Marieke van de Rakt
CEO of Yoast
CEO of Yoast: SEO Myths and The #1 Optimization
Effort That Hurts Your Rank
About This Episode
In this episode of The Content Coalition, we interview Marieke van de Rakt, CEO of Yoast, a search-optimization firm based in Wijchen, Netherlands. It develops and supports a popular Yoast SEO WordPress plugin that had over 5 million active installations.
Marieke manages Yoast Academy’s marketing and project teams. In addition to that, she loves to write about SEO. Her expertise lies in content SEO and site structure.
Tune in as Marieke shares the benefits of installing Yoast plugin to your website, demystifies the SEO myths that have been plaguing the ads, and her list of things to do in order for your site to rank high on Google.
What You’ll Learn
- [01:35] Marieke’s “Yoast” journey and how she got involved in the business
- [03:04] The difference between Yoast’s Free plugin and their Premium offering
- [04:05] Marieke busts the myth that it is very easy to rank #1 on search
- [10:05] Yoast’s new video plugin and why it’s super relevant for content creators
- [11:57] Marieke shares details about their Online SEO Training platform called Yoast Academy
- [16:34] The exact steps to rank higher on Google
- [19:14] Marieke’s recommended keyword research tools to use
- [21:20] 1 actionable thing to implement in the next 48 hours
Connect with Marieke
Connect with Yoast
Shaina Weisinger is the Founder and CEO of Repurpose House, which turns long-form content into optimized videos and images for high engagement social media strategies. Shaina has a background in video production for digital marketing and is on a mission to show content creators the untapped potential and repurposing power of the content that they already have. She has taught about content in many publications including DigitalMarketer, Inc., and Startup Nation, and continuously offers valuable takeaways by interviewing industry experts from world-recognized brands such as GoDaddy, HubSpot, MarketingProfs, and more through her video podcast, The Content Coalition. She loves to laugh loudly, be obnoxiously competitive on the volleyball court, treat her dogs as her kin, and recover from tripping on or running into almost everything within a five-foot radius. Learn more about Shaina here: ShainaWeisinger.com
Shaina: I’m Shaina. I love dogs. I trip a lot and I happen to have a knack for making pretty sweet videos for businesses. But the more videos we made, the more questions I got about how video and other content can be leveraged to make a bigger impact in their marketing. I mean, 44% of marketers say that producing content is their biggest challenge. Get content marketing is 62% less expensive than outbound and produces three times more leads. Now I know a lot, but I certainly don’t know it all. So I made it my mission to talk with content, kings, queens and bosses to learn as much as I could about crushing content marketing. And I’m taking you along with me. Welcome to the content coalition.
Shaina: Hello content coalition. Shaina. Here I am here with this CEO of Yoast. My mind is blown by Marieke. I can’t eat like we tried to go through this whole how to pronounce your last name thing and I’m just gonna Butcher it. So I’m going to let her go ahead and do a full name. Go ahead.
Marieke: My name is Marieke van de Rakt.
Shaina: Yes! And now you all know why I didn’t even try. So Super Dutch. So she is the CEO of Yoast. Um, she educates, she was, um, a teacher and a researcher at multiple universities. We’re going to chat with her about SEO, kind of about how she got started with Eos because if anybody’s a wordpress person, we all know Yoast, or at least you should. And if you don’t, then listen, continue to listen to this podcast episode. So um Marieke, thank you so much for being here. I really appreciate it. I’m really excited to chat with you today.
Marieke: I’m really excited to be here.
Shaina: First of all, like you said, how long ago did you start Yoast? You just tell me your Yoast journey, how this all came to be.
Marieke: Well, actually my, my husband started Yoast this fridge story. Um, his name is Yoast and he started Yoast I think 10 years ago. And he started it. And then I was still was a teacher and a researcher at the university and he started because he was an SEO, so he was an SEO consultant and it was doing SEO and big companies like Ebay and Disney and these kinds of companies. And he figured out that the things he was, um, well advising them to do, we could also do that in a plugin for wordpress, which was all fanboy. So then they built a plugin. Yeah. Well making sure that people were, we’re able to do the exact same things that he was proposing to be really big companies. And then it took a while before that plugin if it was free. So you didn’t make a lot of money for a long time. And he was doing a lot of cypress reviews as well. So, so checking out of people’s sites, seeing what they were doing wrong and writes. And then I think I joined the company six years ago and then post close shortly after that we, um, launched premium plugin and that’s when it started rolling. It’s for a long time. It didn’t make any money or and now we have a 100.
