Cloudflare TV

Community Highlights: Yoast and WordPress

Presented by Val Vesa, Joost de Valk
Originally aired on 

Yoast SEO is the favorite WordPress SEO plugin of millions of users worldwide! Val will host Joost de Valk , the Founder and CPO of Yoast and they will discuss all things SEO, WordPress and Community.


Transcript (Beta)

So good morning everyone watching from Europe and hello to everyone depending on what your local time is around the world if you're watching this live.

My name is Val and I'm the community manager here at Cloudflare and we'll have a conversation today with Joost de Valk.

We're gonna go to him to introduce himself but just before that I want you to, I want to let everybody know, sorry, that you can send any questions you might have live to livestudio at via email and we're going to get all the questions and as much as we can have time today Joost will answer them now live and if not we're going to make sure that he gets all the questions that you send in either into this one live segment or if you watch this as a recording you can still email in and we're going to make sure that all the questions get to Joost so he can respond to you.

So with no further ado welcome Joost and tell me something about that Tesla that we had a chat about just before lunch.

That was a very interesting conversation. Yeah so last week we had a Tesla driving into our office literally.

Luckily nobody got hurt, not the driver, she had a kid next to her, nothing happened with her and nobody in our office got hurt and there's only some minor damage but it was still weird.

Yeah I was still on a holiday last week and I got an app saying hey look this is what our office looks like don't worry everyone's fine and I was like what and now I look outside and yeah it's just weird.

I was about to actually start with asking you how have you been, you know how's the pandemic times with the family, if everything is okay and then I remembered the Tesla incident.

No yeah so otherwise we're doing good.

I mean we're lucky to be in the Netherlands which is doing relatively well in many ways and we're in the east of the Netherlands so we're not in any of the busy cities and where we are everything's fine.

I think we haven't had any positive cases in this village for like a week so it's like in many ways I think we're doing relatively fine and we're lucky to be here.

It's just extremely hot here at the moment for Dutch standards so it's been like 35 degrees Celsius for the last five days which is very uncommon here but other than that I mean we're doing better to have heat than have COVID I think so.

Yeah and I mean as in with many teams that you're probably talking to that are online, COVID was not necessarily bad for us business-wise and so we saw an initial tiny dip in March when everyone went like into scramble mode of okay what's happening but as a business we seem to be doing fairly well across all of this so well we can't complain.

Yeah that was one of the questions I wanted to ask like what is Yoast, what are you doing at Yoast and why Yoast with Y-O-A-S-T and not like your name is spelled J-O-O-S-T.

So my name is Yoast, J-O-O-S-T.

I'm the founder of Yoast which you need to spell Y -O-A-S-T.

You spell it Y-O-A-S-T so that Americans can pronounce my name right. That's simply the reason.

When I started this company I thought I would be doing consulting on my own.

Freelancing. Freelancing which I was doing when I started this.

I started a company just over 10 years ago now. Happy anniversary. Thank you and I was consulting as an SEO working for the bigger companies in the world.

I was doing well I was in London a lot where one of your cloud offices is for the Guardian.

I used to work for eBay, for Facebook, for a lot of the bigger companies I've done SEO.

As a hobby I was building this plugin. WordPress plugin. This WordPress plugin to optimize my own WordPress site.

In the beginning there were five plugins and I was like hey I'm building more and more of these small SEO plugins I should combine them all into one that makes things easier.

I did that and then that sort of exploded as in I had a million users using what was then called WordPress SEO by Yoast.

I had about a million users in that within a year of building it.

It's been growing ever since. At some point we decided like yeah my wife said to me this is not sustainable if you don't start making money from it because otherwise how can you handle support?

How can you do all these things? She was as usually she is she was right.

Wise advice. We started making a premium product build a few more and now we have 11 million active websites running Yoast SEO and just over a hundred people here in the Netherlands and some like 20 outside of all over the world that work for us.

That was pretty good for a freelancer start. Yeah the only problem is that I started this company thinking I'd be alone and thus gave it my own name and so now I hear my own name around me all the time and that's one of those built-in triggers that's very hard to disable.

So when people talk about Yoast I constantly think that they're talking about me and that's not because I'm egotistical but because well I might be a bit.

That's only in the audio mode though right?

If you see it written then you know it's then I'm fine but yeah but in audio mode because there's constantly people around me here talking about this because well it's the name of the company it's not weird but yeah now so it's and in hindsight that's the only mistake I made though Yoast as the brand we have is of course a good brand it's a nice domain name and it's very easy to remember so yeah.

So if you were to advise somebody that starts today or wants to start a plugin or anything would you recommend them naming it after themselves or not?

