2020 Year in Review

2020 Year in Review – First time for me, Yay!

This is an absolute premiere: My 2020 Year in Review! For the first time, I will review the past year and give all interested readers, as well as colleagues and friends, a little insight into my projects.

Personally, I really enjoy reading the review posts from my colleagues. For 2020, the wording was mostly the same:

It was a very crazy year, right in the middle of a global pandemic.

Nevertheless, I can fortunately claim to work in an industry that has come through this year relatively well. And now I look forward to reviewing the past year with you.

Business

As already mentioned in the opening, I am fortunate to work in an area that has a very promising future and has been spared the negative events of the past year.

However, even we have to constantly analyze our own business and make one or two adjustments.

Dropping Freelance Work

At the beginning of the year, I had to make a significant decision: From now on, I will no longer work on client projects.

At the end of 2019, I already recommended my last remaining client to a friend and colleague, to say goodbye to classic freelance work. This step was absolutely necessary for me personally, but also for my own business:

Of course, I enjoyed working with clients and on different projects. However, the focus on my projects always suffered as a consequence.

In hindsight, I have not regretted this step for a second. Of course, I am also happy and grateful to be able to make this decision at all and to have the luxury of working only on my projects.

Hiring a WordPress Developer

The second important and long overdue decision was to bring another WordPress developer into the team to support me in all my projects.

Until now, I was always responsible for development of all plugins and themes. With the number of products we have to maintain, this is of course neither possible nor healthy in the long run.

In the first half of the year, Vadim joined my team and started supporting me in the further development of existing and new WordPress projects. We quickly got on with each other, and I am happy to be working with him.

From time to time, I have been able to transfer more and more responsibilities to him and I expect to be able to focus more on the essential tasks in the future.


Projects

Overall, despite the special circumstances, we were able to expand both the reach and the monetary growth for all projects.

How this looks in detail will be explained in the following for each main project.

AAWP Website 2020

AAWP

As you might know, AAWP is an Amazon WordPress plugin and my baby, which I have been proud to work on since 2015. I'm also very convinced that it is the best in its market.

Before going into detail, here are some highlights and numbers:

  • 💰 Annual revenue grew by 57% (compared to 2019)
  • 📩 We supported ~4.300 customers (+20%) & took care of ~6.600 tickets (+19%)
  • 📊 ~139.700 Unique Visitors (+107%) and ~511.400 Page Views (+176%)
  • 🗒 We released 16 plugin updates (compared to 13 updates in 2019)
  • 📝 We published 7 blog posts
  • 🏢 Discontinued renewal discounts for new customers
  • ⚙ Successfully migrated to Amazon's new API in March 2020

Thanks to selected activities such as content marketing, paid advertising and the expansion of existing affiliate cooperations, the project has also developed well in 2020.

AAWP SEO Trends 2020
Traffic & Keyword Trends (Source: Semrush)

Strategically important decisions

The project has also developed well in terms of turnover. The basis for this was definitely the switch to the subscription model in autumn 2019, the effects of which were consequently only felt in autumn 2020 when the first automatic license renewals were carried out. But these changes will probably not be really noticeable until 2021.

In addition, two further significant decisions were made last autumn:

Firstly, we said goodbye to the renewal discount for licenses. Up to now, this discount was still 50% and was rather counterproductive when I think about the fact that most of the development costs go into the ongoing maintenance and enhancement of the software. Since we are still maintaining the discount for existing customers, we will also not feel the impact of this decision until 2021.

On the other hand, I decided to increase our prices. Of course, we changed the prices from time to time over the last few years. However, the entry-level license was always left out. Therefore, the adjustment from 39 EUR to 49 EUR was a necessary and important step.

Version 4 and the Myth of the Plugin Rebuild

In fact, I have been playing around with the idea of building the plugin from scratch for a while. The first version of my Amazon WordPress plugin was released in 2015. Since then, a couple of major updates followed, but the code base remained more or less the same. Back then, I had an idea regarding the structure of the plugin code that is no longer valid today.

As a result, it became more and more difficult and inconvenient to improve existing functions or add new ones over the last few years. Therefore, I want to rebuild the plugin, release version 4 and thereby set the groundwork for better maintainability and extensibility.

Within our team, but also among a few customers, version 4 is already considered a myth.

Right now, I am the only one working on this very complex plugin code and I haven't been able to devote my full attention to it so far.

Yes, I was hoping to complete the rebuild in 2020. But since I was also working on the new website simultaneously, it was not possible for me to work on the rebuild without distractions.

What is planned for AAWP in 2021?

The two most important goals for 2021 in this project are therefore the completion of the rebuild and the redesign of our website.

In addition, I would like to add a second developer for the long term. While working on the plugin rebuild and latest after its completion, I will push this forward.


MH Themes Website 2020

MH Themes

Let's move on to MH Themes, which is a WordPress themes business I took over from the German developer Michael Hebenstreit in early summer 2019.

In the first full business year after the project takeover, the focus was on maintaining the themes' portfolio, as well as stabilizing traffic and revenue.

