Aurelio Volle is the Chief Marketing Officer and Product Owner of LIVEN – the umbrella company that has brought us Image SEO Optimizer and WP Umbrella – a PHP errors, performance, and uptime monitoring service for WordPress. With 4 degrees to his name, he works as a lobbyist and university lecturer by day, while handling marketing and communications for LIVEN by night.
With several successful WordPress projects under his belt, we had a socially distant conversation with Aurelio. We got to know him a little bit better while getting some insight into how WP Umbrella helps WordPress site administrators, what are the typical PHP error site admins encounter, and we also learn about his views on achieving WordPress security and stability.
Please introduce yourself and tell us how you got to know about WordPress and why you have decided to develop/work with WordPress?
I’m Aurelio, the co-founder of two WordPress plugins – Image SEO Optimizer and WP Umbrella. I have an MA in Law and an MA in Political Science and have been working in the European public affairs sector over the past five years.
Three years ago, I bumped into an old friend of mine. He asked me to join his side project, Image SEO Optimizer, to do the marketing, PR, and stuff like that. Since I used to code when I was younger, and I was looking forward to starting a business myself, I said yes after a couple of drinks!
Image SEO Optimizer was, at first, platform-agnostic, and it made sense to develop an integration for WordPress first since it was (and still is) the most popular CMS.
You and your business partner Thomas have known each other since you were around four years old. How does it feel to be running a successful WordPress plugin business with your childhood friend?
That feels good!
Very few people know this, but our umbrella company is called LIVEN – the contraction of liberty and venture. Thomas and I share and cherish these two values through everything that we do.
In the end, when it comes to running a business, what matters is not for how long you have known people. Instead, it’s the values, vision, and ambition you share with them that counts the most. And I’m happy to say we’re on the same page!
This synergy is essential since he is probably the person I’ve spoken to the most during the last three years (girlfriend and family included)!
Your first plugin, ImageSEO, is enjoying healthy success with close to 40,000 downloads so far. What were the lessons learned that helped you release your latest plugin/service — WP Umbrella?
We have learned so much on every front, but I’d like to share what are the most critical three takeaways, in my opinion.
- Put the users’ needs at the very core of everything that you are doing
- Make sure your business model is sustainable
- Support is the key to everything
It is SO important to make sure that you are speaking regularly with your users to make sure that they are happy with the product, and if there are not – to understand why.
I think that we are doing great on this front since most of our users upgrade to a yearly subscription with WP Umbrella!
Why have you chosen to move from a plugin-based business model to a SaaS business model?
That was one of the main takeaways! Image SEO business model is based on consumption, not recurrence. Most people who use our service usually purchase 10k/20k images to optimize “old” websites for SEO quickly, and there is no recurring need. Having said this, we also have monthly subscriptions mostly from WooCommerce, photographers, and newspapers, but it’s not our core business.
In the end, your product determines your pricing, and your customer’s needs determine the product!
A consequence of the one-time purchase model is that you don’t speak with your customers because they don’t need you anymore after purchasing your product. I’d say that Image SEO is not compatible with a SaaS business model.
With WP Umbrella, things are different: we are the daily partner of people looking to manage, maintain, and monitor WordPress websites, so the SaaS business model is more appropriate.
WP Umbrella also helps agencies and WooCommerce websites achieve maximum uptime. How important is monitoring to ensure the best results?
If you are serious about your WordPress websites, you should be monitoring them. This is a no-brainer. Downtime happens way more often than people think. If you are an agency, there is nothing worse than a client calling you up to complain that their website is down when you’re not even aware of it.
Monitoring WordPress websites is the best way to mitigate the costs associated with downtime and simplify WordPress maintenance operations.
One other WP Umbrella plugin feature well worth mentioning is PHP error monitoring. What are some of the typical errors that users encounter?
Monitoring PHP errors is also an excellent way to prevent downtime and improve website performance.
The beauty of WordPress is that there are so many themes and plugins available to power up your website. But these plugins and themes can sometimes generate PHP errors. Most of them are not harmful, but some of them can break your website.
Hopefully, people encounter more notice errors than fatal errors, but it’s imperative to monitor WordPress error logs and all PHP errors. Notice errors are minor PHP warnings that do not stop the code execution. They happen, for example, when a PHP script is trying to access an undefined variable.
On the other hand, fatal errors happen, for example, if a developer uses non-existing variables. These errors can totally crash your website! So it’s really important to monitor PHP errors.
OWASP, the nonprofit organization working to improve software security, includes insufficient logging and monitoring as one of the top 10 web application security risks. How can WordPress administrators leverage WP Umbrella and WP Activity Log to address this risk?
I firmly believe that combining WP Activity Log and WP Umbrella is an obvious choice for implementing a comprehensive monitoring strategy to increase your website’s security.
On the one hand, WP Umbrella will alert you of any downtime. It will also help you prevent it from happening with the PHP errors monitoring. On the other hand, WP Activity Log will help you identify who did what on your WordPress website. The combination of these two plugins offers you a 360 understanding of what is going on your website.
If you don’t monitor your website, you might not know that there are issues until it’s too late.
One primary concern with WordPress plugins is that they can introduce new vulnerabilities to WordPress installations unless updated regularly. How does WP Umbrella ensure it can issue updates so regularly?
There is not much that we can do about how often plugin developers update their code. That’s in their hands.
What we do, is let people know that they have an outdated plugin on their website. Our dashboard has been designed in such a way that you can know exactly what is going on with your websites (downtime, slow loads time, PHP errors, outdated plugins, critical security warnings, etc.).
Is there something else you’d like to tell our readers?
Stay tuned, everyone; we are improving the product every day!