New roles in the WordPress project, blocks and WordPress 5.1

Today’s roundup is a nice collection of interesting things that happened in the WordPress Community in the last couple of weeks. There’s some very exciting news about expanding the WordPress leadership team and I’ll discuss a couple of new features of the next version of WordPress.

Expanding WordPress Leadership

Matt Mullenweg published a post this week on the Make WordPress site where he announced two new roles to be added to the WordPress Leadership team. The first new role is that of Executive Director and will be taken on by Josepha Haden. The second role is that of Marketing & Communications Lead and our very own Joost de Valk will be taking on that role. This is what Joost had to say about it:

WordPress is paving the cowpaths for the web with projects like Gutenberg, I’m looking forward to leading marketing & comms for WordPress and working with everybody to tell the story of this awesome project and community.

Both new roles combined mark a great step forward for the growth of the WordPress Project as a whole.

Genesis 2.8 introduces Gutenberg based onboarding feature

Genesis, the leading theme framework, has introduced an onboarding feature that is based on Gutenberg. Basically, a set of preformatted and configured blocks (called Block Templates) are made available when you activate a Genesis Child Theme. This is what they had to say about it in the Genesis 2.8 announcement post:

Genesis 2.8 includes a new onboarding feature theme that authors can use to define which demo content is loaded when a user installs a new theme. One-Click Demo Install makes it easy for theme authors to load in plugins and perfectly-designed Gutenberg blocks onto the home page of a new site using that theme.

 

The Gutenberg project may have had some people doubting over the need for a new editor, but integrations like this – alongside an improved editing experience – that make it awesome. And this is only the beginning: it’s one of the first types of integrations like this.

Block plugins

In fact, there are already a couple of really interesting plugins out there that provide for extra custom blocks. We, of course, have our own Yoast SEO How-To and FAQ block (and there are many more on their way), but here are six interesting block providing plugins you should definitely check out:

As I’ve mentioned in a previous roundup, WordPress.org has a dedicated view for plugins that provide blocks as a library or as an enhancement to their already existing core functionality. You should definitely check that out if you haven’t already.

What next for WordPress 5.1

The next WordPress release is called 5.1 and is scheduled for the 21st of February 2019. The work for 5.1 began long before the launch of WordPress 5.0 and therefore it’ll have two very interesting features:

Fatal Error Protection

WordPress 5.1 will introduce a so-called WSOD protection (white-screen-of-death protection). This feature will recognize when a fatal error occurs, and which plugin or theme is causing it. With this new feature, you’ll still be able to access the WordPress Dashboard and the respective plugin or theme will be paused. This allows users to still log in to their site so that they can at least temporarily fix the problem.

PHP upgrade notice

If your site is still running on an old and insecure version of PHP, WordPress 5.1 will let you know after the upgrade. The lowest PHP version still receiving security updates is currently 7.1. This means all the PHP 5.x versions are outdated and insecure and the PHP upgrade notice is intended to get people to have their hosting companies change the PHP version. With the latest PHP versions seriously boosting your performance as well, trust me, you want to be on the latest and greatest, as it will make your site faster.

You can read more about these features in Felix Arntz’s introduction post on the Make WordPress Core blog. And that’s it for this roundup. What are you most excited about?

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On Gutenberg and WordPress 5.0

A while ago, we gave the advice not to upgrade to WordPress 5.0 as it was nearing release. I’m happy to say that as of about a week ago, we feel we’re happy for everyone to move to WordPress 5.0 and start using Gutenberg. Of course, we still advise you to make sure you test how it works for your site, first!

We were honestly scared of the WordPress 5.0 release. As it turned out, there were some serious performance issues within Gutenberg that needed addressing. But, all of those have since been addressed. The overall load on our support team has honestly been negligible. WordPress 5.0.3, the current release as of me writing this, is good. In fact, you can get the best version of Yoast SEO we have right now by upgrading to 5.0 and starting to use Gutenberg.

Working with Gutenberg is very nice. In fact, our content team here at Yoast, who were also skeptical in the beginning, have been asking for the team to enable Gutenberg on yoast.com. I think that’s a testament to how awesome it is and I look forward to improving Yoast SEO in it even more!

