The Rise Of SaaS WordPress Plugins

The Rise Of SaaS WordPress Plugins

The beauty of SaaS WordPress plugins is to be able to take what is there, and extend functionality; that is what plugins do, but SaaS goes further. WordPress themes are the look and feel of your website, but plugins are what drive the functionality of your website.

That may be oversimplified for seasoned WordPress people, but I’m writing from my couch on a Tuesday evening. So, just think: AirBNB, Dropbox,, HappyTables, Shopify and the like as SaaS based services.

OK, let’s dive in.

SaaS stands for “Software as a Service”

OptinMonster is a lead generation plugin providing a pop-up on your site. It’s managed from OptinMonster’s website. You sign up for an account with OptinMonster, pay for a subscription, then after you’ve installed the WordPress plugin in your website, you enter the provided API key from your new account to begin using the plugin and all its features. That tells the developers that you are “you” and, you are using it on your personal website.

Why SaaS-based Plugins?

These plugins help developers generate re-occurring revenue through licensing. That’s not what most people want to hear, but it’s a free market, and I’ll say it a lot, we all gotta eat.

In order to use all the functions and features, you need to buy a subscription. The reason is simple: To pay the overhead for giving customers new features via development, customer support, and fight pirating or hacking. All things online aren’t hack proof. That’s what they thought about the Titanic, but that’s a different blog post.

WordPress is tied up in code and software architecture, because it’s online software is protected by a GPL License. Plugins are not considered software, and some plugins should never be SaaS-based because there’s just simply not a reason for it.

However, WordPress Plugin developers don’t know if their plugins are powering a website, whose website their plugins are powering, or how they are using it. They only know how many times it’s downloaded and how many installs of WordPress use it. But with SaaS-based plugins they get data like:

  • Which features are being used
  • Which features aren’t being used
  • Which features aren’t scaling well
  • What kind of sites are using their plugin
  • When sites stop using their plugin

That’s valuable to the users and the developers. Because let’s face it, we all gotta eat (told you I’d write that again). So paying for an SaaS-based plugin is much more beneficial for everyone because users get a better, more secure product. And we developers are quite addicted to coffee and any other vice that requires money.

SaaS-Based Plugins vs Services

Some services are SaaS-based, such as AirBNB, Dropbox,, HappyTables, and Shopify. You don’t install anything on your site. In the case of Shopify, you sign up and they provide a online presence just to sell product without marketing yourself like a self-hosted site can do through an agency.

Plugins are required to be installed. There a two-part system that you can install on any WordPress-based website and, if your license is for multiple sites, you can use it on all of them. So read the fine print if you plan on using a SaaS-based plugin on more than one site. Gravity Forms plugin is a good example. There’s a single site and agency license. We offer to our customers the latter, but it’s technically our license, so we can’t just pass it over to customer that choose to host outside of our environments.

Sorry, it’s just the rules.

Are you using SaaS-based services or WordPress plugins? Let us know your favorites in the comments below.


I have been in marketing and technology for more than 20 years and have worked in many industries and worn many hats. From independent consultant, to cooking school, to establishing technology centers, it was a Spirit led adventure that landed me in the president & owner’s seat at Element 502.

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