E35: Yoast: Your questions answered with Joost de Valk

E35: Yoast: Your questions answered with Joost de Valk

Joost gives us the low down on Yoast and what’s coming in the future.

Yoast is my favourite SEO plugin for WordPress.

I use it on all my business websites and yes, I have eight.

And I advise all my students to do the same. In my opinion, it’s crucial for a great SEO strategy.
So why Yoast?

And what makes it great?

Today, we’re going to find out some secret Yoast tips that you can use to boost your SEO because we are talking with the man himself, Joost from Yoast is here to answer questions and explain how to use Yoast to its full potential.

Tune in to learn:

  • Why Yoast is called Yoast
  • How Joost going into WordPress plugin Development
  • Why Joost thinks Yoast is the best SEO plugin
  • Why Yoast has so many effing updates!
  • Why the Traffic light system is not a golden bullet
  • How Yoast work with Google, the other big plugins and themes to ensure their updates work
  • Big changes coming to Yoast 9.0 with linguistic morphology features
  • Yoasts sexy new Gutenberg features
  • How Joost handles social media attacks
  • Who’s speaking at the upcoming YoastCon event
  • What Joost thinks will be the big thing for SEO in 2019

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And big thanks to Jed to for her lovely review.

About Joost

Joost is a 36 year old web developer, SEO and online marketeer. In the early days of his career, he worked in several companies, ranging from enterprise hosting to online marketing agencies. This allowed him to work with several of the largest brands in the world. He founded CSS3.info – the biggest CSS3 resource on the web – in 2006 and sold it in 2009.

In 2010, Joost created Yoast, which focuses on software, training and services for website optimization. Team Yoast currently consists of more than 60 people around the world. Yoast SEO, Yoast’s main software product, is currently active in over 8,5 million WordPress websites.

Connect with Joost

Transcript

Yoast is my favourite SEO plugin for WordPress.

I use it on all my business websites and yes, I have eight.

And I advise all my students to do the same. In my opinion, it’s crucial for a great SEO strategy.

So why Yoast?

And what makes it great?

Today, we’re going to find out some secret Yoast tips that you can use to boost your SEO because we are talking with the man himself, Joost from Yoast is here to answer questions and explain how to use Yoast to its full potential.

Hello, my name is Kate Toon and I’m the head chef here at The Recipe for SEO Success, an online teaching hub for all things related to search engine optimization, and I love SEO.

And today I’m talking to Joost de Valk. Did I say it correctly?

Joost de Valk:                      01:48                       Yes, you did.

Kate Toon:                             01:49                       I did? Because I was reading a lovely blog from way back in 2008 when you were a mere snip of a boy, and it was telling me that the name came up from a conversation with Rand Fishkin.

Can you just tell that little story?

I know you’ve told this 100 times, but tell me-

Joost de Valk:                      02:04                       It’s a lovely story.

The funny thing is, Rand doesn’t remember it. So SMX Stockholm, I think it was my second conference ever presenting as an SEO and I was talking to Rand and he goes,

“Okay, so how to I pronounce your name? Juiced?” And I’m like, “No, it’s Yoast.”

And he’s like, “Oh, so it’s Toast with a Y?”
And I’m like, “Yes.”

And I turned around and started buying the domain name.

Kate Toon:                             02:32                       There you go.

Joost de Valk:                      02:36                       It’s one of those domain names. We’ve all bought silly domain names, but yours stuck.

Kate Toon:                             02:40                       Mine also turned out to be a five letter .com, which is like … it’s pronounceable, it brands fairly easily.

Joost de Valk:                      02:50                       Now, a decade later, I’m not always as happy with the fact that my company is named after me because I hear my own bloody name the whole day.

Kate Toon:                             03:16                       Well look, let’s get stuck into the interview. I’m going to read out your bio first.

So Joost is a 36-year-old web developer.

I love the fact that you call yourself a web developer first. SEO and online marketeer. In the early days of his career, he worked in several companies ranging from enterprise hosting to online marketing agencies.

This allowed him to work with several of the largest brands in the world.

He founded css3.info, the biggest CSS3 resource on the web in 2006 and sold it in 2009.

Kate Toon:                             03:50                       In 2010, Joost created Yoast, which focuses on software, training and services for website optimization.

Team Yoast currently consists of more than 60 people around the world.

Yoast SEO, Yoast’s main software product is currently active in over 8.5 million WordPress websites.

That is impressive stat.

That must make you do a bit of back patting. That must make you feel good.

Joost de Valk:                      04:16                       It’s really scary.

