The history of Yoast
Want to know more about our company and how we got to where we are today? Learn more about the history of Yoast right here!
10 years and counting!
In 2020, we celebrated our 10-year anniversary at Yoast. To look back on the fun times we’ve had so far, we’ve created a video that tells our story. The story of one guy that grows to a team of more than 120 employees! Watch the video right here or read all about the history of Yoast on this page.
Table of contents
Back to the beginning
The start of Yoast
The company keeps growing!
Onward and upward
What does Yoast mean?
First, let’s start with a frequently asked question: you may have wondered what the term Yoast stands for, and there’s a really simple explanation. Yoast is how you pronounce Joost’s name in Dutch! Here’s the story of how that came about: In 2007 Joost attended the SMX conference in Stockholm. In an informal conversation, Joost tried to explain to Rand Fishkin how to pronounce his first name. That’s when Rand said: “O, that’s easy, just toast with a Y.” And, voila, the name Yoast was born!
Now, let’s dive into the history of Yoast:
How it all began…
Once upon a time, Joost de Valk founded the company Yoast. For a few years, Joost and Yoast were pretty much identical as he was his only employee. However, over the past years, the company and its team have grown rapidly. Nowadays, Yoast is much more than just Joost; it’s a sizable company with our CEO Marieke van de Rakt at the helm.
We get a lot of questions about the rapid growth of our company. How did we start off? What made it possible for Joost to start up Yoast? High time to give you some more details on the history of Yoast.
Meet our founder Joost
To understand how Yoast came about, we have to go back to Joost’s childhood. Joost was born in 1982 and grew up in Beuningen, near Nijmegen in the Netherlands. From a very early age, Joost was intrigued by computers. As he consistently broke the family computer, his parents decided to give Joost his first computer at age 12. “I had to pay them back, though. I delivered newspapers for two years,” Joost remembers, “but, I got my very own computer. And, my parents were among the first to have a decent internet connection.”
Having a computer with internet access turned out to be vital for his future career. Joost launched his first website in 1994. “I loved building stuff in code; I spent all my money on buying extra RAM.” During his early days, he taught himself to write code and speak English fluently.
After high school, Joost tried college and went to different universities. He quickly decided, though, that he was much too headstrong for traditional education. He started working at an IT company at the age of 20. “I was a nerd, writing code and all, but I was able to sell stuff too,” Joost says, “Apparently, I’m a smooth talker.” By then, Joost was already writing on his personal blog about HTML, CSS, and coding in general.
Open source calls
In 2005, he became involved in an open source project: WebKit. WebKit is an open source software component for rendering web pages (an essential part of Safari). Joost loved working with developers from all over the world. He enjoyed building something that everyone would be able to use. “The concept of open source appealed to me,” Joost explains, “I liked the equality and the openness of WebKit. I loved the fact that everyone, including me, could contribute to something.”
“The concept of open source appealed to me” – Joost
In the meantime, Joost met Marieke and they fell in love. Rather soon after they became a couple, they found out Marieke was pregnant. In the summer of 2006, their eldest son Tycho was born. Starting a family was a turning point in Joost’s career. When Marieke became pregnant, she was working on her PhD-thesis. As she was determined to finish that thesis, Joost decided he needed a job closer to home to help her take care of the baby. At the beginning of 2006, Joost found a job as an SEO consultant.
Joost becomes an SEO
The SEO job turned out to be a significant career move. Before 2006, Joost never had any interest in SEO, but that was about to change! Joost: “As I was able to write code and develop websites, I immediately understood all technical aspects of SEO.” This technical background combined with his ability to write appealing copy and speak in public were the perfect ingredients to become an SEO expert.
WordPress and SEO
Around the same time, Joost began to work with WordPress. He created his first WordPress site in April of 2006. “I was searching for a CMS, as that made it easier to use and maintain websites. I looked into a few and chose WordPress.” He just started working as an SEO back then, and WordPress seemed the most SEO-friendly to him. “I already worked on WebKit and was a big believer in open source. The fact that WordPress was open source appealed to me a lot.”
Joost quickly became a WordPress fanboy. He wrote about WordPress on his blog, became an active member of the WordPress community, and made his first core contribution in 2007. Joost began combining his knowledge of SEO with his passion for WordPress. He developed some small plugins that helped WordPress users optimize their website for search engines. These plugins quickly gathered a large user base.
