On focus, and how we’re slowly changing our business model

Warning: this isn’t the usual SEO / WordPress related post, but more of a “personal” post about how I’ve gone about building and changing my / our business.

When I started Yoast, then called Altha, it was just me, doing web development for a few clients here and there. It was a side job to my consulting jobs at online marketing agencies. My WordPress plugins were just a hobby and not something I thought I could ever make a living from. In 2010 I decided I was going to go solo, leaving my agency and doing consultancy for less clients, but more intensively.

Doing this freed up time to do more development and do product development. I found myself doing more and more one-off reviews of websites, people just needing a good critique of what they were doing and a list of things they should improve. This evolved into what is now our website review service and a very large chunk of our business. The good thing about that is that it doesn’t require me to go off-site, we can do it all from within our office here and I can spend a lot more time on research & development that way, figuring out how to further optimize people’s websites.

Last year I decided I’d start to sell premium plugins, with our Video SEO plugin being the first premium offering and this has gone amazingly well. So much so that I hired my brother Thijs to assist in support. Last week we launched our second premium plugin, Local SEO, which I built together with Arjan. It’s doing great so far and we’re happy with the feedback we’re getting, which is pretty exciting.

Firing clients

The combination of website reviews and premium plugins means I have less and less time to actually spend on consulting face-to-face with clients. I kept telling myself that my consulting clients were where I got new ideas for products and I thus needed to keeping doing that consulting. But that’s not true, I was just looking for an excuse. My consulting clients are all big online companies whereas our products are aimed at publishers, SME’s and their online marketing agencies mostly… In fact, the truly good new ideas for products are coming from our website reviews, because we’re selling those to exactly the SME’s we’re targeting our other products at.

What I will keep doing is training people, in our Dutch office, because in talking with them and in finding problems that people have when they make their first SEO steps or when they “grow” in their SEO expertise, that’s where I learn too. That’s a good “breeding ground” for other stuff. SEO strategy consulting for large online brands… Not so much.

Because of this, in the last few days, I’ve gone through a very weird process: I’ve been “firing” some of my remaining clients. I’ll keep a few consulting clients around because they’re too interesting, I’m doing an awesome project at the Guardian for instance, which really is teaching me new things about publishing, the web in general and SEO specifically. But most of my other clients will have to find another “home”. Luckily I’ve got a lot of good friends in the industry who can pick up where I’m leaving in a great way and with more time and enthusiasm than I can at this point.

I’ll keep some room in my agenda for 3 – 4 consulting clients a year, those will be reserved for major online publishers specifically as that’s where I feel I can make a difference and learn a lot at the same time (you can apply here, though there’s only 1 spot left for this year). People that approach me for other work I’ll start saying no to and, if possible, refer them to industry friends.

What’s next?

With that behind me, I’ve got more time to focus on our existing site review and premium plugin business and on new products. We’ve got more cool stuff lined up: two more premium add-ons to WordPress SEO are slowly being specced and developed and we’re also going to go in a “new” direction, by releasing our first child-theme in a month or two. It’s going to be aimed at a very specific market and I’m very curious how it’ll pan out. It’ll be a Genesis child-theme, because I don’t really see a need to develop a new framework when there’s something as good as that out there already and I love working with the Copyblogger family.

The direction is clear though: we develop products aimed at SME’s, publishers and their SEO / online marketing agencies to help them build & optimize their websites.

Yoast.com runs on the Genesis Framework

Genesis theme frameworkThe Genesis Framework empowers you to quickly and easily build incredible websites with WordPress. Whether you're a novice or advanced developer, Genesis provides you with the secure and search-engine-optimized foundation that takes WordPress to places you never thought it could go.

Read our Genesis review or get Genesis now!

41 Responses

  1. Tim @ An Entrepreneurial LifeBy Tim @ An Entrepreneurial Life on 22 March, 2013

    I have seen too many product companies, with roots in consulting, hang on to clients for too long as they make the transition. AND these companies have also tended to be too good at listening to these clients and not developing product for the broader market.

    Congrats on what seem like an excellent set of business decisions.

