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As BlueGlass LA gets closer (less than 2 months away!), we’ll be running interviews with each of our speakers.
Joost is a longtime SEO consultant and developer known for his tremendously popular WordPress and Firefox plugins. We talked to Joost all about plugins: from how he started developing plugins, what it takes to actually market a plugin, how to assess trustworthy plugins, and more…
Interview with Joost de Valk
What pushed you toward focusing so heavily on WordPress after Onetomarket?
Well I started focussing on WordPress while still at Onetomarket and even before that. I created a site called CSS3.info at that time, because I was active as a committer in the WebKit project and wanted to share what I learned about CSS3. I did that in WordPress and while at Onetomarket I discovered there weren’t a lot of good WordPress plugins that helped with SEO and Analytics in a decent way, so I started coding those.
Later on, when I was at OrangeValley, I did a bit more of that, I left there in 2010 to focus completely on running my own business, which isn’t “just” WordPress, but WordPress is a large part of my expertise now
What are the primary reasons you recommend WordPress over other blog platforms in terms of SEO and social sharing?
WordPress gets out of your way pretty quickly. Especially when you use my WordPress SEO plugin it’s incredibly well optimized, better than any other CMS I’ve ever come across, without you needing to do too much. This means you can focus on creating content and actually properly engaging people instead of wasting time on a bad CMS.
What lessons did you learn when marketing your own WordPress plugins? How does one go about finding a plugin need, and filling it?
Let me boast a bit here: I think I was one of the first to actually properly market a plugin. In the beginning people just “made” their plugins and dropped them on the WordPress.org repository and seemed to think people would just find them. Of course that’s not true, but sadly it still happens for loads of plugins today.
There are a fair few people making money of “premium” WordPress plugins that do nothing more than freely available plugins on WordPress.org that somebody just forgot to market. Luckily there are also exceptions, plugins like Gravity Forms are well worth paying for.
Finding a “need” for me has always been: I’m building a site and I need to do this and this, and no plugin does it, or no plugin does it in a way I’d like it to be done. Then I build a plugin. If I think more people would benefit, I usually spend the few extra hours to make a readme.txt and make the plugin easily configurable and then release it.
What do you consider your “plugin baby” – the WordPress plugin that you’re most proud of?
My WordPress SEO plugin. I pride myself in making it ridiculously easy for people to optimize their WordPress sites. My Google Analytics plugin though is also a standard install on all of my sites and, judging by the download numbers, on many others.
The WordPress platform is a huge target of attacks from hackers (to inject links, malware, etc). WordPress plugins are probably the biggest vector used in these attacks. How do you handle and assess these risks when developing for WordPress? What should users of plugins know and be wary of?
The issue is “Joe average user” really can’t judge that all to well. Which is why he should probably go with plugin authors he knows and trusts. There’s really not much more the average user can do than minimizing the number of plugins he runs and making sure to update the plugin every time there’s an update for it.
Things to look out for when you’re looking at plugins: how often have they been updated, when was the last time it was updated, how many people have rated the plugin on WordPress.org and what does the rating average out to be?
In general, if a plugin is not hosted on WordPress.org, don’t trust it unless you’ve heard from several reliable sources ( like me ;) ) that it’s good.
How much is Search Plus Your World going to change Google’s search results for the average user? What’s the most important things that sites should be doing right now to stay on top of it?
It might change them an awful lot, but I really don’t know yet, to be honest. I do know that you need to make sure you have a good Google+ account and that you’ve linked your author profiles on the sites you write for properly to that Google+ account to make proper use of the author highlighting.
Author highlights increased the click through rate from the search results quite a bit for me, even when they didn’t directly impact rankings that’s an easy way to get more traffic.
Lastly, if you could give every WordPress user the same piece of advice, what would it be?
Stay up to date, use a couple of good plugins such as the two I mentioned in this article and then stop thinking about plugins and start creating and sharing content.
Thanks for a great start to our interview series, Joost!
Do you have questions for our other speakers? Leave them in the comments and we’ll try to include your question in our interview!