Kristopher Jones on entrepreneurship, investments and ecommerce

 
Joost de Valk

Joost de Valk

Founder & Chief Product Officer
Kristopher Jones

Kristopher Jones

Entrepreneur & SEO
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In this episode

Serial entrepreneur and SEO Kristopher Jones loves talking business. And that’s exactly what Joost and Kristopher are doing during this episode of the Yoast SEO Podcast. From starting and scaling his own businesses to investing in all kinds of companies he thinks have great potential. But what really makes Kristophers’ heart pumping faster is eCommerce. This all started with Pepperjam – a family business – and now continues with all kinds of projects of which one involves great names from the music industry. Listen to this episode to learn more about Kristopher’s view on business that will at some point always include SEO.

Topics

Kristopher and Joost will cover the following topics during this episode, with timestamps indicating when the topic comes up:

  • 2:55 – Building and scaling a business
  • 7:24 – How Kristopher deals with career paths of people in agencies
  • 13:39 – What challenges do Kristopher’s clients struggle with?
  • 19:07 – Investing in companies
  • 20:38 – Kristopher’s technology accelerator buildings
  • 23:59 – The hybrid working environment
  • 27:34 – Kristopher tells about Special Guests, his entertainment booking platform
  • 35:22 – Why eCommerce businesses are on Kristopher’s investment wish list

Follow Kristopher on your favorite channel (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn) or read his blog.

Transcript

Joost de Valk: Hey everyone and welcome to yet another Yoast SEO podcast. I’m joined today by my good friend, my long-time friend Kristopher Jones. Kristopher, how long do we know each other?

Kristopher Jones: We did this exercise, I think it’s 13 years-ish. Give or take a margin of errors two years.

Joost de Valk: I think I actually know where it was. It was SES New York, 2008. We did do this exercise before.

Kristopher Jones: There it is, 13 years.

Joost de Valk: Yeah 13 years. We’ve both done a lot of things, since. At that point you were still the owner and founder of Pepperjam. What have you done since?

Kristopher Jones: Great way to kick this off! Since we know each other. Listen, I’ll capture it this way. I’ve been a serial entrepreneur, so I’ve built multiple successful businesses. I’ve been an investor. After I sold Pepperjam in 2009, in 2010 I started an investment fund called KBJ capital. I’ve made somewhere around 28 investments since then. The third thing I would say is that I’m a writer. I write a lot. In fact, I’m like over the top with it, I’m not a Neil Patel over the top, but I’m like a Kristopher Jones wow, he’s aggressive. What that means is..

Joost de Valk: That means you write yourself.

Kristopher Jones: I wrote a book back in 2008 called SEO visual blueprint. That was my first entree into professional writing. I did a second and a third edition of that in 2010 and 2013. And Oh boy, I don’t know, five, six years ago, I started to write for a bunch of different publications and stuff. Everything from Inc and Forbes to Search Engine Journal and Search Engine Land. So I’ve been published over 500 times. So those are the three kinds of highlights. I’m a serial entrepreneur, I’m an investor. And I’m a writer. 

Joost de Valk: And the writing supports the entrepreneurial side? Or is it the other way around? 

Kristopher Jones: That’s a great question. I’ll tell you this. What I tend to write about is SEO and growth hacking on the one hand and then entrepreneurship on the other. So I just recently published an article on LinkedIn, highlighting the top 15 strategies to set your business up for a successful merger and acquisition transaction. Then on the other hand, I think one of the more recent posts that I put on Search Engine Journal was on like web vitals and preparing for the update by Google on web vitals in May. 

Building and scaling a business

Joost de Valk: Cool. You run a company called LSEO. Do you run it yourself? I don’t even know any more Kris. I can’t keep up with you. 

Kristopher Jones: I think you’re phrasing these questions in a way where I could just like break news. In short, I will tell you Joost that one of the reasons that I’ve had success in entrepreneurship is that I have a knack for associating myself surrounding myself with smart people.

I would be lying to you if I told you I ran the day to day of LSEO. I would be being brutally honest with you if I told you that my primary responsibility here is strategy and growth. So I am very much a part of the executive team here. I drive most of the strategy and growth ideas here, but I have a good cast, including someone who does run the day-to-day operations, Steve Blackburn, on my team. But then I have some subject matter experts that help me think through how to build a successful agency. 

