Marieke van de Rakt Interview – The CEO of Yoast

Marieke van de Rakt Interview - The CEO of Yoast

Hi everybody, welcome to another roundup of questions and answers with WordPress experts. This time, our guest is Marieke van de Rakt, the CEO of Yoast. She will share with us what it takes to lead the huge team behind one of the most popular WordPress plugins ever.

But before that, don’t forget to go through our previous interview with Brian Jackson. You will discover cool insights and tips on content marketing and building an online presence that brings financial benefits.

Marieke van de Rakt became the CEO of Yoast at the beginning of 2019, taking the reins over the distributed team that contributes to the business’ success. What is the CEO of a company with millions of customers doing on a daily basis? We were curious to find out.

Marieke seemed happy to accept our invitation and quickly put the facts on the paper for us. When I say “quickly”, I mean she was the fastest respondent we ever had in these interviews. Two days. She holds the Pirate Interviews record now. ⭐

That’s a very organized leader right there! Apart from CEO-ing, Marieke is a mother of four and, miraculously, still finds time to do earthly things like watching TV series and running.

Read on to learn more about Marieke’s insights on SEO, feminism, WordPress community, and entrepreneurship.

Marieke van de Rakt Interview – “Sometimes, you have to make decisions that do not make you popular”

When and how did you start working with WordPress? Is there an interesting story here?

My husband Joost de Valk is an active WordPress contributor for as long as I can remember. I started working with WordPress because I joined the company. Before that, I had my own WordPress website. I used to be a teacher and a researcher at the university. I published all of my articles on my own website. They’re still on

What’s your technique for staying productive throughout the day?

I can do a lot. I work really fast. However, it’s impossible to work that fast for a long period of time. So, I take a lot of breaks. Just go for a short walk, get a cup of tea or a diet coke. Or talk to someone. I plan my days. And I usually stick to my schedule. Of course, I have time for spontaneous meetings or important things that need immediate action. But I say ‘no’ a lot too.

How do you define “being successful”?

That’s a hard question. I guess for my being successful means that I myself are satisfied with how I am doing. I am satisfied if I can run Yoast and be a good parent to my children. If I feel like I am not performing well on one of those two, I don’t feel successful.

What do you like to do when you’re not WordPress-ing?

I have four children, three sons (aged 13, 8, 5) and one daughter (aged 10). They keep me pretty busy, especially during lockdowns. I like spending time with them. Also, I love running, reading, and netflixing.

What do you wish more people knew about WordPress?

WordPress is open. Most people do know that it is an open source CMS, but seem to forget that everyone can help improve it. So, if there’s something about WordPress you don’t particularly like, you are able to improve upon that. If more people would help improving, WordPress would be even better than it is today.

Who’s doing things that are just cutting-edge and incredible in the WordPress space right now?

Of course Yoast is doing cutting-edge stuff ? ! But I am really impressed by the growth of Elementor as well. At the same time, the new block editor is cool too!

Describe the WordPress community in one word.

What’s the one thing you’d like to change about WordPress?

Sometimes things take such a long time…. I would love to speed some processes up.

Is the block-editor turning WordPress into a front-end website builder like, say, Wix?

I think it should be much more. The WordPress ecosystem has all these great plugins. They add value to the default editor. Possibilities are endless there.

What are your recommendations for a WordPress novice?

Go to a WordCamp, or watch some videos on WordPress.TV. There’s a lot to learn about WordPress and about the community. Yoast has an awesome free course too.

You are a feminist. Is there any related initiative that you support or are involved in?

I speak at events like WordCamps about feminism and diversity. And at Yoast I’ve started an empowerwoment-project. For the past year, I’ve been coaching a group of women. We read books and talk about the things that are holding us back. The second group of women will start in a few weeks. It has been wonderful coaching these women. At the same time, we try to raise awareness and change the working environment at Yoast. I think overall, Yoast is a great place to work for women, but that does not mean that sometimes, things do go ‘wrong’. We want to stay on top of that.

What do you think makes a CEO great in the eyes of their employees?

I think a CEO should be decisive and communicative. If you want to lead a group of people, you should show them where you want to go. You should be clear about goals. And you should communicate a lot. Talk to people, stay connected to people.

