Last week after his State of the Word presentation I asked Matt a question: ‘So, we, at Yoast are really into Gutenberg and we’re adding a lot of Gutenblocks into Yoast SEO. But, our research shows that half of our customers are not using Gutenberg yet. So, that is hard…. Because we have to maintain two versions of our plugin. What can we do to make more people transfer to the block editor? I feel that there is so much negativity. What can we do? As a company and as the WordPress community?’ In this blogpost, I want to tell you what Yoast is planning to do and what I think could be a possible solution to some of the negativity surrounding the block editor. 

Yoast ❤️ the block editor

We love the block-editor of WordPress. I am the first to admit that it wasn’t love at first sight, but we quickly noticed that the Gutenberg-project gave big opportunities for Yoast SEO. We’ve helped build the 5.0 release. And no, we were not that happy about the timing of the release, but apart from the timing-issues, we’ve always been strong supporters of the block-editor. And we still are! #blockeditorforthewin

That being said, we have some concerns about the pace at which our customers convert to the block-editor. While Matt Mullenweg showed us great numbers in the State Of The Word that indicate that the number of people using the block editor is growing successfully, we experience it somewhat differently. This blogpost is not about being right (although, to be honest, I love being right), but about our plans to tackle this problem! And of course, I hope more companies and people will join in!

Is there a problem? We sure have one!

Yoast SEO has 200+ million downloads and 9 million+ active installs. Most of our customers are on our free product and we do not gather any data about them. So we don’t know how many of our users use the block editor and how many use the classic editor. That’s why we rely on survey-data to get information about our free users. Of course, survey data is problematic in a lot of ways, selection bias being the most important one. People who either love or hate Yoast SEO and have some time on our hands for instance, are much more likely to be in our sample.  

Results of our survey

The results of our survey show that about 35% of the people that filled out our survey state that they are using the block editor and 65 % is still using the classic editor. We see no significant differences in the use of the block editor between our premium and free customers. Additional analysis shows that people with a blog use the block editor more often than people with a company website. The additional analysis also show that the block editor is used more often on smaller websites (with less pages) than on larger websites (with lots of pages). Finally, our analyses show that people that use many features of Yoast SEO have a higher chance to use the block editor than people that only use a few features. We did not find any significant differences in gender, age or occupation. 

Figure showing that 66% of Yoast SEO premium users and 65% of Yoast SEO free users use the Classic editor, versus 34% and 35% the block editor. The overal N = 1912, with Premium accounting for 922, and Free for 990.

This data has been gathered over the summer. It is very likely that more people have since updated to the new block editor. I am rather sure that these numbers are skewed and in reality more people are using the block editor. 

Data is inconclusive:  but what about the negativity?

Our survey data and Matt’s data paint a very different picture on how the process of acceptance of the block editor is going. This doesn’t mean that only one of them is right, while the other is wrong. Probably it’s just a consequence of differences in the sampling. I personally love data and numbers. But I think we should also look further than just the hard numbers. I notice a lot of negativity surrounding Gutenberg / the block editor. On social media, for example, but I also notice it  just by talking to people at a WordCamp. Two weeks ago, Joost de Valk wrote a post called: The block editor/ Gutenberg: why should you be using it. We received a record number of comments, some of them rather negative. People are genuinely upset or confused. Just some examples:

I hate Block Editor. You say it’s easy to insert an image and wrap text around it. I find it difficult. I do a lot more clicking to get things done for my simple, little blog than I used to do.

Maybe they should have made the Block Editor more intuitive and easy to use. I tried it and was lost. I went back to the classic editor within a week. Thanks, but no thanks.

The main reason why I haven’t switched over is because, I write all my articles in Microsoft Word and the block editor produces too many mistakes with it. I have to manually go in and correct too many things.

I use block editor from beginning, but the moment you want something else than pure text you have to switch over to classic editor.
I have many user new to WP, almost all of them only want to use only the classic editor.
Until now I did not see any advantage in block editor…

A lot of people are not using the block editor yet. Looking at the comments below this post, it is rather clear that a substantial part of the community is not happy about Gutenberg. 

So what? Why should we care? The classic editor is cool too!

People who do not want to use the block editor have a perfectly good alternative. They can use the classic editor plugin or one of the other Gutenberg blockers. Yoast SEO will work (and will continue to work for the foreseeable future, I promise!) for both the classic editor as well as the block editor. However, our plugin is heavily integrated with the editor.  And our plans for new features are currently focused on the block editor. But, if people aren’t using the block editor, they cannot benefit from our new features. And we’d really like to serve all of our customers. Our slogan is SEO for Everyone for a reason. However, maintaining two versions of our plugin is really a lot of work. We think we’re not the only company that is facing these difficulties. 

