Usage tracking

Usage tracking is crucial for WordPress theme developers. Here’s how to do it.

9 min read
Vova Feldman

Every WordPress theme developer is aware of the WordPress Code Reference, might have read parts or the whole “Theme Handbook,” and knows a thing or two about JavaScript. Those are some of the obligatory basics you need to get yourself acquainted with if you’re developing proper WordPress themes.

After successfully launching your theme for site owners to enjoy and pushing them to the official repository/some marketplace/your own website — you can definitely be proud of yourself because that’s no easy task.

But now what?

Do you know how are your themes performing? Who’s using them? How? Do they like them? If not, why?

Why is usage tracking so important for theme developers AND for site owners?

On the theme repository they’ll let you know how many times your theme got downloaded, and how many active installs has (they only provide an estimation).

Usage Tracking WordPress Theme Repository

On marketplaces, such as ThemeForest or CreativeMarket, you’re going to get the number of sales your theme has made, as well as metrics about your marketing page (the page that’s used to market and sell your theme).

Usage Tracking Theme Forest

While WordPress developers have grown accustomed to only being provided with this very limited type of data, they clearly need to know more about how their products are performing, and who exactly are their users.

I’m sorry to say it, but no other digital product creator knows so little about their product.

WordPress theme developers shouldn't have to settle for less if they are going to improve and would like to get more traction.

Ultimately, when a WordPress theme owner/creator/developer knows their product users’ needs/desires/preferences, they are equipped to do a better job calibrating the two. It’s a definite win-win.

Are you good at guessing?

As a WordPress theme developer, you are making a lot of guesses. Surely, the following questions regarding your themes have crossed your mind:

  • What do my users like/dislike about my theme?
  • Who is using my theme and how?
  • What’s the versions distribution among my theme users? Should I continue supporting PHP 5.2?
  • And what about older versions of WordPress?
  • How long do they use it for before they switch to a different theme on their website?
  • Is it possible that not only photographers are installing my “Photographers’ Theme”?
  • Is some huge brand using my theme on its website? (maybe I could use it as a testimonial to my theme’s high quality)
  • Is there a certain feature that many of my users would LOVE to see included with my next theme version release? Am I losing users because it’s not there?

It’s important to ask questions such as these, and use more accurate data about your themes to answer them because let’s face it: without accurate data you are merely doing guesswork.

The sooner you realize that, as a theme developer, you’re making a product that serves PEOPLE, the better. Settling for the number of downloads and an estimate of active installs means you’re out of your own product’s loop!

What should I track as a theme developer?

Assuming that your goal is to improve your WordPress theme and gain more happy users, the two key metrics you should be tracking are:

Acquisition rate. How many new installations your theme is getting per day/week (or whatever period you prefer to measure)

Abandonment rate. How many uninstalls your theme is getting in that same period. To better understand: If your abandonment rate is 1 percent, it means your theme is pretty much amazing! There might be very little you can do to make it better, and it would make more sense to focus on marketing, rather than on improving your feature set at this point. On the other hand, if your abandonment rate is 80 percent, you have a big problem. Even if you spend thousands of dollars on marketing, out of every 100 new users, you will lose 80. This means you should probably focus on improving your theme.

The next step is to combine these two metrics to understand your Effective Growth. Your theme’s Effective Growth is your acquisition rate minus your abandonment rate.

Acquisition rate – abandonment rate = Effective Growth

The obvious goal would be to maximize the acquisition rate and to minimize the abandonment rate.


Once you know these fundamental metrics, you’ll be able to measure if and how the changes and efforts you put into developing and marketing your theme are working. If you do not measure and act upon it, your theme will see no progress.

What else should theme developers track?

The above-mentioned metrics are crucial for a theme’s success and help you to constantly stay on top of your progress. This, however, is not the only type of data you want to pull from your WordPress theme. Here are a few additional examples of data that you want to have:

Who are your theme’s users?