No, no I would pick a good brand. I do think I think I think we did right on the branding part the fact that it's my name is a bit unfortunate but picking a good brand is very important in all marketing.

I think that it's very very important to pick a good brand really understand what what's what you want to stand for and have core values that really like why are you doing this why do you want to do this what what's fun about this why what drives you to do this all of that is really important to have clear for yourself mostly because that as you grow that'll that'll be the things that you can well you can tie yourself to and in many ways I think the most important thing I want to give people in that regard if you want to start a business is making money is not the most important thing of course you you need to make money to sustain yourself so money is not unimportant but there needs to be something the most important no it should there should be more than that I think COVID is doing a really good job of throwing people back at why why am I doing this why am I am I doing what I like am I am I enjoying my life I think that part of COVID is actually pretty good yeah and the conversation was also about not only yours today but also community and you really nailed that one when you said you know what do you want to provide or give to the community so maybe you want to talk about a bit of you know inside the community and yeah we've was a good part of that yeah we've always well we've grown out of the community I I've I've always been an open source guy I've I used to be a committer on the WebKit project which is like the core of Safari and Chrome and I started doing started writing about CSS a lot and built that build a WordPress blog around that and that's what how I got to start working with WordPress and contributed to WordPress as well I think I did my first core patch 15 years ago and I've contributed to WordPress ever since and we've we've always thought that giving back to what allows us to grow so much is very important so we allocate a relatively generous budget to to sponsor WordCamp so the WordPress ecosystem yeah WordPress as an ecosystem has all these events called WordCamps all around the world where people get together and talk about WordPress and we sponsor that's how we met that's how we how we met and how I've met countless numbers of friends over the years and so we sponsor a lot of those and we have a lot of fun at those and we also spend quite a bit of money on on hiring full-time developers to work on WordPress core so it's a bit of a sneak peek actually and the news is going out today or tomorrow but we hire two more full-time core developers uh Justin Ayanon who does a lot of the documentation uh on WordPress core and Ari Stathopoulos I hope I'm not butchering his name but they've recently joined our team um so we we actually have a team now working on WordPress core all the time which is not working on uh stuff that directly influences our software but it it makes WordPress core better and if we make WordPress core better we all get better and well that we basically grow the pie instead of so the community wins yeah and I think that that the the whole the concept of open source that when done well is that if we grow that pie together we don't have to squabble about which bit of the pie is ours as long as that pie keeps growing and of course we want market share within the within the WordPress community and we want that to grow and luckily for us our market share has been growing to the point where I think we're now one of the biggest plugins out there um but it's also very important to us that WordPress as as a CMS keeps growing and luckily it's it's been doing just that it's been especially over this COVID period it's it's grown tremendously fast and many people are starting to move from offline to online now yeah it's it's this new layer of people coming in and so there are many of them because it's so easy to use WordPress I think they're looking at okay what's the CMS I can use again for free I mean for mostly for free well it's easy but I think there's just something there's something else to that as well I think that what people are realizing is that if you if they're building if they're paying someone to build a website and they can go with their website to someone else to improve that website later on if they don't like that first person that's a huge win because there's so many people out there that can do WordPress you can just have someone build your site and if you then don't like them you can walk away you walk to party number two and they can maintain that website for you because they they'll understand it I think like a single source yeah and I think that that is the biggest benefit that we don't talk about enough is that the ecosystem of WordPress developers out there is huge by now and um but if you're building a website and it's not ginormous so if you're not building a application or a type shop but if you're building a small shop or a small website or a medium-sized website I think WordPress isn't almost always the best solution to do that on and um that doesn't mean it's perfect it absolutely has its flaws but it's it's the best solution that is the most well supported by large numbers of companies which makes it very uh and it has a huge community around it as well not only going to events but also like you mentioned documentation support you can go into the slack channel and ask questions and there's always you know it seems that there's always somebody that knows WordPress so good that they granularly can fix your small you know issue yeah I think oh my god I have a unique issue that nobody can solve where no it's not no yeah it does I mean there's this Facebook group and uh and I'm one of the admins in it's called advanced WordPress I think it has like 30,000 people in it so if you have an advanced WordPress question you can drop it there if you can't google it and then usually people will have the answer to that there's huge forums there's there's so much around this if you go into the WordPress slack I was looking at that yesterday I think that's like 40,000 people in the core channel in the WordPress slack luckily not all of them are talking at the same time before anybody can put time aside to write a blog post or a tutorial on how they fixed whatever issue if you ask the question in the group or in the slack you're most likely going to get instant response and you know instead of just googling maybe that's why well although googling is a very good solution to a lot of these problems because a lot of these things have been written out and so there's a lot of documentation and a lot of stuff that you can know what to do and that's I think that's the power of WordPress it's it's everywhere it you can solve almost everything with WordPress and uh why it's why I'm a fan you you mentioned about communities and going to WordCamps which again for somebody watching and not being a WordPress user are the events happening inside the WordPress ecosystem they also have two huge ones very large ones one in the WordCamp US code so every year and then one WordCamp Europe happening every year inside Europe now with COVID both of them got canceled yeah we were supposed to have our first one in Asia as well WordCamp Asia and WordCamp Middle America is starting as well there's a lot of these well bigger events coming but that's that as well as a result of the community growing yeah this is what I wanted to ask how important is it for well in this case Yellows but any company trying to penetrate the community or a specific CMS industry to go to these events and maybe even sponsor or you know be present I think it's very important to be there I do at the same time I also think that as a community we need to re recalibrate a bit in in how often we do these things um so WordCamp US WordCamp Europe once a year means two events a year that a lot of people have to go to adding work to very large events yeah yeah like literally over a million dollar budget events so huge events adding WordCamp Asia to that is a third WordCamp Middle America adding that to to it as well as a fourth where you can just wait for WordCamp Africa because that community is exploding in many ways I think that we at some point need to re -evaluate like okay how many of large events a year do we want to do and should we pick one every year that's that becomes the main flagship event for that year and that everybody flies to because I know that we were flying 10 people to WordCamp Europe in Porto if it had if it hadn't been cancelled due to COVID we'd be flying with 10 of us to Asia we'd be flying we'd be flying with like 10 or 12 to St.

