Joost de Valk, Founder and Chief Product Officer of Yoast joins Ross Dunn to discuss the Yoast SEO plugin. The interview covers the basic and advanced features, plus some upcoming updates and enhancements to the plugin that is sure to interest all users.



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Transcription of Episode 404

Ross: Hello, and welcome to SEO 101 on, episode number 404. This is Ross Dunn, CEO of StepForth Web Marketing. Today, I have a special episode for you. We are interviewing Joost de Valk. The Founder and Chief Product Officer of Yoast. He’s a digital marketer, developer, and open source fanatic. In 2010, he founded Yoast which nowadays employs more than 140 people. Its flagship software, Yoast SEO, is available on multiple open source platforms and active on more than 11 million websites. In fact, it said 12 million the other day.

Joost: Yeah. We’ve just crossed 12 million.

Ross: Welcome. Thanks for being on the show.

Joost: Thank you. It’s been a while. It turns out that we’re both getting old and we don’t remember when we did the last show together.

Ross: The show’s been doing 11 years. I still can’t believe that, but then again, you’ve been running your business for 11 years.

Joost: Yeah. I think that the last time I was on, I was still doing a regular podcast myself, the WordPress podcast. Which has gone through a couple of hosts since and is now still being done on I recently started my own podcast again. We’ve come full circle it seems.

Ross: What do you do on your podcast? What is it called?

Joost: It’s called The Yoast SEO podcast because why not? It does sound a lot like SEO 101 when I think about it. I bring on friends and colleagues from the industry and chat about a lot of different things. Slightly wider than just SEO, to be honest. Recently, I had Purna Virji talking about LinkedIn and LinkedIn strategies and Kate Toon, talking about SEO copywriting—a lot of different people.

Ross: Awesome. That’s fun. I’m going to start another one myself. It’s going to be broader as well.

Joost: It is hard to focus on just SEO. I find that more and more that it’s all interconnecting so much that it’s becoming one big digital marketing space.

Ross: It is. I don’t do just SEO anymore, but it is a fascinating field. There’s always lots to talk about. I’m looking forward to having another show where I can just go on everything, like what makes you a web hero. Anyway, it’s going to be fun.

To start with, just to geek out, every time I play Lego with my kids, I don’t know how or why but I think about you. You know why? I’m pretty sure it’s because I saw pictures of your Lego city or village. You bought a cup of those home, the buildings.

Joost: Yeah. I have a lot of those. Honestly, my own Lego hobby has turned into somewhat of a weird thing here within the company. We now have annual Lego building days where we bring in everyone who wants to come with their kids and partners. Literally, what happens and this is kind of crazy, is they’ll get new boxes of Lego, and then by the end of the day, I hope that they’ve built everything that I’ve bought that year because I buy too many Legos to the point of having to up my insurance because of the number of Legos.

I have pretty much every modular. I have pretty much every big Star Wars set of the last eight years or so. It’s ridiculous. But it’s also super awesome.

Ross: Yes. I can’t say how much I love it. It’s great. My kid just loves it, too. He’s got my old stuff from the 80s, the old Space Lego.

Joost: It’s awesome. I’ve got my own castles from the late 80s, too, my knight stuff.

Ross: Good times. That’s great. You’ve sparked an idea in me. I think I have a way to write off Lego now.

Joost: Yeah. It’s called office furniture. I get away with it, so why don’t you?

Ross: Exactly, why not? That’s so much fun. I guess we should jump into Yoast and your business and all that. First of all, what is the Yoast plugin? What does it do?

Joost: Yoast SEO, if you run WordPress, it’s the most common way to optimize your WordPress site for search engines. We do a couple of different things. On the one hand, we try to take all the technical problems away from you by just solving them for you. I would describe it as the most transparent method. We basically try to not give you any settings and just do it right because we think that we know better than anyone else. For some stuff, we give you settings if we think that this might be dependent per site. But for a lot of things, we do have very much a decision, not options, mindset.

