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.
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.
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.