Shaina: it was just
Marieke: e. So now we’re doing rather well.
Shaina: You’re doing okay. Yeah. That’s the difference because you still have the free plugin and then you’ve got the premiere. When you’re saying what’s the difference between the two?
Marieke: Well, first of all, we can give support to 9 million people because that’s impossible. So you can support if you buy the premium one and we have the redirect manager and we have some, mmm mmm. Morphology recognition. So if you want to optimize your texts for specific words, our premium plugin will also recognize other words, Boston stuff. So that makes it a little easier. And then we have some other stuff which are rather small and the internal linking feature, of course,
Shaina: it’s obviously you get more, you get bang for the buck whenever you sign up. If you’re going to go the free route, it’s like we’ll do what we do. But you’re kind of on your own, which is still an amazing gift in the first place. Like I’ve been using Yoast for a year, it probably almost sense, oh, that’s seven years. Probably since before you are. So that’s awesome. Okay, cool. So how about, let’s just start with something super simple. Can you debunk any myths that people believe about SEO? Is there anything that you hear constantly that you’re like, that’s not accurate and let’s hit those?
Marieke: Well, it’s not easy and it’s not quick and you can buy it and make it like magically your fear number one. So whenever you see those ads that say, um, I will make you and rank number one, that’s not true. So it’s not easy. It takes a little time. It doesn’t necessarily take a lot of money. Of course you need additions, websites and some good hosting. But you don’t have to be like really big brands or, or spend a lot of money to do good SEO. You don’t have to be a technical person per say. It does help a little bit. But if you have our plugin and you are concentrated, so you could be a good SEO as well.
Marieke: But I think the number one myth is that I see those ads promising you to rank number one. And nobody ever is going to promise. We never rights ranking number one, we hardly ever arrived ranking higher. You usually say outrank your competition maybe, but that’s really hard promise something because you just don’t know.
Shaina: Yeah, and that’s, that’s what’s so interesting is with content in general and SEO obviously like it just takes time and work, like you just have to keep at it. And I think people just want this one quick snap of a finger, even if they have to pay for it way. So rank and for their content to convert and all this stuff. But it’s just, it’s not the case.
Marieke: No, no, I wish it was. But it is. Some people actually, I think some people expect that just by installing our plug and they were magically ranked number one and vote do something for you because if you install it, we will care of some stuff. So it could lead to a higher instance, higher ranking, or at least a couple of days. But usually it takes of work. Yes. So help you, but there’s no quick fix there.
Shaina: There isn’t. And so for, for the folks at home who don’t know exactly what Yos does, let’s kind of break down. Like let’s just start with the free version. So let’s say you’ve got your wordpress site, you have a blog, why would they install Yoast as a plugin and what does that do to help them? Because it’s obviously not some magical plug. You know, plug in and all of a sudden your ranking. So how does it work?
Marieke: A wordpress app. So we have a wordpress plugin, we also have a plug in for different platforms, but there are very little people using that because wordpress is the largest platform. So, so if you were out of the box is SEO friendly as it is? So it’s already will have a higher chance for ranking then if you use another. But then there are some things that um, aren’t may entirely the way you would want them to be built. And Yoast SEO will take care of them instantly. So you don’t have to do anything. You can just go through our configuration wizard, but a lot of things will be already taken care of. And then we will help you write your content in a way that the search engines will like it more. And I think that’s the thing that will most people will see of our plugin and circles are SEO analysis and a readability analysis. So our SEO and MedAssist will be, we’ll ask you to fill out the words who wants to rank for, and then we will help you to write a text and is optimized for that work. Well, we will also make sure that the techs you ride is also very readable, so that will be easy for people to read. And then we have some features that will help you with your internal linking, which is really important as well.
Shaina: So with internal linking, can you break that down just a little bit for us?
Marieke: Yeah, so Google follows links. So Google crawls the Internet to the entire day and when it follow up, when it’s fine contents, it will save it in the database, the index, it’s called t index. And so you should think of Google as a little spider that prose through your website. And if you have a lot of links pointing towards the certain page, that little spider will come by very often and then Google will probably think, oh, I’m here again. So this will be an important page. And I think that’s the way you should use internal linking. Think about pages on my websites are the most important, and make sure that Google will come around very often. So make sure that you put links to your pages that you find the most important. And that’s the way internal linking pretty much works.