By the way, I mean that if we go back to Pepperjam, in its roots, we were an affiliate and SEO agency. Then we built some technology called Pepperjam network, which is an affiliate network. So one of the things I say in this recent LinkedIn article is that it’s easier to rinse and repeat. Once you learn the process of building and scaling a business it’s not cause and effect per se, but you significantly increase the likelihood of your success and future endeavors.

That’s what I try to do for LSEO and some of the other companies I’ve invested in and some of the startups I’m involved in, is try to do that rinse and repeat. Again, it’s not cause and effect, but I think when I get involved in a startup, I do believe that I increase the likelihood of it achieving some scale and some success.

Joost de Valk: Scale and agency always are things that are very hard to mix in my head. I come from an agency background myself, as you well know, and it has always looked incredibly hard to me to actually properly scale an agency.

How do you do that? 

Kristopher Jones: It was easier back when I first built Pepperjam, in full transparency. I live in Pennsylvania in suburbia, Pennsylvania. What I realized then was that there were 13 colleges and universities here. A lot of those kids were graduating and moving south to Philadelphia or to New York city or Boston, which are all within a couple hours of where I’m sitting right now. That was how I built it back then. We got Pepperjam up to 130 employees before we sold. 

Now it’s more difficult. Talent acquisition is tough. Because of the pandemic, society globally has embraced the concept of a sort of distributed workforce and remote. Now for me, one of the things I love about entrepreneurship is building culture and building just amazing companies. I’m really heartbroken, candidly that the competition for talent has moved to virtual. 

What we’ve done at LSEO is we pay people as if they’re working in Philadelphia, it’s actually our benchmark, it’s what we use. So the challenge to your point on even asking the question is that talent acquisition is a big piece of it. You also have to put together a growth engine that allows you to differentiate yourself from other agencies. That’s not easy. 

Then the final part of it really is what Chad Holmes calls PPP which is policy, process and what is it? Policy process and something else. But the point is that you have to execute on those in order to build and scale your business. So it’s hard. 

How Kristopher deals with career paths for people in agencies

Joost de Valk: The thing that always strikes me in scaling an agency, is that it’s very hard to keep a career path for people. For them to be able to actually have a way up. How do you deal with that? 

Kristopher Jones: I’m not sure I completely agree. Although I just got a visual of a common friend of ours who got stuck at Disney. There wasn’t really anywhere for them to go. But in  an agency environment, the way that I think about it is, if you’re a couple hundred person agency, you absolutely have six to 10 positions within your particular area of expertise. I think thought leadership could help separate someone and help them move up the rungs. 

One of my folks came in yesterday and said, Hey Chris, I think we want to cross train people a lot more than we did in years past. And I was like, that’s pretty interesting because the SEO and the PPC division there’s a bridge across it. No, we have to work together more closely and get you guys cross trained. But I don’t know. 

I’m actually incredibly bullish from the point of view of the employee, I’m bearish on the point of view of the agency owner. For the reasons that I mentioned earlier: it’s getting increasingly more difficult to compete for talent in this new distributed workforce.

For the employee, I’m incredibly bullish because if this pandemic taught us anything, it’s that digital is by far and away the most powerful medium to communicate your message at all times. In dark times and in good times. There were a couple of people that I’ve been tracking that are moving all over the place, tons of career opportunities. I don’t think we need to debate it, but I would say that talent from an agency owner point of view is tough, because of how many opportunities that they have. The opportunities are a good thing for them. It’s a bad thing for me. 

Especially in Wilkes-Barre Pennsylvania. I have incredible digs here. We have our beautiful office. You could see it in the background, in my photo here. Right here, we have a five story building. It’s a great place to work where we have unlimited PTO days. In other words, you can take off whenever you want, as long as you’re doing your work, we just recently moved to a hybrid model because of COVID. So it’s three days on two days off, but we’re actually very flexible with that depending on your situation. Ping pong tables and everything else. We have our own podcast studio in the building. It’s just a great place, but it isn’t as easy as it was back in the day, Joost, to build and scale an agency.

But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t an abundance of demand for the services that we provide, because it’s really overwhelming. 