Kate Toon:                             04:18                       Bloody scary, but bloody cool.

Joost de Valk:                      04:25                       No, it’s scary. In a way, of course it’s very cool, but it’s scary because there’s so many websites that rely on you and if you make a mistake, it’s annoying.

And it’s also scary because of the 8.5 million.

I think about three million or so are stuck on old versions because they’re not updating their website regularly.

That’s just scary. I mean, if I make a mistake in security somewhere or someone in the team here makes a mistake and we don’t catch it in our process, it suddenly becomes a very big … well, it’s not like we’re liable for it, but you feel-

Kate Toon:                             05:14                       Responsible.

Joost de Valk:                      05:15                       … responsible, yeah.

Kate Toon:                             05:16                       With great power comes great responsibility. I think that’s a line from Spider-Man.

And also, there’s only so much you can do, and most of those … well, let’s say a big chunk of those 8.5 million people are ungratefully using the free version and still complaining about it

Joost de Valk:                      05:33                       We’re not unhappy with that.

I mean, if every one of them was paying for the premium version I would be filthy rich, but that’s never been the goal.
So we’re not complaining about that. I think the free version works for a lot of people.

And only when you’re making money with your website do I at some point want to urge you to get to premium.

But there’s so many people that don’t make any money at all with their website.

Kate Toon:                             06:05

The first question I wanted to ask you was, obviously when you were a little boy playing in the fields of the Netherlands, or whatever you do over there in that strange country, I’m sure you weren’t dreaming about launching one of the world’s most popular SEO plugins.

What was your … why?
Why did you end up doing this?

Joost de Valk:                      06:31                       It’s a long story, but I’ll tell you anyway.

No, so I basically rolled into tech. I studied theology for a bit, a tiny, tiny bit. And then quit my studies, dropped out, and started working in an IT company. And IT was hard. It was early 2000s, it was right before that first bubble burst. And, well, I was making good money and was having fun.

I was going from one company to the other. And at some point, my wife got pregnant with our first kid, and I decided to work somewhere closer to home.

And I looked for a new job and found one that taught me SEO, which looked appealing, but I’d never known about SEO.

Joost de Valk:                      07:27                       I was working in a hosting company, but in my spare time, I was doing a lot of CSS3 stuff and a lot of WebKit related … so WebKit for Safari and Chrome coding. Became a coder in the WebKit project.

And so I was very much into open source, built a website around that

And css3.info was on WordPress. I was learning SEO, so I thought, “Maybe I’ll build a small SEO plugin to fix some things that I know we should be doing.”

And I built another plugin and another plugin and another plugin, and mostly for hobby.

Then I started releasing them and people started using them. And in 2010, I started my own company, Yoast, which I called Yoast because I thought I would never hire any employees.

And that was mostly for consulting.
I was working with Facebook, Ebay and The Guardian at that time as a consultant. And I was perfectly happy doing just big brand consulting, and that is a good money maker.

I was not like in any way in trouble.

And I had this SEO plugin. But the problem is, this SEO plugin that I merged, WordPress SEO at that time, now Yoast SEO for WordPress had a million users.

Joost de Valk:                      08:59                       Of course, it was me talking about it on conferences because I was talking at SEO conferences and I mentioned that I had built up a plugin.

And it was my other SEO buddies all starting to promote my plugin and suddenly that thing was installed on a million websites and my email inbox was no longer liking me.

So it basically just happened, as a lot of these things tend to do. I was at the right platform at the right time.

Kate Toon:                             09:30                       Yep, it’s organic, you know? Just like SEO.

Joost de Valk:                      09:34                       Very organic, yes.

Kate Toon:                             09:34                       And then when you have something that’s doing so well, you start selling something and you’re thinking this is awesome.

But then there’s the customer support and the emails and it changes into a completely different thing.

Joost de Valk:                      09:45                       And the bookkeeping.

Kate Toon:                             09:47                       Yeah, like the reconciliation and the … yeah, it’s a beast.

It’s a beast.

 

Now, obviously there are other SEO plugins, and we’re allowed to mention them. Another popular one is All in One SEO, which I had before I moved over to Yoast, and people often say that they’re both pretty good but you do a better job of marketing. What would you say to that?

Joost de Valk:                      10:10                       Well, to be honest, I think that the biggest difference is that most SEO plugins out there are built by purely web developers and not by SEO people.

And we’ve always been more closer to the latest changes in Google and the latest technologies because we’re SEOs first in many ways. I call myself a web developer first and then an SEO second because, well, to be honest because most web developers will never trust you if you say you’re an SEO.