That’s on the technical side. On the writing side, we have an SEO analysis and a readability analysis. It gives you feedback while you write on how well optimized your text is and maybe even more important now how well readable your text is, how easy is your text to read from the screen on a mobile device, et cetera. Finally, what we’re finding more and more, we have a team of linguists working on this, is that it actually correlates quite well with how good Google is at understanding what your copy is about. Because as you make your text simpler, it also becomes easier for them to parse and it becomes easier for them to understand the concepts and the things that you’re talking about.

It’s also easier to read out loud. A Google Assistant can speak it to someone. There’s a lot of stuff there. We started with readability five years ago now. We’ve improved on that a lot. I’ve actually learned a lot in terms of SEO from the team because they do all these things like where the SEO industry goes nuts on TF-IDF or latent semantic indexing or all these things that would be an occasional craze that comes by. But some of these things you can actually use in a very useful way when you’re analyzing text.

Yoast SEO actually has, if you have our premium plugin, we do internal linking suggestions and we give you suggestions on which other pages on your site you should link to. We do that based on content analysis that uses a TF-IDF algorithm to not match stuff on words that you use all the time.

Ross: For the listeners, what is TF-IDF?

Joost: TF-IDF is term frequency-inverse document frequency. It’s a whole lot of technical crap. It does a couple of things. What you try to do is you try to figure out what the text is about and say you get the most prominent words. But then for some of those words, they are prominent, but they are prominent in all of your texts. They don’t really matter. On, almost every text will contain the word Yoast and in almost every text will contain the word SEO. Those words don’t really matter when you’re comparing texts and you’re trying to find similar texts on LinkedIn. You need to exclude those in an automatic way.

That’s what you can do with TFIDF in a very good way. You can search and then exclude the stuff that is very similar but not similar enough. By doing that, we can do very good internal linking suggestions with relatively cheap database queries because all of these are always very hard on the database. We have to optimize for that because most WordPress sites don’t have really strong search systems behind them.

Ross: The levels of detail you have to consider when you’re creating these new additions to the plugin, I can’t even fathom.

Joost: No. It’s pretty hard. We run all those analyses in JavaScript in your browser. It is pretty hard to do because one of the things that we’ve always prided ourselves upon is that all the analysis we do runs on your site, in your browser, nothing gets sent to our servers for analysis because we don’t want to know about your copy. It is your copy. This matters more to some people than it does to others. I know that one of my good friends who was the marketing manager at Disney at that time, installed it on, it was actually very good that he could say no, this doesn’t send any data out to anything.

It’s just great. Going back to your original question, Yoast SEO does technical optimization out of the box. We try to take care of everything. Then we give you feedback on your writing and try to help you write better content. More and more, we’re also trying to help you structure your site better—how can we help you improve your internal linking, how can we help you find those pages on your site that don’t have any links, how can we make sure that you link to your most important pages, your cornerstone pages, as we call them the most. That’s basically the things that we do.

Ross: To our listeners, the internal linking, how does that help a website?

Joost: In many ways, if you have only 10 pages, then this is not for you. But if your site’s been growing, and you have pages that talk about similar and related topics but not the same topics and you want to interlink them in such a way that Google understands which page is about what, and also that Google understands which page is the most important page on your site for that topic. You’re constantly playing with that and looking at that. Sometimes even merging articles.

I know we do this all the time on where we go like, okay, we’ve now written three times about this particular topic. We’re just going to merge those three articles into one and make sure that we rank well for it. It’s amazing what you can do with internal linking on a website. So often have I found, if you go into sites that have a bit of breadth and depth in terms of how much content they have, if you improve the internal linking and you can make it smarter, you can almost always improve the ranking for your sites.

Ross: What are the limitations of that? Obviously, this is a premium service. Is there a limit to the size of the site that it works on, especially if you’re running from the browser?