Shaina: So doing, cause we talked with another, we talked to WP buffs, I’m with Joe over there and he was talking about having other links from other businesses come to your company. But you can create those links within your own website so that you are the internal linking piece. W brings more attention to Google. So there’s something you can actually do yourself.
Marieke: Yeah, you can start today. Yeah. Yeah. Links from other and probably that the higher authority, authority that’s so hard towards domains aren’t the most important then. So if you have some links from universities that will really help with your ranking, but within your side you can decide which pages you want to rank highs with and that that’s something very actionable. Something you can do. And we have a feature that will help you just make that a little bit more easy. Yeah. Because it’s a lot of work as well because she has to think about, because she just, can’t put random links in there. You should put links in that actually makes sense. So that that can be a little bit of work.
Shaina: Just, you know, make sure that they’re, they make sense in the pays. Like for us within certain blog posts we’ll be like, oh, we mentioned more about this and this other blog posts that we posted that we want to make sure we get a lot of eyeballs on. Which is more like taking the step towards going from repurposing yourself to having us repurpose for you. So we like that page to rank possibly. Yeah.
Shaina: Very cool. All right. So, um, I was looking at the site and I see you guys have a video plugin now. And I am a video person. Obviously we turn content into video, but I was all about video production and video strategy and I nerded out really hard when I saw this. Can you walk through what that plugin does and why it’s important? Because video is so huge right now that like I feel like that’s super relevant.
Marieke: Yeah, it’s, it takes get a jar that you’re, a video comes in the search results, but I’m not an expert in the video plugging thing, but I, I saw shoots. I should check it out. I can’t tell you exactly what it is. It’s a small part of our, our our looking thing. So I know if you have videos you should have it because it allows you to optimize your video and to make sure that your videos pop up in the search results of Google. But other than that I think, I think I can answer your question.
Shaina: No, that’s okay. I saw it in the first place. I was like, I can’t wait to plug that in. And to play with it because if it works for me, I tell people to make sure they’re embedding video on their site consistently from Youtube. So if it’s something that like I understand how it then makes your pay, if what I’m hoping it does is make your page rank instead of the Youtube video rank, like that would be crazy amazing.
Marieke: I don’ if it does that because search engines, yeah, it’s used to be a really big plugin. It’s still, you still use the lot, but video has become much more important. And I’m not that good of an expert in Youtube SEO as well either. That’s really hard ranking high in youtube.
Shaina: It really is. It is. So that’s why, if there’s a way to make it through Google, Google and youtube obviously are the same, you know, people, but so it would be, I’m excited to give that a world and to see how that, how that plays a role too, because we use video on the site constantly. So yeah, I’m excited to check that out. Um, all right, cool. So how about let’s talk about Yoast university or the Yoast academy.
Marieke: Yoast Academy I started. Cool. Yes, five years ago already. So we, um, well I’m, I’m from, uh, from, I have a background in education and, well, SEO is hard, so you can instill the plugin and then, and then what? So if people want to go a little bit, they should know a little bit, do that. So we started creating courses and we have all kinds of courses. So we have the rev, a free course for everybody, which is a garden for basic course. And then we have courses in copywriting or internal linking, keyword research, but also in technical SEO and unstructured data. So when these are, well I think if you really take SEO seriously and such a course, because we are, they’re pretty hard. So you really have to, to make, make a, make an effort to get through them. But afterwards, I think you’re really must for the subjects. So we have some educational specialists that really took care of making sure that you really learned something from the courses. So it’s more than just watching videos. We also have texts, some really challenging questions make you would making sure that you really um, get to practice in what we teach.
Shaina: That’s awesome. And I’m looking at it right now. I mean there’s a lot of trainings in here that secured their structured data training, technical SEO, but it starts at the top with just like copywriting and you know all around SEO training. I mean who can’t benefit from something like that and the pricing is really good on it too to go and get an education from the people who show you how to do SEO. Like that’s, that’s awesome. And I’m curious to check out like the structure with your background and education also. So that’s, that’s pretty, I’m sure it’s, it’s thought out really, really well and structured well on the back end too.
Marieke: It is now. It wasn’t started and then it was good. But now we actually have someone who’s studied to, was a teacher for a really long time. I need to care of making sure it’s, it’s like helping people to learn step by step because that’s really hard, especially from the screen. And if you, if you are a teacher in front of a classroom, I usually can see which people don’t understand in the end, then I can explain it another time. But you can’t do that. And it looked like you have one chance and one chance to do it right. That’s really hard.