Read more: WordPress 5.0:What is Gutenberg? »

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WordCamp US 2018, WordPress 5.0.1 and what’s next?

In case you missed it, WordPress 5.0 was released almost two weeks ago, one day prior to WordCamp US 2018 (December 7-9). At WordCamp US, Matt Mullenweg gave his yearly ‘State of the Word’, outlining what’s been going on with the WordPress Project. A reflection, but, most certainly also a look at the future. Let’s dive in!

WordPress 5.0.1 and what’s next?

As discussed before, WordPress 5.0 is the biggest change in WordPress in years. The introduction of the brand new Gutenberg editor into core is by far the biggest change we’ve seen in the writing experience. Since there are so many things hooked into the editor, this update has a lot of consequences. So many, that we at Yoast, in fact, recommend postponing updating to 5.0 to January. If you do decide to update now, we recommend you test WordPress thoroughly, but, again, we suggest you wait until January before updating to the 5.0 branch.

We’ve already seen the first update to the 5.0 branch in the shape of 5.0.1 which addressed a bunch of security issues. The next point release is scheduled for this Wednesday and this upcoming 5.0.2 release will focus on performance improvements. Specifically in relation to the new WordPress editor.

WordCamp US 2018

Team Yoast was present at the largest WordCamp in the United States in Nashville. We attended, sponsored, spoke at and volunteered for the second WordCamp edition in the Music City of the US. And it’s been a great one! There are a couple of talks I’d like to highlight:

  • Morten Rand-Hendriksen gave an inspiring talk about Moving the Web Forward with WordPress and introduced the WordPress Governance Project initiative. It’s an initiative that intends to explore how to effectively represent and embody the spirit of democratized publishing. With WordPress now having 32.5% market share, the project leaders’ decision-making processes need to be clearer than they are now. Anyone can sign up via this Google form to participate in future meetings.
  • Marieke and Joost co-presented an inspiring talk as well about the importance of valid business models to surround our (but any, really) open source community so it can thrive. Their presentation explained that a community becomes unstoppable when every company in an open source community gives back to it.
  • Gary Pendergast gave one of the first Gutenberg-related presentations on the first conference day with the title The Future of WordPress is Gutenberg. Gary brought up an interesting view stating that the next iterations in WordPress will move us closer to platform agnosticism. In other words, with Gutenberg, we’ll end up with true separation of content from presentation.

(As soon as these presentations are uploaded to WordPress.tv, I’ll update this post and link to these presentations directly.)

State of the Word

In his yearly ‘State of the Word’ at WordCamp US, Matt Mullenweg discussed a couple of interesting points that I’d like to highlight and share here:

  • As Matt Mullenweg demoed in a video how the new editor blocks offer a better experience, he showed a very nice example of copying and pasting from Microsoft Word and Google Docs into the WordPress editor. You should give a try if you’ve updated to WordPress 5.0.
  • There is now a dedicated section in the plugin repo where you can find plugins that provide Gutenberg blocks.
  • Gutenberg will be available in the mobile apps for WordPress, with a beta release expected in February 2019.
  • One of the goals of 2019 is to start working on optional auto-updates for plugins, themes, and major versions of WordPress.
  • WordPress will finally start updating its minimum PHP version. The proposed plan is to move to PHP 5.6 by April 2019 and to PHP 7.0 by as early as December 2019.

You can watch the 2018 State of the Word in full on YouTube.

Gutenberg phase 2

With Gutenberg now being the default editor in WordPress, you’d think that’s the last we’ll hear about the Gutenberg project, right? Well, not quite. During his State of the Word, Matt Mullenweg discussed the focus of the next phase of Project Gutenberg. Phase 2 is going to focus on Menus, Widgets and Customizer Integration.

I, for one, am very excited with everything Gutenberg already allows us to do, but this next phase makes me even more excited. How about you?

Read on: Should you update to WordPress 5.0 »

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Indexing in Yoast SEO: Show x in search results?