Joost: No. We do that analysis once and then we have a database with all your prominent words and then we can run those queries quite fast. I know there’s a couple of very large sites out there with over a million posts that use us without any problems.

Ross: That database must get rather huge though.

Joost: It’s relatively simple because it’s only words. It’s not that big. Of course, it grows along with the size of your site. If you have a million posts, that table is also going to be big. No, it’s not that bad, to be honest. It’s probably a lot cheaper—cheaper is mostly an engineer’s term in that regard—in resources than most other search solutions would be.

Ross: Does it give recommendations on when you should consolidate content?

Joost: Not yet. But I’m looking at that actively. How can we say, hey, this content is so similar that you should probably merge it. It’s one of the things that we’re looking at whether we can do that.

Ross: That’s the sort of thing that I’ve got like three, four times. I don’t know how many times you’ve written certain things. It would be amazing to be able to consolidate that. I just don’t even have the brainpower to consider doing that in my day.

Joost: At Yoast, we have a very active team of blog writers that continuously improve our site. It’s one of the things that they can back with. It would be good if the plugin could actually help us figure out where we’re doubling up on stuff because has 4000 pages or something. It just becomes a lot. Not everyone knows where every bit of content is, which is of course, very understandable.

But basically competing with yourself because usually when you do this sort of thing, if you have three resources that all talk about exactly the same topic and people are linking to all three, then you’re basically cannibalizing yourself.

Ross: Yeah, you’re splitting all the benefits. It doesn’t make any sense at all.

Joost: No.

Ross: I can only imagine you get a billion questions from users. What are some of the most common questions that when you reply, you get a-ha moments from Yoast users?

Joost: That’s a good question. There’s a group of people that need to be told that keyword research is important even in 2021. You call it topic research or keyword research or whatever, I don’t really care as long as you research what your prospective customers are interested in, what they search for, which words they use to describe what they search for and how would they describe you, and then write those words. It is a concept that has not changed in years of search. But it is still, for every one new into the market, that is a concept that you need to grasp.

Ross: You actually made a bit of a partnership with SEMrush?

Joost: Yes.

Ross: What did that do for your keyword research?

Joost: We have a focus keyword field in our plugin where we ask you to say, which keyword or key phrase do you want this article to rank for? What the SEMrush integration helps you do is find more related keywords around that so that you know like, okay, what are people searching for? It might sometimes even tell you, okay, I’m optimizing for slightly the wrong term. But in a lot of cases, it tells you, these keywords are probably good to use when I’m writing as well. The combination of those things. I found it very useful myself when writing. Just to get a bit more feedback.

Ross: I admit, I don’t use it so much myself being an optimizer. Does it understand semantics? Does it have that capability?

Joost: Yeah. In Yoast SEO Premium, we understand singulars and plurals, and different word forms. It’s one of our premium features. Which is honestly, in English, relatively simple to do. As simple as a very relative […] because that is already hard. But doing that in other languages has turned out to be sometimes even harder.

Ross: I can only imagine.

Joost: We now support 18 languages in that and we’re slowly expanding. One of the reasons why there are 140 people at Yoast is because all of this is real work.

Ross: No doubt. How about synonyms? Does it understand that kind of aspect?

Joost: Not by itself, but you can enter synonyms into the plugin. That’s why if you have our Premium plugin, you can add related keywords or synonyms. You can say hey, this is a synonym and then we can account for that. But that’s the sort of thing that’s incredibly hard. Google knows all these things, but Google has a massive database. Since we try not to grab any data from as we were doing the optimization because we don’t want to send that data out, we can’t get that data from anywhere. We let you enter that yourself.

To be honest, I’m old school in that way too. I actually think that people should do their own keyword research and that the best keyword research tool out there is your brains and just your ears listening to your customers. Tools can help you validate and can help you maybe widen a bit, but the initial keyword research is something that you really should do yourself with your team and your customers and just in your own business.

Ross: Cool. Let’s take a quick break. When we come back, I got a question about JSON-LD.