What can we do about it?

In his State of the Word, Matt said that the best way to make people convert to the block editor is to build awesome blocks. If we make sure the block editor is the very best editor out  there, people will start to use it. And I think he is absolutely right. Building new awesome blocks is the most important thing we should do. Team Yoast will definitely continue to do just that. 

However, people who do not use the block editor yet, will not see any of these cool new features. They aren’t aware of what they are missing out. Just developing new blocks will not convert them to the block editor,  unless we tell them about it. We need to talk to people, write to them, tweet to them, educate them. We need to tell people about the awesome new features in the block editor. And I think we’re not doing a good job at that. Like so many things, the solution for this problem lies within communication.

What’s Team Yoast going to do?

We need to tell people about the block editor. We need to show them how awesome it is. And how much the block editor is improved since last year. Our post about why you should use the block editor got some real negative comments. But, there were also people who were enthusiastic about the block editor. And, there were some people who said that they would give the block editor another try. There were also people who never even heard about the Gutenberg project before. Our post changed that!

What is the he Gutenberg project?

You’ve convinced me to take another look – loving the content example you have used to show what can be done.

Team Yoast is going to write more blog posts about the block editor. We’ll write about the awesome features Yoast SEO is offering in the editor and also about the cool things the WordPress Core team has been doing. And of course, we will continue to build new blocks in Yoast SEO as well as continue to contribute to WordPress core. 

We’re also planning to build a free block editor course within our Yoast SEO Academy. It’ll be a short and practical course which will help people to convert to the block editor. 

Join our #blockeditorforthewin movement

As a WordPress Community we should talk more about the block editor. I think we should tell people why the block editor is so very awesome. But I think we should also talk to people who aren’t using the editor yet. We should listen to their concerns. Some of these concerns are valid and we could use that input to make WordPress better.

I think the block editor is great! I totally respect that people think otherwise though. Their concerns should be heard and we should keep having those conversations. At the same time, we should keep talking about all the cool new features that are out there. Let’s celebrate the block editor! Let’s show each other those cool new blocks! If you feel the same way, please share your success stories too! #blockeditorforthewin

Published by Marieke van de Rakt

Marieke is the CEO at Yoast. She has a PhD in social sciences and the mother of four kids.

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6 Comments

  1. I tried it a few times now. Every time I switched back to the classic editor. I’ve seen some of the benefits of the block editor. But it is just too hard to get used to.

    What I find missing is ease of use. Often I write quite a lot of text on my laptop for my posts including some text related-HTML before I put it online. I just copy the whole text and paste it to the editor. Fast and easy.
    With Guttenberg I can’t seem to find a good way to do the same. I feel forced to change my workflow.

    As long I still can use the classic editor I do not invest the time to learn Guttenberg. It shouldn’t be an investment but easy to switch. I do not find it easy but very frustrating. A Guttenberg for Dummies might be helpful. New amazing blocks just won’t do the trick for me. How awesome they might be.

    Make WordPress Fun and Easy again!

  2. The Innovation Adoption Curve is right on track for Gutenberg, though. The early majority came on board. It will snow ball from there. You can only speed up the snowball a little but by end of 2020, you’ll see the number inverse themselves. Also, Joost van de Valk, estimated in an early AMA Live interview, that Yoast plans to support the classic editor for a minimum of three years after the block editor is in core. Just adding a little more context to the survey.
    With the Gutenberg Times, we have consistently communicated about the block editor and about the amazing things people in the community do, since June 2017. Yet, we have received very little to no support from the big money makers in the community.

    1. Just to be clear: of course we’ll support the classic editor and we’ll continue to do so. It’s just that a few of our new features (like how-to blocks) don’t work in the classic editor. So people who are on the classic editor can’t profit from that now.

      Maybe we are too impatient. Thanks so much for your comment!

  3. Hi Marieke, I’ve been using the WordPress for about 8 years so the Classic Editor is comfortable to use. I needed a quick primer on the Block Editor to start transitioning my sites. I’ll look forward to the new Block Editor course, but Yoast Academy also has a segment called “Creating Content in the Block Editor” in the free WordPress for Beginners course that was enough to get me started. That segment is a clear, concise explanation of how to start using the Block Editor, and I’ll begin the transition this week. Thank you!

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