Joost de Valk: That’s not weird. If you see in this pandemic how many people have relied on local SEO, especially and on doing some SEO for their business when they may not have ever done that before. There is a huge number of people asking for our services. When I say our, I mean your, because I don’t actually do the consulting anymore. 

Kristopher Jones: You don’t, but in our world the Yoast SEO plugin is ubiquitous with.. I don’t even know what the overlap is. I’d go on record saying 80, 90% of the clients we work with. have Yoast installed. When we get a new client prospect or if it comes by my desk, the first thing I do is I go to the site. What I’m looking for is index, no-index, I’m just looking through the code. So I go to the site, look at the source code and I swear to God Joost, right up at the top is my buddy Yoast every time. I’m like, I see it in the code and I’m just like, well done. Well done. I remember, you didn’t tell your listeners and your viewers, but back in 2008, when we first met, you were early, early in your career.

Joost de Valk: I was a consultant in an agency and I didn’t have a way to go up. 

Kristopher Jones: Yeah. The changes that took place from having very little to no resources to like, Hey Kris, I have questions, I have all these resources. What do I do? And all of the challenges that all entrepreneurs go through as they become more successful. Anyway, watching you over these last 12, 13 years has been pretty amazing. Just to watch your success grow and actually participate in it. Two years ago or so pre-COVID when I came out to join you at YoastCon. 

Joost de Valk: Oh man, I miss those days. I wanted a YoastCon again, that was awesome. We had one fully planned for just after COVID when our ten-year anniversary as a company. That will come. Yeah. Not worried. It is weird. It is also very challenging.

There’s 140 of us now at Yoast and a lot has happened. One of the things that’s always interesting is in talking to you and a lot of other friends from the group of friends that we share, is that you’re still a little with your feet in the mud in some way, and that you still see those clients. That’s always a challenge for me because I don’t do the actual consulting anymore. 

What challenges do Kristopher’s clients struggle with?

So what are the biggest challenges that your clients are seeing now? What are the things that they struggle with? That’s the stuff that’s always hard for us to get input on. It’s not hard, it’s something that we actively need to do because otherwise you lose touch a bit. Because the sites I do optimize myself are usually slightly bigger now. 

Kristopher Jones: I guess it really depends on what type of client we’re talking about. At LSEO our fastest growing segment of clients are enterprises. We work with big household names, publicly traded companies, et cetera. We also still serve smaller to medium sized businesses.

The smaller to medium-sized businesses, I think, are still fighting through allocating the necessary budget to execute on a level that matters. That’s not in every case and not in every industry. But, generally speaking, they’re more bought-in now. As we are still hopefully at the tail end of COVID, because they saw the dramatic change in the way that people were getting information – aka digital only. 

The larger ones come to us and they know who we are and they know what we do well and they hire us to do a very specific thing. Those enterprise clients are basically hiring us because we’re a specialist in technical SEO consulting and link building particularly. The challenges on the small to medium again are how much can they spend? There’s always this inability to spend enough, to really go all in, to really do what they would like to do. Whereas with the enterprise clients, they know exactly what they need to do. They’ll come in and have the budget ready to go. 

Right now we’re in an RFP and we’re finalists. I can’t name the company, but it’s a top three sports brand, shoe brand. I probably should have said shoe, because there are only so many top ones. They came in, Joost, knowing exactly how much they intended to spend. They had to do some market research or they had to have crunch numbers. They knew exactly how they wanted the reporting delivered to them, et cetera, et cetera.

You see where I’m going with this? That’s why I think small to medium businesses in general, even though larger businesses use your technology, but those small to medium businesses need anything that could help them automate the process, mitigate the expense of really executing it. At the end of the day, I think that they’re looking for ways to spend more money in digital. We don’t have to talk about the contrast between billboards and TV ads and this kind of thing as much as we used to two, three years ago.

Joost de Valk: No because people have now seen that the difference is there. The thing is for me that big brand that your RFPing for will probably have an in-house director of SEO or maybe even an entire in-house SEO team that is just adding services onto what they’re already doing. The bigger challenge is, to me, in that SMB market is getting those smaller people to actually do something and to get them to execute something. 