Welcome back to SEO 101 on hosted by myself, Ross Dunn, CEO of StepForth Web Marketing. We’re joined today by Joost de Valk, the founder, and chief product officer of Yoast.

This is a question from my colleague, Scott, he says, do you have any plans to include an open field for pages under advanced where a person could post custom JSON-LD code? With some themes, adding custom code to client’s pages can be a challenge, but since most clients utilize Yoast, if this field was present, it would make some situations much easier.

Joost: The honest answer, and I’m afraid I’m going to make him sad, is no, and there’s a reason for that as well. Our schema outputs all interconnects. Your article piece on that page links to the web page, which links to the website piece which links to the organization that publishes it, and which links to the author of that page, et cetera. We create a graph of that entire page in our schema. Just simply adding something in an open field block like that, won’t work. What we do try to do and what I’d love to hear from him later on is, what are you trying to add? What type of schema do you want to add that we don’t support yet? We have an FAQ on a how-to block within Yoast SEO if you’re using the Gutenberg editor then you can already create a FAQ markup for schema which is pretty damn hard to do if you do it manually. We do it automatically for you and it’s as easy as just inserting a Yoast FAQ block and just writing that FAQ. We do everything else.

Ross: That’s the premium?

Joost: No, that’s free and the how-to block that we have is also free.

Ross: That’s great.

Joost: We have all that. In Premium we’ll soon add a jobs block that allows you to do the whole jobs markup which is honestly, quite a lot of different fields and inter-relations. All of these need to tie together because if you have organization markup on your page, and you have a jobs block on your page, and you’re not telling Google how they relate to each other, then the chance of you ranking with that stuff, in the long run, is just not going to be as big because Google doesn’t know how these two things connect to each other. That is honestly the biggest challenge that we have with schema in the long run. We have all these things on a page. How do they relate? It’s up to us as an SEO plugin to figure out what’s the most important thing on that page, what’s the primary item. We tried to do that in a smart way.

Now, if you are a developer and you want to integrate, we have on If you search there for schema API, we have a full API on how to integrate with our schema, add more stuff to it, remove pieces from it, change pieces because all of it is filterable. All of it can be changed, and you can do awesome stuff with it. I’ve seen people build incredible stuff on it already. We’re slowly adding more blocks ourselves. If you use a Gutenberg editor, then you can very easily create these schema pieces that otherwise would be a lot of work to do manually.

Ross: Wow. What about sameAs schema? Can you add individual ones if you wanted to add 12 on a single page?

Joost: Yeah. The question is a bit like for whom would you like to add the sameAs? For the writer?

Ross: Let’s say it’s a page with my bio and I want to add sameAs for me. I could have a whole number of social profiles, articles, author pages, those kinds of things. I think that might be one of the instances of what he was talking about.

Joost: We can probably solve some of that, but not all of it. Although, we are trying to get there. The way we think about it is that an organization has sameAs URLs, as those are the social profiles that you can fill out in the settings for your company, in the settings of Yoast SEO. They will use those in your sameAs for your organization and then, every individual user on your site also has on their profile page a list of fields that they can enter like their get-up et cetera and their Wikipedia page about them if there is one. We’re going to add their free form fields where you can add more sameAs references if you want.

There’s a very simple API for that as well. The same thing goes to You can add them very simply. What you cannot do yet is say, this page is about that user. Your author page on your blog does this by default. It does connect to two things, but I have no function for you to say, this is a bio page and this describes that person. We don’t have that yet, but that’s a very big yet because that is something that totally makes sense for us to just add because it’s relatively simple to do.

Ross: Awesome. Hopefully, that’s something that comes with this. It would be great.

Joost: We tried to make these things simple so you don’t have to actually write the code.

Ross: You mentioned you’ve seen a lot of people who have used these APIs and done some amazing things with them. What are they? Are these separate plugins? How do they do that? Are they just writing this code on their site? Or is this publicly available as add-ons or something?