Before a search engine can rank a page or a post, it needs to index it. A crawler must discover a piece of content before it can evaluate if it is a valuable addition to its index. One of the ways crawlers discover pages, is by crawling XML sitemaps. After a page has been indexed, a search engine can rank the piece of content if it fits the users search query best. Yoast SEO makes it easy for you to determine what should be indexable.

Show x in search results?

Determining what has to be indexed by crawlers and what not tends to be hard to understand and it’s easy to make a mistake. You wouldn’t be the first to have unknowingly set a whole post type to noindex, making it unavailable to search engines. We’ve thought long and hard about this and drastically simplified this process for you. Now it all boils down to asking you a straightforward question: Do you want x to appear in search engines?

Search Appearance

You can find the individual settings for making your content available for indexing in the corresponding parts of Yoast SEO. You’ll find the settings for posts and pages in the Content Types part of the Search Appearance tab. Taxonomies like categories and tags can be found in the Taxonomies tab.

By saying Yes to the ‘Show Posts in search results’ question in the post settings, for instance, you make sure that your posts will appear in the XML sitemap and, therefore, in the search results.

If you want to exclude something, you can switch this toggle to No, and the taxonomy or post type will not appear in the XML sitemap. Because of that, it will not appear in the search results. Whenever you set something to not appear in search engines, it will be noindexed and kept from the XML sitemap.

Exclude individual posts

Of course, you can also exclude individual posts from the XML sitemaps from the Yoast SEO meta box in the post editor. Click on the cog icon and select No to the ‘Allow search engines to show this Post in search results?’ question.No index

View your XML sitemap

You should always check your sitemap to see if the content you want to include appears in the XML sitemap. While you’re there, you should also check if the content you want to exclude from the sitemap doesn’t appear in it.

You can find your XML sitemap by going to General >Features > XML Sitemaps > ? (click on the question mark).

xml sitemaps yoast seoWe’ve taken away a lot of the confusion around indexing content and XML sitemaps by simplifying things. But, most importantly, it is now so much easier to determine what should and should not appear in search results.

More on XML sitemaps

XML sitemaps are a kind of treasure map for search engine robots. They crawl them to discover new or updated content on your site. Every site benefits from a sitemap. Your rankings won’t soar if you add one, but it does help the crawlers to discover your content that much easier. If you need more information about the use of XML sitemaps on your site, we have some further reading for you:

Read more: What is an XML sitemap and why should you have one? »

Keep reading: The sense and nonsense of an XML sitemap »

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On the topic of that pesky widget…

When I go to WordCamps, I get this question a lot: “Why do you have the PHP Code Widget still in the directory?”

There’s a good answer for that, but first let me explain why I made the thing in the first place.

If you examine the history of that plugin, you’ll find that it was submitted almost 10 years ago. Back then, widgets were new. Most people using WordPress had hardcoded sidebars in their themes. Changing the sidebar meant changing the theme. Widgets aimed to replace that with draggable objects. The Widget plugin was still a plugin, and not in core, but headed there.

The PHP Code Widget was created to make it easy and simple and fast to migrate from a hardcoded sidebar to a widget based one. You could take your existing code in the sidebar file, paste it into the widget, and then you had a movable widget that you could easily use.

Obviously, this was not meant for long term usage. The goal was to get widget support rapidly in your theme, with the expectation that as new widgets came out, you could replace your old code with newer, shinier, well supported, widgets.

The reason the plugin is still in the directory is because it still fills a need for some people. If I removed it, then they would fulfill that need in worse ways. It does not take much searching to find snippets of code, with bad advice saying to just pop it into your theme’s functions.php file, and voila, now all your Text Widgets run PHP code. That snippet actually exists. It’s a terrible idea, for obvious reasons.

The PHP Code Widget is less terrible than the alternatives.

But it’s still terrible.

And yes, it bothers me that it is one of the top 150 plugins. Storing PHP code in your database and then running it is just dumb. Don’t do that. Code should live in the right place, and that place is not the database.

So, in an effort to reduce the usage of the PHP Code Widget, here’s one way to stop using it, if you still are.

