How to create your own Powered By system like ours


Instead of taking advertisers at WPCandy, we use a Powered By system. By powering WPCandy, members of our community can directly make the content we produce possible, and receive linked credit for doing so. This system is one of the things that brings in a lot of questions and interest from folks in our community. People ask how we do it, why we do it, and how they can emulate it. In this post I hope to answer those questions.

In this post I’ll go over:

  • the philosophy behind our system,
  • tools and code you’ll need to do what we do,
  • the marketing/design side of things, and
  • what regular upkeep and maintenance looks like.

I hope it answers the questions you have about our system, but if it doesn’t just toss a question or two into the comments below. Let’s get to it.

Our philosophy is powered by ideals

There are a couple of very simple techniques we use to pull off the Powered By system, but for the most part it’s an ideology. The best way to implement your own version of this is to first understand how it works, and more importantly why it works the way it does.

While the Powered By system isn’t designed to send traffic to supporter’s sites, it is designed to add to supporter’s reputations.

The key is that our Powered By links don’t jump directly to the supporter’s site or Twitter account or whatever. It actually points to a dedicated thank you page that gives a brief rundown of the supporter, any posts about them on WPCandy, and a list of the posts they have personally powered on the site. From there the person viewing the page may choose to visit the supporter’s site, or they may not. By making these off-site links one step removed from WPCandy’s content itself, anyone can learn more about who powers WPCandy without being taken away to another site they don’t know about.

In this way, the Powered By system is quite different from an advertising or paid links system. No one who powers WPCandy does so strictly for backlinks and traffic. Let’s face it, if they sent WPCandy money for that purpose alone it wouldn’t be very wise. Any links to a supporter’s site is one step removed from any primary content page on WPCandy. No, the primary reasons that folks tend to power WPCandy are:

  1. They appreciate the site, and want to support us and our ad-free model.
  2. They want to support the greater WordPress community, and raise their visibility within it.

While the Powered By system isn’t designed to send traffic to supporter’s sites, it is designed to add to supporter’s reputations. Anyone who powers the site sees credit on posts, in thank you posts, and on podcasts. In fact, just about every time we create a new form of content on the site, we find a way to incorporate thanking those who power us. They are our VIP, our Hall of Fame.

Understanding why this system is great, as well as having an audience that is receptive to it, is key to implementing something like it. We’re lucky it has been embraced, so far, at WPCandy.

Our donation model is powered by tools

Our system is technically pretty low-fi. We use:

  • PayPal to manage the payments and subscriptions.
  • A custom taxonomy to assign content credits.

And that’s pretty much it.

We created PayPal buttons for our main powering page, using the option within PayPal to grab the direct email link. Then we dropped those in our pages.

The custom taxonomy is a bit more fun. In our case, we credit those who power WPCandy in posts, which you can see below each post:

The snippet below is what we use to create our custom taxonomy, complete with our sentence URL in place:

function poweredby_init() {
      'label' => __('Powered by'),
      'sort' => true,
      'hierarchical' => true,
      'args' => array('orderby' => 'term_order'),
      'rewrite' => array('slug' => 'thanks'),
add_action( 'init', 'poweredby_init' );

We add that to a plugin file, of course, so we can update our theme in the future without breaking any functionality like that.

Now, there is plenty more I’d like to do to improve the current system. I would like to revisit our payment flow and merge the various options together into one form using Gravity Form’s latest PayPal add-on. At this point though, until I make those improvements, this simple format does the job.

Have fun with imagery

Personally, I think the key with any system like this (read: a donation based system) is the way you package and promote it. Instead of simply adding a default PayPal donate button, void of personality, we created what I like to think is a branded, creative way to accomplish the same thing.

The point? Have fun with it. If you want others to have a good time on your site you need to have fun first.

The branding, in our case, involved a few things. First I created images to associate with each power level, and had some fun doing it. A post is represented by a single mint (or $10), a day is a bucket (of paint, it seems), a week is a wheelbarrow, and a month is a truckload, presumably of mints. There’s also the monthly option, which powers the WPCandy mint factory $5 at a time.

The point? Have fun with it. If you want others to have a good time on your site you need to have fun first.

We also implemented a status bar in the sidebar that shows how much of WPCandy’s content is powered for the current month.

I’ve received a lot of compliments on the status bar, as well as questions as to how it works. I wish I had a complicated, highly technical answer for how it works. The reality is pretty straightforward: we use images like status10.png, status20.png, and so forth, and update the sidebar widget as needed. It’s not quite impressive, but it gets the job done.

Powered best when regularly maintained

By accepting far more individual, personal payments than we would on a traditional advertising system, we do interact with more people. Since it’s a community donation program, we feel it’s important to stay connected with those who donate on a slightly personal level. For everyone who donates, we try to:

  • Email a thank you note directly to them.
  • Thank them in weekly posts on the site (been slacking in this regard lately).
  • Get to know them, follow them, and talk with them as often as we can.

In a sense, we treat those who support the site this way as VIP members of our little community here.

Aside from that, the system pretty much runs itself. We try and mention it whenever it makes sense, but otherwise folks tend to know where to go if they want to share the love.

What do you think? Could this system work on your site?

I’m curious what other site owners and blog authors think about the system we’re using here. Do you think this could have legs, particularly when compared to more traditional advertising or affiliate programs?

Feel free to leave any further questions in the comments, I’ll do my best to answer them.

15 thoughts on “How to create your own Powered By system like ours

  1. I think this is a great idea and I’m actually thinking about trying something similar to help support one of my projects. It’s even more “niche” than WPCandy but I like the personal involvement and community feeling this type of system gives to the whole thing. Hopefully if things pick up, I’ll be able to help power one of my daily visits as well. Keep up the good work!

      • Would be to help athletes training for the Olympics. We’re thinking about offering their workouts for download as long as we find someone to power us to write them down and put them up. We’re thinking about a one workout, a day worth of workouts, a week worth of workouts, a month worth of workouts or a full season worth of workouts for the powering model Basically, “normal” people who want to do the same things the big athletes do would help supporting them by powering their workouts.

  2. This is just brilliant and I love your model. Will it work with my site? Nah. Given the circumstances like market, audience and niche, I don’t think this would work for me.

    • Thanks Ariff! It’s definitely something that may only work in certain circumstances, for sure. At least until its proven in other larger audiences.

  3. Love the post – thanks for sharing all the details & reasons behind how everything works. A plugin would definitely be a cool feature for other sites to utilize – I would use it.

    Aside… Looking forward to our sponsored post once WooThemes is all done! 🙂

  4. Very Cool Idea! It’s a weird coincidence you posted this because I actually just noticed Powered By the other day and my wheels have been turning ever since. I have two sites I would like to try similar systems with. I’ve been trying to think of other ways to monetize them. Thank You!

  5. Thanks for the writeup! How do you create the donor page for your custom taxonomy? Is it a template file for your custom taxonomy?

  6. Does the person get recognition on the actual post that they power? If so, where is that at?
    Maybe I’m missing it…

  7. Fantastic concept indeed! I would love to test it on my charity site.

    I thought that developing this as a plugin for people to buy and install on their site would really be awesome. Keep it affordable, like $25.


Comments are closed.