Joost: One good example is The Events Calendar plugin that allows you to set up events on your site. They’ve built a very cool integration that we’ve recently merged into Yoast SEO. All events automatically get the right markup. It is very simple. You have to code it. If you have a plugin for something specific, we have an API and people integrate with it. There are quite a few plugins that integrate with it. You can write your own plugin. You can add it to your theme. Although to be honest from my perspective, the schema is content and it doesn’t belong in your theme. It belongs either in a plugin or in your database, but not in a theme.

Ross: Right. Very clear, makes sense. One of the other thoughts I had from their colleague was that he wanted to ask you about your thoughts on website speed WordPress. Imagine you’re always concerned about the Yoast plugin’s weight or resource use and such, you don’t want it slowing down any pages. I don’t think I’ve ever even imagined it could happen, but I suppose anything could. What are your thoughts on website speed in WordPress and how that’s all coming about?

Joost: It’s a big challenge right now for a lot of people to try and get as good as PHP does. Google is focusing on it more and more. Every plugin slows your site down a tiny bit, but it really is in a lot of ways, a tiny bit, but we have been optimizing a lot for that. Our 14.0 release last year was all about optimizing how we generate front-end output. We have to do a lot of calculations on your front end normally to come up with all the stuff that we want to output there. If we have to output breadcrumbs, if we have to output your title, your Facebook meta, your Twitter meta, all of that has to come from somewhere. We created a system called Indexables where we have a separate table with all of your site’s metadata. We can just grab it in one simple query, grab all the metadata for a post, and just have it, and use it in all those different facets.

We’ve optimized ourselves for that. Now, we’ve been playing recently with and seeing how fast we can make that. is a WordPress site running WooCommerce and about 50 plugins. It is quite a heavy site in many ways. It’s probably heavier than most. We have a lot of customers. There’s a couple of hundred to a couple of thousand transactions today going through that. If you run it through Lighthouse now, you’ll see that gets a 4 x 100 score on basically everything. You can make a very fast site on WordPress without any issues. Of course, that’s work and you need to think about it. It’s not necessarily easy in many ways, and honestly, we couldn’t do it without Cloudflare.

Ross: What part of Cloudflare are you using? Are you using that $5 one?

Joost: No. We have an enterprise account.

Ross: Yeah, I figured.

Joost: I’m paying them more money than I pay my host.

Ross: Hey, if it’s going to do that, it’s pretty awesome.

Joost: To be honest, it also serves our plugin updates and our premium JavaScript. When you run our premium plugin, we load some of that morphology that we just talked about—the language-specific bits where we know the plurals and singulars and all the different forms of your copy. We load that from our servers because if we ship that for every language to your site then the zip size would be huge. We load that only for that language and Cloudflare serves all of that. It’s super-fast, but otherwise, all our customers would bring our own site down. We’re a very happy customer of Cloudflare. It is one of the best things that has ever happened to the web.

Ross: I fully agree. I love using it. It hasn’t been a perfect thing for us, but it has been a major improvement.

Joost: As with every major tool, you can shoot yourself in the foot.

Ross: We’ve been testing plugins or in the midst of testing different plugins that help with caching and speeding up WordPress. Have you used anything else? Did you test Nitro plugins or anything like that?

Joost: We test a lot of them. Honestly, if you want to go on the cheap, I would just go to SiteGround, use their hosting, and their own speed plugin. It’s pretty good. There are a couple of others that aren’t bad. As they become more complex, the chance of you killing your own side with it becomes bigger. W3 Total Cache has been around for ages, but it’s a bit like giving a kitchen butcher’s knife. It’s just too hard to configure. As a WordPress community and hosts need to get to the point where users don’t have to know about this because it’s way too hard for users to fix this. You don’t want to need a PhD in website speed before you can make a site fast.

