There’s a lot of discussion in the WordPress world right now about a new editing experience that’s in the making. It’s called Gutenberg. While some of that discussion is technical, every user that uses WordPress regularly should be aware of what’s coming. At Yoast, we are quite excited about the concept of Gutenberg. We think it could be a great improvement. At the same time, we have our worries about the speed in which the project is being pushed forward. And, we’re not excited about all the changes.

In this post I’ll first try to explain what Gutenberg is. Subsequently, I will tell you about the things that are problematic to us. Finally, I will tell and show you what we think should be done about the problems.

What is Gutenberg?

Gutenberg is a new approach to how we edit posts in WordPress. It’s basically a new editor. It tries to remove a lot of the fluff that we built up over the years. The intent is to make the new experience lighter and more modern. The end-goal is to make WordPress easier to use. That’s something we really appreciate at Yoast.

Gutenberg introduces the concept of “blocks“. The new editor will be a block-editor: paragraphs, headings, images and YouTube video embeds will all be blocks. Blocks will make it easier to learn how to work with WordPress. People starting out with WordPress, only have to learn the concept of blocks, instead of 3 or 4 different concepts. When we make WordPress easier to use, we make it more accessible to a larger group of people. Making editing easier was the goal from the outset, as Matt Mullenweg is quoted on the Gutenberg Github page:

The editor will endeavour to create a new page and post building experience that makes writing rich posts effortless, and has “blocks” to make it easy what today might take shortcodes, custom HTML, or “mystery meat” embed discovery. — Matt Mullenweg

As well as introducing blocks, Gutenberg also introduces a new look and feel for the editor. For me, the look and feel is mostly a copy of the Medium editor, an editor that got a lot of praise in certain online circles. Gutenberg appears a bit more modern, more contemporary.

New technology in Gutenberg

Besides introducing a new look and feel and the concept of editing blocks, Gutenberg also introduces an entirely new technology to WordPress. Gutenberg will use a lot of JavaScript, particularly React. While this change in itself is not interesting to the average user, it does impact how WordPress is built.

Here at Yoast, we are worried about the use of new technology combined with the introduction of big new concepts. This is bound to make for a rocky experience. We know from our own experience releasing Yoast SEO 3.0 (we’d rather not talk about that anymore). Even when releases are very well prepared, a lot can go wrong and you’ll be busy fixing it for a long time. We feel worried about the combination of new technology, completely renewed functionality, and the extremely ambitious time plan.

Plugins in Gutenberg

The concept of blocks brings some very powerful new tools to plugin authors. At Yoast, we have lots of ideas on how to make our content analysis better, faster, and more user-friendly with the Gutenberg editor. However, Gutenberg does currently not have the technical necessities in place to allow us to actually build that integration. Yoast SEO can’t integrate with the new editor (yet). Of course, we are actively involved in the technical discussions around this. We are currently heavily discussing how to make it possible for plugins to integrate.

Fact remains that, if you test Gutenberg right now, you’ll see that Yoast SEO is not on the page, anywhere. Nor, for that matter, are all the other plugins you might use like Advanced Custom Fields or CMB2. All of these plugins use so-called meta boxes, the boxes below and to the side of the current editor.

The fact that the Gutenberg team is considering changing meta boxes is, in our eyes, a big mistake. This would mean that many, many plugins would not work anymore the minute Gutenberg comes out. Lots and lots of custom built integrations would stop working. Hundreds of thousands of hours of development time would have to be, at least partly, redone. All of this while, for most sites, the current editor works just fine.

Accessibility issues

The current version of Gutenberg has major accessibility issues both in its frontend output and in the backend editor. This ranges from inline styles in the output to many other things.

We feel very strongly about accessibility. Not without reasons. The law in many European countries requires government institutions to have properly accessible websites. If Gutenberg breaks their accessibility, they will have to disable it, or face lawsuits. The Gutenberg team needs to realize that accessibility requirements are simply that: requirements.

To conclude: we are very enthusiastic about the idea of blocks, but have strong concerns about some of the technical choices and the speed of the implementation process. We are also worried about the lack of priority given to accessibility issues in the project. But most importantly, we are very much concerned about the fact that plugins are not able to integrate with the new editor.

When is Gutenberg coming?

In a recent post about the JavaScript library of choice for the WordPress ecosystem, WordPress’ project lead Matt Mullenweg said:

It will likely delay Gutenberg at least a few weeks, and may push the release into next year.

At Yoast, we were pretty shocked about these words. In its current form, Gutenberg is not ready -at all- for mainstream usage. In fact, we do not see it as being ready to be released anywhere in the first half of 2018. In our view, ready to be released also means that the community has had ample time to fix all of their integrations. In this point of time, it’s not possible for plugins at all to integrate with Gutenberg. How on earth should plugin authors be able to build their integrations within a few months? That’s not possible. At least not without breaking things.

So what should be done?