But I’m sort of a weird hybrid of the two. And we’re very deep into the SEO space after speaking on the SEO Speaking Circuit for a decade.

There’s a lot of us that have a lot of SEO experience here and we bring that to the plugin, which is quite the opposite of what a lot of other SEO plugins do. So I think that’s where the success comes from.

Kate Toon:                             11:26                       Yeah, I would also say though that it comes from a very user friendly point of view in terms of the interface and how accessible it is for complete noobs.

I think we’re going to talk about some of that during the rest of the show that simple little elements within the UX of the plugin make it easy for people who don’t understand SEO to do some basic SEO,

Joost de Valk:                      11:53                       I’m very happy to hear you say that because I think we still stink at that.

Kate Toon:                             11:55                       Well, no. Hey, I’m not blowing your trumpet too much.

We’re going to talk about that in the episode, so just beware.

Okay.

So obviously what I did when I said you were coming on the show, people were rather excited and I got a lot of questions.

And the biggest question, or the thing that drives people crazy about Yoast is why is it being updated all the goddam time? Every time I look into my WordPress site, it’s like Yoast 17.3.2.4 is now released.

So what is that about?

Joost de Valk:                      12:24

So we have a bi-weekly release schedule, which means that every other week we do a release because we have about 30 people here developing and if we make more … if we make our releases bigger, then we’d have more changes in one release, which you think you might like, but it would also be more bug prone.

And I’m honestly getting to the point where we think we can enable automatic updates and this would be a user option, so of course you’d have to opt into that.

But we’re very close to our testing process being so rigid and so reliable that I think we can do automatic updates and not kill anyone.

And that is where we should be going. I honestly think that’s where WordPress should be going as well.

So WordPress shouldn’t do one or two releases a year, we should do bi-weekly releases with small incremental fixes that just roll out automatically.

Joost de Valk:                      13:39                       Now, the problem is that we have a bi-weekly release schedule, but we do patch releases when we break something for more than a certain amount of people.

And that amount of people is relatively low.

So if I break something for 1000 people, I’ll do a patch release, even though we have 8.5 million users.

Kate Toon:                             13:59                       So I guess the thing that people worry about though is do they need to update it every single time?
Or can they wait for a bigger one?

Joost de Valk:                      14:07                       If you skip one, it’s not a problem. I would urge you to update every other week or so because I do think we improve the software all the time, but not every update might have that big of an impact on you.

Kate Toon:                             14:21                       Yeah, and of course, just a little bit of listener admin, before you update any plugins, what must you always do?

Always make a backup just in case, so you can roll back.

I have another question for you around that.

How closely do you work with the other big boys, like the WooCommerces of this world?

You know, so if you make a big change, it’s going to impact another major plugin, like Memberium or WooCommerce or Gravity Forms, do you guys like get together and have coffee and donuts?
Or how does that work?

Joost de Valk:                      15:00                       We do that with Automattic.
Yoast is about 100 people right now, and so we use Slack heavily. And we have a shared Slack channel with Automattic. So we share a lot of conversations.

We have an integration channel in our Slack where we have external members from a lot of the bigger plugin teams.

So we have guys from Divi, Beaver Builder, that sort of … so we talk to them.

Every time we do a release, we also have a release candidate for the next release that we share.

Joost de Valk:                      16:04                       So we share them with them.

We test with the major plugins ourselves, so WooCommerce, Jetpack, a couple of other ones.

And to be honest, that’s probably never going to cover all of the plugins that are important to you because what’s important to you is different from all the others.

There’s only so many major plugins and we have become slightly arrogant enough to say all the other plugins should test with us.

Joost de Valk:                      16:41                       Well, and we will absolutely help everybody if they reach out. It’s just that I can’t keep up with 1000 other plugins.

So we test with, I think, 12 internally.

That’s 12 of the top most used plugins that we can see in our stats that are used a lot alongside Yoast SEO, and that’s about where we end.

But we try to not break any backwards compatibility and we try to know who’s using our integrations, etc. So that is a large part of why maintaining software like this becomes a hard job.

Kate Toon:                             17:17                       Yes, I can imagine.

So let’s have a talk about the software itself and the interface and the usability.

You said that you don’t think it’s great, but one of the things that people rave about and rant about is the traffic light system that you created, which obviously is a very easy get, but also

I’ve seen people lose their mind over the fact that they can’t get the green light.
Are you still a fan of your traffic light system?
Do you think it should have more colours in it?

Joost de Valk:                      17:45                       Well, no. What we are working on is to make it slightly more like Google.