Getting rid of the PHP Code Widget

Step 1:

Get the PHP Code that you are using from the Widget, copy it into a text editor, save it somewhere for safe keeping.

Step 2:

You’re going to make a new plugin. You can call it whatever you like, but I recommend naming it specific to the site you’re making it for. If I was making a plugin for this site to hold widgets, then I’d call it “Ottopress Widgets” or something to that effect.

How to make a new plugin:

(Note: You can use Pluginception for this instead, if you like. That one I’m not ashamed of, it’s a very handy tool.)

a. Make a directory in /wp-content/plugins named after your plugin, like /wp-content/plugins/ottopress-widgets

b. Make a PHP file in there named the same. Like ottopress-widgets.php.

c. Edit that file, and add this header to the top of it:

<?php
/* Plugin Name: Ottopress Widgets*/

Lovely. We’ve made a new plugin. It doesn’t do anything, yet, but here’s some more code to add to the plugin. This is largely copy-paste, and then you edit it to fit your specific circumstances

Step 3:

add_action( 'widgets_init', 'ottopress_widget_register' );
function ottopress_widget_register() {
	register_widget( 'Ottopress_Widget' );
}
class Ottopress_Widget extends WP_Widget {
	function __construct() {

		$class = 'widget_ottopress';
		$name = 'Ottopress Widget';

		$widget_ops = array('classname' => $class, 'description' => $name);
		$control_ops = array('width' => 400, 'height' => 350);
		parent::__construct('', $name, $widget_ops, $control_ops);
	}

	function widget( $args, $instance ) {
		extract($args);
		echo $before_widget;

		echo '<h2 class="widget-title">Ottopress Widget</h2>';
		echo "<div>Here's my custom stuff.</div>";

		echo $after_widget;
	}
}

I named this widget “Ottopress Widget” by way of example. In the first few lines of code, you’ll want to change these to your own naming scheme. It’s important that names be unique, which is why I recommend naming things using your site’s name. Unlikely for there to be interference that way.

The $class and $name variables you should also change. The class is used in the HTML that the widget produces, so you can refer to it via CSS. The name is simply used for display purposes on the widgets editing screens.

Step 4:

Finally, the meat of the code you want to edit is here. I’ll point it out specifically.

function widget( $args, $instance ) {
	extract($args);
	echo $before_widget;

	echo '<h2 class="widget-title">Ottopress Widget</h2>';
	echo "<div>Here's my custom stuff.</div>";

	echo $after_widget;
}

This is the code that shows the widget on your site itself. Now, this one is just hardcoded to show the normal before and after code (these are set by the theme, so these should always be there), and then it has a little hardcoded bit there where it echo’s out a title and a div that says “Here’s my Custom Stuff”.

If you’re migrating from the PHP code widget, well, here’s where you migrate it to. You can drop your code from the PHP Code widget here and, you know, do whatever you were doing in the widget before, just now in an actual custom widget, in your own custom plugin. No more storing the code in the database. Just activate the plugin and replace the PHP Code widget with this one.

If you need more widgets because you were using it in multiple places, then simply repeat the process. Paste that whole class in there, only give it a different class name and other info, then put in your other code. You can have as many widgets as you like, they just have to all be named differently. Simple.

Note that this widget has no settings screen of any kind. Why would it? You’re controlling the code directly, no need for settings, presumably. If you want to go on and make your widget smarter and more complex and have settings, well, there’s other tutorials for that.

If this reduces the usage of the PHP Code Widget, well, I’ll be a happier person.

Favicons and your online brand

Those used to tabbed browsing know why favicons are important. Your site will stand out from the rest if your favicon is recognizable. After all, a picture says more than a thousand words. Personally, I often find myself pinning websites in Google Chrome, still my browser of choice. As a to-do list, or simply because I want Gmail at hand anytime. Or that specific spreadsheet in Sheets. Or Facebook. That little favicon is the only reference to what site is hidden in that tab. You simply need a good favicon for your website.

