Interview with Joost De Valk @jdevalk from Yoast @yoast

techwyse interviews joost de valk

Hello there folks! Today on TechWyse Interviews, we have a very special guest who is well known in the Internet marketing circles worldwide.

Our guest is a very successful entrepreneur, a WordPress and web developer, and a search engine optimizer. His WordPress plugin, Yoast SEO, is one of the most used WordPress plugins in the world, and is active on over 4 million websites. Apart from this, he works with large brands like the Guardian, Disney, eBay, and oDesk, and helps them with the technical aspects of SEO and overall growth.

In this interview, Joost de Valk shares with us a bunch of hot advice on search engine optimization, link building, and on his business.

techwyse interviews joost de valk


Q. How do you think keyword targeting will change in the post- hummingbird scenario, where google gives more importance to user intent and conversational search?

A. Whether a search is an entire sentence or a single word, there will still be a subject of the search. That subject is still your target keyword. You will want to optimize for more keywords at some point, which is something we’re adapting our SEO plugin for.

Q. Gary Illyes from Google recently asked webmasters to include authorship markup in the website’s source code. However, their documentation states that authorship is no longer supported in web search. What is your take on this?

A. I actually wrote about this! 🙂

Q. In your latest ebook (UX & Conversion from a holistic SEO perspective), you mentioned about conversion research being more important than just A/B testing. Can you shed more light on this subject with examples?

A. “Some examples” would take a book 😉 Conversion research starts with knowing what your customers want and are doing on your site though.

So just diving into A/B testing misses a series of important steps before that. You’ll have to come up with a decent hypothesis about what you’re testing and to be able to do that, you’ll need to know more than what most people know about their website’s visitors.

Q. You’ve stated that studying blackhat techniques actually helps us understand how the search engines work and what they prefer. Can you give us some examples?

A. Loads, for instance, studying things like how you can boost a site with bought links shows you the difference between short term and long term techniques in ranking. The length of the effect of links that you can buy has been rapidly declining for years now. Used to be that you could rank safely for years, it’s now done to a few months with the risk of burning a domain, but it does still teach you how a search engine evaluate links in its first “pass”.

Q. PBNs are the single most abused black hat strategy in link building right now. Although Google has been rolling out updates specifically targeting this practice, they have been unable to curb it completely. Do you think this will continue to work in the coming years?

A. Yes. Just last week they took down SAPE for a second time and I think this will continue to be an arms race for years to come.

The problem is Google is becoming tougher, meaning that if you burn a domain, you won’t easily get it back. This is not something that’s acceptable for a brand, not even for small brands.

Q. What are the 5 most valuable backlinks that you have earned for Yoast and how did you get them?

A. I don’t think I can name 5 specific ones. I don’t care as much for specific backlinks as people might think I do.

We have been gathering tons and tons of backlinks because of what we do, so much that I hardly need to look at them.

Q. How do you deal with difficult SEO clients? DEFCON1 and T-800 clients according to Moz’s 10 different types of clients, and NC would be great examples. 🙂

A. Since our only real SEO service is our website review service, we don’t deal with those types of clients at all. We’re not a traditional SEO agency and don’t have any interest in becoming one 🙂

Q. Over the years, Google has been gradually devaluing link building tactics one by one. Article submission, widget backlinks, directory listings, and press releases were all devalued by Google. In your opinion, which kind of links will be devalued next?

A. Any link that can be gained through “trickery” is up for devaluation. I don’t care for those links anyway and haven’t for years, so it won’t hurt us or anyone following our advice, as we’ve been telling people to just build a very good website.

Q. WordPress security issues are growing at an alarming rate. What measures have you taken to ensure the security of your plugins? Do you have any advice for webmasters to stay on the safe side?

A. We regularly let Sucuri do reviews of our code to make sure we’re on the safe side. This doesn’t mean we’ll never have security issues. No one with any reach can ever say that honestly. It’s just the result of having a product that’s looked at by many people because we’re running at over 4 million websites.

I don’t think it’s gone up at an alarming rate, though. The world is just slowly waking up to how big the WordPress platform is and what the power of a plugin is. We have an article on WordPress security that covers all the important basics.

Q. You started off as a WordPress enthusiast and then took up entrepreneurship. Can you share some of the hardships that you had to face along the way?

A. It’s incredibly hard work, but also very rewarding. The hardest parts are when you’re trying something new and it doesn’t work. For instance, we started selling WordPress themes for a while, but that obviously didn’t work as well as we’d expected, so we had to cut those. However in the end, you learn from those things too. You try things, you fail, and you try again. There’s nothing wrong with failing. There are loads of things wrong with not trying, though.

Thank you Joost for taking the time to answer my questions, and providing us with some great insights and sharing your experience with WordPress and Search Engine Optimization.

Did you like our interview with Joost? If you’d like to find out about other Internet marketers similar to Joost, you can find more of our interviews on TechWyse interviews.

Post By Adi Suja (9 Posts)

Adi is a round the clock experimenter, he loves to blog, reverse engineer websites, and to be proven wrong. The last one was a lie.


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