We think that taking the following three steps would bring Gutenberg much closer to release:

  • First of all, we should keep the blocks idea, as it’s a good one. And then we should start iterating, slowly. If you want the admin to get a modern “makeover” for 5.0: that’s doable. We don’t need to change how meta boxes are rendered for that to happen.
  • There’s also no need to move the toolbar (with bold, italics etc buttons) away from where it is (this has been discussed before). Medium does that, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good thing and it means more re-training than the team building Gutenberg seems to realize.
  • We should focus on making sure both the backend editor and the frontend output of Gutenberg meet basic accessibility requirements.

Once we’ve decided on the above, we should start educating plugin & theme developers on what will and what will not work in the new environment.

What should this look like?

We’ve made some mockups of what we think this could look like (click for larger versions):

Document level

Gutenberg editor mockup - block level

Block level

Gutenberg mockup - distraction free mode

Distraction free mode

Note that we have disabled the background color and text color controls in the block level mockup. These should be off by default in our opinion, and possibly only allow a subset of colors, chosen by the theme author, when enabled.

I’d love to discuss with you, in the comments here, on Github, on Slack: everywhere!

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The default WordPress search functionality is certainly lacking in areas. Although changes were made in 2013 to improve it, there are still a few areas where WordPress could use some help. It is, however, relatively easy to improve WordPress search by adding a few pieces of code. Here, I’ll list some of the methods you could use to make WordPress search better.

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Sort by relevance

In older versions of WordPress, search results were sorted by date and not much else. Because this is (at the very least) annoying for websites with a lot of posts, WordPress core introduced a patch that would change the way search results are sorted.

The changes are as followed:

  • Results with a full sentence match in the post title are listed first.
  • Search results that include all search terms in the title, but not a full sentence match, are listed next.
  • Results including any search terms in the title, but not all search terms or a full sentence match, are listed next.
  • Finally, search results that include a full sentence match in the post content come last. Within each group, results are further sorted chronologically by publication date.

Improving the interface

Excerpts in search results by WordPress are not exactly great. Unlike Google, the WordPress search omits emphasis of the keyword if it found matches. Luckily, you can alter parts of the search results and add this feature.

Preparing your theme

In your theme, look for the file that outputs the search results. In this example, it’s a file that I’ve created manually, called /template-parts/post/content-search.php in a Twenty Seventeen child theme. This file is a copy of content-excerpt.php that exists in the same directory.

Next, look for the file called search.php in the theme’s main directory and look for the following line of code:

get_template_part( 'template-parts/post/content', 'excerpt' );

Change this to the following:

get_template_part( 'template-parts/post/content', 'search' );

By making these changes, you’ll ensure that WordPress will use your custom template instead of the default one. Time to add the actual code that will be doing the emphasizing!

Open up functions.php and add the following function:

 * Adds emphasis to the parts passed in $content that are equal to $search_query.
 * @param $content The content to alter.
 * @param $search_query The search query to match against.
 * @return string The emphasized text.
function emphasize( $content, $search_query ) {
    $keys = array_map( 'preg_quote', explode(" ", $search_query ) );
    return preg_replace( '/(' . implode('|', $keys ) .')/iu', '<strong class="search-excerpt">\0</strong>', $content );

What this function does, is taking the passed content and emphasize every occurrence of the word(s) passed in $search_query and return the text. The class that was added to the <strong> tag can be used to further style the end result (if you want to).

Adding emphasis in the title

Now that we’ve gone through the steps to setup your custom template parts adding emphasis in the title is relatively easy to do.

Go into your newly created content-search.php and find the line that looks like:

the_title( sprintf( '<h2 class="entry-title"><a href="%s" rel="bookmark">', esc_url( get_permalink() ) ), '</a></h2>' );

and replace it with the following:

$title = emphasize( get_the_title(), get_search_query() );

echo sprintf( '<h2 class="entry-title"><a href="%s" rel="bookmark">%s', esc_url( get_permalink() ), $title ) . '</a></h2>';

That’s all there is to it!

Adding emphasis in the excerpt

You’d expect that adding emphasis to the excerpt can’t be much harder than adding it to the title. Sadly, this is not the case. With excerpts, WordPress automatically concatenates a “Continue reading” link to the end. You’d be fine as long as the search phrase doesn’t exist in the slug of the post, but most of the time if you’re looking for specific keywords, it will be present in the slug. This results in a broken “Continue reading” link.

To overcome this, you’ll have to temporarily overrule some default WordPress behavior.

First, add the following to your functions.php:

 * Creates a custom read more link.
 * @return string The read more link.
function modify_read_more_link() {
    return ' <a class="more-link" href="' . get_permalink() . '">Continue reading</a>';

The above code will be called to ensure we have a workable “Read more” link.

This part hooks into the function that creates the actual excerpt and adds our emphasis and custom “Read more” link.