You should definitely take the people who are using your theme into consideration when making strategic decisions. One example would be to learn what is the installation language of your users? What if you discovered that nearly 30 percent of the people who use your theme have Japanese as their installation language?

Usage tracking Installation Language

Would you not act on that data?

Of course you would. A quick and easy optimization would be to put some effort into translating your theme to Japanese and make it more accessible for 30 percent of your users. Doing that is also likely to help convince even more Japanese speaking site owners to get on-board and use your WordPress theme on their websites.

Why are your users uninstalling?

When a user makes the decision to uninstall your theme from their WordPress website, they are basically saying goodbye. You are not likely to ever see them again, nor will you understand what went wrong. Most WordPress theme developers have no idea why users uninstall their theme.

That’s absurd, and it also makes it very difficult to do something about a theme’s abandonment rate (remember that crucial metric from above?).

What if I told you there’s an easy way to know why a user uninstalls your theme, and that it’s even legit, as far as is concerned? Keep on reading to learn more.

Get your theme’s data flowing in with Freemius Insights

At Freemius, we’ve decided to address those unanswered questions by building an insights and analytics solution that’s meant to bridge the knowledge gap WordPress theme developers are experiencing. It’s called Freemius Insights for Themes.

Usage Tracking Freemius Insights

To get all of that juicy data flowing in, spend two minutes integrating the WordPress SDK by Freemius into your theme. From the moment you release a version of your theme that includes it, your usage tracking metrics and insights will automatically get collected and segmented on your Freemius Dashboard account for you to consume.

Here’s a quick video tutorial that shows how to integrate the SDK into a theme:

How to take action on your usage tracking data

Your theme’s usage tracking data will start to come in in an organized fashion, making it easier for you to understand and take action on.

Usage Tracking Freemius Dashboard

Remember the installation language example from earlier? Well, now you are going to know which language is used by users, as well as their WordPress version, PHP version, theme version, and much more. That’s the kind of valuable data you gain from usage tracking.

You will be able to take action on this new information and make your development efforts more effective if you discover that, for example, there’s really no need for you to be backward compatible with PHP 5.2 with your new releases if only a very small number of your theme users still have it.
Additionally, you get a full log of events that are related to your theme that take place on your user's website:

  • Installation / Uninstallation
  • Activation / Theme Switch
  • Theme version updates
  • Language changes
  • PHP version updates
  • WordPress version updates

… and more.

These events are automatically logged and can be consumed by custom webhooks. This could prove to be very helpful in marketing your themes if, for example, you set up a Welcome email sent automatically to each user who activates your theme and chooses to opt-in. Then you may add them to an email drip campaign to increase your upsell rates.

Now, your users can help

Based on data we’ve tracked from dozens of WordPress themes, 20 percent of users will uninstall your theme within the first 20 minutes. The theme author never even knows why they decided to abandon. As part of our mission to help you gather more data from your users, we’ve included the Feedback Form, which prompts a user to provide some feedback, right when they’re switching to another theme:

Usage Tracking Feedback Form

Normally, eight out of 10 users will engage and provide you with valuable feedback which will help you understand what they think about your theme. Their feedback is segmented and filtered for you automatically.

Later on, you can filter that feedback and see what can be done to decrease your abandonment rate. For example, if a big portion of your users specify they’ve left because they did not understand how to operate your theme, you should probably consider making a “getting started” video and adding it to the theme’s settings page.

If many abandoning users mentioned that there’s a specific feature missing on your theme, you can take action on that by adding that feature to your theme. The best part is you can get in touch with those very users who left this specific feedback and notify them your theme now includes that missing feature they were after.


Easy — you also get your opted-in users’ email addresses!

Usage Tracking Freemius Email

More power to YOU!

In the last year, the Freemius Insights tool was available only for WordPress plugin developers, who used to suffer from the same lack of usage tracking data. Now, with the launch of Freemius Insights for theme developers, theme owners can enjoy the power of data, too. It is time to level WordPress themes up with all other digital products in the world!

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