Ross: No. As much as we all want them to be fast, making them Google PageSpeed fast, how important is that if it’s still loading in three seconds but it’s not getting a top score in Google PageSpeed? A lot of people are still getting fussy about them. We all wanted to do the best, but you can’t go overkill. Don’t stress yourself. There’s always lower hanging fruit.

Joost: I absolutely agree. You want to be faster in your competition, not slower. But you don’t necessarily have to be 10X faster than your competition.

Ross: It feels good, but just how much effort do you want to put into that?

Joost: It is a lot of work. I totally understand if people don’t want to put in that work because it’s not worth it to them. We, as a WordPress community and we would seriously consider ourselves part of that at Yoast—we have a team of five developers working full-time on WordPress Core itself—we focus a lot on making WordPress faster. I know Google has a team coding on WordPress Core themselves as well that also focuses on making it faster and making it better all the time.

Ross: That brings up a good question. I didn’t realize it makes sense, perfect sense that you’re doing that. I’m not by any means an expert in this area, but I understand Gutenberg isn’t quite fleshed out yet. There are a few things that still need to be added. When is that expected to be done?

Joost: Never. Gutenberg two years ago when it launched wasn’t perfect by no means. Right now, I wouldn’t want to edit anything else, and it is the best web editor I’ve ever seen. People that have not tried it yet, should give it another go. It is continuously improving. That doesn’t mean to say it’s perfect. It is a lot better in that it lets you create a web page and not a Word document within your site. Those two concepts are very different things. If you search for Yoast open source, you’ll find a digital story that we’ve done. All of that is created in Gutenberg. None of our developers needed to be involved with that. It has a video. It has quizzes. It has all sorts of different looks and feels. It has an automated table of contents and all these things that I would expect from an editor in 2021. But that TinyMCE or whatever you had before all this could never give me.

I really think it’s good. Is it done? No. Does it have weird bugs? Yes, it does. Is that going to go away? No, because honestly once we fix those there will be others because the web evolves and Gutenberg evolves and is getting better and better. We’re going to the next phase of that within the WordPress project called Full Site Editing where not just the content part of the page will be blocks, but everything will be blocks. You can create a header block, sidebar blocks, and navigation blocks. Everything will be editable in the same way and with the same controls in the same basic concepts. You don’t need to know all these concepts that you need to know right now when you’re editing your WordPress site.

If you’re maintaining a WordPress site right now, you need to know about widgets. You need to know about how menus work. You need to know how to edit content. You need to know how to change your theme. All of these things are tied together. Even for what is still the simplest CMS out there, we’ve made it way too hard. Full Site Editing will make it a lot easier, but honestly, that too will need time to become usable because building stuff like this is incredibly hard. People look at Yoast SEO and say, that’s very simple and I’m like, yeah. It took me 10 years to get to that level of simplicity.

Ross: It takes a long time to mature. Wow, that’s incredible. I’ve heard that people who have created their sites in Gutenberg as it stands now have amazing site speed.

Joost: Yeah. We’re getting better there, too. One of our team members, Ari, has recently worked on a change to Gutenberg where it only loads the styles for the blocks that are on the page that are output.

Ross: I’ve heard about that. Wow.

Joost: That sort of change, the fact that we can do that now is going to make it so much better. In the end, Gutenberg will beat every other page builder for things like speed. It already does for most sites.

Ross: That’s incredible. Thank you for your help in that area. We rely on WordPress. It’s great that you’re giving back.

Joost: We do, too. Yoast would certainly not have been as big have we not been on WordPress. Giving back only seems like the most logical thing to do.

Ross: Let’s take a quick break. When we come back, I’ve got a couple more questions, and then we’ll finish up the show.

Welcome back to SEO 101 on WebmasterRadio.FM, hosted by myself, Ross Dunn, CEO of StepForth Web Marketing Inc. We’re joined by Joost de Valk, the founder and chief product officer of Yoast.

