On WordPress Dashboard Widgets

I was one of the first plugin developers to add a dashboard widget to your dashboard when you installed one of my plugins. I’m hoping people will follow me in doing the reverse as well. While it generates traffic, it doesn’t generate sales. Let me show you.

When I added mine, in the beginning, it drove lots and lots of traffic. People weren’t used to it yet and thought I had somehow “found my way into core”. Recently, I’ve added more elaborate tracking to my WordPress SEO plugin links. Allowing me to see how much traffic the individual sections of my plugin were sending back to my site. Let me share that with you now (click for a larger version):

Traffic and conversion statistics for plugin links for the last 28 days

Traffic and conversion statistics for plugin links for the last 28 days

As you can see, the widget sends a bit of traffic (1800 visitors in total) but only drove 3 conversions… Conversions on my site are click outs on affiliate programs and, more importantly, sales for my website review service. Turns out, people clicking on from the plugin interface or the plugin link are far more valuable visitors than people clicking on the dashboard widget.

So, in an effort to annoy less people and focus on the traffic that matters, I’ve just pushed out version 1.1.5 of my WordPress SEO plugin, without the dashboard widget. I will shortly remove it from my Google Analytics plugin too. Of course other developers should do their own analysis if they want to, but for me it’s clear that the widget doesn’t help enough to be interesting.

If you used the dashboard widget regularly to find new posts on my site, please consider subscribing to my newsletter using the form below!

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31 Responses

  1. Nick VivionBy Nick Vivion on 25 January, 2012

    You should leave it as an option! I do keep up with you via the dashboard widget, because I spend more time in WP than my email or RSS feeds. While I may not convert into a customer, your authority increases with every click!

  2. Paul LumsdaineBy Paul Lumsdaine on 25 January, 2012

    Thank you! I actually find the plethora of Dashboard items annoying and definitely would rather drill down inside of a plugin to view more information about the developer and updates to the plugin. I can de-clutter my dashboard, but clients often get confused and end up not utilizing the dashboard of all because of confusion about what is actually contained there.

    I’d like to see some progress made on the dashboard in core as I feel it has not drastically changed in the last several iterations of WP.

  3. Matt McGuireBy Matt McGuire on 25 January, 2012

    Honestly I have never read the information in any of the Dashboard widgets. Maybe a quick glance, but I try to get all my information/updates via RSS and email if RSS is not avaliable.

  4. Muhammad WaqasBy Muhammad Waqas on 25 January, 2012

    thats good idea, because most of people disable or minimized the dashboard because it looks mess. so do I. :)

  5. Aaron WareBy Aaron Ware on 25 January, 2012

    We have a few dashboard widgets that show up in our base theme that show our facebook feed and also any client specific items.

    @Joost what about doing something like Analytics 360 by the MailChimp guys where it’s a dedicated page under the Dashboard Menu but isn’t as in your face on the main dashboard itself. I take it the dashboard widget isn’t creating a lot of overhead so even if it’s 3 conversions. That is 3 more than you would have if it didn’t exist at all.

    Just my take on it.

  6. AncaBy Anca on 26 January, 2012

    Thanks for doing this. I always remove widgets for my customers because there’s definitely confusion about what’s on the dashboard. The actual plugin interface is spectacularly useful, whilst the widget is just clutter.

  7. Liz ManessBy Liz Maness on 26 January, 2012

    I like it but you need to do what you need to do! I read it and look at it often..

  8. Garry KewishBy Garry Kewish on 26 January, 2012

    This is off topic for this post so for that i sincerely apologize but I would like to ask you personal opinion, I am trying to really consolidate the number of themes we use in our business and would really like to get down to maybe one or two if possible. What is your opinion in regards to SEO and overall coding / useability ( keeping in mind usability with your SEO and GA plugins ) the choices are out of Catalyst Theme, Canvas Theme from Woo Themes ( Woo Themes in general ), OptimizePress Theme and Thesis Theme? If none of these are what you would use then what is you pick of the pick? thanks again for your valued input.

  9. Pieter CaretteBy Pieter Carette on 26 January, 2012

    Great move. It just clutters the WordPress experience.

  10. SwitzerbadenBy Switzerbaden on 26 January, 2012

    I have always viewed dashboard widgets extremely annoying in a spam way. While yours has been the better designed and tolerable of the herd, not being able to disable it for all users was a bit aggressive. Just last night I saw that WPCandy’s Plugin Interface Guid used used your plugin’s dashboard widget as an example of what not to do! Still, the worse offender, by far, has been the Audio Link Player by Dennis Hoppe. That plugin was so lousy with spam, he pulled it from the WP plugin repo from all the angry users!

