Yoast, a search-optimization plug-in for WordPress, can trace its origins to 2005 when Joost de Valk launched a website named “joostdevalk.nl”. After moving to and eventually selling the domain “css3.info”, de Valk created the Yoast platform in 2009, launched the first version of WordPress SEO in 2010, and founded the company Yoast BV in 2010. Today, Yoast has 5+ million active installations and has been downloaded more than 202 million times.
In this interview with the CEO of Yoast, Marieke van de Rakt, we talk about the origin of the brand name, what has been the effect of having the domain name Yoast.com and what’s her advice for entrepreneurs who are wondering whether to invest in the perfect domain match for their brand.
Marieke, what’s your elevator pitch these days for what Yoast is and what you do?
Yoast SEO is a plugin for WordPress, a tool, which helps people to rank high in Google with their website. The plugin does a number of technical things automatically. Above that, it has all kinds of functionality that help you to optimize your website for the search engines.
How did you come up with the idea of creating Yoast? What inspired you?
I am the CEO, but not the founder of Yoast. Yoast was founded by Joost de Valk, who is my husband. Ten years ago, Joost was working for large brands like eBay and KLM and helping them with their SEO. At the same time, he was actively involved with WordPress. He noticed that the things he was advising his big clients, could easily be built into a plugin. That way, everybody (small and large) would benefit from better SEO.
What is the meaning behind your brand name? Why “Yoast” was your final choice?
That’s a funny story. For quite some time, Joost de Valk was the only person in our company. And he named the company after himself, thinking that he would never hire anybody. That turned out differently!
Joost as talking a lot at conferences between 2004–2010. People had a hard time pronouncing his name because it is a Dutch name. Then, Rand Fishkin said: ‘Oh, you mean Yoast, that’s toast with a Y.’ So, Yoast, is just the name of Joost, but written in a way that English people pronounce it correctly.
Marieke van de Rakt, CEO Yoast.com
How did you get the domain Yoast.com and why acquiring the exact brand match .com domain was so important for building your brand?
I think Joost immediately registered the domain name and the Twitter account.
For us, it was important to have that exact brand match. Our name has become a big brand in the WordPress world. People assume that they’ll go to your website if they type in yoast.com. We have a lot of direct traffic to our site.
Marieke van de Rakt, CEO Yoast.com
How do you ensure that your potential clients trust your brand and what role does your domain name play in maintaining that perception of your brand?
Branding is a lot of things. We always have had clear ideas about what we want to do. We have a set of company values and try to align with them in our decisions. However, most of our customers know us because they are using our free plugin. They see our brand name in the backends of their websites. Many of them never come to our website. But in the end, the name of our brand does resonate.
How is your domain reflecting on the effectiveness of your marketing?
I don’t know if our domain in itself is so important. The brand name is important, and the way we have made our brand stand out from other things has been really important. Very early on in the growth of our company, we hired an illustrator and a designer. We’ve made sure that our brand stands out from other brands. We make awesome illustrations and avatars and made a very conscious decision about the colors of our brand.
How important is the presence of your brand online? What plays the most important role in people finding you on the web?
As an SEO plugin, findability is really important for us. We need to rank high on Google. If we don’t rank high ourselves, why would other people take our advice? So, SEO is extremely important. We take time to think about what we want to rank for. We think about the content we create. We want to write articles that people want to read!
What is the one element of your brand you would not compromise on?
For me, it is really important that we have a branding that is inclusive. We like to draw illustrations ourselves and I also want to make sure that we have diverse images. Also, our branding should be fun and enthusiastic.
What would be your advice to entrepreneurs who are wondering whether to invest in the perfect domain match for their brand?
A domain is important and you should really put some thought into that. At the same time, you should put some thought into any aspect of your marketing strategy. Take some time and make conscious decisions. Don’t do things because others are doing it. Make marketing decisions that fit your brand.
What’s on the horizon for Yoast? What gets you excited about the future?
Ow, so many things! We’re working on a whole set of new features for our plugin. We’ve made some really cool technical improvements that’ll make our plugin faster and smarter. And, our company celebrates its 10th anniversary in April. So that’s going to be a big thing! We’ll have our YoastCon- our conference in April to celebrate it properly!
We hope this will be of use to you in the process of getting your perfect domain name. If you have any questions, need any help or just want to chat with someone about the process, book a free consultation using the form below. We are always happy to hear from you.