What’s the hardest / most challenging thing on a CEO’s agenda, in your perspective?

Sometimes, you have to make decisions that do not make you popular. As our company is growing, things change. The way we did our work 10 years ago is different from how we work today. A CEO needs to grow that company and needs to get people on board, get people to accept change and even to embrace change. Because, you want to grow that company, you want to make it better.

What do you enjoy most about being an entrepreneur?

I like coming up with new ideas. And I love it when these ideas actually are picked up. I love ‘the game’ of trying things and seeing whether or not that leads to growth or to making more money.

Does quality content attract visitors by default or it’s always the SEO that makes the difference?

Content that is crap will never rank in the long run. So, in order to have a long term plan to attract visitors, you need high-quality content. However, if you do not optimize at all, it will be hard to attract an audience. You need to help Google a bit to figure out the structure of your site and the topic of your content. So SEO does make the difference in the end.

Is SEO the enemy of genuine, honest content? To what extent can SEO kill creativity?

If you do SEO the right way it goes hand in hand with high-quality content. I do get that people think that SEO kills creativity. In the old days, SEO was nothing more than a bunch of tricks. However, Google’s mission reads ‘to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.’ So, in order for Google to rank your content, you should write something that is accessible and useful for your audience. Your information should add something to all the other information on the internet (about a certain topic). It should offer your audience something that is not offered in other blogs, articles, or websites.

SEO means really thinking about what your audience wants to read. Thinking about how your audience wants to read that. And making sure that Google understands what your text is about.

Do famous publications need to put the same efforts into SEO optimization as small businesses? I’m talking about those whose brand speaks for itself.

If you have a big brand, you’ll also have some advantages in Google. Big brands have history and because of that many links pointing towards them. That alone helps them to stand out in the search engines. So, it’s harder for a small new business to rank in the competitive markets.

Bloggers or websites that start out will do best to start by trying to rank for keywords that are not too competitive. It is much easier to rank for less competitive keywords than for more common keywords because fewer websites compete for high rankings in the result pages of Google. The longer (and more specific) search terms are, the easier it is to rank for the term. Because of the vastness of the internet, it is easier to find your audience for your particular niche. Focusing on a group of long-tail keywords will result in a great deal of traffic altogether.

What makes Yoast SEO so popular? How does it stand out from other similar plugins, in your opinion?

I think SEO is something that business owners can do themselves. A lot of plugins are used by developers mainly, but Yoast SEO is something that all website owners can use. As soon as people get serious about their business online, they want to have an audience. They want people to find them. And our plugin allows for actions to grow that audience.

Of course, there are other (pretty good) SEO plugins out there. What sets Yoast apart is that we are really embedded in the SEO industry. Our founder Joost de Valk is an SEO expert and has been for the last decade. We have close contacts with Google, making sure we don’t miss anything.

What do you think is the most efficient way to market a WordPress product at this moment?

Marketing is hard. We get a lot of sales just from people who use our free product. I really believe that freemium is a good way to make money. It’s important that the free product in itself is a good product.

I do think that it is rather hard for plugins to make money from their product. Of course, we’re doing great, but there are so many awesome plugins out there that don’t make any money yet. It’s something that we need to work out as a community.

How can you expand your audience and get new visitors on a niche blog (as opposed to returning visitors)?

SEO is the best way to get visitors to a specific niche. If you have your mission clear, you should be able to define what makes your product or website stand out from this market. And you should use YOUR mission in order to start ranking! What makes you special? Combine that with some keyword research and you’re good to go!

What is driving you to keep doing what you’re doing? What’s your personal mission?

I love Yoast. I love helping people to write good texts. I love our mission: SEO for everyone. I just strongly believe in the idea that good ideas need an audience. That the internet is an equalizer. That everyone, even the smallest entrepreneur, gets a chance through the internet. In order to do that, you’ll need to find your audience. Our plugin will help people to do just that.

That sums up our Marieke van de Rakt interview. If you enjoyed it and want to learn more, please leave your comments in the section below. Also, if you have any ideas for who we should talk to next, feel free to share your suggestions with us!

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Keep reading the article at ThemeIsle Blog. The article was originally written by Adelina Tuca on 2020-06-18 04:40:00.

The article was hand-picked and curated for you by the Editorial Team of WP Archives.

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