Pathfinder SEO: building a SaaS solution with WordPress

Over the last year, the team behind Pathfinder SEO had been working with a developer to build a SaaS solution leveraging WordPress. The power of WordPress made the notion a simple one because it comes with login screens, users, roles and responsibilities, and a fast way to build screens. The challenges of building a SaaS on top of WordPress appear, however, when you start thinking about billing, especially when your billing terms become more complicated than your plugin can handle. That’s why Pathfinder SEO decided they needed to pivot. What they wanted was a SaaS powered by WordPress and the recurring subscription platform Recurly.

Getting our search engine optimization software to market was a challenge. With our previous developer, work was often late and only partially done. After many months, we had a barely- working proof of concept. Accepting the need to redevelop our software with a new partner was tough, but we wanted to move to Recurly and Zeek came highly recommended.

Lindsey Halsey
Pathfinder SEO

Integrating WordPress With Recurly

For years, Zeek has been building SaaS products that leverage WordPress and over the past 18 months, we’ve seen an increase in requests to integrate with Recurly — where the billing rules and payment processing happen on their platform.

Of course, the work isn’t just getting the two platforms to work together, it’s knowing which data belongs where, and the various timings associated with syncing. After several successful projects doing this exact thing, Zeek was confident that we could help Pathfinder SEO launch their new SaaS product.

Our Process Starts With Business Modeling

Recurly allows for several different payment plans—driven by both payment terms (like monthly, quarterly, or yearly) and payment features (like paying a flat fee, paying for usage, or paying for add-ons). When we help clients build SaaS applications, one of our first priorities is figuring out how payments will be structured. We then help them understand how Recurly works and what features are available.

We Then Build Payment Plans With Recurly

Once we understand what a client wants to accomplish and what their future plans encompass, we create payment plans within Recurly that will connect to WordPress. Recurly becomes our system of record for active and inactive customer accounts as well as the payment processing solution.

This is also where we create coupons for sales promotions and marketing campaigns.

When it came to the Recurly integration, this part of the project was the most critical to our business, but it was also the most hands-off. All we had to do was signup for a Recurly account and provide Zeek access. Their team did everything and it has worked perfectly from day one.

Lindsey Halsey
Pathfinder SEO

Payment Gateway Options To Fit Your Needs

With Recurly, clients can choose from a variety of payment gateways like Stripe,, PayPal, and more. The benefit for a company like Pathfinder SEO is that if they later decide to change payment gateways, they can do it within Recurly. This means Recurly remains the subscription engine that manages payments, the gateway switch becomes a behind-the-scenes change, and there is little to no impact on customers.

Recurly Offers Valuable Features

One thing we help our clients with is seeing the full potential of using Recurly for their SaaS subscriptions. A critical benefit is that with Recurly, billing isn’t tied to their web application. This means that if something goes wrong on their application servers, it doesn’t impact billing.

Another important feature is that Recurly comes with a system to manage involuntary churn.

When a customer’s credit card doesn’t get processed for some reason (like it has expired), many other payment systems that integrate with WordPress have a process for retrying the card. But if these attempts all fail, the account is deactivated due to lack of payment—without the customer doing anything. This is called involuntary churn.

Recurly comes with the automatic retrying of failed payments and supports account updater features, including automatic options to update payment information and update card expiration dates in advance.

It also includes dunning features to contact customers and get them to update their own payment information. If an average of 13% of recurring revenue transactions are declined monthly, these features quickly pay for themselves, once we help our clients get them configured.

Protect Data Based On Recurly Plans

Pathfinder SEO’s need was similar to many of our other clients—they needed to make sure an account was authorized before seeing protected content. This is something we do regularly when managing gated content.

Protecting data with Recurly and WordPress requires that we do four things:

  1. Synchronize customer data between the Recurly and WordPress platforms
  2. Assign software user roles based on the selected custom Recurly plan
  3. During customer login, check to ensure the appropriate Recurly plan is still active
  4. Allow customers to navigate protected content based on their user role

To maximize efficiency, we’ve created code libraries to manage this process so we can quickly deliver value to customers without starting from scratch.

This benefits our clients because it allows us to speed up the configuration of their Recurly integration and step into their custom WordPress development needs sooner.

Supporting The Pathfinder SEO Launch

When Pathfinder SEO approached Zeek, they didn’t just wonder if we could help them integrate Recurly with their platform. They had specific changes that needed to be made to their Saas platform, which required custom WordPress development, and because they planned to launch at a local technology conference, they had a hard launch deadline and the dates were locked in.

Our weekly development sprints and active project management processes helped Zeek consistently deliver at each milestone and get them to product launch.

As the conference started, Pathfinder SEO had a new sign up flow (connected to Recurly) and a new SaaS built with WordPress. More importantly, they now had the building blocks needed to create several additional price points leveraging Recurly that would allow them to deliver different features to different customers, using WordPress roles.

Recurly And WordPress

There are a lot of digital agencies that can build WordPress websites. There are also several development agencies that know Recurly and can help integrate it with your SaaS product. But there are very few companies that know each well enough to quickly build a Recurly-driven SaaS leveraging WordPress.

That’s where Zeek comes in.

From large-scale digital publishing and media sites to high-traffic eCommerce, membership, and online course sites, to complex integrations with smartphone apps, the team at Zeek Interactive has done it all. When combined with our experience in platform technologies such as WordPress, Drupal, and Laravel, we can help you discover, design, and engineer the right solution for your unique needs.

Working with the Zeek Interactive team has been a game changer. Before hiring Zeek, our time was consumed with the administrative side of managing a subscription-based business and everything that comes with building a SaaS platform. But now Pathfinder SEO runs smoothly without any issues, our customers require almost no support relating to managing their account, and our subscriber base is steadily growing. This has enabled us to bring our attention back to the product and the future, which is an exciting place to be.

Lindsey Halsey
Pathfinder SEO