 * Allows for excerpt generation outside the loop.
 * @param string $text  The text to be trimmed
 * @return string       The trimmed text
function custom_trim_excerpt( $text = '' ) {
    $text = strip_shortcodes( $text );
    $text = apply_filters('the_content', $text);
    $text = str_replace(']]>', ']]&gt;', $text);

    $excerpt_length = apply_filters('excerpt_length', 55);

    $trimmed = wp_trim_words( $text, $excerpt_length, '' );

    if ( is_search() ) {
        $trimmed = emphasize( $trimmed, get_search_query() );

    return $trimmed . modify_read_more_link();
add_filter('wp_trim_excerpt', 'custom_trim_excerpt');

Sadly, there’s no elegant alternative for this. Hopefully, someday, a filter will be created that can be called instead of having to overrule large portions of the trim function.

Tracking searches

There are a few options to track the search queries that visitors have entered, but we recommend using Google Analytics for this. To get started with tracking searches, please go through the following steps:

  1. Login to Google Analytics.
  2. Click on Admin (gear on the bottom-left).
  3. Under View, click on View Settings
  4. Scroll down until you find the Site Search Tracking toggle and turn it on.
  5. In the Query Parameter field, enter s. This is the default query parameter that is added by WordPress when using the search function.
  6. Click Save

If your website is heavily dependent on categories and allows users to use them to refine their searches, Google Analytics gives you the ability to add tracking on this too. For more information on this subject, you can read Google’s documentation on search tracking in this article.


If your website has grown a lot and you want to supercharge your search, it might be wise to look at a few alternatives. One that we use at Yoast is Algolia. This platform contains a ton of features to make search even better. Some features are: Typo-tolerance, support for synonyms, filters and support for 100+ languages. It also includes integrations with WordPress!

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Another alternative is Amazon CloudSearch. It offers similar features to Algolia, and you can enable autoscaling if you think your website needs it. However, ACS does not provide you with an integration out of the box, so you’ll have to write your implementation or look for a WordPress plugin in the Plugin Directory. At the time of writing, there are only two plugins present; CloudSearch and Lift.

Yes, you can improve WordPress search

As you could read, the WordPress search has improved over the years. Despite this, it still lacks in some aspects. Luckily you can improve it by adding some extra code in your child theme or take it to the next level by using external services such as Algolia and Amazon CloudSearch. Good luck!

Read more: ‘Internal search: why and how’ »

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With the release of Yoast SEO 5.5 comes a great new feature: SEO roles. A site admin can now determine in the backend of WordPress who gets access to the various settings and features of Yoast SEO. This makes for a more fluid and flexible access protocol for different kinds of users on a site. It is no longer a one-size-fits-all solution, but a more tailored one. SEO roles make Yoast SEO even more powerful for every type of user. Here, we’ll explain why these roles are so awesome.

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Managing user roles in Yoast SEO 5.5

It’s always been a challenge to use Yoast SEO in a larger site environment. As an admin, you’d have to choose between offering users full access to the plugin or just access to the SEO post editor part. That means a regular user couldn’t use the redirects manager, for instance, and had to ask an admin for help every time he or she wanted to add, change or delete redirects. We’ve seen it happing here at Yoast as well. Of course, there’s a whole range of possible permissions in between. Yoast SEO now introduces two new roles that make this a lot easier to manage: the SEO manager and SEO editor, in addition to the admin who determines who gets to see what.

Roles and capabilities

Roles in Yoast SEO consist of one or more capabilities, like:

  • managing options (this gives you full access),
  • managing redirects,
  • editing advanced metadata,
  • access to the bulk editor.

The SEO editor, for instance, can now make redirects, but cannot change the settings of the plugin or access the advanced metadata editor of Yoast SEO. This way, the SEO editor has more access than a regular user, but less than the SEO manager who can manage settings as well. If you use a permission or role manager plugin for WordPress like Justin Tadlock’s excellent Members plugin, you get even more fine-grained control over the capabilities within Yoast SEO. This way, you can mix and match capabilities in any form you’d like.

In Yoast SEO Premium, we’ve also added the capability to manage redirects without having to be an administrator. By activating this, users within a specific role get full access to the redirects manager. No longer do site managers have to be swamped with redirects requests by site editors, they can manage those themselves. Personally, I like that a lot. By adding some magic code to the plugin, the redirects manager now shows up in the WordPress sidebar menu, even if your Yoast SEO menu is hidden by default. How cool is that?

yoast seo 5.5 filter

Managing your site has never been easier

The SEO roles in Yoast SEO make it incredibly easy to give more people working on your site access to the features and settings they need, without granting them full access. Does your site editor need to edit advanced metadata? No? Block it in Yoast SEO. Does he or she need to manage redirects and do large-scale SEO optimizations with the bulk editor? Great, grant him or her access to these parts of the plugin. You can do this and more – all from the admin dashboard of Yoast SEO!

