In 2019 we celebrate 30 years of the world wide web and in these 30 years a lot has changed. Going from on-premise to in-the-cloud solutions, from owning licenses to a pay-per-use license fee and from lengthy implementations executed by consultants to people relying on the manuals and not wanting to spend too much money on the implementation.
How can you benefit from this change with Dynamics 365 and apps? We thought that it could be useful to hear from one of the experts in the field of successful Apps outside the world of Business Applications. Just replace WordPress by Dynamics 365 and Plugin by Apps to see what kind of potential you might access if you build a successful App business.
Figure 1 WordPress
Figure 2 Microsoft AppSource
Joost de Valk, the founder and chief product officer of the most famous WordPress SEO tools worldwide, is one of those companies that managed to benefit from the in-the-cloud, pay-per-use, low-implementation-cost wishes of today’s customers. With more than 10 million users he knows how to set up and run a successful company with high volume leads and launch successful apps in a highly competitive market. We spoke to him about how he got there, what he does to stay there, but most importantly what you can learn from his journey.
The start of Yoast
Back in 2005 Joost was working as an SEO consultant for large corporations. He was one of those people making a lot of money by simply selling his knowledge at an impressive hourly rate. In his spare time however, he wrote about SEO in the blog he had created in WordPress. At that time WordPress was known for their blog websites and had a market share of approximately 3% (today about 33,5% of all websites are created in WordPress).
It was not until 2007 that Joost launched his first free SEO plugin. The initial success of these plugins surprised him, as shortly after he created some basic plugins, they were already used by some 100.000 users.
In 2011 he combined the different plugins he had created before and officially launched Yoast. The company’s mission is SEO for Everyone, to give everyone the opportunity to rank in the search engines. They use the freemium model to launch their plugins. The free plugin enables both large companies as well as small websites to attract the traffic they desire.
It took until 2013 for the first paid Yoast plugin to be introduced into the WordPress repository. The free versions still exist and have all the basic tools. However if you would like to work more efficiently, get rid of the advertisements or get some additional functionality then you make sure to use the paid version. in 2015 they decided to stop their consultancy business and solely focus on the plugin and everything around it, as the paid version of Yoast was already earning more than the consultancy business.
Only 1 in 10 users is actually using the extended paid version of the app.
And now? Yoast SEO has a market share of about 45% in WordPress, they had a turnover of 10 million euro in 2018, and a team of over 100 people are working on their SEO tools. An interesting fact is that only 1 in 10 users is actually using the extended paid version of the app. So you need to think big; do not just limit yourself to your local market, but think globally.
Joost’s 7 tips to build a successful app-business
1. Make sure that it is an actual “itch you are scratching”
Let’s clarify the itch-part first. Often people start creating a tool because they believe this is a potential money-maker. They build first and think about how to market this at a later stage. However, if you start with a proper “itch”, a problem you or one of your clients have experienced, it is easier to decide on what is important to resolve in this problem as well as make improvements at a later stage. “Make sure to build a solution to a problem that you or your customers are experiencing. This will make it much easier to promote and sell to other customers” according to Joost. Avoid building something because you have received one request for a specific feature, stay focused on the bigger picture and what you would like to achieve.
2. Optimize for the platform you will launch your product on
It goes without saying that having your own website with more information on you as an organization is important. However make sure to focus on optimizing for the platform you will launch your app on. For Dynamics partners this refers to the platform: Microsoft AppSource
How does this platform work? What can you do to be a featured app? What can you do to be one of the top searches? And get reviews. Joost stresses the importance of the platform over your own website. “Ranking via Google is something that can take years. Make use of the power of the App store or for Dynamics partner Microsoft AppSource as well as the ranking within Google of this store to be found. And make sure to put your efforts of profiling your solutions in the Microsoft AppSource. People will have already decided whether they will buy your products or not when in the app store. Your own website can online strengthen them in their decision for your tool.”
3. Make your clients true ambassadors
Your clients are your main asset; make sure to get and to stay in contact with them. Ask them to sign up for your newsletter, write a review, be vocal about what they like or do not like about the product. Yoast is actively asking their users to write reviews about their products. Make sure your newsletters are relevant to the actual users of your app or plugin. And equally important according to Joost is to interact in the different discussions on social media such as user groups and make sure to be involved in these discussions.
If you have a smaller group of larger clients, organize a round table or a network session with them to get their feedback. Or think about a small conference, as you want to keep them hooked and happy with your products.
Use Social Media to follow you customers on the different user groups and join the discussion.
Make sure to be available for your users. With 9 million websites worldwide using the Yoast plugins, they have a support team of some 25 people who provide around-the-clock support. Make sure to also check which way of communication works best, is it an e-mail, a chat, or even support by phone.
4. Have a great UX
Spend ample time on a good user experience. Within Yoast currently 80% of development time is spent on UX. Your application should be easy and very user-friendly. If it is not clear where something can be found or how it is done, you will see an immediate increase in questions for the support desk. Or even worse, people who cease to use your app. So, make sure to make the necessary UX investments.
5. Keep up the research
At Yoast they are constantly doing research; on the competition. What are they up to? How do they do it? As it only takes one person who does what you do better to lose your pole position. Research the market; what if Microsoft updates Dynamics 365, what will happen to your app? Connect with suppliers, join internet fora, Facebook communities, anything that can help you to be and stay relevant for today’s and tomorrow’s market.
6. Think big
The world is your marketplace, so do not limit yourself to the local market. Use the Microsoft platform to be available worldwide and deliver a stellar experience, not just in the app but also on the level of support. That specific problem you encountered could also be experienced by a user in India or Brazil.
7. Just do it!
No, this is not just us copying Nike’s slogan, but just get started and do it is Joost’s advice. If you have found the itch you would like to solve, get started, don’t think about it too long, but use trial-and-error to achieve your result. And make sure to ask feedback, lots of feedback.
Plans for the future
Yoast is always looking at ways to stay the leader in the world of SEO plugins. So, when asked about his plans for the future, Joost immediately gave some great examples of what they are currently working at.
First readability; they had already started and will keep on working on the readability features of the plugins. Readability ensures that text is understandable. Not just to us humans, but also for the algorithms. “We have noticed that understandable texts got ranked higher than those who scored lower on readability. We initially hired one linguist to help in this endeavor. Currently we already employ 12 linguists to improve the logic behind the readability features in the main 6 languages for our SEO plugins. Many new features come from all the research done by these linguists. In the future we are looking to expand our readability feature to 20 languages, such as Japanese and Bengali as that would allow us to expand our market even more.”
Currently they are also working together with Google and Bing on live indexing. Now it can still take up to 48 hours before your content is scanned and visible via search engines. What if Yoast would send a ping to Google and Bing as soon as you launch your page? The pages are then picked up and indexed straight away. The pros are numerous, but there are also some large security concerns to tackle. “To be part of such a team of passionate people that work hard to make this work, without thinking about immediate revenue is absolutely great”, says Joost.
The most important is to just get started.
When asked for some final advice for the Dynamics 365 partners and their apps, the most important is to just get started, think like a startup and stay passionate about your solution. The world is your marketplace.