So to make it … for the longest time, we’ve referred to one focus keyword, and we’ve been slightly too key with this.

The problem is that getting away from keyword based is very hard the way we run the analysis.

But you have to realise that we run all that analysis in your browser. So that doesn’t run anywhere else, that runs in JavaScript in your browser, it doesn’t go to our servers.

So what we have to do is figure out how to become better at that while not blowing up your browser.

Joost de Valk:                      18:29                       So we’re very close to a major release of Yoast SEO in which we will move from keyword to key phrase, and in which we will move from single … like, we’ll only recognise it if it’s in exactly that order, to recognising it in more different shapes and forms and automatically recognising plurals, for instance, of singles, and things like that.

That has taken about a year’s worth of development and four language scientists in our team to get well.

And we’ve got it done for English now, and now it’s up to us to then expand it to all the other languages.

Kate Toon:                             19:16                       That’s the thing, because I think what people like about Yoast is it’s simplicity, you know?
The focus keyword.

It still talks about keyword density, which always kind of makes me feel a bit itchy.

Joost de Valk:                      19:25                       That’s one of the things that goes away with that.

It doesn’t go away, it’s just that we talk about it differently.

Honestly, the funny thing is that in the SEO world you’ve got two groups of people.

You’ve got the people that don’t want to talk about keyword density because it’s stupid and you shouldn’t talk about that. That’s all the people doing SEO in English.

Then if you’re doing SEO in languages that Google is not as good at, then keyword density suddenly becomes very important. So this is a thing that there’s really three, four, five different times of content SEO depending on how proficient Google is at recognising your language.

And the large majority of the documentation about SEO is in English and about English language SEO, but even for me, that’s not my native language.

And when I write in Dutch, Dutch is a very small language area, there’s only about 25 million people in the world that speak Dutch.

There’s like 10 million websites in Dutch.

So there’s a lot of stuff to be ranked for in Dutch where the ranking algorithm is actually different from the English one and where keyword density unfortunately matters more than it does in English.

So it’s a hard story to tell and especially as we are worldwide and we have users on every continent. It is like, what do you optimise for?

Kate Toon:                             20:53                       Yeah, I think another thing as well, you know, as my core is SEO copywriting and copywriting in general, obviously English is one of the most sophisticated languages with one of the largest vocabularies compared to something like Thai, for example.

And so there are so many more synonyms, so many different types of contexts, more homonyms, and synonyms and metaphors that just don’t work anywhere else, and idioms and all those kinds of things.

So it’s so much more sophisticated.

And I think the problem that people have, or the thing that annoys me about people when they’re using Yoast or any tool is that it is just a tool.

It’s going to show you some stuff, but it can’t write your copy.

It can’t make you Shakespeare. And people have very high expectations of it.

Joost de Valk:                      21:40                       It’s not a turn it on and stop thinking type thing.

Kate Toon:                             21:43                       Exactly, exactly.

Joost de Valk:                      21:45                       And my wife has written an awesome post, The Temptation of the Green Bullet, I recommend everybody read that thinks about green bullets too much.

If you’re going to change your copy or the meaning of what you’re saying because of our bullet system, then you’re doing it wrong.

At the same time, we try to get more sophisticated about how we give you feedback, whilst keeping it as easily accessible as that stupid traffic light system is.

The funny thing about the traffic light system is that you figure out along the way that we are very used to the order in which our traffic light shows up.

It turns out that this is not a universal thing. In some countries it’s the other way around.

Kate Toon:                             22:32                       No.

Joost de Valk:                      22:35                       There’s so many things I’ve learned in the last few years about that is just weird.

But the idea is something that I think most people grasp immediately, and we try to improve on that.

 

So we’re working on 9.0, which will be due, I think halfway through October.

And we’ll have it in Yoast SEO premium, because unfortunately we had to make that a premium feature because of how it works.

And we’ll have what we call morphology and we’ll probably come up with a better marketing term for that, but that’s the linguistic term, which basically means that we’ll recognise all the forms of a word.

So if your keyword is ‘learn SEO’ and you’re writing ‘learning SEO’, then we’ll recognise that that is the same thing, only in English so far.

Kate Toon:                             23:33                       That’s pretty sexy though.

Joost de Valk:                      23:35                       It is very sexy.

It uses dictionaries that unfortunately are not open source, which is why we had to do it in premium, so it becomes a bit of a sass out of our Yoast environment.

We’ve added synonym support recently, which you might have seen, which already makes that better.

Then at the same time, our feedback becomes harder, so we’re working on that.

Like, okay, so if we tell you now that your keyword density is great, well, we’re not actually measuring just your keyword density, we’re measuring more.