Read more: ‘Yoast SEO 5.5: Introducing SEO roles’ »

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Variables have become a staple of Yoast SEO. Variables make it possible to automate certain processes on your site. They also make it easy to change large batches of meta descriptions for instance, since you only have to change the structure of the variable – the site fills in the data automatically. Here, we’ll take a closer look at the Titles and Meta variables in Yoast SEO.

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What is a variable?

First things first: a variable is a name or a symbol that stands for a value. For instance, Yoast SEO uses the variable %%sitename%% to get the site name from the site itself. This way, you, as a user, don’t have to type in this information by hand. Now, when the name of the site changes, the variable automatically gets the new name from the site. If you had this hard-coded in your site, you’d have to change everything manually – everywhere. Consider doing this on hundreds of pages and you’ll start to see how powerful variables are.

How does Yoast SEO use variables?

Yoast SEO uses variables to give you the freedom and flexibility you need when working on your SEO. It makes it much easier to find a common ground for your text fields. What’s more, if you ever need to change something, variables let you do this as quickly as possible.

You can only find the relevant options in the Titles and Metas section of the Yoast SEO plugin if you activate the advanced settings. There you’ll find loads of options for setting variables to automate your SEO efforts. The full list of variables is listed on the HELP tab of the plugin. Just go to SEO → Titles & Metas and click the help tab in the top right. You can also check our knowledge base article on Titles and Metas variables.

yoast seo titles metas help center

You are free to change any of the settings as you see fit, but remember, the default settings are almost always a great fit for any site. That being said, you can set variables for:

  • The homepage
  • Site title
  • Posts
  • Pages
  • Media
  • Custom types
  • Categories
  • Tags
  • Archives

How to set variables in Yoast SEO

You can use variables in a multitude of ways. Most site-owners only use the most basic ones, while someone more at home in SEO might use the advanced ones. There are even variables for use with WooCommerce, so you can automatically extract product information from your store to use in the metadata. In this post, we’ll keep it simple and give a small example. Let’s look at the different variables that you can use to determine the title of a post on a site.

* Open the Yoast SEO advanced settings and go to Titles and Metas.
* Go to the Post section and find the Title template field.
* The field is prepopulated, but you can change it to whatever you want.
* If you need the list of supported variables, click on Help Center.

Snippet editor

If you want, you can edit the SEO title per post in the snippet editor of Yoast SEO. There, you’ll find the title according to the variables you’ve chosen. In addition, you also get the option to override that title with a custom-made variant if you think that’ll attract more clicks in the search engines.

seo title variables yoast seo

The default title variable string is:

%%title%% %%page%% %%sep%% %%sitename%%

Which, for the post you are now reading, leads to:

snippet preview titles and meta

These variables combined form the SEO title of the post. In this string, the title takes the title of the post, adds a page number if any (f.i. page 3 of 4), the separator symbol you picked and the site name of the site it’s posted on. You could add lots of other variables in there, but remember, you’re working with limited space for the snippets. If you’d add a %%category%% for instance, the title would become too long and Google would cut it off. Try to find a middle ground between readability, findability and branding. Yes, your branding is important, so don’t omit %%sitename%%.

Using variables for SEO

Yoast SEO supports a wide range of variables and they can be used for almost any situation. You should, however, always ask yourself if the change you want to make improves your metadata. If not, why not let the default settings do their work? Experienced SEOs will enjoy using the advanced variables and online store owners can make use of the extra WooCommerce variables. For the rest of you? Don’t overdo it.

Read more: ‘Why every website needs Yoast SEO’ »

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Rian Rietveld and Andrea Fercia are two heavyweights in the WordPress accessibility community. Both legends are joining us at the YoastCon SEO conference on November 2, 2017. For this joint interview, we asked them a couple of questions about the current state of accessibility, common implementation mistakes and how to start with the right mindset. Of course, the duo explains why you should come to YoastCon!

Don’t want to miss Rian and Andrea on stage? Get your ticket now for YoastCon 2017!

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Accessibility is incredibly important. Focusing on accessibility in your work makes sure you won’t leave anyone behind. Could you tell us a bit about the current state of accessibility in general and WordPress in particular?

According to Andrea, accessibility is getting more and more attention in the last couple of years: “Microsoft, Apple, Google, Facebook, Twitter, and more, are renewing their focus on accessibility as part of an inclusive design process and delivering products with a good level of built-in accessibility.”

Even WordPress gets better, says Andrea. “In the last 2-3 years, a great number of accessibility fixes entered the codebase. However, there’s still the need to educate many contributors, increase awareness, expertise, and incorporate accessibility in the design process. In WordPress, accessibility is still perceived as something that can be added at a later stage in the development process. That’s an ineffective process. It goes in a different direction compared to what all the other big players are doing.”

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Rian wants to stress the importance of accessibility as well:
 “Accessibility is the next big thing after responsive design. People involved in web development are starting to understand that accessibility is part of the process. There are two reasons for this. In an increasing number of countries, websites need to be accessible by law. Not just sites for government and public services but in some countries company sites as well. The second reason: accessibility is considered good practice in modern web development.”

