In this installment of the Blogger Interviews series, I have the chance to introduce to you to Joost De Valk. Joost is well known throughout the WordPress community so I hope you’re ready for this one. Ok then, let’s dive right in!
Interview with Joost De Valk aka Yoast
First I’d like to start off by saying what an honor it is to have this interview with you here on Basic Blog Tips. I’m familiar with your work and I know that you have done an impressive job with your blog and your work with WordPress plugin development, but..
For those who aren’t familiar with you please give us some background about yourself and your personal life and a little bit about how you got started with blogging.
While I built my first website when I was 12, in ’94, my first blog didn’t come into existence until around 2003/2004. Back then it was on joostdevalk.nl, where I shared code samples. A lot of that was CSS3, so I decided to split that off into CSS3.info, which became the best resource on CSS3 on the web for quite a while.
A few years later I decided to move to yoast.com (yoast being the correct way to pronounce my first name if you’re an english native speaker) and the rest is history.
On a personal level I’m now 30 years old, the father of 2 boys, 5.5 and 3 months old and 1 daughter of 2.5 and happily married to my wife Marieke, who’s a teacher and holds a Ph. D. in Criminology.
When you were first introduced to the WordPress blogging platform, what impressed you about it the most and why did you choose WordPress over other self-hosted blogging platforms like Joomla, Drupal or even Typepad?
Because it was easier to use and had better SEO capabilities. Joomla back then was an even bigger mess than it is now, Drupal had no decent user interface and was harder to use, Typepad was hosted and I’ve always wanted to own my own stuff.
Tell us more about your blogs and your other websites. I remember that you had a podcast, are you still podcasting and where can we find the podcast and your other websites.
I’m currently on a pro-longed hiatus with podcasting. I am however working on doing webinars, my first, paid, webinar series on Advanced WordPress SEO will be coming soon. If you or your readers are interested in that they should definitely subscribe to my newsletter.
Talk to us about the whole idea of developing WordPress plugins. What kind of expertise or education does someone need who is interested in getting into plugin development?
You should be proficient at PHP and then start picking other plugins apart. My bigger ones might be hard to start with but simpler plugins like my comment redirect plugin for instance might be a great start. WordPress has a lot of built-in API’s that make a lot of things easier, but it also has some wrappers around functionality that you might be used to using so that it works on all platforms.
Next, if you’re building a plugin, make sure that you also market it, there’s nothing I hate more than see a good plugin go to waste because nobody told anyone. So, build cool stuff, tell cool people.
I’m thinking about attending Blog World NYC in June. Have you ever been an attendee or a speaker at a major blogging conference? What is that experience like, and do you recommend that to bloggers as a way of expanding their audience and engaging with others. What’s a good success story you can share with have to tell about your experience with conferences.
I’m a regular speaker on WordCamps around Europe as well as on SEO conferences around the world, both of which I think are awesome fun. I’ve never spoken at Blog World before but know a lot of my friends have and speak highly of the conference.
Through conferences you meet people and make real relations. The difference between emailing someone you’ve only known through email and emailing someone you’ve had a few beers with is ginormous, so I would really suggest walking up to people and talking to them. I’ve noticed in the past that some people can become “star struck”, don’t let that happen to you, walk up to people you admire and ask if you can buy them a beer or something else, I know that for me you’ll always strike gold with that 🙂
I asked Kim Castleberry from Just Ask Kim this question in an interview I did with her and she gave some fantastic feedback, so I’m going to ask you the same question. Joost, when you talk to your readers, what kinds of problems or questions do they have? Do you ever get questions from people that have you stumped? What do you do when that happens?
Most of my readers have questions and issues related to WordPress. I can solve 90% of them easily and the last 10% I have to dive into the code for, funnily enough I like that last 10% best as it makes me learn new stuff. I’ve recently had to take a few steps back though and cut a lot of the email out, I was getting hundreds of emails a day and that’s really a productivity killer.
SEO Advice from Joost
I’d like to switch gears a little and ask about SEO. I know that a lot of people hear your name and they start to think about SEO. But for some others that don’t know about your famous plugin WordPress SEO by Yoast, what are some of the basic reasons why bloggers should care about SEO? In addition, can you talk about some of the SEO services that you offer?
For the same reason that plugin developers should market their plugins, bloggers should do SEO: when you write interesting stuff, people should hear / find out about it. SEO is one of the easiest ways to get traffic, a lot of bloggers really don’t need to do a whole lot more than the following:
- for each post you write, think about the keywords people would search for when searching for solutions around this topic
- pick one of those keywords, maybe using the Google suggest box in my plugin or Google Trends or something else
- embed those keywords in your post, your post title, etc.
It’s exactly that process that my SEO plugin (which is free btw) aims to help you with. It shows you a preview of what your post might look like as a search result, helping you to position yourself as a searcher searching for that topic.
As for services, I basically have two of them: SEO consulting and training, which I mostly do for the bigger brands out there, and website reviews. The latter I do because I love being able to help people out with their sites for a reasonable price (€495 at the moment, which is about $650-$700).
I’m a big fan of YouTube and I love to create and video tutorials. What are you doing in terms of video that readers can check out and where does video fit in your content portfolio.
Not enough. I’ve got a whole lot of things planned though, especially when my Video SEO module for my WordPress SEO plugin finally hits the street 🙂
What social networks do you like, are you a big Twitter user or is Facebook more your speed. How about Google+ and Pinterest. Are they high on your priority list or are you outsourcing those forms of engagement. I mean we know that there are only so many hours in a day and if your developing plugins I’m sure something else gets neglected, so if you had to pick where would you, or where DO you, spend most of your time on social networks.
The solution I’ve found to the hours in a day problem is to just sleep less 😉
Joost, please share with us some insider info. What do you see as the next thing in terms of the world of WordPress or plugin development. What features would you like to see next that could make all of our lives as bloggers easier?
There are talks about adding some of the functionality, like titles and meta descriptions, that is in SEO plugins like mine into WordPress core. I think that would benefit all of us so let’s hope it happens.
Any parting words of advice that you would like to share? Joost, give us one thing that you see lacking in most blogs that we should all be looking at and taking action on if necessary.
I think if you take the SEO advice I gave above and run with it, you’ll see a tremendous improvement already. Once you do that, start thinking about how you relate your content, start making lists of related posts, guide your reader through what you’ve got on your site by using related posts and round-up posts as well as widgets that link to your evergreen content and both your reader and Google will love you for it.