Interview with Taco Verdonschot from Yoast SEO

One of the biggest benefits of WordPress is the loyal community it comes with, and the perfect person to talk about community is Taco Verdonschot from the most popular WordPress SEO plugin – Yoast SEO.

Taco is the community manager of Yoast SEO, so we wanted to know what that job title entails and how have Yoast built such a strong community.

Would you like to introduce yourself quickly?

I’m Taco. I joined Yoast just over five years ago. I started out as a developer and very quickly was upgraded to customer service. And from that moment on our team kept growing and we now have a support team of 20 that I’m managing. And since early this year we also have a community team at Yoast and I’m also in charge of that. So a lot of work and a lot of fun.

We know you have a really active community. So what does a community manager do?

Good question. So we have a couple of different communities that we work with. The biggest, of course, is the WordPress community. But even that is separated in smaller groups. We do a lot of outreach to end users to customers. But we also do some developer relations. So we meet people at events from different plugins and we talk to them, we make sure that we can integrate our products.

And then we have our local community and Wijchen where we’re based. And we do a lot of stuff there as well. We’re sponsoring a lot and we’re really active in volunteering. There will be an ice rink in the center over the weekend where we are the main sponsor and a lot of colleagues are volunteering there. So there’s a lot of different communities that we’re serving.

YoastCon is just around the corner. So would you want to talk more about that? When is it? How does it really work with the community?

YoastCon is not really WordPress community focused as it is really SEO focused and that is one of the other big areas that we are active in, especially the founder and CEO Joost de Valk. So we figure that instead of bringing an extra WordCamp to the Netherlands, we specialize in SEO. And we do a conference around that. So we’ve invited a lot of people from all over the world from the SEO industry to talk about SEO at YoastCon on 7th and 8th February 2019.

How does the Yoast community really affect the features and the roadmap of Yoast?

Quite a bit and not so much at the same time. We do get a lot of feature requests from the community. Our GitHub is open so people can create issues and request stuff they would like to see in the plugin. And what we do is in part use those ideas to see if that translates to the whole community because a solution that works for one site doesn’t necessarily work on eight and a half, nine million websites. So everything has to scale. And most of our ideas sprung from colleagues but every now and then there is input from the community that we really really like and that we’ll include. Especially if their full requests for bug fixes, they are always included in the plugin. So that’s where the community plays a really big role.

What would you suggest to a business that is just starting out building their community? What would be the mistakes they should avoid?

We started out with just Yoast SEO the free product. Joost and Marieke are going to talk about that in their presentation tomorrow. The biggest problem that you can have is that you have an awesome product against popularity. And you don’t have any financial means to support yourself working on that. Entirely free products at some point become a problem because you need income, you can’t spend all of your time on a free product. I would say if someone is looking to create something for the community they can only do that if they are able to support themselves through that as well. So, for example, buy a free premium combination. So that’s really important. And watch the video after tomorrow on WordPress TV. Because the presentation by Joost and Marieke will be very interesting in this area.

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