According to WordPress the accessibility of the CMS improved dramatically in the last four years. Rian says that the community is starting to see that this is an important issue. She shares one ‘but’: “New functionality, however, is still not designed and developed with accessibility in mind. That means we still need to fix issues, also newly created issues. And that’s a point we can definitely improve on.”

It still seems hard to get stakeholders interested in accessibility. What do you guys do to convince people of the importance of accessibility and what do you do to help them get started?

Andrea says business owners and managers should look at the numbers in addition to the ethical considerations: “Accessibility is not just about people with specific disabilities or impairments. It’s about changing abilities that everyone experiences in their life with aging. Demographic trends, especially in Europe and North America, give us impressive numbers that can help us understand who our users and customers will be in the next 10-15 years.”

“Sometimes it’s hard to convince people. Education helps. We still need to debunk many myths about accessibility and make people understand it’s something that benefits everyone, including your future you,” explains Andrea.

Rian supports the notion that stakeholders are primarily interested in profit. She’d like to add her arguments for successfully implementing accessibility from the get-go: “20% of your visitors have a better experience using your site. Google is deaf and blind, so accessibility directly benefits SEO. The site will be more sustainable, as an accessible website will use more robust and meaningful code. If you include it at the beginning it will not cost extra if your team is well-prepared.”

You probably see the same mistakes made again and again. Do you have a list of common mistakes to keep our readers from making the same?

According to Rian you should: “Include accessibility at the beginning of the project, don’t check for it at the end because it will cost a lot more to correct it afterward. Also, keep in mind that you don’t create a website for yourself, but research your user and create a site your visitors understand. Focus on the main purpose of the site and don’t add elements to distract the user from that, only because you like to show off your design/programming skills.”

Andrea likes to emphasize the importance of valid HTML: “Well-structured, valid, semantic, markup is definitely the first thing you should focus on. HTML is the last layer of our communication. It’s great when all our development processes focus only on great abstracted object-oriented programming, modern JavaScript Frameworks and so on, but when our HTML is poorly coded, then our communication fails.”

Today, there is still a lot of very poorly coded HTML around, says Andrea: “People must understand why the HTML output is so important for the software that reads our web pages. Any software, including assistive technologies, or search engine crawlers, read our HTML. Good HTML is good communication that helps everyone, improves accessibility and also SEO.”

When looking at it from a design perspective, the design should start with the information architecture, says Andrea: “After that comes the interaction flow, and then the presentation layer. Instead, I still see today many projects starting with the presentation layer. For instance, missing controls labels are a very common mistake. All user interface controls must have a label.”

Let’s say I’m a site-owner and want to improve the accessibility of my site. What’s the first or most important thing I should do?

Andrea starts off with a great tip: “I’d recommend to disable styles in your browsers (that’s easy with Firefox) and look at your site without the presentation layer. Does your page still make sense? Is the order of the content logical and meaningful? Of course, there are a lot of other things to check. There also are more advanced ways to perform a first accessibility check, including some browsers add-ons. They help to catch some of the most common mistakes, but they require some expertise.”

Rian’s advice supports Andrea’s: “Check if you can navigate your website without a mouse, with keyboard only. Also, please add subtitles to video and transcript audio. And keep the following in mind when you design or write: People don’t read on a website, they skim the page and navigation for what they want to know and then read.”

The WordPress project is increasingly accessible. You both contributed quite a lot to WordPress. How did you get involved with the community and which part of the accessibility project are you proud?

Andrea accidentally got involved: “I must be honest: it was a period when I was partially unemployed and had some free time, so I started following the project and then submitted my first contribution. About my involvement in the WordPress Accessibility Team, I just owe everything to Rian Rietveld!”

Come see Rian and Andrea speak at YoastCon 2017 on November 2 »banner YoastCon

Proud is the right word, says Andrea: “I think it’s not a specific patch or improvement to the codebase. I’m really glad to see that some of the WordPress contributors, especially the younger ones, they just try to implement accessibility by default when they code. They feel it’s part of a coding best-practice and that’s the best thing I’d like to see in any project.”

Rian: “My drive was to help my blind clients using the WordPress Admin. I’m the proudest of the cooperation we now get from almost everyone in the WordPress community. I think we are on the right track with the Accessibility Team now.”

You can read more about Rian’s journey in the WordPress Accessibility team on HeroPress.

Why shouldn’t people miss your talk at YoastCon?

“Come and learn if you want to know why accessibility and SEO are a great match. Not everyone uses and reads a website the same. We’ll teach you how to create content that is understandable for everybody,” says Rian.

Don’t want to miss Rian and Andrea on stage? Get your ticket now for YoastCon 2017!

Get your ticket NOW »

Read more: ‘YoastCon 2017: Practical SEO’ »

The post Interview Rian Rietveld & Andrea Fercia – YoastCon speakers appeared first on Yoast.