Shaina: And you hope that what you’re saying is translating properly because what’s hard sometimes what I’ve found is that you like the way I can talk about things like repurposing and video and marketing in that sense. Like it’s like its own language. And so to then tried to like make it, you think that everybody kind of knows the verbiage and the lingo. So you have to of dial it back and speak like you don’t know that language when you’re educated.
Marieke: Yeah, that’s really hard. But making those videos or making those courses actually made us think rethink the blogging as well. So we had some, um, some really technical things in our plugin about robots May. Dot Tech and nobody knew what I only technical people, no. Was. And then I was trying to explain it in our course and I was asking people what does this mean? And they said, that means if you want to want the search engines to know about this page. And I was like, why don’t we put that in that everybody will understand. So we actually made our own plugin. I loved user friendly just by thinking about it from an educational perspective. I have teach people how to use it but I don’t understand myself. So
Shaina: That’s really cool that creating an educational course actually made your product more user friendly just by trying and having to explain it to yourself.
Marieke: And then people were, I don’t know, we didn’t say it like that because in the early days of our planet it for many developers using it and nowadays it’s a really broad audience, but a lot of people who don’t have any developed developmental backgrounds so they don’t know all that stuff.
Shaina: Yeah, right. I mean like I’m good. I grabbed a theme and then I play with like a builder on the back end. But I also have like plugins, like yes, I am not a coder, I am not a developer. I can just make things look pretty with somebody else guiding me basically. So yeah. Yeah. For me I would’ve needed that breakdown.
Marieke: Yeah. You know, help buttons and question marks for people. Yeah.
Shaina: That’s awesome. So just like kind of super simple best practices with SEO. If somebody is like, oh I’ve been writing this blog and I’m not ranking. Like what are some of your initial really high level tips that you can give them on just trying to rank in general?
Marieke: I think the first thing you need to do is it’s really think about what you want to rank for. So I think the mistake lot of people make is that they don’t do the keyword research properly. And that’s something no to ever can do for you because you have to know to think about what artist’s terms I want to rank for and who’s my audience and do should take a little time with that. And then if you have those dose dose terms in your hat, Google them and see what comes up. And does your websites fit and is it expect it that you will ever rent there? Because if you have a really, if you want to rank for Justin Bieber, that’s not going to help them because that’s a very, very confusing term. So with the, with a small block, you’re probably not writing for just some beaver.
Marieke: So Be Realistic in what your niche is and maybe you need a little a search term like um, Justin Bieber t-shirts. That’s still really hard, but a longer keyword. And then if you have, if they’re in your keyboard, three shirts, right? I think then the thing you should ask yourself is, which pages do I want to rank with? Because then the internal linking comes in because you count rank with all of it and you’re probably, okay, probably I have a few keywords that you really want to rank. Why you can’t write like much blog posts with optimize for all these keywords. Lot of people do that because they think, well, I’ll just run another one and then hope that this one will rank. But then you’re competing with your own content and Google will not know which one to show. So that’s something your internal linking structure structure.
Marieke: We’ll also take care of if you make sure that you decide for yourself. I want that, um, a page to rank and make sure to link towards that one. So think about, I always say, think about if you have four or five pages you would like to show to people, which ones would that be? Which ones are you most proud of? Which ones are the ones that it’d be people can buy something a lot of people want or people can subscribe to a nice newsletter on, and then make sure that those pages are going to rank.
Shaina: So aside from Yoast then let’s just talk about keyword research. Are there any tools that you recommend? Obviously you’re saying you have to do it yourself, like go through a type in the terms, but is there anything that can assist or is it strictly just check it out and see how it’s working for you?
Marieke: I always use Google trends to see, because you can see at least for deciding which keywords you want and you can see which has the most search folio. So that helps a little bit. There are some keyword plans like malls as something, but that’s rather expensive. And then so for, if you don’t have a budget, I don’t think that we’re, we’re talking about making like a feature for keyword research, but all the features I come up with, which we can build are things that I’m afraid that people will not do. The keyword research and in the end will not be ranking because they just, just to build something in that they, they I think they want to rank for. But that isn’t really the case. So I’m a bit hesitant and keyword research tools. You’ll have to Google suggest things that will, that will help you to come up with more long tail keywords. So more lengthy keywords that that helps a little bit. But you should never, um, the rest of mate or skipped the step of doing it yourself and talking to your audience and knowing your audience because that’s the most important thing I guess.