Kristopher Jones: Agreed. Back in the first six months of the life of LSEO.com, we were a software company. I was probably five years ahead of myself and my idea. My idea was to build a do it yourself local SEO software as a service. It was modular based, meaning that I can change the way that we educate and we walk people through the process as the industry changed. It came along with a score that mimicked what we, I don’t know if it’s global? Is a credit score global?

Joost de Valk: No, I know what it is, but it’s definitely not a global thing. 

Kristopher Jones: Then it’s US centric. We use the credit score total and we would score them on how they’re doing. Then we would modular base move them from one to the next to do it. It was really about self-education.

I think at the end of the day, when I think through entrepreneurship and building your business, I think that it’s important that you do things that don’t scale early on. In other words, you really understand what makes your company work or not work. You got to really obsess about the kind of things that a startup person would. My feedback for businesses that are still trying to figure out how to get the right resources allocated or hire the right talent is to self-educate. I’ve been a strong believer in that. 

Investing in companies

Right before I make an investment, I wouldn’t make an investment in a company that I didn’t at least earn the right to be able to add value. You do that, through obsessing about what it is that you’re trying to do with your business. Like, how does it work? How can we make it better? How can we optimize it? 

Joost de Valk: The funny thing about what we do, I think, as an investor you could actually invest in pretty much any company and come in and do what you do well and help grow the company.

Kristopher Jones: That’s been my model just in full transparency. In the early days of KBJ capital I was building the infrastructure. I was building the organization. What I mean is growth marketing, proper financial management going beyond just process and focusing on being able to predict cash flows and other types of things. I think I mentioned legal and there’s a lot of others. 

So I built that up over probably four or five years at KBJ capital and I had some success and the portfolio is raised like close to $40 million. Every time we were able to raise money, it was somewhat of a validation of the model that I built to your point.

Now fast forward it all culminates together in this building that I’m in right now that we could talk about later.

Kristopher’s technology accelerator buildings

Joost de Valk: Or now, because that building is actually. So you bought a building and not a small insignificant one, but a rather large building. I unfortunately have not been able to visit yet, but I absolutely will at some point. But what are you doing there? Tell us.

Kristopher Jones: It’s a technology accelerator. The total footprint is about 35,000 square feet. There’s two buildings. The building I’m in right now is a five story building. We have tenants throughout the building, but on the first floor we have a podcasting and video streaming studio. We also have a conference center on the first floor. Then as you go through the building you have a range of different technology companies. 

Unlike other accelerators, I’m in Northeastern Pennsylvania. I’ve been on the front lines of entrepreneurship here for 20 years. Really embracing building businesses here. So I didn’t want my model to be like, Oh Kris Jones bought these buildings and turn it into an accelerator. Now he wants 15% of my company. 

The way it works here is actually somewhat non-traditional. We charge market rates that come in. All the tenants get either monthly or quarterly one-on-ones with me. I take no equity. I make no promises about money. Often when you go into an incubator and accelerator, you’ll get a check. Those checks are available, but they have to ask me. I’m not going to pitch my services or my ability to invest. Just recently, in the last couple of months I guess here, it wasn’t my first investment, but a recent investment in a company that just moved into the building. 

Basically, for people that know me or don’t, I’ve been doing entrepreneurship my whole life. I’ve been building scaling and businesses. And then in the last 11 years, investing in businesses. I had three separate offices and it just made sense for me to consolidate them at two and a half years ago. I just wasn’t happy going between the offices. People couldn’t find me, et cetera. So I went out to buy space for those businesses, not to buy a 35,000 square foot accelerator, but happenstance plays its way. As I was walking through available real estate, I just saw the bigger picture of making this significant investment in my hometown. And, hopefully creating a magnet for future Pepperjams, for future LSEOs. That’s it, in a nutshell, that’s the kind of entrepreneurial side of me.

It’s really cool to pull up to this every day. You and I have chatted about, you’ve been very proud over the years as you’ve opened up more offices, you would reach out to me or you would let me know. 

The hybrid working environment

Joost de Valk: Yeah. It’s one of the cool things. So I agree with you fully. We’ve gone to a hybrid model too. I’m in my office right now. The office is a mile away from my home, so it’s not a hard thing to do, but I miss having all my colleagues here. It’s great to have those offices and to expand them and to have people in them and to get that vibe. I think the hybrid model will work, but at the same time I very much feel you in many ways in that. The togetherness of an actual office is something that is so awesome. 

