget), security issues (4.7.x REST API rolled out globally when REST API should be something a publisher turns on when s/he needs it) discourages publishers and us.

    Plugin developers also don’t like the JetPack borg taking over the entire plugin space (“resistance is futile”), albeit each of us complain in turn as our little fiefdoms are added instead of as a group.

    There are other longtime issue such as no caching in core (implementing working caching is unnecessarily complex), crippled native comments, no viable security which affect new/casual users. These issues force users to choose expensive “managed WordPress” hosting or hire extra tech help for no good reason.

    While WordPress at its core remains a potentially compelling product, bit by bit WordPress/Automattic are effectively alienating:

    * agencies
    * mid-size publishers
    * plugin developers
    * new users

    No wonder they are asking themselves hard questions about marketing. I’ve noticed that when a project or a politician is not taking care of its core constituencies, s/he tries to paper it over with marketing/propaganda. When a project does take care of its users, that project benefits from enormous word-of-mouth and enthusiasm. Historically WordPress has basked in unforced passion to become the dominant CMS. WordPress users and developers don’t need more market share. We need a better product with lower built-in maintenance costs.

    Take care of your existing users and they will take care of you. If the above is too harsh an assessment for WP Tavern, feel free to cut out whatever part you feel goes over the invisible line. It’s written with great sincerity and with the experience of building WordPress and managing a 100% WordPress agency for over ten years.

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    1. Alec, you’re very welcome to participate on the .org Marketing team and direct your energy and ideas there!

      Like much of the .org community, the marketing team is 100% volunteers, so the projects and things tackled are decided by who shows up to work (and not part of some top-down plan that you’re alluding to).

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      1. Hi Sara, nice to see you again! I remember a good day together at WCEI in Vienna where you led the Marketing room on contributors day. Sadly we didn’t meet in Paris this year sadly (I was with design and then spent some time introducing my programmers to the right people to work on lingering performance issues). We did send two people to WordPress TV where they helped with social media (we have some real experts in house) and YouTube integration (we’re publishers of a platform agnostic video player so we know a lot about YouTube API’s). We were thrilled to be able to give back and to learn some new ideas ourselves.

        While the marketing team may be made up of volunteers, you are full time staff at Automattic and pretty much shape the marketing plans for WordPress.org. Those plans from what I remember from Vienna are more focused on marketshare and newbie users than on improving the software for agencies and integrators and developers – or our advanced end users, publishers. The WP Tavern crowd is pretty heavily weighted to those three categories and outside of the Automattic sponsored contributors provide the bulk of the contributions to WordPress.

        We’re pretty frustrated (agencies, integrators, freelance developers) by the WordPress maintenance load and an absence of real improvement to the long term publishing experience on WordPress (those of us on the front lines would like to see more security, built-in caching, fewer but more stable updates). Hopefully we can change that state of affairs for the better with a more open conversation!

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      2. While the marketing team may be made up of volunteers, you are full time staff at Automattic and pretty much shape the marketing plans for WordPress.org.

        I just want to pull out this comment because it’s completely incorrect, and I think it’s really helpful to have an understanding of “who” is .org Marketing for anyone following along.

        I am a volunteer like many many of the .org community. Though I work for Automattic, my day job is in no way connected to .org marketing, though I’ve been lucky enough to be on the WCEU organizing team in years’ past.

        I started the first marketing group at WCEU Contributor Day in 2014 because I heard people were interested, that day. It was spontaneous, there was no mandate to do this, and it was my personal initiative. 10 people showed up and we found a focus together. I tried to keep the momentum going by posting our notes, and requesting a place for us to congregate, publish, and work to see if it could grow.

        I do not do any paid work on .org Marketing; the time that I’ve spent wrangling meetings and interacting with the community is all my personal initiative, and while tolerated/supported by Automattic, has no impact on my performance at my day job.

        That .org marketing has grown into its own group is due to the enthusiasm of the people who have shown up and a tiny part to my availability to be able to lead meetings, attend major WordCamps to help lead Contributor Days, and later, delegate to those who continued to show up.

        All the projects, initiatives, and ideas are pretty much driven by the group itself – I’ve often suggested things only because of what I’ve observed in the marketplace but all the work and decisions are being done by who’s showing up – that’s pretty evident on our p2 and Slack backscroll. :)

        It’s a new group, it’s getting started, and I’m really proud of the time people are volunteering and donating towards the WP community.

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      3. Thanks for your provocations, Alec. And well said, Sara! You’ve been a great source of support and leadership for our community. As one of the newer volunteers on the marketing team, I appreciate everyone’s efforts there, and see how much of a difference individuals can make when they “show up.”