Before going into detail, here are some highlights and numbers:

  • 💰 Annual revenue slightly decreased by 3% (compared to 2019)
  • 📩 We supported ~1.800 customers (+17%) & took care of ~2.900 tickets (+18%)
  • 📊 ~795.100 Unique Visitors and ~2.628.600 Page Views
  • 🛍 9 Premium WordPress Themes (none added)
  • 🗒 We released 24 theme updates (in total)
  • 📝 We published 29 blog posts
  • 🏢 Discontinued renewal discounts for new customers
MH Themes SEO Trends 2020
Traffic & Keyword Trends (Source: Semrush)

What have we focused on this year?

Especially after a project takeover, it is important to first get familiar with the daily business and the newly acquired products. Indeed, I had the plan to start the year with a new theme. But favoring my other projects, I had to put the release of a new theme on hold.

That's why we tried to focus on content marketing to increase the traffic for our site, which worked out quite well: We published 29 WordPress relevant blog posts.

For this project, we also discontinued renewal discounts for new customers. Besides that, I expect to see the real impact of the move to the subscription model during this year.

What is planned for MH Themes in 2021?

At the risk of repeating myself, this year I definitely want to develop and release our first “own” theme.

Moreover, I have a pretty cool plugin idea that would complement our portfolio perfectly. However, I'm not sure yet if we're going to tackle this within the next 12 months.


Affiliate Coupons Website 2020

Affiliate Coupons

This is a smaller standalone project: a plugin for placing coupon or discount codes on your WordPress site. The main plugin is available for free on WordPress.org. The paid pro version is available on affcoups.com and adds more features to the basic version.

Before going into detail, here are some highlights and numbers:

  • 💰 Annual revenue decreased by 12% (compared to 2019)
  • 📩 We supported ~170 customers (+10%) & took care of ~210 tickets (+14%)
  • 📊 ~21.100 Unique Visitors (+420%) and ~27.40 Page Views (+144%)
  • 🖥 3.000+ Active installations of the Free version (compared to 2.000+ in 2019)
  • 🗒 We released a total of 4 plugin updates (compared to 6 updates in 2019)
  • 📝 We published 3 blog posts
  • 🏢 Discontinued renewal discounts for new customers
  • 🎨 Refreshed branding and redesigned website
Affiliate Coupons SEO Trends 2020
Traffic & Keyword Trends (Source: Semrush)

What have we focused on this year?

For me, the most important task this year was to refresh the branding of the project. The logo got a little polish, the colors were optimized and various new graphics were created. Afterwards, I applied the new branding to the website and also updated the plugin backend accordingly.

This project is definitely a side project, which I also treated very poorly so far. This can also be seen from the facts above: a decreased revenue and a very low number of plugin updates.

Fortunately, the number of active installation increased by at least 1,000 sites, although no marketing actions were performed.

The only thing I did was so-called “Search Engine Optimization for WP.org”. For this purpose, we optimized the texts in the plugin directory. Thanks to the great tool PluginRank from my Twitter colleague Iain Poulson, I was able to see the effects pretty clearly.

Affiliate Coupons WP SEO
Tracking of Plugin Rankings in WordPress Search Results (Source: PluginRank)

For this project, we also discontinued renewal discounts for new customers. Besides that, I expect to see the real impact of the move to the subscription model during this year.

What is planned for Affiliate Coupons in 2021?

This year it will be very exciting around my coupon plugin! In 2021 I want to finally give the plugin more attention and bring it properly forward.

For this reason, I already assigned my developer to the project at the beginning of the year. Besides the some rebuilding, we will add many features that users have already asked for. There are plenty of ideas, and we are excited to see what we can get out of the plugin this year.


KryptoniteWP Website 2020

KryptoniteWP

Finally, we move on to KryptoniteWP. This project is also an e-commerce website on which we sell several smaller WordPress plugins and themes. Most of the plugins were developed because we needed them ourselves and still use them on our websites. KryptoniteWP is kind of a gathering place for smaller WordPress downloads.

Before going into detail, here are some highlights and numbers:

  • 💰 Annual revenue grew by 51% (compared to 2019)
  • 📩 We supported ~240 customers (+93%) & took care of ~260 tickets (+103%)
  • 📊 ~9.000 Unique Visitors (+273%) and ~12.000 Page Views (+176%)
  • 🛍 Released 1 new premium plugin (compared to 2019)
  • 📝 We published 5 blog posts
  • 🎨 Refreshed branding and redesigned website
KryptoniteWP SEO Trends 2020
Traffic & Keyword Trends (Source: Semrush)

What have we focused on this year?

Similar to Affiliate Coupons, I refreshed the branding of the project. The logo was completely redesigned, the colors were optimized and various new graphics were created.

Besides that, we just maintained our current download portfolio and released a couple of updates. A special mention at this point belongs to our AffiliateWP – Payout Statements add-on, for which we released a long-awaited tax update in autumn.

What is planned for KryptoniteWP in 2021?