The start of Yoast
In 2010, Joost decided to give up his job as an SEO consultant. He took a leap of faith and began a company. Back then, he was pretty sure he would never hire any employees. So he named his one-man-company after himself and his blog: Yoast.
The early days of Yoast
Joost made money by doing site reviews and providing SEO consultancy at major companies like eBay. Besides that, he was developing his SEO plugins for WordPress. In October 2010, Joost finally made one plugin of all these little ones: WordPress SEO (now Yoast SEO) was born.
Yoast hires its second employee
At the end of 2011, the site reviews were going well. “I couldn’t do them all”, Joost explains. He met Michiel Heijmans and asked him to step in and do some site reviews. That cooperation turned out to be another turning point in Joost’s career. Michiel’s knowledge of SEO and UX combined with his outstanding people skills were a perfect match with Joost’s ambition and drive. Joost decided to bring Michiel on board and he became the first official Yoast employee.
Yoast becomes a team of Yoasters
Joost and Michiel hired an office in their hometown Wijchen. As Yoast was becoming a name in the WordPress community, Joost decided to focus on developing Yoast as a brand. They hired an illustrator to create some avatars and drawings and later on even hired a graphic designer, which was the beginning of our team Brand.
In 2012, Yoast started making money off its WordPress plugins. Before that, our Yoast SEO plugin was being used by lots of people but didn’t have any paying customers. Also in 2012, Yoast launched a new plugin with the name Video SEO. Since our number of paying customers started growing and asking for more support, Joost’s brother Thijs de Valk joined in on the adventure later that year.
Marieke joins Yoast
In the meantime, Marieke had finished her Ph.D. in 2011 and was working at different universities. At the same time, she interfered with Yoast quite a lot. That was dear to her heart too. Their little family had grown: daughter Wende was born in 2009, and son Ravi in 2011. Joost and Marieke were both juggling their careers and caring for their children.
In the summer of 2013, Marieke finally decided to give up her academic career and focus solely on Yoast. That made the combination of Yoast and family much easier. Later on, they eventually decided to complete their family with their youngest son Borre, born in 2015.
As Marieke joined the company, Yoast started to grow at an increasing rate. Joost and Marieke could now focus on the same things and follow shared ambitions instead of different career paths. It turned out that combining their energy made Yoast grow tremendously. With the growth of the company, Yoast grew from being a synonym for Joost to a growing team of Yoasters.
The company keeps growing!
In 2011, Yoast was Joost. At the end of 2012, Yoast consisted of Joost and another four employees. At the end of 2013, Yoast consisted of ten employees. And at the end of 2014, Yoast employed a total of fifteen people.
Omar joins Yoast
In 2014, Omar Reiss joined Yoast. Omar’s involvement was also of great importance for the growth of our company. Yoast had three developers when Omar came on board and he was able to really create a team. He introduced things like pair programming and set up a system in which colleagues review each other’s code. Above that, he made sure that the code quality of Yoast SEO became much, much higher. Joost and Omar were also able to attract many new developers to our team.
A board of directors
Michiel, Marieke and Omar became more and more involved in the management decisions. Together with Joost, they formed the board of Yoast. Joost sold part of the stocks of Yoast to both Omar and Michiel. Joost will always remain the founder of Yoast, but all important decisions were now made by these four people.
Other changes at Yoast
In 2015, Yoast underwent a major redesign. Our design team replaced the many avatars featuring Joost with new colorful illustrations. The logo was no longer orange, but green and purple. The change in design reflected the shift in the business. Yoast was no longer just Joost de Valk. “My head on every page started to annoy people,” Joost explains, “Yoast consisted of more than just me and people didn’t seem to get that yet.”
This same year, we also launched Yoast SEO academy. Yoast SEO academy helps people do SEO themselves, by teaching them how to optimize their websites. The first online SEO course appeared in 2015 and through the years lots of courses have been added. At the moment we have more than 12 courses on a variety of topics, from structured data and SEO copywriting to a free SEO for beginners course.
Yoast has grown. The company grew and the profit increased. That didn’t change our passion for WordPress and open source, though. Giving back to the community that got Yoast to where it is today is crucial to the company. That’s why Yoast started sponsoring and attending many WordCamps and made room for the team to contribute to WordPress.
With the growth of the users of the (premium) plugins, the demand for support grew tremendously as well. That’s why we created an international team of support engineers which now consists of lots of people working from countries all over the world.