Alain Schlesser – aka Schlessera – is a prolific WordPress Core Contributor and he is on a mission: “I want to make WordPress future-proof enough to withstand the next few online revolutions without drowning in technical debt, and as a direct consequence, ensure the longevity of the community that’s surrounding it”. Yoast supports him in reaching those goals. Find out more about Alain and his work in the WordPress community.

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A couple of weeks ago, Yoast hired you as a freelancer to expand the work you do on WordPress core. Can you explain this move and what it enables you to do? And what do you hope to get out of it personally?

For some time now, I have been working on WordPress core in my spare time. I have also invested a lot of time into creating educational material like blog posts and WordCamp talks. I had to do all this besides the client work I am getting paid for. As a freelancer, this causes a constant struggle where you’re trying to balance the work you think is important with the work that pays the bills. It causes a lot of stress, and you even miss many important opportunities because the financial pressure grows too big.

I was always able to produce a lot of open source work as a side-effect of my client work. However, working on the important issues of WordPress core is a different beast. I didn’t find a way to integrate these concerns into any client projects.

Being paid for working on WordPress core means that I can afford to spend the time on critical topics. I can now seize opportunities as they come. It means I can work on the areas of the core that do not provide an immediate ROI, but are necessary for a long-term improvement.

One of my overarching personal goals is to make WordPress future-proof enough to withstand the next few online revolutions without drowning in technical debt, and as a direct consequence, ensure the longevity of the community that’s surrounding it.

You are a very active member of the WordPress community and even a core-contributor to the latest couple of releases. What is it that attracts you to this community and how did you start off?

When I started delving more deeply into WordPress, I quickly noticed that the code did not exactly follow common best practices. Some parts of the code were well-built, but very generally, it all seemed as though people were constantly trying to reinvent the wheel, instead of reading up on accepted solutions for their problems.

That led me to frequently share best practices and tips whenever I found an opportunity to do so. A lot of the jobs and the traction I initially got came directly or indirectly from freely sharing my own knowledge and experience. But I was mostly working in isolation, except for the few Slack teams I was a member of.

This all changed after I attended my first WordCamp. It was WordCamp Europe in Vienna, and it was a wonderful experience. I was already wondering for a few months whether WordPress was the right platform for me. It felt like making several steps backwards as a developer, instead of progressing. But the first WordCamp changed everything for me.

Although I went to Vienna for professional reasons, it enriched my personal life as well. It made me aware of how much I truly appreciate the community that has gathered around the WordPress project. All of a sudden, all the technical drawbacks of the WordPress platform were secondary to the feeling of personal growth in the welcoming and inspiring community.

That’s why I now work hard on helping make WordPress the best platform it can be (… according to my own benchmarks and agenda, of course). I always try to be as positive and constructive as I can manage. There’s more than enough people that are more than willing to tell you all that is bad about the WordPress codebase. However, not many will be able to point you towards a possible path to improvement that will still meet all given requirements of such an old project. I, however, am working on moving from the former to the latter group.

Could you tell us a bit about the work that’s going on in WordPress at the moment? What key issues need to be worked on?

A lot of the effort is currently being focused on Gutenberg. This is the new editing experience that should launch with WordPress 5.0. However, there are many smaller groups still working fervently on other areas of the core that are just as important.

Right now, I am mostly focusing on the PHP/backend side of things. I want to work on the architectural problems that are plaguing WordPress. I also started a feature project to analyze and redesign the bootstrap process. In addition, I am helping prepare a bump of the minimum PHP version and try to fix the major performance issues of a normal request.

More generally, I think that WordPress needs more experienced developers with outside experience, that can help teach and enforce better practices. That’s why I also want to work on eliminating the hurdles that these developers face.

We need helping hands if we want to improve WordPress, right? Basically, anyone working with or on WordPress could make major or minor contributions to improve the CMS. Let’s say someone is interested in taking part in the project, what steps should he/she take?

An obvious first step is to head over to and read through the list of teams to see whether something catches your interest. There’s lots of documentation for most teams that take you through the initial steps of contributing for the first time.

Apart from that, just meet other people at the next Meetup or WordCamp in your region. Most WordCamps have a “Contributor Day” that is ideal for getting a feel for the project. There are also team leads present that will help you with the initial onboarding.

Finally, for the people who don’t know you yet, could you give us a little background on yourself and your work?

I started dabbling in software development as a child on a Commodore C-64. I learned to develop in Basic, and mostly tried to build text adventures, which was an early form of natural language processing. Later on, I moved through several other languages, covering C, C++, Assembler, Pascal and a lot of more obscure dialects.

I always saw game development as the most interesting area for myself. In this area, you not only needed to make everything work, it also needed to work as fast as possible. You always try to get around the then very crippling performance limits. This led me down several rabbit holes at once, learning about data structures and algorithms, artificial intelligence, graphics and sound driver development, etc.