Actually, we already developed 3 more premium WordPress plugins during the past year. However, we still have to do final tests on these. That is why we are already looking forward to releasing these plugins this year. Among them there are at least two, which I am really excited about 🤩and should also be welcomed by others.


flowdee Twitter

Audience Building

One thing I wanted to do last year was to be more active on Twitter (my favorite social network) and to grow my audience a bit. Just in case you don't follow me yet, you can find me at @flowdee 😉.

Here are some highlights and numbers of my Twitter year:

  • ✍ Wrote 3.680 tweets and replies (306 per month and 10 per day)
  • 📘 Welcomed 322 new followers (from 683 to 1.005; +47% compared to 2019)
  • 🎨 Applied new branding and uploaded new profile picture

Fortunately, just before the end of the year, I broke through the 1,000 follower mark, which I was a bit happy about. 🥳

2020 Year in Review - Twitter Statistics
Twitter Statistics (Source: Social Blade)

The only thing I really did differently last year was to tweet more actively myself and to interact with others. Just by interacting with others within my industry, I was able to make some very nice and interesting contacts.

In addition, I fortunately discovered the tool Hypefury, which also makes automation with Twitter so much easier.

Recently, I listened to a very exciting episode of the Hypefury podcast, with the dear Arvid Kahl talking about how to successfully grow your Twitter audience. I highly recommend the episode to everyone and would like to implement some tips from it this year.

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What is planned for Twitter in 2021?

I have to admit, I currently don't use my Twitter account to draw attention to my projects. But I thought that in 2021 I would like to talk about one or another project and share some insights regularly.

Beyond that, I've set the goal to increase my number of followers up to 2,000 people. I'm curious to see if I will succeed. 💪


Personal

As mentioned at the beginning of this post, 2020 was certainly a special year for everyone from a personal perspective as well. Due to external circumstances, we all could no longer live our everyday lives as we were used to. Even after almost 1 year in the pandemic, this situation still seems a bit surreal. But I am an optimistic person, and I am convinced that things will look better at the end of the new year.

Moving to a new apartment 🏡

In late summer it was time for a little private highlight: I finally moved into my new apartment. Unfortunately, not everything went smoothly and even today (at the end of January) I'm still sitting in my office with mobile internet only. But within the next few weeks, this little dilemma should be over, and I shall be back with high-speed internet. 🤞

Desk 2020
This is how my new desk currently looks

Sports 💪

Since I love to exercise every day, the multiple gym closings last year were of course not very welcome. Furthermore, I had to take a small break from sports in late summer because of a knee surgery.

Strava Year 2020 in Review Statistics
2020 Year in Review Statistics from Strava

A personal highlight was the decision to buy a new fitness bike (outdoor) in spring 2020, and my goal was to ride it at least 4,000 km last year. I tracked my activities on Strava and felt proud to reach my goal towards the end of the year.

Podcasts 🎙

One thing I love to do in my free time is listen to podcasts! Whether it's exercising or going for a walk, I listen to at least one episode a day. This also allows me to combine relaxation with education very well.

For those of you who like podcasts as much as I do, here's a little selection from my favorite podcasts in the past twelve months:

To be honest, there are a bunch of other top podcasts in my list that I really enjoy listening to. But I just don't want to make the list above too long! 🤭

Masterminds 💡

One thing I've been able to get to know and appreciate more intensely over the past year is masterminds. In fact, I'm currently in two mastermind groups: One is about blogging and the other is about WordPress business.

Both groups meet once a month and I can truly confirm that the exchange with colleagues (and friends) about our projects is very valuable and helpful.


Wrapping up my 2020 year in review and looking ahead

A lot has happened this year. Being a positive thinking person, I always try to bring out the good sides and be aware of how well we are actually doing.

Fortunately, in this year I could again push my online businesses, released new products and also grew my small team a little.

Goals for 2021

Naturally, I also have goals for 2021, both private and business. At the end of the day, I would like to touch a little upon the latter:

  • 💰 To achieve a positive annual revenue increase in all projects
  • 🥳 Launch my first own SaaS project to market
  • 👪 Hire another developer and a project manager
  • 🗒 Hand over and automate more tasks
  • 📝 Write regularly on this blog
  • 📚 Read at least 1 book per month again
  • 💪 Continue being active and doing a lot of sports

If you made it to the end of my 2021 Review in a Year post, thank you so much for your interest. If you like, feel free to leave a comment below, say hi to me on Twitter or just get in touch with me. I would be happy about that 🙂.

Hopefully, we will all get back to some normalcy during 2021.

I wish you all the best!

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Randlocher
Randlocher
30. January 2021 9:50

Finally! Thanks for your insights into your projects and also into your life. I think the step you have taken in terms of customer orders has been the right one. Now you can fully focus on your business. I’m glad you found a developer. I’m looking forward to what we can expect from you in the future.
Otherwise, thanks again for your useful tips and tricks, and also for answering the questions I regularly asked you on Twitter. Then I’m curious to see how active you continue your blog.
Until then, have a nice weekend and a successful year 2021. Stay healthy!

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