Louis for WordCamp US um that is just us also a large budget yeah it's a lot of money just flying and and all that money is going into flights and hotels and it's not going into WordPress and I'd much rather spend that money on hiring someone to develop WordPress full-time and um I think as a community we we need to well talk a bit about that uh more yeah where where should we where should we center on that how what what is the best solution for that I think that one maybe two events one online one offline something like that a year that is the main flagship event is enough or maybe go to each of the event you know for that year so maybe if they're like four events large events happening yearly you could in four years visit each of them yeah I I know that for us it's going to if they're if these events happen and are built out large in a large way we can't really afford not to be there so we we're gonna have to fly people there so we have to make this decision as a community as a whole because otherwise it's the first event of the series yeah because everyone in this ecosystem will keep doing that otherwise otherwise the WP engines and the go daddies and and uh uh the blue hosts and all these big hosts and these are all I mean all of them have hundreds of thousands if not millions of sites running WordPress with customers so they have a huge interest in what's happening with WordPress and they'll keep sending people to all of these events and and we'll just well we'll be creating a flying circus without really uh all of us thinking about why are we doing this but it's the um I mean the community is very worthwhile I think the local events are very important but maybe it's a bit more important to keep them local as well you mentioned that you also have so you have people inside Netherlands working well physically in the office but right now most likely from home but you also have uh you have hires outside uh the Netherlands uh when you pick people to join the Yoast team do you think of what time zones languages spoken coding depends a bit on what what role they're we're hiring for so in our support team which is one of our most which is the a large part of our distributed in distributed team we pick them by time zone because well we need to cover 24 7 support and time zone is is important to us there um for developers and we do look at time zone I honestly prefer people that are around our European time zone because that makes communication a lot easier but that doesn't have to yeah but it doesn't have to be full and like fully overlap so one of our most prolific WordPress core contributors is Sergei who's in Russia and Rostov um he's three hours away from us but that's fine I mean that's not not ever been a problem um the U.S.