But how do we tell that to you? And so there’s a lot of constant explaining of what you’re doing to people, and at the same time trying to keep it as accessible as possible in the interface.
That’s the struggle, but I think we’re getting better at it.

And especially in our readability stuff, I think we’re still improving in getting people to actually write more readable content.

Kate Toon:                             24:38                       See, that was my next thing that I was going to mention that the readability element, I think, is almost more important, you know?

Having that score, really understanding the readability age in Australia is around Year 7, which is around 12.

I mean, that’s not true. That’s not the literacy rate, but people read differently online.

They don’t read from top to bottom, they don’t read everything.

They kind of forage for content, and I think that people underestimate that the long sentences and the excessive adverbs and all that kind of stuff.

So I’m loving the readability stuff.

But I wanted to talk a little bit about Yoast 8.0, which is kind of out to kind of work with Gutenberg.

So tell us a little bit about that. What have you done to make Yoast Gutenberg friendly?

I saw that you implemented Schema elements and it’s all pretty cool.

Joost de Valk:                      25:31                       It is awesome.

Well there was a big step before that because our team has mostly built the APIs necessary for plugins to integrate into Gutenberg because there was no APIs for plugins to integrate into Gutenberg.

That took about a year of four full-time developers.

So you can imagine that we’re quite invested in Gutenberg.

But in that release, we introduced some new Schema blocks that basically allow you to structure content much more easily because we suddenly could.

We’d been thinking about doing Schema within the classic editor for quite a while, but we had never figured out a way to do a good interface for that because it was so hard to do things like a how-to.

How do you structure a how-to in such a way that we can actually demo that and that you’d understand it?

Or that you’d just select a block, which is what do in Gutenberg now. You select a how-to block and it basically … you don’t need an explainer.

It just works and you understand what you need to do. That’s what the experience that we want for everything, and it’s just very hard to get there.

Joost de Valk:                      26:50                       So Gutenberg opens up a new possibility for us to do that and to have much more Schema blocks.

And one of the things I already saw happening was that people were creating blocks that they were making premium for basic Schema.

And we were like, “Yeah, we’re not going to do that.”

So all our Schema blocks are in Yoast SEO 3, and I just don’t want people to be hating on that sort of stuff.

I think it makes the web better if everybody uses Schema around their content in a big way. So we’ll have a how-to block, that’s already in there.

There’s an FAQ page block already in there, but we’ve got a tonne more planned.

So things like jobs and recipes and other things that people use regularly that we think are a great addition to the web to just be able to throw in a block like that, write your content as though you’re normally writing content.

It’s very easy. I think it’s very intuitive.

And where it’s not intuitive, we’ll make it better.

And then you’ll suddenly end up with a how-to that’s not just structure well but that also has all the Schema so the search engines understand it well.

Kate Toon:                             28:03                       Yeah, and we’ve got a few episodes on Schema on the podcast, and it is still something that I think people find very overwhelming.

So it’s lovely when a plugin just comes with it, like WooCommerce, it’s all just in there, you don’t really need to do anything.

Joost de Valk:                      28:15                       WooCommerce has done a very good job of that, and I think it’s up to us to do a similar job for other types of content.

Like, Schema is a lovely premise, it’s just very hard for normal users to grasp, and I don’t see why they should even grasp it.

Kate Toon:                             28:31                       Yeah, if it’s baked into the plugin then that just makes it so much easier. Yeah, fantastic.

Joost de Valk:                      28:36                       That’s what we’re aiming for, to make it easily accessible, which is … our mission is to get SEO easily accessible for everyone so that everyone can build a findable website.

That’s what we want to do, and this is just another step in doing that and making it easy for people to build a website that’s easy to find online.

Kate Toon:                             28:55                       Yeah. Now, you mentioned earlier on that you kind of work with the plugins and some other things, you mentioned Divi.

Now, a lot of people who do my courses are on Divi.

I’m a big fan of Divi, but sometimes Yoast doesn’t quite play well with Divi. It doesn’t quite recognise you have used the key word, but it’s like it’s not there.

And people are like, “My Yoast is broken,” and it’s like, “Look, if it’s on the page, it’s there. They’re both only tools.”

Joost de Valk:                      29:20                       We’re trying to make that better though.

So what Gutenberg has brought us is a data API and it looks like most of the theme builders and all these builder plugins will integrate with that, and that allows us to measure all the content that’s on the page instead of just that one block.

So it’s a matter of us integrating better. We try hard, but it’s … well, it’s hard to get all of that going with everyone doing separate development.