When I later thought about what professional path to follow, I always tried to avoid the IT space though, as I associated it with frustrating technical support work, more than anything else. That’s why I ended up working as a government agent in the administration of a prison.

I ended up dealing a lot with IT anyway. Since then, I worked on a very diverse set of projects. I even accumulated some certifications along the way, such as for Oracle PL/SQL or Microsoft Sharepoint development.

As I was never truly satisfied with the work I did for the government (mostly because of the long delays and the nonsensical budget allocations), I read a lot about freelancing, remote work, and lifestyle design.

Then, about three years ago, my wife and I made the jump. We both quit our jobs, moved from Luxembourg to Germany and started a new life. I opted to freelance as a PHP and WordPress developer, as these made up the biggest part of the market. I just assumed it would be easy to find work for that reason.

Read more: ‘Why there’s only one model: the open source model’ »

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His name is Joeke-Remkus de Vries, but you can call him Remkus. You might know him by his online handle DeFries and you could have run into him at one of the many WordCamps around the world. Remkus is a well-known and respected figure in the WordPress community and we’re glad to offer him the possibility to do more awesome work in the community. We’ve asked Remkus five questions and these are his answers.

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You and Joost/Yoast go way back. Recently, Yoast started sponsoring you part-time to do WordPress community work. What kind of community efforts will you be working on thanks to Yoast? Could you tell us more about that?

Yeah, I know Joost from before there was a Yoast company. Joost and I co-organized some of the first WordCamp Netherlands editions and we’ve always remained friends. I’ll be focussing my efforts on participating in the Community team with validating meetup and WordCamp requests as well as helping out where needed. I’ve spent the last couple of weeks reacquainting myself with everything happening at the WordPress Community Make site in order to help out as best as I can.

The time and energy I spent being part of the organizing team for the previous WordCamp Europe and Netherlands editions, was not where I wanted them to be. But with Yoast sponsoring me part-time, I’ll be able to spend significantly more time in the organization. I’ll help organize the 2018 edition of WordCamp Europe in Belgrade as well as the next WordCamp Netherlands which will probably be held in 2018 as well. Additionally, I’ll visit WordCamps around the globe on behalf of Yoast and represent them in any way I can. Not a bad situation if you ask me ;)

That’s great news! So, how did you start out in the WordPress community?

I started developing sites with WordPress since before we had such niceties as pages. Soon, my hobby became work. Today, I run a couple of WordPress related businesses, Forsite Media and WP ServicePoint being the most prominent.

In 2008, I entered the WordPress community. I discovered that the WordPress project in the Netherlands was in a pretty sorry state. At that time, new Dutch versions of releases came out months after the default one. In addition, the quality of the translations was very inconsistent and, quite frankly, all over the place.

I didn’t want to be embarrassed when handing over a site to a customer. The only way to improving this product to an acceptable level of quality was to take matters into my own hands. So, with the help of Zé Fontainhas – who at the time was handling all things Rosetta and Polyglots – I took over the translations, set up a consistent team, started releasing a Dutch WordPress version within 24 hours and started cleaning up the Dutch WordPress forums with the help of newly found moderators.

In 2009, I co-founded WordCamp Netherlands and have been the lead organizer from 2010 till 2016. Those first editions were all about “activating” the Dutch community. At the same time, I started going to WordCamps abroad and found many kindred spirits and ultimately, friends. Together with the same Zé Fontainhas, I co-founded WordCamp Europe in 2013. You can learn more about how that went on

You’ve been very active in the WordPress community for many years now. In these years, WordPress became increasingly popular, leading to an ever-growing community. What’s your view of the current state of the WordPress community?

It’s amazing to see where WordPress is now coming from just a small blogging platform. In my opinion, the current state of the WordPress Community is very healthy. More and more people are going to and organizing WordPress Meetups and WordCamps and more and more communities are starting to flourish. This ultimately brings in, even more, people into the WordPress project and that’s obviously a good thing from where I’m standing. Couple this with the ever growing list of available locales, in which WordPress is available, and I have no doubt we’re going in the right direction of democratizing the web.

The WordPress community is huge. You focus mostly on organizing meetups and WordCamps. Why did you pick that particular part and why do you love it so much?

I’m not sure I specifically picked that part, that kind of happened. I saw ways of improving the WordPress project and I went out of my way to do it. Doing this while meeting people; making friends made it very easy to continuously put energy into it. I get a lot of joy out of the fact we have such strong Dutch and European WordPress Communities.

You often hear that anyone working, developing or building with WordPress could also play a part in getting WordPress to the next level by participating in the community. What advice would you give people wanting to lend their hand to the WordPress project?

Simple. Go to meetups, get involved, go to WordCamps and especially the Contributor Days. It’s a great way to learn about the larger project and find your place within it. Once you’ve found your place, it becomes a lot easier to find out in which area you’d like to contribute most. Be it helping out on the forums, doing translations, improving WordPress’ core or any of the other subjects you can help out with.