It’s so stagnant, the changes going on. How about the future of Yoast? I know I’ve seen a few hints here and there reading through your content, there’s going to be some big updates coming soon. Can you give us a teaser on a few of them?

Joost: There are 140 people at Yoast. There are 50 developers working on new stuff all the time. We’re building a lot of cool things. I can’t hint at most of those.

Ross: Specifically, there’s something coming with the schema, I understand.

Joost: We have a jobs block coming out. I can talk about that and then we have a lot more blocks coming out soon. If you consider blocks as basically Lego boxes, then what we’ve been building is a set of bricks with which we can ourselves, relatively quickly, make more blocks. We can make blocks for everything rather quickly soon and that’ll allow us to make all of these things easy for people. Schema is incredibly hard and schema is growing incredibly fast. Every new release of schema, there are new types and new things. We’re adding to those ourselves even with our team. What we want to do is make it easy for ourselves that we can just release blocks for all of these types that are useful to people in a way that is simple and useful for people. I hope that we’ll be able to do that to show everyone how that will look and feel within Q2 this year. I have high hopes for that.

Gutenberg and the concept of blocks combined with schema is powerful because you’re separating code from content, but you are still classifying content. You’re only letting the user do the classification part, which is relatively easy. We’re using our code to just generate the right schema. All of that combined is super powerful.

Ross: All this obviously influences the Knowledge Graph as well.

Joost: It heavily influences the Knowledge Graph. If there’s one tip that you need to take away from this show today, go into your Yoast SEO settings if you’re running Yoast SEO. Go to the search appearance settings and on the first page of that setting, there is a setting about the person or organization. About 1/3 of our users, unfortunately, have not filled out that setting and it’s humongously important for the Knowledge Graph. If you do that, then we know whether your website represents a person or an organization. We actually know which organization and we ask you to upload the logo of your organization, too. If you set that right then we can influence the Knowledge Graph a lot better and we can tie all these things together.

Ross: Isn’t that part of your setup walkthrough?

Joost: It is. But people think that they can skip a setup. I can imagine. I do this myself all the time. The hardest thing in building software is getting people to actually read what you put on a screen. I’m like that myself. I miss things all the time because I don’t want to be bothered by a software X telling me X, Y, or Z. This is one of the biggest challenges I know. We certainly have not found a bulletproof way of solving it yet.

Ross: Definitely. That’s fantastic. If you could dream of one major enhancement in the next five years to Yoast SEO, what would it be?

Joost: Oh, I have a lot of those dreams. What we’ll be able to do, we’re talking more and more about the concept of SEO Fitness where we were saying, hey, SEO is not something that you can do once and then step away from it. That’s just not how it works.

Ross: Yeah, tell me about it.

Joost: I hope that we will be able to nudge you to do the right things for your site every month and then continuously show improvement.

Ross: Good idea.

Joost: SEO Fitness, as a concept, is very powerful. We’re going to be talking about that a lot. Trust me, I know spending three hours a week in the gym and that’s not enough. It is super painful when you stop doing that for three weeks and then you go back, you go, oh […] I really have to do this again. SEO takes effort all the time. If you do it well, you can build incredible things upon it.

Yoast, as a company, would not have been as big if I had not done a lot of SEO for it. We started out big because I was able to rank number one for WordPress SEO. That made people believe that I could build a plugin for that.

Ross: Thankfully, you did.

Joost: I know. SEO is still one of the best forms of digital marketing and is a super powerful way of building a business. It takes serious effort and it also takes continuous effort. It’s not like you can sit down for two weeks and then be done with it. In fact, I’d much rather have you spend one or two hours every other week, but consistently for years. That would do much more for your business.

Ross: That’s great. To finish this up, I got a couple of silly questions because I like to try and do that. What is the one thing that most people don’t know about you?

Joost: I try to be so transparent. I don’t know. What would you want to know about me?

Ross: Let me think. What do you do in your free time?

Joost: I play with Legos and I code.