Shaina: Agreed. And that’s an all content, like when you’re writing content, making sure it’s speaking to them. Where are you, your content and how does that message look like? Like if you, if you are in marketing and you don’t know your audience, then you may be in the wrong field.
Marieke: Yes, I think so. Are we did the keywords research? Of course we’d be wilt that. We developed that. And then the first part is just plain marketing because it’s all about knowing your audience, knowing what they want and what they want to read. So these questions are researches like the basics of marketing I guess. Yeah.
Shaina: Awesome. We try to make sure that there’s some sort of actionable item that people who are listening are watching and can implement the next 48 hours. You’ve already given like 19. So I feel like I have to take away and like take an hour to scribble down all the stuff that I need to make sure I’m doing now after our conversation. But outside of the things that we’ve already talked about, or even maybe reentering more, one or two of the things that we talked about, what is something that somebody who’s listening or watching can implement in the next 48 hours without a team of like 50 you know themselves or maybe one other person that will help them in their SEO journey, whether they’ve started not started wherever, wherever you think the best use of their time can be.
Marieke: Well I think a lot of people forget, forget that they wrote articles. So if you’re blogging for a long time and then just adding content. But if these articles are never linked to anymore different godson because Google will not come around very often if the only godlike a link from your home page when you posted them. So we know Cessio, we have the texting counter and you can click on it and then sort it by the number of text links. Suppose has got some and then [inaudible] the post office did not get any texts links and you’re never linked to it anymore. After posting it, you can either delete and redirect, always rewrite or think this is really value post. I should link to it more often. So I think cleaning up a bit of your site, especially if you’re long a long time, is something people tend to forget and then just adding cones and that’s not a bad thing, but if you’re not linking to it and all, then it will never rang.
Marieke: So check out those old blog posts, see if they have any value or otherwise. Maybe you should just clean up and redirect them to something you are well ranking. So I think that’s a good, they have to start, it’s called orphans article. So I mean premium plugin, we have a feature for that and you can do it a little bit more easier. But also in the, in the, in the, in the free version you can also use the texting counter. Okay. Yeah, it’s in the, in the, in the post overview. If you instilled Yoast SEO, it will be on the right hand and your posts.
Shaina: So first thing downloaded, install the Yoast plugin thing, go in, clean up all of your existing stuff and what’s relevant and what. That’s an awesome, see anybody can do that. That’s what I like to hear.
Marieke: You should be come though your website. You should think, does this spark me joy? Because if it doesn’t spark joy, maybe it should just be redirected.
Marieke: This is something that will come up more and more because we’re all having websites for like 10 years now and everybody is afraid to throw away stuff, but it becomes like an enormous website and then you’re probably competing with yourself because you’re writing about similar topics and that’s not a good thing. So you should clean up every now and then.
Shaina: and if it doesn’t spark joy, I think that’s just apply in life in general. So I love that.
Marieke: If it doesn’t spark joy, you should redirect it.
Shaina: I’m going to put that on my, on my whiteboard here just so I can look at that every day
Marieke: Because you shouldn’t throw it away because let’s throw anything away just to redirect three directed.
Shaina: Awesome. Well thank you so much for spending time. I know you’re the another lens and it’s completely different time zone and I really, really appreciate it. This was super awesome with a lot of funds and I learned a ton so hopefully everybody else did too. Um, so if people want to see what you’re doing and what [inaudible] is up to, where can they find you guys?
Marieke: I think a our websites so Yoast.com is the best thing. You can also follow us on Twitter, Facebook or everywhere.
Shaina: Yeah, g chips. I don’t know why they go check out the academy. There’s some really, really cool courses over there too for sure. Free course to start with and done. Say there’s your, there’s your second thing to implement the free Yoast course. Do it. Awesome. Well thank you so much. Have an awesome rest of your night and thank you everybody for watching and listening. And we will talk to you guys next week.
Shaina: Thank you so much for checking out this episode of the content coalition. Now, whether you’re listening or watching, make sure that you subscribe to the Youtube Channel and to whatever platform you’re listening to at [inaudible] because you’re not going to want to miss out on the incredible things that I’m learning with these amazing content marketing pros. So make sure you subscribe and we will talk to you next week.