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Make your favicon stand out

You should make sure your favicon stands out from that long list of tabs. Check if it matches your logo and website well. Especially when you are not one of the big brands, you want people to recognize your favicon. Two tips directly related to that are:

  • avoid too many details in your favicon,
  • and please use the right colors, so the favicon doesn’t blend in with the gray of your browser tab.

Both are closely related to branding. Your brand should be recognizable in your favicon. Although we’re able to use more colors and more depth in our favicons nowadays, the fact is that the space available on that browser still hasn’t improved from the small 16×16 pixels it used to be in the early days. It doesn’t look like 16×16 pixels anymore, but that’s because we have better screens, not because that space increased. The main improvement is that lines are sharper and you can use all the colors you want.

Proper branding is making sure people will relate your favicon to your website immediately. I listed a number of favicons for you to test. Drop me a line in the comments about what favicon belongs to what brand:

favicons quiz

Too easy? In that case, these brands did a good job on translating their brand to their favicon.

SEO benefits of favicons

Are there real SEO benefits to favicons? Tough one. Besides branding, probably not, though opinions may differ on this a bit. One might argue that you can now add an image of 1MB as a favicon and that this will slow down loading times. You could say that a proper favicon highlights a bookmark and might increase return visitors. I have even found a story where someone stated that some browsers automatically look for a favicon and return a 404 if it’s not there.

My 2 cents? If there is an SEO benefit, it’s so small that all other optimization, like proper site structure or great copy, should always have priority. Does that mean you don’t need that favicon? Hey, didn’t you read that part about browser tabs? You do need it, even if it’s just to stand out.

WordPress just made your day: favicons in the Customizer

If you use WordPress, you might already know that there’s been a favicon functionality in WordPress core since version 4.3. So you can use this default functionality, without hassle. It’s located in the Customizer and is called Site Icon. In fact, WordPress recommends using this option to add a favicon. You don’t even need to create a favicon.ico file, like you used to, years ago. Just use a square image, preferably at least 512 pixels wide and tall. That seems to contradict with the recommendation to keep it as small as possible. But if you optimize your image, it won’t slow down your site :)

More information on how to go about this in WordPress is in the WordPress Codex. Go read and add a nice favicon to your own site!

Read more: ‘5 tips on branding’ »

What are breadcrumbs and why are they important for SEO?

Breadcrumbs are an important part of almost any good website. These little navigational aides not just help people visualize where they are on your site, but also help Google determine how your site is structured. That’s why it makes a lot of sense to add these helpful little pointers. Let’s see how breadcrumbs work.

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What are breadcrumbs?

When Hansel and Gretel went into the woods, Hansel dropped pieces of bread on the ground so they could find their way home if the two of them ever got lost. These breadcrumbs eventually became the model for the breadcrumbs we see on websites nowadays. A breadcrumb is a small text path, often located at the top of a page. On yoast.com, for instance, the path to our Yoast SEO plugin page is Home > Software > WordPress Plugins > Yoast SEO for WordPress. This breadcrumb immediately shows you where you are. Every part of that path is clickable, all the way to the homepage.

Breadcrumbs also appear in Google. If you use Yoast SEO or add the correct form of structured data to your site, search engines can pick up this data and could show your breadcrumbs in the search results. These provide users an easy to understand overview of where the page sits on your site.

Different kinds

Looking closely, we can distinguish different types of breadcrumbs. These are the three most common types of breadcrumbs you will find on sites:

Hierarchy based breadcrumbs

These will pop up most often. We use them on our site as well. Breadcrumbs like this will tell you where you are in a site structure and how many steps you can take to get back to the homepage. Something like Home > Blog > Category > Post name.

breadcrumbs hierarchy

Attribute based breadcrumbs

Attribute based breadcrumbs appear after a certain selection has been made, for instance, while searching for a product on an e-commerce site. Maybe, Home > Product category > Gender > Size > Color.

breadcrumbs attribute

History based breadcrumbs

History based breadcrumbs do what it says on the tin; they are ordered according to what you have been doing on the site. Think of these as a replacement for your internet history bar. These would appear like this: Home >  Previous page > Previous page > Previous page > Current page. It’s also possible to combine these like Macy’s does in the screenshot below.

breadcrumbs history

Advantages to using breadcrumbs

There are a couple of advantages to using breadcrumbs on your site. Let’s go over them quickly:

1. Google loves them

Your visitors like breadcrumbs, but Google likes them as well. Breadcrumbs give Google another way of figuring out how your website is structured. In addition to that, Google might use your breadcrumbs to show these in the search results. This way, your search result will at one become much more enticing to users. To increase the chance to get these breadcrumbs in Google, you need to add structured data or use Yoast SEO.