Ross: What kind of things do you code? Is it only your stuff or fun stuff?

Joost: I mostly code Yoast SEO.

Ross: We’re so alike. This work never ends.

Joost: No, it doesn’t.

Ross: We love our jobs. Alright, that’s the thing.

Joost: Yeah. Basically, I just try out new stuff. When I go like, oh, this is something I’d really like. I throw it at our dev teams and I say, I built this, now please make it work.

Ross: It didn’t work, but you tried.

Joost: No. It might work on but the difference between getting stuff to work on one site and getting it to work on 12 million sites is quite a large step.

Ross: I’m shocked. We already talked about this, but the listeners don’t know and those who are watching the video, because I will have this posted on our site, what is that painting behind you or that picture behind you?

Joost: This is art made by Erwin Brouwer, our illustrator who also does all of our avatars and almost all the post artwork that we have on This was originally created for a post about open source on I had a version adapt behind my desk. Recently, I changed my office and I had it remade but into a square so I can use it for recordings like this because it just looks cool behind me.

Ross: It does. It’s very cool.

Joost: It’s the open source logo being made out of bricks by ants. It came out of his wonderful mind. Erwin has been with us for eight years already, or nine years at Yoast. It’s great to have someone who is able to illustrate full-time. That is awesome.

Ross: That was a dream job for him, too, I bet. That’s amazing.

Joost: I hope so. You’d have to ask him, but he hasn’t complained yet. He’s fairly happy. His wife Mijke, was one of our first hires and is our main designer. The two of them are pretty big and important parts of our brand. Also, maybe one of the bigger factors in how we became where we are is that we have a good brand and have always been very solid in our branding.

Ross: That’s excellent. Where are we talking to you from? The people never know because you sound so clear like you’re next door.

Joost: I am in Wijchen in the Netherlands, which is in a tiny country in between Germany and the UK. To give you a bit of geographical perspective, it means something about a 5-hour drive away from Berlin to the East, a 4-hour drive to Paris to the South. If we were able to fly again, a car and flight together would take me about 2 hours to London.

Ross: That’s amazing.

Joost: Europe is just small. People don’t realize it. It is always funny when you talk to people from the Americas. The size of things is so different here because everything is close. You would consider Rome close to me.

Ross: I go 4 hours. I might get halfway up our island.

Joost: As I said, if I go 4 hours, I’m in Disneyland Paris.

Ross: Wow. You’re blessed, that’s a pretty awesome place to live.

Joost: It is. The Netherlands is a perfectly wonderful country to live in. Wijchen, where we are, is a relatively small city. A lot of our team is based here or around here. It is great to be able to live like that. Although to be honest with COVID, I haven’t seen most of them for a year around.

Ross: Lot’s of Zoom.

Joost: And lots and lots of zoom, yes.

Ross: I’m very grateful for it. I’m a bit of an introvert. This is fantastic. I can see people and talk and I still take my dog for a walk. That’s where I see people and talk. Yes, it’s a COVID dog. I had to get a dog during COVID. It was perfect timing.

On behalf of myself, Ross Dunn, CEO of StepForth Web Marketing, and my special guest, Joost de Valk, the founder and chief product officer of Yoast, thank you for joining us today. It’s been such a pleasure having you, Joost. I’d love it if you were nearby. I’d love to go for a beer and have a very good chat.

Joost: That would be good. I would like a beer by now because it’s 9:00 PM here. It’s good timing. Thank you for having me.

Ross: Great pleasure.

Anyone here, if you have any questions you’d like to share with us, please feel free to post them on our Facebook group, easily found by searching SEO 101 Podcast on Facebook. If you have anything that’s for Yoast, maybe I can forward it to the team or something, or maybe Joost himself will respond. Who knows, but I’m sure they’re opening to lots of questions if they don’t already have them all answered for you. I imagine you get a few.

Joost: We do, yeah.

Ross: Everyone, have a great week, and remember to tune in to future episodes which air every week on