Joost de Valk:                      29:54                       I compare it a lot to developing for Android versus developing for iOS, there’s like 100 versions of Android out there, and there’s only a couple of versions of iOS. iOS is so much easier as a developer.

In WordPress it’s even worse, we have 8.5 million installs and probably about 7.5 million different setups.

Kate Toon:                             30:17                       Yeah, it’s trick. I mean, you really are painting a good picture of being a plugin developer. I’m definitely crossing it off my wishlist now as something I want to do. It sounds like a lot of work.

So look, this wasn’t in the question list, but I wanted to ask you this because I think it’s an important thing for entrepreneurs and well-known business owners to talk about and we talked about Rand recently, and Rand has been very honest about the ups and downs of his career.

You mentioned earlier that there’s a big weight of responsibility when something goes wrong, now obviously recently something did go a little bit wrong and all the media attachments got crawled and I felt like you were like … it was like, get the pitchforks, set fire.

People went crazy.

How did you deal with that personally?
Did it just wash off you?
Or was it upsetting?
How do you deal with stuff like that?

Joost de Valk:                      31:18                       That’s upsetting, and especially as it usually becomes personal attacks.

And, well, people don’t realise what they do with that.
And at the same time, there was a lot of misinformation.

And so the number of people that thought they were hit by that in comparison to the number of people who were actually hit by that was a very big difference. I can honestly say that I’ve looked at the numbers for so many websites, and I’ve only seen like three or four websites that were truly hit by that issue.

At the same time, there were so many websites that had that problem, but it coincided with a Google update and a lot of other things.

So what was really happening was very hard to tell. So it was a part of it sometimes, but not even half of it.

Joost de Valk:                      32:20                       It’s painful when that happens. It’s painful when people suddenly call you out and say that you’re doing everything wrong and blah, blah, blah. And it’s very easy to do that when you’re the biggest in the industry.

Kate Toon:                             32:32                       And we’ve talked earlier before the show started about how peculiarly the SEO industry can be quite vicious, like the people within it.

There’s lots of amazing people, but people can be quite argumentative.

I’ve never seen anything quite like it. But it’s not like that in the copywriting world. Copywriters is quite nice to each other. So-

Joost de Valk:                      32:49                       They are. It’s different.

It’s also why I … well, why you’re hesitant to do some of that.

I have to admit, I have a lot of great friends in the SEO community that also stood up for us at that point in time.

It’s just that people throw up in the SEO community, we throw up technical boundaries all the time. So we say that this is important, that is important, it’s all these technical things that make us look important.

Whereas, to be fair, if you instal WordPress, you don’t even instal Yoast SEO, if you write the most awesome content in the world, you will probably rank.

Of course, we can help you do better, but WordPress by itself is already amazing and Google is amazing at detecting a lot of that.

Joost de Valk:                      33:48                       What most people don’t realise is that we talk to Google on an almost daily basis. So the attachment URL thing, we’ve been talking about that with them.

We’ve been devising solutions.

And to be honest, the funniest thing of all is people switching to other SEO plugins because the whole attachment URL thing in the basics is the problem of your attachment URLs being in the index.

We already own the SEO plugin that actually solves that problem in the first place.

So we unfixed our own fix, which some people got hit by because our plugin also causes a lot of crawling on URLs that weren’t indexed.

So our plugin worked too well for a while. But people don’t realise, “Yeah, I switched to that because they don’t have that problem.” I’m like, “Well, check your site.

All your attachment URLs are now indexed because your current SEO plugin cannot prevent that.” So there’s a lot of … well, people like being vicious and sometimes they are frustrated and they … well, the things that people say on Twitter or on Facebook-

Kate Toon:                             35:08                       They would never say in real life.

Joost de Valk:                      35:09                       No.

Joost de Valk:                      35:12                       They would not say to your face.

Kate Toon:                             35:14                       Exactly.

Joost de Valk:                      35:14                       And so sometimes you confront them and you go, “Okay, let’s have this call.”

And then they come in a call with you and there are suddenly like … and yeah.

But it’s hard, and it’s the moments in time that I personally hurt because most of those attacks come at me, and that doesn’t go away.

I mean, I can honestly say that that never becomes easy.

Kate Toon:                             35:40                       Yeah, and I think anybody who’s made a bit of a name for themselves in the SEO industry becomes a target for something.

Joost de Valk:                      35:50                       I have it fairly easy. I am as white and male as possible.

Kate Toon:                             35:57                       You’re super white and super male.

Joost de Valk:                      36:00                       So I have a fairly easy position in that.