Read more: ‘There’s only one model: the open source model’ »

The post 5 questions: Remkus de Vries – Forsite Media appeared first on Yoast.

Our mission is ‘SEO for everyone’. We keep that in mind, in everything we do. But what do we mean by it? And why is it our mission? In this post, I’d like to explain Yoast’s mission.

A little bit of history

To understand why we pursue this mission, we’ll have to go back in history. Let’s start in 2006: Joost de Valk was building SEO plugins because he strongly believed that everyone could benefit from the SEO knowledge he had collected in his work for large agencies. As a WordPress fanboy, he could quickly translate his technical SEO skills into a useful plugin for WordPress. 

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The WordPress SEO plugin, which was rebranded to Yoast SEO later on, got an enormous amount of users. What’s more, Joost received an overwhelming number of support requests and was unable to handle those, as he was still working for an agency as well. At that point, Joost decided to start his own company. Selling premium plugins and doing a little bit of consultancy enabled him to further invest time and resources into the free Yoast SEO plugin as well. This allowed us to improve the quality and features of our products, and also resulted in a growing company. Moreover, it meant we could further define our mission.

WordPress’ mission and Yoast’s mission

The mission of WordPress is to democratize publishing with open-source GPL (General Public License) software. Yoast’s mission builds on WordPress’ mission, just as Yoast’s software is an extension of the software of WordPress. Everybody can create a website using WordPress. However, not everyone is able to rank in the search engines. In some niches, the search results are dominated by large companies with even larger marketing budgets. The Yoast SEO plugin, combined with the SEO knowledge Yoast shares, enables small entrepreneurs to compete with these large companies.

A ‘fair’ chance in the search results

We believe the web will benefit from all people having an equal chance in the search results. We would love for great new ideas and inventions to spread over the world. And great ideas don’t always come from large agencies but are created everywhere around the world. That’s why we believe that every idea should have a fair chance in the search results. WordPress and Yoast SEO cover most of the technical SEO challenges of a website. But to seriously compete with the big boys, every website owner still faces content SEO challenges. In our blog posts, we explain to our audience how to write awesome and SEO-friendly content and how to set up a decent site structure. Using the Yoast SEO plugin and reading our posts should help everyone to have a fair chance in the search results. That’s what ‘SEO for everyone’ is all about.

Making money and maintaining the mission

Pursuing our mission doesn’t mean we’re not making any money while doing so. On the contrary: the company Yoast is thriving. The money we make enables us to keep on pursuing our mission. We continue to tweak and improve our plugins and we write more and more articles about SEO. Making money makes pursuing ‘SEO for everyone’ easier. We can have a bigger impact. And, it allows us to contribute more and more to WordPress core.

The premium version of Yoast SEO has some practical features, which will make SEO a lot easier. However, all essential features you need to have that fair chance in the search engines, are available and will remain in our free plugin. Our online courses are powerful to quickly learn about (one or multiple aspects) of SEO. But all the SEO information you need is also available in our many blog posts. It’s important to us that everyone – even if you haven’t got much money to spend – can benefit from our SEO products.

Read more: ‘Victory of the Commons’ »

Today we’re releasing Yoast SEO 5.2. In this brand new version you’ll find some feature enhancements, accessibility improvements and a couple of bug fixes. In addition to that, we’ve laid some groundwork that will help us make Yoast SEO work well with the plugins our users use most. Read about all the improvements here!


Web accessibility is something we always urge website owners to think about and improve. As we can’t let our own products fall behind, we regularly work on the accessibility of the plugins we develop. This time, we scrutinized the accessibility of the onboarding wizard of Yoast SEO and improved it so everyone will be able to use it well. 

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Redirects for private posts

The redirects manager of Yoast SEO Premium is one of the features we’re most proud of. It makes creating redirects – and therefore preventing 404s – so much easier, and helps site owners to be less dependent of developers. As of this release, we’ve added an enhancement to this feature. From now on, if you trash a post that’s set to private, Yoast SEO Premium will also ask if you want to redirect the old url to a new one. 


One thing that keeps challenging plugin developers like us is to make plugins work with all the different plugins that our users use. There are so many plugins out there – not even to mention the various combinations of plugins that exist. To improve the compatibility of our plugins, we’ve added tracking to find out which other plugins our Premium users have installed. This will help us tremendously in making Yoast SEO work flawlessly on more WordPress installs. For the same reason, we’re tracking which PHP version our user’s websites are running on.

Speaking of PHP, if your site is running on PHP version 5.3 or lower, you couldn’t have missed the notice to urge you to move to a newer version since our 4.5 release. Does this WHIP notice keep annoying you? Then we have some good news for you. You can now dismiss the notice. After 4 weeks it will pop up again though, as we still believe upgrading to a newer PHP version is the best way to go.

That’s about it. Go update to 5.2 and enjoy this brand new version of Yoast SEO!

Read more: ‘Why every website needs Yoast SEO’ »

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’ »