After 10 years in the WordPress ecosystem as one of the most popular plugin companies, Yoast is branching out with a new SEO app for the Shopify marketplace. The app will offer Shopify merchants a set of optimizations for search results and Google Shopping, automatically add structured data, and allow users to optimize desired keyphrases. It will launch in the Shopify app store on January 18, 2022.
“An app on the Shopify platform is a huge business opportunity,” said Thijs de Valk, CEO of Yoast. “Shopify is growing rapidly. It makes sense to build an app and profit from the growth of that specific platform.
Shopify is the second fastest growing CMS, according to 2021 data from W3Techs, used on 4.4% of websites, up from 3.2% last year. The next closest competitor, Wix, ditched Joomla and Drupal in 2021, further increasing the trend for hosted and closed-end software platforms to bury open source CMS.
In his biannual CMS market share analysis, Yoast founder Joost de Valk observed a slowdown in WordPress growth from the start of the pandemic and commented that the platform does not appear to be heading. toward 50% market share as he would have projected based on figures from a year ago.
“Shopify continues to show incredible growth, over the past 6 months it has even managed to match WordPress growth in absolute numbers,” de Valk said. “Likewise, Wix has picked up the pace and is growing rapidly.” He predicts that Shopify’s market share will exceed 5% in the next six months.
“Yoast’s growth (so far) has been heavily dependent on WordPress” said Thijs de Valk. “It makes us a little vulnerable. When we decided to build the Shopify app, we weren’t acquired by Newfold Digital yet. The decision to create this app was also a decision to diversify risks. Having an app or plugin on multiple platforms just ensures that our business can grow in a sustainable way. “
Entering a new market, de Valk said the experience so far is very different.
“Shopify is a different ecosystem, much more commercialized than WordPress,” he said. The product price for the hosted platform is higher than what users could pay monthly for a plugin in the WordPress ecosystem. The Yoast SEO app kicks off on the Shopify app store at $ 29 / month, which de Valk says is competitively priced.
“This makes the Shopify market attractive to expand,” said de Valk. “We have big dreams of growing our business further (inside and outside of WordPress) and the success of Shopify would make that much easier. “
Unlike the WordPress plugin repository, the Shopify App Store doesn’t publish the number of users for each app, so it’s not easy to see who Yoast SEO’s main competitors will be. SEO apps for Shopify are already a crowded space and many apps like SEO King have more features, a free plan, more competitive prices, and hundreds of positive reviews already. Yoast SEO will have a challenge in entering a market with many established competitors.
de Valk said Yoast did not hire any Shopify developers but relied on the skills of current employees.
“Most of what was needed, we either knew it already, or we learned it on the job, as we do,” he said. The company has had internal discussions that employees are now encouraged to write closed-source software.
“We are breaking our tradition of only releasing Yoast SEO software on open source platforms,” said de Valk. “Shopify is a closed source. We’ve had a lot of conversations about this because at Yoast we’re open source fanboys and girls. At the same time, improve the web is also something very dear to our hearts. And we believe Shopify is making the web better.
de Valk confirmed that all Yoast employees are on board with the development of closed-source software and that none of them have evolved as a result of the change. The company’s more nebulous mission to “make the web better” outweighed its commitment to open source software in this instance.
In 2021, Yoast was one of the biggest contributors to the WordPress core thanks to its Five for the Future commitment. The company plans to continue its commitments to WordPress and will expand its charitable giving from the expected profits from Shopify. Yoast calls this new initiative “Five for the web”. This seems like an odd choice to me, as the intention of the Five for the Future program is to avoid the “tragedy of the commons” scenario, which plagues open source systems such as open source software. This is clearly described on the Yoast website in the open source section where it says, “At Yoast, this is at the heart of what we do.
“With the money we make in Shopify, we also want to give back,” said de Valk. “We’re going to give this money back to initiatives that improve the entire web. We are already doing things there. Yoast is a member of W3C and our own Jono Alderson is on the AMP advisory board. We plan to step up our efforts and initiatives to improve the web and get 5% of our Shopify revenue back to the web.
Yoast’s intention to support the controversial AMP project with a portion of its 5% profit is a curious choice, as the initiative is already heavily supported financially by Google and does not appear to be soliciting donations. When asked what kind of influence or responsibility the company brings to the AMP advisory board, de Valk said their main focus is to offer advice.
“AMP is just one of the things we do, we also support w3c, we create tools for PHP testing and we will support a lot more of it,” he said. “We have dedicated time to the AMP Advisory Board to provide advice to the Technical Steering Committee. And that way, we’re trying, like I said, to make the open web as strong as possible. “
Yoast will be hosting an online edition of Yoastcon – Shopify on January 20, which will begin with a product demo. The event is free and attendees can expect to hear from SEO industry experts and learn how to improve their online stores.