Talking Plugins with Joost de Valk of Yoast SEO
Do you use WordPress? If so, the odds are good that you use the Yoast SEO plugin created by Joost de Valk.
As a WordPress developer, Joost has contributed quite a bit to the WordPress community, though his claim to fame is his understanding of search engine optimization and his SEO plugin.
Early on, his knowledge of SEO caught the attention of important people in the industry. At the SEO Days conference in 2007, organizer Dave Naylor introduced him to people such as Google’s Matt Cutts, Danny Sullivan and Chris Sherman from the Search Engine Strategy conferences (and later SMX), and Foundation Digital’s Greg Boser.
Nowadays he’s serving up powerful SEO tools to help every content manager maximize the search engine juice for their content.
Recently Joost offered Namecheap some insights into how he became a plugin developer and what to think about when developing the next big plugin.
Q: How did you come to build the SEO plugin?
I had a website called CSS3.info, which I was optimizing to rank well. In that process I had built several plugins for WordPress, to manage particular bits of the SEO of my site. I released some of those plugins on WordPress.org, and got very positive feedback, both from the SEO community and the larger WordPress community.
At some point I realized “this all needs to go into one plugin”, and started creating Yoast SEO for WordPress, adding the “missing” pieces on the fly.
Q: And was this first plugin you built?
I started out with smaller ones, then bundled them. If you ever want to develop plugins I’d suggest starting with a smaller plugin too. The ecosystem is very complex, every plugin can interact with every other plugin. So if you have a plugin like Yoast SEO that runs on every page load, you’re going to have a lot of issues with every other plugin if it does something wrong.
Q: Apart from your plugins which others do you see as essential?
Very few plugins are essential to everyone. If they were, the features would (and should) be in WordPress itself. I think for any website that wants to draw an audience from search, you’d need an analytics plugin or a google tag manager plugin. We also run a couple of plugins to deal with our comments, both to prevent comment spam and to make moderation easier. Our own free comment hacks plugin is essential for that.
There are also a ton of good plugins on WordPress.org. If you need anything, see which plugins the search there finds for you and filter out the ones that have more than 100,000 installs and a decent rating. Those can usually be trusted to work quite well.*
Q: What do you see as the essential elements to cover for WordPress SEO?
There are many and I have a guide that goes into great detail, but I always look to optimizing titles and descriptions, and use of breadcrumbs. Now page load speed becomes a big element; so clean your code where possible and watch what you are using in your sidebars. Test page speed with, and without, various elements and then consider what you will use.
Q: Any tips or things to be aware of for SEO in 2017 either using WordPress or in general?
Well, AMP [Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) Project] is all the rage, of course, so have a look at whether other sites in your niche are implementing AMP and whether or not you’re losing traffic by not doing it. If not, stay out, for now, if you are, start implementing it. We have several guides on Yoast.com about implementing AMP that can be useful.
* Namecheap note: You should always check that your proposed WordPress plugin works with your current version of WordPress and the theme you are using, and review when it was last updated. Don’t use outdated plugins or ones that aren’t tested with the current version of WordPress. Also, it’s worth comparing the differences between the free versus paid versions of a plugin. Often you can start out with a free version and if the plugin works well for your needs you can upgrade to get the added features.
Frank Watson is an experienced online marketer who has been involved with the web since its inception. He writes for a number of online publications and now has joined the Namecheap team working on affiliate marketing and SEO. He will be working on a series of interviews with knowledgeable digital personalities.