    Good Luck,

    …Tim

  2. Greg TaylorBy Greg Taylor on 22 March, 2013

    As a fan of the WordPress SEO plugin and the Genesis framework, I am excited to see your theme(s) and give them a go for my clients.

    I have a lot of questions regarding the theme, but I’ll hold off until the release.

    Best wishes with the transition of your business.

  3. Mark (theWebalyst)By Mark (theWebalyst) on 22 March, 2013

    Thanks Yoast – I learn a lot from what you do, and even more when you take the time to share more of your experiences and plans.

    Good luck. I plan to look at Genesis soon having been very unimpressed with the Thesis 2.0 experience. I look forward to seeing what you are up to there too!

    Mark (in London – for now!)

  4. JeremyBy Jeremy on 22 March, 2013

    I’d also like to offer my congratulations on following-through on a pretty tough decision. You are, of course, 100% correct to turn away this business – but it is a brave step, none-the-less. Reminds me in part of a saying I heard: “my business is running fine, if it just wasn’t for those damned customers!” (I know that this is not actually what you’re saying tho ;)).
    You must be feeling like King of the Hill right now.
    Well done!
    (Oh, and btw, thanks for all the greatness you deliver),
    looking forward to mooooaaaaar!
    Jeremy

  5. KamalBy Kamal on 22 March, 2013

    Awesome & Congrats Joost and Yoast team..

  6. Barry AdamsBy Barry Adams on 22 March, 2013

    I’m actually happy about this because it means there’s more room for us in the consulting market. :) I’m sure that your change of direction will be a massive success for you, Joost, as has been pretty much anything you’ve ever done.

  7. Brian GardnerBy Brian Gardner on 22 March, 2013

    Outstanding news, my friend. Really excited to see what you come up with Genesis child themes — I’m sure they’ll be top notch, and very pleased to hear this!

  8. Thomas GriffinBy Thomas Griffin on 22 March, 2013

    I’m in the exact same boat with Soliloquy and other products I am creating.

    Working with clients has been great, but now it is far more a distraction than a benefit. Focus is everything when creating products and experiences around them, and clients only distract from that focus.

    The sooner you can pull away the better – excited for you! :-)

  9. Mark PineBy Mark Pine on 22 March, 2013

    Your the man! Will continue to buy all your plugins and refer your site to associates and clients;)

  10. Christopher MeinckBy Christopher Meinck on 22 March, 2013

    As a Genesis user, that’s fantastic news. I’d love to see something similar the TNW design for Genesis and hope you’ll include ad positions for publishers who rely on advertising to drive revenue. Best of luck.

  11. Lars OffringaBy Lars Offringa on 22 March, 2013

    I love to read about your (SEO) business and developments. There’s so much value. Love your product(s) as well. Curious about the upcoming child theme.

    Keep it up!

    Lars

  12. Jesse McFarlaneBy Jesse McFarlane on 22 March, 2013

    Sounds like a good move. The WP ecosystem definitely needs more niche focused themes and your paid plugins have been great additions so far.

  13. Remco ter VoordeBy Remco ter Voorde on 22 March, 2013

    Nice move, looking forward the Genesis theme, expectations are high

  14. peteBy pete on 22 March, 2013

    I’m glad to see you developing your own theme. I’m surprised you’ve ever used anyone elses!

    Do you see any changes in hits via google since you’ve been tinkering with themes?

  15. BharathBy Bharath on 22 March, 2013

    Great news! I’m sure it will be a top notch child theme. Will be waiting for it.

  16. Erwin van GinkelBy Erwin van Ginkel on 22 March, 2013

    Making choices and refusing jobs is difficult… (makkelijker gezegd dan gedaan) So, great job! You and your team are our Dutch pride in ‘WordPress world’!

  17. Paul LetourneauBy Paul Letourneau on 22 March, 2013

    Wow! This is the best news! Can’t wait to see what you and your team do to bump Genesis up even more in the SEO world. So glad I made the right choice a few years ago.