2. They enhance the user experience

People hate to get lost. When confronted with a new location, people often look around in search of recognizable objects or landmarks. The same goes for websites. You need to keep visitors happy and reduce as much friction as possible. Breadcrumbs can help your user experience since it is a well-known interface element that instantly shows people a way out. No need to click the back button!

3. They lower bounce rates

Hardly anyone comes in via the homepage anymore. It’s all organic search nowadays. That means every part of your site could be an entry point. You must come up with a way to guide these visitors to other parts of your site if the selected page does not meet their expectations. Breadcrumbs can lower bounce rates because you’re offering visitors an alternative means of browsing your site. Don’t you think it’s better to send a visitor to your homepage than back to Google?

How to add breadcrumbs

There are several ways of adding breadcrumbs to your site. Firstly, if you use a WordPress site, you can use one of the many breadcrumb plugins or just use Yoast SEO. If you use a different CMS the process might be different. It is also possible to add them by hand. If you want them to appear in Google as well, you need to use structured data in a way that Google understands. You can find more information on this in Google’s developer documentation on breadcrumbs.

Yoast SEO offers an easy way to add breadcrumbs to your WordPress site. It will add everything necessary to add them not just visible on your site, but get them ready for Google as well. To add breadcrumbs to your site, you need to add the following piece of code to your theme where you want them to appear:

<?php
if ( function_exists('yoast_breadcrumb') ) {
yoast_breadcrumb('


','

');
}
?>

This code can often be placed inside the single.php or page.php files, just above the title of the page. Some themes want it at the end of the header.php file. Try not to add it to functions.php since this could create problems.

After adding the code, you can go to the advanced settings of Yoast SEO and switch on breadcrumb support. Here, you can also determine how the breadcrumb structure will look and what prefixes will be used. Find out more on our Knowledge Base page on implementing breadcrumbs with Yoast SEO.

Conclusion

While using breadcrumbs, Hansel and Gretel still got lost in the woods. Don’t let that happen to your visitor. Breadcrumbs provide an easy to grasp way of navigating for users. Visitors instantly understand how the site structure works. For the same reason, Google loves them as well. Use Yoast SEO to add breadcrumbs to your site easily.

Read more: ‘Site structure: the ultimate guide’ »

Ask Yoast: Meta descriptions and excerpts

When you’re running a large and busy website, it’s practical and time-saving if you can reuse some of your material. Both meta descriptions and excerpts use a brief passage to summarize the content of a web page. So, it could be handy to use the same text for both. But how do you do that? In this video, Joost explains the easiest way to reuse your text for both meta descriptions and excerpts, and whether Google approves of this reuse.

Renee Lodens sent us an email with the following question:

“Is there a way to bulk copy the Yoast SEO meta descriptions to the excerpt field? Also, is this considered duplicate content?”

Watch the video or read the transcript further down the page! 

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Meta descriptions and excerpts

So, what to do if you want to save time and use the same passages for meta descriptions and excerpts?

“Well, let’s start with the first thing. It’s probably easier to do it the other way around. If you put the description that you want in the excerpt field, and then in the back end, in the Yoast SEO Titles & Meta section, you can use the excerpt short code for meta descriptions. We will automatically put your excerpt in your meta description. That’s easier. You can do it the other way around too, but then you’d have to code a bit.

Is this considered duplicate content? No, it’s not. Because they are different things used for different purposes. Your meta description will only show up in the metadata, which will not be shown on the page. And Google considers these two separate things.