Kristopher Jones: It’s one of the things that I enjoy most. And it’s one of the things I think I’m best at just as an entrepreneur, is creating an environment where we embrace people’s individuality, but we also constantly challenge them to grow.

One of our core values is our commitment to personal and professional growth. I make a five figure annual investment in professional training for every single member of our staff, our executives get one-on-one coaching. The rest of them get more curriculum from a leadership coach at the university of Florida. He’s my coach as well. That’s it. 

When you’re doing remote, it’s a little bit harder to execute those kinds of things and to really benefit from watching the people grow around you. Listen, to businesses that are out there that are fully remote or that have embraced it, I think that’s great. It creates opportunities, particularly for employees to be able to compete for jobs that they wouldn’t have to move to, but on the other side of it is to your point, which is, we spend such a disproportionate amount of our life doing our career. The ability to build friendships, have the water cooler talk and otherwise be part of things is something I think that’s critical to the professional experience. So hopefully it will come back for those of us that want it to come back.

Joost de Valk: No, also one of the things I’m seeing more and more is that it’s easier to hire remote talent, but when you’re hiring remote talent you’re usually hiring senior sometimes medior level, but not junior level because training someone up remote is actually quite hard in many ways. There’s some things to go through for everyone to work on that and together figure out how we are going to train people to get from junior to slightly more than that in a remote environment.

For us it means the same thing we’re going hybrid. Like you, we are on the outskirts of, we’re not actually on the outskirts, we’re in the center of a very small town. We’re not in Amsterdam. We’re not in the big city here or so it is a bit more remote. We have some apartments that we let people stay in when they fly in to be here. We’re fully going in on the model, but it is a lot of work.

Kristopher tells about Special Guests, his entertainment booking platform

So you have all these companies that you’ve invested in. We’ve talked about LSEO, but there’s a couple of others that I would really want to touch on. And probably some that you wanted to talk about as well. You have an events company. Can I call it that? Is it an events company? 

Kristopher Jones: It’s a live entertainment booking platform.

Joost de Valk: That sounds so much better when you say it. So tell us what is it? 

Kristopher Jones: So it’s called Special Guests. It is an entertainment booking platform. So what the problem we solve is if you’re an up and coming, fill in the blank, live performer. A musician, comedian, dancer, actor, actress ventriloquist sword swallower. You don’t have representation and it’s incredibly excruciating to find paid gigs. 95% of for hire live entertainers, struggle to find gigs. 

In 2016, I was introduced to actor, comedian, Damon Wayans, Jr. for people who don’t know who Damon is, he’s part of the Wayans family. They came to fame, if you will, with In living color about 20 or so years ago, which was a sort of a Saturday night live spinoff. His whole family’s in Hollywood, but Damon was in a New Girl, Happy endings and he’s been in a bunch of movies and stuff like that. Anyway, the guy grew up around Hollywood and in the entertainment industry, we were introduced through a common friend and he came to me and he said: Kris there should be a platform that makes it easier for my buddies to get paid gigs so they don’t have to drive for Uber. He’s a comedian, so that was funny. And I was like, yeah, let me do the research. 

We partnered and we ended up getting cast on Apple TV’s first reality show. It was basically a blend between Shark tank, The apprentice and The voice. It was called Planet of the apps, which by the way in and of itself really wasn’t that great of a name because it could be very easily confused from an SEO point of view with Planet of the apes. But nonetheless try telling your parents that you’re on a reality show called Planet of the apps and they’re on The planet of the apes site and will be like, what are you doing? 

Anyway, we got cast on that. We ended up raising one and a half million dollars through that show. We had paired with Will I am from The black eyed peas and spent 13 days on collaborating with him. Then we raised another million dollars. And here we are in March of last year wondering how we’re going to handle the extraordinary, like colossal, knocked down the servers level of growth because my partner Damon went on the Ellen DeGeneres show and Ellen thinks Special Guest is awesome because she likes awesome things and Special Guests makes it easier for talented people to get paid. And then the pandemic hit. 