  18. Michael MusgroveBy Michael Musgrove on 22 March, 2013

    I think you’ll be very successful with your decision. You’ve created a brand that will help get your theme business off the ground quickly, you have a large existing audience, and hitching your wagon to Genesis is a smart move. Genesis must be getting significant market share from Thesis 2 converts over the past few months, and the have some big names endorsing them, with great word-of-mouth across the internet.

  19. Paddy MooganBy Paddy Moogan on 22 March, 2013

    Congrats on the new direction!

    If I’m honest Joost, I have always been a bit baffled as to why you didn’t do this sooner :) I think it’s a great move and you’re in the perfect position to work in that space.

  20. LilyBy Lily on 22 March, 2013

    That is a win for people like me that love your plugins and Genesis. Can’t wait to see the theme. Congrats on your successes and may you have many more!

  21. MattBy Matt on 23 March, 2013

    I’m glad to hear that you are going to release a theme. I cannot wait to see what you guys have come up with! When do we get a preview?

  22. kelvinBy kelvin on 23 March, 2013

    I am excited to hear that you will be releasing a theme. It must be a awesome theme, not to mention I’ve being using your SEO by Yoast from my site :)

  23. FranckBy Franck on 25 March, 2013

    Outstanding post. Be ready for exponencial growth, now that you are lifting away some highly time consuming work load

    I wish you all the best for this new stage in your “not so solo now genuinely global business”

  24. MK SafiBy MK Safi on 25 March, 2013

    This sounds exactly like the strategic vision and focus that a company needs to excel! Congratulations!

  25. Herman DailybitsBy Herman Dailybits on 25 March, 2013

    Last week I read an article from a Belgian guy, who is now an engineer at Instagram about the reasons he left Belgium (an the Netherlands):

    “First, Belgium has become the kingdom of consulting, nobody seems proud of building stuff.”

    As a video seo customer I’m curious to see your next products.

  26. Mark LewisBy Mark Lewis on 25 March, 2013

    Sometimes you have to do what’s in the best interest of your company, even if that means cutting your losses and maximizing your revenue. I know you’re a great business man because I’m here commenting on your post — I’ve used and loved your product and I know that I’m not alone here. Great stuff Joost. The future is bright :)

  27. Rob MetrasBy Rob Metras on 25 March, 2013

    Joost: If the upcoming themes reflect the quality and workmanship in the way your WordPress products do I am sure they will be a runaway success. I appreciate all you do for the community of users and wish you the best as you change direction

  28. Todd KrauseBy Todd Krause on 26 March, 2013

    Joost – I’m looking forward to you releasing a genesis child theme. Will you be selling this through the Genesis Marketplace?

  29. Todd KrauseBy Todd Krause on 26 March, 2013

    After making my last comment, it redirected to me to another page, thanking for making my first comment. What plugin did you use to do that?

  30. The FrostyBy The Frosty on 29 March, 2013

    That is great to hear, I’m slowly doing the same with Extendd. My plugin marketplace running on EDD. When I created my first premium plugin Custom Login Pro I never thought I have 9 more on a site.

    Love your video SEO plugin, and was looking at the local SEO one. Is the Local mainly for one location? Or can it be used for a local listing site and many locations?

    Thanks.

  31. AbhishekBy Abhishek on 29 March, 2013

    I look forward to your Genesis child theme. I hope it will be as awesome as your plugins.

  32. BriceBy Brice on 31 March, 2013

    Been using your WordPress SEO plugin for all my sites including my most recent membership site and i’ve been always amazed at the frequency of the plugin updates. Looking forward to your 2 premium addons to the WordPress SEO plugin.

  33. racquelBy racquel on 1 April, 2013

    Hi Joost,

    I am using your SEO wordpress plugin on my website and it works perfect. Lol ranking 1 on google search for my search words in text and images. Sure its not only because of your SEO wordpress plugin but is helps alot. Learned alot about SEO thkans to you and some others too google+ rel=author is also a great tool to rank your site higher of course.

    great job

  34. MarlonBy Marlon on 3 April, 2013

    Thank you for share your thoughts and experience. My best regards!

  35. Michael MaddenBy Michael Madden on 3 April, 2013

    Can’t wait to check the new theme out! Your shift in focus is a natural and timely progression. We wish you continued success!

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