So this might actually work well for you if you write really good short excerpts that fit well into your meta description.

Good luck!”

Ask Yoast

In the series Ask Yoast we answer SEO questions from followers. Need some advice about SEO? Let us help you out! Send your question to ask@yoast.com.

Read on: ‘How to create the right meta descriptions’ »

Why there’s only one model: the open source model

WordPress was built by the community. In just a few incredibly productive years, it grew to become the most popular CMS in the world, and all of us in the WordPress Community played a role in the evolution and development of WordPress. Together, we made it into the popular powerhouse it is today. If there was one thing that made it possible, it was the open source philosophy. Just like WordPress, Yoast was born from an open source world. In this interview, Joost de Valk shares his views on a topic dear to his heart.

Joost began his journey into the open source world many moons ago. As a contributor to the WebKit project, which built a layout engine for web browsers, he saw how a group of like-minded people could go up against mainstream, rich companies. WebKit’s small team made waves with their product. Different browsers adopted it and it helped them to hold their own against the incredible power of Internet Explorer. Joost says: “We were unbelievably efficient. I discovered very early on that it was better to build something together than on your own.” 

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A passion for open source

Talk to Joost about open source and his eyes light up. Open source formed him – it shaped his thoughts and visions. Even now, as CEO of a successful company, he’d still choose open source as the business model every time. Joost: “If I had to start over, I’d do a million things differently. But I would choose open source again in a heartbeat. I actually do think it’s better to create together. Take those design agencies that develop bespoke CMS’s. Why? It’s nonsense. It leads to vendor lock-in and that is horrible. There’s only one model: the open source model.”

‘‘If I had to start over, I would choose open source again in a heartbeat ’’

Running a business with an open source mindset is better than keeping everything behind closed doors. Joost: “Why should a school build their own site when there are hundreds of schools with the same requirements and questions? Join hands to make it manageable and cheaper. Just think how much the government could save if they used open source everywhere.”

“To me,” says Joost, “open source is a combination of community, not just friends, and a shared responsibility to find solutions to problems together. Take WordPress for example, collectively we are fixing the problem of publishing to the web. Other projects tackle different problems in the same way, together. This is how society should function; when we set our minds to it, we can achieve anything if we combine our efforts.”

David vs. Goliath

Joost sees open source as a David vs. Goliath struggle: “It’s money versus community. A lot of money versus no money. As a community-driven CMS, WordPress continuously has to figure out how to go up against large-scale commercial efforts. But, in spite of all that money, WordPress continues to grow like wildfire. We’ve reached critical mass and it will only go up from here.”

While WordPress grows, its community continues to expand. According to Joost, the community is diversifying at a rapid rate: “It’s not just developers anymore – the project attracts a wide range of people, from designers to writers. People are willing to invest loads of time into it. Just look at all those WordCamps around the world; all of them are organized by people from all walks of life.”

Open source politics

In theory, open source may sound like the perfect way to get something done, but oftentimes, good-old politics can cause everything to grind to a halt. “The political games are no fun,” Joost says. “It’s a community and therefore pretty diffuse. It takes time to reach a consensus. It’s hard to navigate the waters when there’s no one actually in charge. You have to figure out where decisions are being made and try to be there to influence them. That’s when you find out that not having anyone in charge can make it harder.”

‘‘It takes a lot of time and effort to develop a tool like Yoast SEO’’

Yoast now and in the future

Yoast as a company was built on open source and this philosophy continues to play a big part in its future plans. The Yoast SEO plugin is now spreading its wings, moving to other open source platforms like Drupal, TYPO3 and Magento. But Yoast has to sell something to make money, so in our case it’s a Premium version and other products, like services and education – aspects Joost wants to expand: “In the future, I’d love to be able to give away my plugins for free and generate enough income from our services and education platform. But, that moment is not yet in sight.”