What I had to do was temporarily lay off my staff and have some serious calls with my partner and say, what are we going to do here? What are we going to do? He and I and our investors decided that you guys are going to come out of this, like a coiled spring. Take advantage of this time and focus on tech and focus on a product pivot that we’ve been working on.

So here we are, I would say around January, you started to see signs that maybe the industry was going to start to come back and think about the complexity of why it was frozen. It was frozen because of global mandated closures of venues, bars, restaurants, clubs. So these folks couldn’t perform. 

We started to see a sign in January now we are in mid, late April. And honestly, we’ve had so many requests for gigs already, just today. It’s pretty extraordinary. It’s coming back and we’re ready for it. We’re just right now in North America but we’re hoping later this year, early next year we could.. By the way, we’re global for virtual performances. Anyone could go to a specialguestapp.com or download our app on iOS or Android and book a virtual performance with a famous comedian or a musician or whatever you want to do. But in person we’re only currently supporting the US and Canada. So that just gives you a flavor of it.

Most people do like music and live entertainment. I remember being a teenager and seeing my first Broadway musical. And I was just like oh my God, this was the most amazing thing ever. I’ve always had an affinity towards that. Then you parlay entrepreneurship and my ability to help raise venture capital and stuff. That business Joost has been one of the most fun of my career. I still hope to build it and I don’t know, maybe sell it to Live Nation or something. Maybe Google, maybe Facebook. Who knows, whatever one day, yeah. 

Joost de Valk: Yeah. It’s so funny because I looked at it just before the show and I was looking at the home page and I was like, you so recognize the SEO in all of this because you have this list of locations that you work on and I’m like, ah, I got you. It’s really funny to see that. It’s awesome. 

Kristopher Jones: Real quick. True story. I told Damon let me look at this closer. I’m going to check out the total addressable market. I wanted to do as if I was an investor, even though later he asked me to be a co-founder. At that moment, what I did is literally running it through all the tools. Like the idea of it. How do I benchmark? Who are the competitors? There’s these two web based businesses and so I did an analysis on that. I was like, this is an SEO jug or not opportunity here, if executed. To your point, hopefully we’re not overly SEOd, but we certainly have taken SEO into consideration. 

Joost de Valk: There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s what all the big players do. It’s so funny when you look at it, if you consider the really big companies over the last few years that have been created. The Amazons, the Stripes. All of them did so on an SEO growth strategy in many ways. So it’s not weird. I commend you for doing it. It makes you a unique investor in your own right because you invest and you bring your marketing jobs. I think that’s awesome. I hope to copy that. 

Kristopher Jones: We’re both still young. So we have at least a couple of decades left of entrepreneurship and contribution.

Why eCommerce businesses are on Kristopher’s investment wish list

Joost de Valk: I think so. The funny thing is that your investments seem to go in a lot of different directions. What you bring is your own added value. Is there anything that you think this is something that I want to do or that I still want to invest in that you haven’t done yet? 

Kristopher Jones: Wow that is awesome. Yeah, absolutely. I I think about investing in an eCommerce business from the start and building it into a billion dollar company.

That’s the sector, the segment that. I’m in the process of buying out my old investors to free up just my decision-making ability for reeferlocal.com. That was one of the first companies that I had founded after I sold Pepperjam. We were kind of eCommerce, we were transactional, but we were doing daily deals and stuff like that. eCommerce like the consumer product goods space is something that is just really intriguing.

The closest that I’ve gotten to it was a recent investment that I made. I was telling you this before we went live here. I have a friend who is the tour manager for Snoop Dogg and for Body Count, Ice-T’s heavy metal band. He’s an influencer. Long story short, he asked me to come in on a new root beer lifestyle company. That sounds crazy. There’s four of us. One partner is Josh Balz he is a former musician in the band Motionless in White. The other one, Aaron is the current bassist for the rock band called Breaking Benjamin. 

So the four of us come together. We have a whole merchandise line. There’s a root beer, there’s a birch beer and then there’s one that I can’t tell you what it’s going to be. But it’ll have some butterscotch in it. It’ll be out in June. Anyway do you see how excited I get when I’m talking about eCommerce? I said to these guys, oh man, we have to have a subscription program. Can we do it in four packs? 