  11. EcenicaBy Ecenica on 26 January, 2012

    Smart move Joost! I think you’ll see even more users start using your awesome plugin! When it comes to WP we’re purists so always opt for plugins that do not clutter the admin with banners and adverts etc.

    Does your plugin still add the “Powered by” HTML comment markup?

    Richard @ ecenica.com

    • Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 26 January, 2012

      Yeah and it’ll keep doing that :)

      • EcenicaBy Ecenica on 26 January, 2012

        That’s cool. Does your copyright license permit removing that line of code? Thanks!

        • Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 26 January, 2012

          It’s GPL, so yeah it does. I wouldn’t do that though as I update quite frequently :)

        • Joost de ValkBy Joost de Valk on 26 January, 2012

          Oh and btw, I do not provide support for people who strip those :)

          • EcenicaBy Ecenica on 26 January, 2012

            Totally understood.

            I know it might seem strange us asking but we generally remove these type of things to avoid the attention of hackers looking for known exploits. We’re also obsessed with minifying every last line of code. If every plugin author added a comment then the site quickly fills up!

            As a company we’re very vocal about how great your plugin so hopefully we’ve sent more visitors to your download then a small comment tag :)

            Richard @ecenica.com

  12. Rajesh NamaseBy Rajesh Namase on 26 January, 2012

    Now I have to subscribe because I want to read latest post on your blog. I always use dashboard widget to see latest news on your blog.

  13. Mark PenneyBy Mark Penney on 26 January, 2012

    I use the dashboard widget from your google anylitica plug-in all the time…. in fact, because it’s intuitively placed, I rarely use the apps / actual google ‘litics page.

  14. MikeBy Mike on 26 January, 2012

    Good call Joost – personally I almost never look at extra stuff added to the dashboard, and already subscribe to your site via RSS.

  15. Courtney EngleBy Courtney Engle on 26 January, 2012

    Thank you! I usually turn all that off to keep only what is necessary there.

  16. Cor van NoorloosBy Cor van Noorloos on 26 January, 2012

    Hi Joost,

    Why not, like W3TC, disable things by default and making it an option to enable?

    Since this is somewhat related to the discussion, do you plan to someday make a (paid) white label version of this plugin?

  17. R. Richard HobbsBy R. Richard Hobbs on 26 January, 2012

    As an option in the plugin would be kewl – I dont read all dashboard widgets and remove the ones I dont want… but I do read Yoast for what that’s worth

  18. MicheleBy Michele on 26 January, 2012

    I find your and other developers’ dashboard links non-intrusive. Having the option to disable it rather than removing it completely would suit me a lot better. I don’t really want to subscribe to *another* newsletter

  19. ari salomonBy ari salomon on 26 January, 2012

    I applaud you for removing the widget. Seems like having a widget that has the option of being turned on might be useful to some users but they always have the option of your newsetter – or yourRSS feed i assume?

    BTW you have a typo in the 3rd paragraph: “Turns out, people clicking on from the plugin interface…”
    (remove the word “on”)

    thanks again for making your SEO plugin so useful. my clients love it too.

  20. RafizeldiBy Rafizeldi on 27 January, 2012

    Thank you for sharing the insight, your SEO plugin is so useful & I learn a lot from your blog.
    But I don’t really need many widget on my dashboard so I turn your & other widget off from screen options on the dashboard.

  21. JohnBy John on 27 January, 2012

    Don’t really want to subscribe to another newsletter, but I often click through from the dashboard.
    Could it not be made optional for those of us who like it?

  22. Roger BBy Roger B on 28 January, 2012

    Thank you for removing the dashboard widget. In my eyes, your plugin will look even more professional.
    Like you said, you were one of the first to develop this kind of widget and at the time I guess it was useful and a bit profitable for you.
    From the time I had a plugin from wpmudev.org I started to hate these widgets. They did a full mess in my dashboard. Companies like that are a shame and they finally convert a useful widget into a spamming nightmare (not talking about the fact that they also spam u by mail…)
    Anyway THANK you Joost, you are a Pro and shame on spammers…

  23. NarenderBy Narender on 29 January, 2012

    I would love to see an option for Adding/Removing the dashboard widget. It used to be handy for me to find what you’re upto.
    Now, I need to subscribe to your newsletter.

  24. NiallBy Niall on 31 January, 2012

    I enjoy seeing the Yoast dashboard widget everytime I log in to my site. :-)

  25. MarkBy Mark on 2 February, 2012

    I actually like the dashboard widget as it’s a nice easy visual to check on your new posts without subscribing. Oh well, I guess I’ll just need to subscribe now…