Making money on open source seems strange and contradictory to the openness of open source. Yet, to pay nothing towards the development of products you use every day feels wrong as well. Joost: “It’s almost as if people think it’s rather easy to develop something for WordPress and that it doesn’t cost anything. That’s not true of course. It takes a lot of time and effort to develop a tool like Yoast SEO. Think about it, the readability analysis in Yoast SEO took about six man-years to develop. We could have put it in the Premium version, but we thought about the impact it would have if we gave it away for free. So we did. Come to think of it, I’ve never thought about taking something out of the free version of Yoast SEO to make people pay for it.”

Read more: ‘Yoast WordPress core contributions ’ »

How to start a blog

If you’re thinking about starting a blog, the most important thing I have to say to you is: go for it! Start your blog! Just do it! Blogging is a great SEO strategy, it’s a wonderful marketing tool and blogging is lots of fun! A new blog will allow you to make smart and strategic choices. Just take a little time to think about how to set up your blog before you begin, so you’ll have less work later on. Let me share some tips with you on how to start a blog.

Choose your niche

You should always write about what you know. But you should not write about everything you know. Pick a niche. Decide upon a main topic and write posts related to that topic. It’s more likely that your audience will come back and read your other posts if you’re writing about similar topics. People will know what to expect. Starting a mom blog implies that you write about all things concerning your children and family life. Starting a travel blog implies you write about traveling. You can write about something slightly off topic once in a while of course, but try to stick to your niche. An audience of a travel blog doesn’t expect a blog post about gardening. 

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Do your keyword research

Once you’ve chosen your niche, you should do some solid keyword research. Try to find out what people are searching for. What words are they using when they want to read about your niche and your topic? You should really get inside the heads of your potential audience. If you do your keyword research properly, you should end up with a long lists of keywords you would like to be found for. Try to come up with competitive, head keywords as well as with less competitive long-tail keywords.

Read more: ‘How to start your keyword research’ »

Think about site structure

This is the best time to think about site structure. What categories are popular in your niche? What are the most important head keywords you’d like to rank for? You should write a long, kick-ass article about each of these keywords. Those will be your most essential articles, or in other words, your cornerstone content. You should give those articles a prominent place on your site.

After you’ve written those beautiful cornerstone articles, write lots of blog posts on sub topics of that main topic and always link to your cornerstones. That way, you’ll be telling Google exactly what the most important articles on your website are.

Keep reading: ‘What is cornerstone content?’ »

Write that first post

Take some time to do keyword research and to think about site structure. But don’t take too much time. Just write that first post! Put pen to paper and just do it. Your blog starts with the very first post. That post doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be published. Need some help to get started? Check out our 10 tips on how to make your post awesome.

Pictures and videos

Writing blog post is more than writing a nice story; a successful blog has pictures and videos as well. Every post should show at least one image. Taking nice photos yourself is a great way of creating images and making short videos is a really good blogging strategy as well. Especially if you’re blogging about (aspects) of your own life, photos of it are a necessity.

Read on: ‘Images for blogs’ »

Optimize for the search engines

Before publishing your post, optimize it using Yoast SEO (on WordPress of course, but on Magento and TYPO3 now too!). Don’t forget to create an awesome SEO title and a decent snippet. Finetune your text. Make sure your text is both readable as well as SEO-friendly.

Read more: ‘How to use the content & SEO analysis of Yoast SEO’ »

Promote your blog

Using social media is the best way to reach and grow the audience of your blog. That’s why your blog should have a Facebook page. Sharing your posts on Facebook is a good marketing strategy. Don’t forget Instagram and Twitter either!

In addition to the use of social media to promote your blog, we advise you send out a digital newsletter. Let people sign up for it and send out emails with your latest blog posts and some other fun facts.

Keep reading: ‘Marketing your blog’ »

Stick with it!

The most important thing to start a blog – besides setting up your new blog – is to write that very first blog post. Once you’ve written that first post, your blog has started. You should keep on writing blog posts to make it successful, so try to determine a frequency to publish new posts. You don’t have to blog every day, once a week or maybe even once in every two weeks would be a nice frequency to start with. Find a frequency you can stick with! Your audience will know what to expect, if your blogging frequency is stable.

Read on: ‘Blog SEO: make people stay and read your post’ »