In the past few years, Yoast has accomplished and grown so much. Now, in 2021, we have over 120 people working at Yoast (at the offices in Wijchen and remote). Our growing company and team have allowed us to keep improving on our products and expanding on what we do. For instance, we’ve started organizing events!
In 2015, we organized the first edition of YoastCon as a celebration of our fifth anniversary. It was hosted at the Lindenberg in Nijmegen when Yoast only had 21 employees. With five talks and three workshops, it was a great first SEO conference for us! In 2017, Yoastcon was held for the second time in a bigger venue: De Vereeniging in Nijmegen. This edition was an all-day SEO conference with six talks, one panel-discussion and 11 workshops that ranged from everything about Yoast SEO to copywriting.
The most recent edition of YoastCon was in 2019. This time it was a two-day conference, held again in De Vereeniging. With 22 talks, six workshops and a panel discussion we could say that it was an educational and super fun experience! Unfortunately, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we decided to cancel our 2020 edition. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be another YoastCon in the future!
Marieke van de Rakt is the new CEO
On January 25th, 2019, Marieke took on the role as CEO and Joost, former CEO, became the new CPO at Yoast. Marieke focused more on company culture. She feels that it is important for employees to enjoy their work and feel appreciated: And as Yoast is growing, that becomes more and more of a challenge.
“In many ways, I was already the CEO. Among the four of us, I am the one most thinking ahead. I am the one most concerned with company culture. I am the one who’s often leading the way. That does not mean I decided upon the route though. That’s something we do among the four of us. Still, I was the one proposing to my partners that we needed to make decisions.” – Marieke
Marieke has the ambition for Yoast to be a flourishing, inclusive, and outward-looking company. After becoming our CEO she also started a women’s empowerment program at Yoast. This program aims to give female employees at Yoast more confidence to step up. Joost focused more on product development. His first project as CPO was the 11.0 update of Yoast SEO.
Welcoming our WordPress core team
Through the years, Joost and Yoast remained an active part of the WordPress community. Several people working at Yoast contributed to WordPress, both in their own time and during working hours. Eventually, this led to the idea of a WordPress Core team at Yoast and this team has been a reality since 2020. The people in this team spend (a large part of) their time working on WordPress core, which is in line with our core values of sharing and collaborating and making the web better.
Combining Yoast SEO with Yoast SEO academy
The same year, we decided to combine our biggest two products Yoast SEO and Yoast SEO academy. This means that our users that have a subscription to Yoast SEO Premium now have free access to all of the courses in Yoast SEO academy. Allowing our users to take their SEO to the next level by completing these courses. The reason for this is that we want to make that top position in the search results accessible for everyone.
Partnering up with others
With the growth of our company, we’ve also been able to partner up with several companies to create useful integrations for our plugin. We’ve partnered up with Semrush to help our users find high-performing keyphrases without leaving the editor. We’ve also created an integration with Zapier that allows our users to automate more repetitive tasks in their day. Our partnership with Ryte ensures that your site can be found by search engines by doing an indexability check in Yoast SEO. And last, but not least, people that use Elementor are now also able to use our plugin without any issue.
Read more about our integrations in Yoast SEO.
Yoast has a new board
At the end of 2020, the board of Yoast saw some changes. Thijs de Valk became the new CCO and joined the board in this role. With his experience with the company and expertise when it comes to conversion and UX, he became responsible for the sales at Yoast. Michiel, our COO at the time, decided to pursue other opportunities and left Yoast. Luckily, Chaya Oosterbroek filled the spot, becoming the new COO. Her ambition in this role is to further optimize the processes within Yoast and find new exciting ways to get the best out of the employees!
The future of Yoast
It’s always hard to predict the future. Google changes regularly, and Yoast will change accordingly. Although we can’t exactly be sure what will be next, there are lots of plans and things we want to do!
We always strive to come up with new creative solutions. Yoast SEO academy will keep improving its existing courses and create new ones as well. We’re also working on extending our portfolio with broader courses – not just SEO – for people wanting to create websites. The same goes for our Yoast SEO plugin and our other products. We’ll keep on improving on these products to help you optimize your online efforts. Lastly, we’ll stay an active part of the WordPress and SEO community to do our part in sharing knowledge and collaborating, so keep an eye out for one of our 120 Yoasters at any community event!
We want people to focus on producing quality content, quality web design, and quality coding. We want to improve even more websites, and we want to keep working towards our mission: SEO for everyone.