Joost de Valk: An actual physical product.

Kristopher Jones: Well you know how my whole career started, right?

Joost de Valk: No. Oh yeah I do know! On pancakes or no is it on jam?  

Kristopher Jones: Yeah, jam! It was a product. Going through that whole process. Actually, later today I have a tasting. We have to go taste root beers and stuff. I love that. I’m still in SEO. Just to be clear. So if any of the viewers were like, Hey, I was going to reach out and hire that guy. No, I do SEO every single day, but the entrepreneurial side of me gets really excited about the experience of it.

The consumer product space is one where, I know we’re getting late here, but I was one of those kids that I would go into a McDonald’s or a Burger King and I’d be like, oh my God the person selling the ketchup packets must be a billionaire. How do I become the guy who has the little salt and pepper packets or the ketchup packets at a major food chain?

I don’t know. I think it’s one of the areas of entrepreneurship that I think the story of success really resonates with me. When someone comes up with a product and it becomes you know. By the way, I know this guy, his name is Joost de Valk and he came up with..

Joost de Valk: But that’s a digital product! I’ve never done anything but digital. So for me doing a physical product is definitely something I am going to have to do somewhere in the next 30 years. One of the things that I want is to play with packaging. I want to play with, all of that fun stuff.

In SEO so often these days, you are thinking about branding and about packaging and about all these things, but you’re thinking about them in a virtual sense. I would love to the real thing.

Kristopher Jones: By the way, we still sell Grandma Jones’ Pepperjam, which started my whole career. Pepperjam.net.

Actually in the SEO community, buying every single flavor has become somewhat the thing to do. I could just start rattling off friends of ours, that when they buy it from me, they buy one of everything. But I still have it here in my accelerator building. So when orders come in, I don’t always do them, but I’ll go down and I’ll pick, pack and ship.

I don’t know what it is about. It just feels like the entrepreneurial experience when I’m folding the box and I’m taping it with the professional box tape, and I have the invoice and the receipt and I put a little note on every single one. So if whoever orders, you’ll probably get a little personalized note from me. Especially if you’re in the SEO industry, I know who you are. And I’ll usually put something in there extra. 

But I just love that process, man. That’s entrepreneurship. If there’s anything that I think you and I share is that for the bulk of our success as entrepreneurs we’ve done it together. During a very similar time in history. Mostly in the search marketing space being an entrepreneur is just amazing. Being a subject matter expert is as well. So for folks that you know, are out there that are SEOs and paid media specialists and stuff it’s just an awesome industry to be in for sure.

Joost de Valk: Yeah, it is. There’s no end to where this industry can go, I think. There’s still so much to do and there are so many businesses still that don’t even have a proper website. When I go around town here locally, and you’d think that the Netherlands would be pretty far ahead in some of these things, but you go around and you see these stores that haven’t claimed their Google Maps profile yet. And I’m like, we’re still at the beginning. It is so much the beginning of this entire new era. There is a whole lot of stuff to do there, which is awesome. I love it. 

There’s also a ridiculous amount of work to be done. I just realize more and more that a million websites is a lot, but it’s also not a lot. There’s just so many businesses that need a website. We now have 12 million sites running Yoast SEO, which is an astonishing amount if you live in a country that has 17 million people.

Kristopher Jones: 25 links, can you inject it into the code that I keep seeing on everybody’s website. 

Joost de Valk: No, I can’t. I can’t even inject a link to myself. No, but it is weird. Isn’t it? With everyone coming online there is more and more to do. Kris, thank you very much for sharing some of your entrepreneurial journey with us. We’re going to have you back and do a bit more focused show at some point, but that’s not as much fun as this is. Thank you. 

Kristopher Jones: Listen, to you, the Yoast team, your beautiful wife and your brother and many of your colleagues who I’ve gotten to know personally. Love you guys. I appreciate that you guys are a partner of LSEO in terms of your agency list and I really appreciate your time.

Joost de Valk: Thanks man! And everyone, this was the Yoast SEO podcast. If you aren’t subscribed yet, this is your time to do it. Go into that favorite reader of yours, whatever tool you use and find us and subscribe. Make sure you don’t miss any episodes and see you next time!

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