Thomas Maier developed Advanced Ads to be the leading advertisement management plugin available on the WordPress platform. He used his own personal need for a better solution to spark development of the plugin and how his creation is being used on over 40,000 web sites and that number is growing every day.
Thomas was nice enough to take the time to answer my questions about the origins of Advanced Ads, working with an add-on based revenue model and the future of the plugin. He also offers up some great advice about the most important piece of his business that he puts the most effort into each day.
How did you get started working on Advanced Ads?
I worked for some time as a WordPress backend developer and grew my websites as a side project. Back then I used other ad management plugins, but none of them were either suited for testing ads or delivering different ads by device or browser width nor were they extendible. When my own projects and team grew, I decided to put an interface on top of all my hacks to allow our editorial staff to manage and test ads and so Advanced Ads was born. We are still one of our biggest use cases with over 100 MM ad impressions per month.
Advanced Ads was not my first plugin on wordpress.org, so it felt natural to put it there as well. When I saw that the demand for advanced features grew I decided to go Pro and built a business on top of the plugin. That guaranteed support and further development. I am now working almost full time on that project, with a small team on my side.
Can you talk about the importance of Google AdSense support? I know for me, with a few niche blogs I run, finding a good plugin to work well with AdSense was a key feature for me.
Since AdSense is by far the largest ad network it is, of course, important for the plugin to work with it. Advanced Ads goes a step further and allows some adjustments of the codes in the backend like changing the size, ad type or even converting the ad codes into valid AMP versions automatically.
We also have a couple of Ad Health checks implemented that test if there is a possible violation of the AdSense terms like accidentally hiding it with CSS. Some themes and plugins could do that.
You’re another WordPress plugin developer I’ve talked to that is using an add-on pricing model. What made you go in that direction and how do you choose what add-ons to build out next?
The initial idea behind having multiple add-ons was that users could only purchase and install what they need and save money and performance compared to a single large plugin. Pro features that can be combined under a certain topic come in their own add-on, like Tracking, mobile and AMP ads or Geo Targeting.
Our Pro add-on contains many smaller features and everything that we’ve built on top of the cache-busting engine. I am very proud of that specific feature since we found a solution for dynamic ads to work on cached sites without sacrificing the performance.
What have you done for marketing Advanced Ads that worked out great and what have you done that was less successful?
The freemium model with a free version on wordpress.org is working well. After that comes blogging about ad related topics, which I did long before the plugin and has resulted in the biggest ad networks to reach out to us for partnerships.
Newsletters and affiliate programs have potential but we’d need to work more on them.
Is there one piece of advice you wish you would have gotten before you started development on Advanced Ads?
Nothing critical comes to mind. I am constantly testing and tweaking a lot of things but got a pretty good start just by watching how other premium plugins are doing business and what I liked and disliked about it. E.g., I started out selling on my own domain and not on a marketplace and didn’t regret it.
My biggest efforts go into support. I knew from my years as a freelance WordPress developer how frustrating it could be to contact someone for support. The negative feeling was usually not coming from a bad solution, but whether I was respected and taken seriously. Therefore, support is our main “feature” and I put most of my time into it.
What’s next for the future of Advanced Ads?
There are always new developments we keep up with, like AMP, new AdSense formats, or how to handle ad blockers. Our next Pro release is going to handle click fraud and alternative ads for ad blockers.
Team-wise we are going to put even more power into helping users to get started and optimize their ads in general since that is what we learned with many tests on our websites.