        As an agency owner, I can also say that the flexibility and customizations that WordPress allows for has been transformational. I certainly don’t see any reason to be concerned about Jetpack “taking over.” There are many more plugin developers in the world making loads of useful plugins than there are folks working at Automattic on Jetpack. That will continue to be the case.

        Our community also has many reasons to be optimistic about the current state as well as the future of WordPress. I see ourselves as leaders of the open web, and collaborators in an effort to KEEP the web open. This will not change. And if it does, I will do everything I can to prevent that change from taking place.

        Our world works better with WordPress remaining an open platform with healthy community participation. The marketing team is just one small example of that effort, and I truly hope we can improve participation. Given the openness of the platform and community, people can also offer feedback thru the surveys, thru our blog on make.wordpress.org,m and on our slack channel.

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    2. “We need a better product with lower built-in maintenance costs.”

      Agree 100%!

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    3. @alec I don’t want to challenge you because I agree with a lot of what you have said. However I think your comments about caching and JetPack are a little contradictory.

      I could be wrong but I believe keeping page caching out of core has been a very conscious decision on the part of the core development team. You’re right that good page caching is difficult to set up. However it’s one of those problems that is very platform specific and there are so many different ways to do it and so many variables ( i.e. Varnish vs Nginx vs ElastiCache vs Redis etc ). Implementing a one size fits all solution in core may be more limiting and feel like you’re having a decision shoved down your throat – much like your gripes with JetPack.

      I like the current implementation – where core provides a serviceable caching API and what you do with it and where you store it is up to you. There are a multitude of free plugins ( one of which Automattic has it’s hands in to improve ease of use https://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-super-cache/ ) and for clients who need a bit more I’ve found managed hosting to be well worth the cost. I use Pantheon which does Varnish page caching, Redis object caching, PHP7 and global edge CDN and it all just works without me hardly needing to lift a finger.

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      1. Hi Steve,

        Thanks for your feedback about caching.

        There have been long periods where WP Super Cache hasn’t been maintained, W3TC was broken or WP Rocket (paid) was missing key features. Satollo’s Hyper Cache version upgrade from v2 to v3 more or less entirely broke the plugin (I included a link but it’s not accepted – try searching for “WordPress Caching Drag Race” for the details).

        This is all anything but a smooth experience for the end user.

        When I mentioned caching in passing, I didn’t mean that WordPress core should write caching for all contexts and all levels but just that there should be effective PHP caching which would run efficiently on shared hosting and smaller VPS out of the box.

        The core caching could be written in such a way that it can be enhanced or overridden by developers running a Varnish static file cache fed by Nginx microcaching and with a custom implementation of Memcached. Some developers like that don’t even use a caching plugin. All the caching is done in open source server level tools.

        Using that tiny minority (which includes WordPress.com, Pantheon.com, WP Engine and Flywheel for instance) to fail to provide a rock solid core caching system is a kind of tedious sophistry.

        “Move to a better host” when it means the host is charging at least $50/month for less than 100,000 visits is just another example of how we are crippling WordPress deliberately in order to be able to vacuum more money out of users pockets in upgraded hosting, upgrades plugins and frivolous maintenance contracts. These external bolt on solutions from hosts aren’t necessarily even all that good. For instance, while highly efficient both the WPE and Flywheel caching tools are incredibly fragile and work only for sites with mainly non-logged in visitors. For membership sites or ecommerce usually you have to roll your own.

        The basics like caching should work out of the box.

        There’s more than enough talent in WordPress.org with thousands of volunteers and incredibly talented programmers to have caching – for instance – solved in two weeks. Why must millions of end users bearing the cost for manually tinkering and experimenting with half-baked or poorly maintained caching solutions?

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  2. Alec, thanks for saying what needed to be said, as those criticisms are heard, though I differ on a few points. More agencies are coming to WordPress not running away, as the ecosystem continues to expand. Managed WordPress has finally gotten rather competitive; compare that to Managed Drupal which has remained narrow in choices. “marketing/propaganda”? That’s not what we’re doing on the Make WordPress Marketing team. We’re inviting people like you to take a Survey and submit Cases, so our volunteer team can respond to the needs of the larger community.

    Thanks for your comments, and now PLEASE go take the survey.

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  3. @alec While I agree with you on the let’s not bloat WordPress with commercial plugin’s, and allow users to turn off certain settings right from the plain vanilla settings screen part, I have gotten to know the marketing team as highly passionate about WordPress and about being advocates for all user groups. I would love to work alongside you in the agencies and enterprises subgroup where we’ll be working hard to ensure WordPress will become even more agency-friendly in the future.

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