If I look at friends in the industry that are not male, to start with, people like Aleyda, like … if I look at the vitriol that sometimes get at them and the mansplaining, my god.

It’s like … and I’m probably well aware of that because I’ve got a very intelligent wife that usually is the one explaining to me how the world works.

But it’s just … it’s vicious.

It’s harder on them than it is on me.

Kate Toon:                             36:37                       Yeah. I mean, as a woman in SEO, I’ve had many experiencea there.

I think also because you go into forums and you are maybe one of two or three women in the forum so you become a focus, both in a good way and a bad way.

People want to help, but then they … I don’t know.

It’s weird. It’s very weird.

But let’s talk about something a bit more positive. You said that you had lots of good buddies in the SEO industry.

And one of the places where you’re going to get to hang out with all those good buddies is going to be Yoast Con.

So tell us a little bit about Yoast Con and what you’ve got planned for that.

Joost de Valk:                      37:06                       So Yoast Con is our somewhat annual conference.

I hope at some point we’ll make it annual, but organising a conference is a lot of work.

Kate Toon:                             37:16                       Tell me about it, dude.

Joost de Valk:                      37:21                       But it’s coming up in February in 2019 in the Netherlands in Nijmegen, which is actually very close to where we are with Yoast and which is where I grew up and most of my colleagues live, etc.

It’ll be a two day SEO conference and a very fun one. We’ve already announced some of the speakers.

We’ve got Rand Fishkin, we’ve got Geraldine, who’s probably more awesome than Rand. Sorry Rand.

And we’ve got our own Jono Alderson.

We’ve got Purna.

We’ve got Aleyda.

So we’ve got a lot of fun people from the SEO industry.

And we’re trying to combine SEO with a bit of our own WordPress background and our open source background. So what is happening in the open source world is happening everywhere.

And combining that with our SEO knowledge and having a good time, having fun learning a lot of good things.

Joost de Valk:                      38:22                       We’ve got Els Aerts speaking, who is from AGConsult, which is our own conversion rate optimization company as well. They do it for Yoast, but they do it for a lot of big brands. She’s awesome.

So it’s a combination of a lot of copywriting content with a certain speaker that we won’t mention yet, and a lot of SEO on the slightly more technical side of content.

But also a lot of related stuff because all of that ties together.

We’re slowly … I’m finding ourselves slowly moving away from just purely SEO to more global website optimization because we’ve made the field too narrow.

Kate Toon:                             39:05                       Yeah, and then you get into branding and authority building and trust and all that other sexy stuff.

Joost de Valk:                      39:12                       Obviously we are quite big on branding at Yoast if you’ve ever seen our brand, you’ll see that.

I mean, we work on that a lot. All these illustrations and things, everything is all like custom. I’ve been working on that from the very beginning and I had very big opinions on how to do that.

So we try to combine all of that into one story and basically make it go away with a lot of to-dos like, “Shit. I now need to work on my website.”

Kate Toon:                             39:39                       Yep.

Well, it sounds fantastic and I’ll include a link to yoast.com in the show notes so everyone can go buy a ticket.

Now, I’ve got two final questions for you, which aren’t really Yoast related.
I guess, and this is a big question, but if you could kind of sum up what you think … what do you think is going to be the big thing in SEO in 2019?

So lots of people said, “It’s all going to be about Schema, it’s going to be about voice search, it’s going to be about branded search.”

Not necessarily for Yoast particularly, but what do you think is going to be the thing that people need to focus on in 2019?

Joost de Valk:                      40:16                       A couple of things. On the one hand, AMP and PWAs. Google has-

Kate Toon:                             40:21                       You’ll have to explain those acronyms. Remember, we’ve got newbies.

Joost de Valk:                      40:26                       AMP is accelerated mobile pages, which is a project by Google on making the web faster in many ways. They’re promoting that heavily.

PWAs are progressive web applications, which basically turn your website into an application that you can install on your phone.

Both have incredible opportunity and there’s a lot of work being done on both of them, which I like, and will probably have a huge impact, especially in the WordPress world as you see

Google do specific AMP and PWA plugins for WordPress themselves. Instead of stipulating other people to do it, they’re now building those plugins themselves, which is a huge step forward. So that is happening.

Joost de Valk:                      41:17                       I actually think Gutenberg, which is not just coming to WordPress now, but also coming to Drupal, which is a huge step, I think.

I hope some of the other open source CMSs will wake up and will implement the same interface as well so we can converge towards a platform where WordPress or Drupal or something else is the backend that you choose through your editor. Your editor is the same across everything because that would make everything better.