is doable but Australia is hard for us because it's just it's literally day go to bed when we wake up and it makes it very hard to to communicate have you thought about doing Yoast events in the communities around the world where you have I don't know an increased percentage of users most likely you know how many people you have in each country you know instead of going to a work camp for example um we thought about it we usually we would have done a Yoast con this year here in in the Netherlands which we've done a couple of times I think this would be the fifth um I don't think we'll we'll do local events anytime soon because we what we often do is people that in our teams will often help uh set up a WordCamp so we have people in uh Italy that set up with some of the local WordCamps there we've I myself was in the WordCamp in the first WordCamp organization uh 10 years ago um and and we've always had people on that team usually we've always had our organizers on the WordCamp Europe team um so we tend to put our investment towards WordCamps more than to building just our own brand um we just care about WordPress a whole lot and and maybe sometimes a bit even a bit more than we care about our own Yoast brand just to make sure that we mentioned this uh when you said uh you have team members inside the organizing team of these events uh people should know that these are all volunteering positions so people volunteer their time to go there and they pay for their own flights and so on so this is also I think a large contribution to the community it is yes it's a it's a lot of work it's one of the things that I think um we're not always honest about because we call them volunteers but not everybody in that team is equally a volunteer some of them get paid by us to do that work so it's to them it's not a really hard thing I mean as in the WordPress you know group doesn't pay these people but yeah some but someone has to well and the thing is some of them are actually volunteering so some people are actually volunteering and are freelancers who are doing it this and that mean that it means that they can't do work for clients whereas if I assign one of our team members uh no one is hurt because well we can afford that and but that is I mean at that point we we do that because we want to better WordPress and we want to uh help grow that community um but it's one of the it's very a lot of money is needed to do all this stuff and there's a lot of money needed to do volunteering you know yeah yeah and and there's a lot of money needed to run an open source ecosystem and at the same time in open source ecosystems there's often the tendency to think that making money is a bad thing uh and these bite and these things bite each other quite hard and it's really it's really not very easy to separate no no and what what I think is very important is that you need companies like ourselves that make money and that invest some of that money back into uh the ecosystem so Matt has this Matt Mullenweg the founder one of the co-founders of WordPress has this great story on five for the future where everybody invests five percent of what they make back into WordPress and WordPress as a community would thrive I've honestly always thought that for us doing more than five percent was better because we get we get uh way more back from the community if we invest more so we've we've literally been around 15 20 percent of our earnings going back into WordPress for the last five years uh you don't know that and that's very good yeah I know we'll keep doing that I mean I think it's beneficial to all of us that we just um that we help grow that company or that ecosystem and thus our own company what do you do now at the host I know that there's been some we call it recent development but maybe no it's not it's not really so a year and a half ago uh my wife Marika took over as CEO from me um mostly because she's much better at most of that work than I am um I'm I'm a product guy at heart so I like developing and I like building product uh and and I like talking about that like doing this sort of stuff but there's a whole part of company building especially as the company gets bigger that I'm not necessarily the best person for she still knows the birthdays of everyone the team yeah she yeah she she's ridiculous you know so we have a hundred people here and she knows like all of their uh spouses names and partners names and kids names and I'm I know yeah she's incredible in that and building company culture and maintaining company culture which is very challenging and gets even more challenging in corona times like these um so she's the remote people as well yeah yeah absolutely so she's the better person for the CEO job um I'm now the chief product officer um I yeah I basically run product so I I focus on what what is it that our products do how can we make that better how can we make the user experience better how can we make the technically better how can we in it we work with google a lot so how can we make uh some of the new features that google is uh allowing people to use how can we make those easy to use for users um how can we well how can we tie all of that together and I love doing that so now you're back into the sort of a consultant slash freelancer where you think product and how you can directly influence product and help people yeah and and I um well I'm I honestly I'm not doing that alone I mean we we have the product team and development team I think we're now close to 50 people on the R&D side here um so that's constantly evolving and getting better and and and well doing a lot of cool stuff uh just making Yoast SEO better making our add-ons that we have for you to feel better making WordPress core better um and you're also doing stuff outside WordPress right so Yoast can be used for some other CMSs out there maybe you want to mention some of those yeah so we have a type of three extension that we work with a partner in the Netherlands on basically we tell them this is what how it should work and then they build it and then um a part of our code is so a lot of what Yoast SEO does is is language analysis as you write it gives feedback on readability and on your on the SEO of your site that part is all written in JavaScript so that runs in your browser but that also means that because it's in JavaScript it's a CMS independent so we can basically tie that to any CMS that we want to we've done that for a their development world um WordPress is growing so fast and everything else is shrinking so investing a lot of time in other CMSs just doesn't seem very sensible in many ways which is a shame I thought I'd hope it was different um but um well the reality is there's gonna be more Yoast and WordPress from now on than Yoast and any other CMS absolutely I mean it's always been like that but at the moment our focus is definitely mostly on WordPress yes that's good to hear well I'm sure the WordPress community appreciates that well it's WordPress community as a whole is growing and keeps growing so as as they do and if we keep keep being a part of that and people appreciate that and I think that that we can you know we can help take it further and know the good thing is that we're not alone doing that I mean Automatic Mats company is of course spending a lot of resources as well on making WordPress better the whole time don't do it thank you so much Yoast we're out of time we're already offline but uh again thank you for joining for anyone who's still watching or looking at this in a rerun if you do have questions for Yoast please email us at livestudio at we'll make sure all the questions get to him and we still have some questions that we're going to get to so most likely this will become an episode two if you like I'm happy to do that man absolutely okay thank you again so much have a good day thank you perfect bye-bye