And Gutenberg, with it’s Schema blocks, etc, allows for a much better web because we suddenly can think about block based content in a way that makes sense.

We’ve been talking about blocks forever, but in the end, Google and a lot of other search engines still need that URL because the URL is the thing that they tie everything to. And suddenly we can do that slightly better and we can do Schema better, and we can do all these things.

I think Schema is important, but I think Schema is not accessible to normal people, and Gutenberg actually allows us to make that accessible.

So I think we will talk a lot about that.

Joost de Valk:                      42:27                       And we’re not done talking about page speed in general yet.

So I think that’ll be a topic that’s not going away for the next couple of years, which is very related to mobile.

So there’s a lot of things happening. Well, I would say that probably PWA and AMP is what most people will be writing about.

Kate Toon:                             42:52                       That’s interesting, thanks.

And I think the Gutenberg thing is interesting too.

I guess the thing I’d like to finish up on is, I’d like to kind of take you back to when you were a lowly web developer working in SEO and imagine that you’ve got someone in front of you who’s just about to set up their own online business, build a website, and they don’t really know anything about SEO, what would you say to them?

That’s a big question there.

I don’t really know why I’m asking it, but what would you say to them is the number one thing they should focus on? I think you’ve touched on it a few times in terms of just writing great content,

Joost de Valk:                      43:25
So I think most SEO projects fail at the very beginning because they fail to do proper keyword research, and that’s probably the first thing you should focus on.

Like, not what are you calling that product that you provide, but what are your customers calling that product?

And then if you know that, if you have an understanding of how they perceive your product and how they think about it, it becomes a lot easier to write about it and in their voice and in such a way that they will find you.

And it is then writing good content.

I mean, Yoast got big off of three, four, or five good articles. Literally, the WordPress SEO article on yoast.com still has like 40,000 links from different domains because I wrote about how to do SEO for WordPress 10 years ago and I kept updating it.

Kate Toon:                             44:24                       It’s good content, understanding your audience, talking like your audience, and that feeds into conversational search and voice and everything.

Joost de Valk:                      44:40                       It should never be a problem if you have good content.

And I think that there is one misconception in how most SEOs talk about voice search.

I don’t think it’s necessarily voice search itself will change it so much.

The thing is that search engines are gearing up to do voice search more.

So they’re making changes to how they present eb search results because of voice search.

And that has changed our industry more than anything else, the featured answers and all these things are coming straight from them trying to prepare for that Google home device and everything else. It’s not there yet.

Kate Toon:                             45:17                       It’s exciting times though. Like, I think people keep on saying SEO is dead, but it just keeps evolving and there’s lots of exciting things coming up.

Joost de Valk:                      45:26                       Yeah. I hope at some point we can say that it’s dead, but I don’t think that will ever be true.

Kate Toon:                             45:32                       No, I don’t think so. Well, look, Joost. I’m so grateful for you taking the time to come on the show. It’s been brilliant.

Joost de Valk:                      45:38                       My pleasure.

Kate Toon:                             45:39                       I like the fact that you have a vaguely cockney accent. I don’t know why you do, but you sound like you come from East London. I think that’s kind of cool.

Joost de Valk:                      45:46                       I spend a lot of time at The Guardian.

Kate Toon:                             45:48                       That’s it. A lot of time at The Guardian, you see?

Sounds like an English person.

I like that.

Thank you ever so much.

If you want to learn more about Joost, you can head to the blog post for this podcast and you’ll find links to all his bits and bobs and yoast.com and everything else.

Now, we obviously have lots of questions that we couldn’t squeeze in for Joost today, but maybe we’ll get him back if he’s willing. So thanks Joost.

That’s the end of this week’s show.

Joost de Valk:                      46:18                       My pleasure.

Kate Toon:                             46:19                       If you have any questions, then you can also head to the I Love SEO group on Facebook.

And as you know, I like to end the show with a shout out to one of my lovely listeners.

And this time it’s from [Jed Ho], and he or she says, “It’s great to listen to a podcast about something technical and not feel completely lost. Thanks Kate, you make it so much simpler to understand SEO.”

Thank you very much. And thanks to you for listening. If you like the show, don’t forget to leave a five star rating and review on iTunes or Stitcher or wherever you listened. Your review will help others find the show and learn more about the lovely world of SEO.

And don’t forget to check out the show notes where you can learn more about Joost and find useful links. And finally, don’t forget to tune into my two other podcasts, the Hot Copy Podcast, a podcast for copywriters, and The Confessions of a Misfit Entrepreneur. Until next time, happy SEOing.