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Content creation is a matter of life and death for all WordPress users, says Jan Koch

Updated on March 4, 2020

10 Min Read

Most of the individuals aged 25 love to seek higher education in order to get into the mainstream business. There are only a few exceptional individuals who tend to ride against the tide and create opportunities to bring name and fame for themselves. Jan Koch is one of some exceptional individuals, who has transformed himself into a successful entrepreneur at this age. Lady luck has been too generous upon Jan, who has tasted success at this tender age. He is the force behind the WP Summit, an event that brings the best minds of WordPress industry together.

In this interview, Jan has spoke his heart out about his earlier struggles with self employment and studies. He also shares his views about the current trends within the market. He is eager to make WP Summit an annual sponsored event. He highlights various security issue faced by many WordPress websites.

Jan Koch Interview

Cloudways: Jan, you are only 25, and you have developed your own website. You are into the consultancy business as well. That’s really fascinating to see that you have made such an incredible progress. You left your job and studies to focus on your consultancy business. How hard it was to take the risk? What triggered you to kickstart your career in WordPress?

Jan Koch: I’m not going to lie. It was a tough call to become self-employed. I was raised with the traditional career in mind where I would be working 40 years in a job and then retiring to enjoy the rest of life.

However, when I finished my integrated degree, the job situation (salary, responsibilities, etc) wasn’t as expected. So, I started studying for a Masters in IT security on the side and hoped everything would get better.

I was spending 70+ hours a week studying and working for 6 months. During that time, I almost lost my girlfriend (We’re in a relationship for 6 years now). I broke down and almost burned out. For two days, I was in a hospital. There, I made the decision to become self-employed. Running my own company couldn’t be any harder than spending 70+ hours a week doing stuff I hated. Therefore, I went for it.

I knew WordPress from my job and from personal interest, so I decided to play around with it more. I developed some websites for local clients, but it wasn’t before I started my blog in March 2013 that my business grew to a global scale.

To me, WordPress simply was the way to go. It’s incredibly flexible yet easy-to-use, and it gives all of us the option to reach people all over the world with what we have to say.

Cloudways: There is a debate going on how WordPress is transforming into an Application Framework. What is your stand on this debate?

Jan Koch: I think WordPress is becoming an application framework more and more, and I see it as a good sign.

It started out for blogging only, but so many individuals, entrepreneurs, and even huge companies use it as their main online platform.

Extending its functionality with plugins and themes is nice, but I think the WP core needs to adapt to how WP is being used.

There are a few things Automattic should keep in mind though during this process:

  • WordPress needs to maintain its easy-to-use attributes.
  • WordPress sites need to be blazing fast and thus, complex functions need to be very efficient during execution.
  • The security of the WP core is really good at the moment. However, this standard should be maintained for the future.

After all, the more functions integrated in WordPress, the more opportunities WP users will have to leverage their online presence.

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Cloudways: There are several online summits going on in the industry. What motivates you to choose the WordPress specific summit? What are your plans and expectations from this project?

Jan Koch: When I started out learning about online business in 2013, I had a hard time in finding a comprehensive resource about using WP as an online entrepreneur.

So, I figured it would be great to bring all influencers and world-leaders on the topic together in one huge free event that every WordPress user or online entrepreneur can benefit from.

My goal with the WP Summit is to establish this as a yearly event supported by Automattic itself. Currently, I’m doing this on my own with my three sponsors: Cloudways, TemplateMonster, and Cyfe.

I want this event to spread around the world and I am happy it is spreading day-by-day. The interviews with these world-shakers are available for free for 48 hours after their release and anybody can see the interview at their own convenience.

Cloudways: You have had an early taste of success. How will you define success? What are your plans for the next 5 years?

Jan Koch: Success to me is being able to spend your time doing things you want. It’s not about making millions. To me, money is a tool that can buy me the freedom to choose what I want to do.

Just for an example. In January, my father-in-law passed away. My girlfriend and I had a tough time. Thanks to being self-employed, I was able to reschedule projects in order to take care of her (and myself). I won’t get 3 weeks’ off that easily as an employee, but as an entrepreneur, I could.

In 5 years, I’m going to have my girlfriend retire from work (if she wants to) and I’ll live a lifestyle that allows me to travel all around the world to visit my friends.

The business will still be focused on WordPress, but it will to have grow on a larger scale. I assume I’ll have a few virtual assistants supporting me. This way, I will be able to focus on what I do best: helping entrepreneurs get the most out of WordPress.

Cloudways: I have read that you played table tennis in your childhood. You must be pretty great at it. What other interests do you have? Do you like to hangout with friends or stay alone at home and listen to music etc.

Jan Koch: Ha! I’m pretty good at table tennis, but it’s just a hobby. I don’t take it as seriously anymore and I only play to just have fun. As a child, I trained 4 times a week for at least 2 hours each.

Besides playing table tennis, I do some calisthenics and of course I like to hangout with friends. Since they are spread all over the world, that’s a tough thing to do – but as I’m writing this, I’m looking forward to visit my best friend next weekend who lives 350km away from me.

When I’m working, I always listen  to music. Currently I’m a huge fan of EDM and DJs like Steve Aoki or Hardwell. But I also like rock, heavy metal or even some hip-hop artists. I don’t like to limit myself in any way, so my taste of music is not bound by any genres.

Cloudways: WordPress 4.1 is already in the market. Is there any significant improvement apart from the novel UI design, image editing, and language selection tool that you have noticed within this particular release? Do you have any plans to contribute to core WordPress development in near future?

Jan Koch: I love the “Logout everywhere” functionality because I tend to use a few devices to manage my websites. This way, I can logout from all devices using just one click. This is a massive boost to security.

On a more technical side there a few improvements I like, for example being able to use conditional logic in some queries.

However, I don’t see myself contributing to WordPress core in the future.

Although I’m a WordPress developer, I like to be in the intersection of users and technology. It means I like understanding what’s going on and being able to tweak or extend WordPress functions whenever necessary. But, I also like to see the user’s perspective, especially when I am teaching first-timers about WordPress.

Cloudways: Speed, performance, and optimization are three of the key metrics to consider when it comes to judging the overall website credibility. Do you agree with this point? How can one better optimize a WordPress site to get higher search engine rankings?

Jan Koch: Yes, I absolutely agree that speed, performance, and optimization are vital for building a credible website that ranks in search engines.

The techniques to increase the ranking of a website have changed over the last few years.

When I started out, I spun articles and submitted them to article directories. I heavily optimized my site for keywords and I built backlinks that rarely came from social networks.

To rank a website nowadays, I see four major factors ( and these are visible on the WP Summit website):

  • Having a fast-loading website
  • Having a professional design with a clear message
  • Creating highly actionable and educational content
  • Getting social proof from social media platforms

Professional Design

Your website needs to look professional in order to keep visitors on the site. Put yourself in the position of your reader. They may find your blog through Google or on social media. If they don’t understand what you’re offering them, they’ll leave your site within a matter of seconds.

A professional design makes your website look credible and serious. If you can’t build this basic level of trust in the first few seconds, you will always lose your visitors.

So, as a beginner you should buy a premium template, but you should not customize it too much. Just use it as it is; chances are that it looks good already. As more established WP user, you might want to consider hiring a designer who can develop your individual WP theme.

Content Creation

Content creation is a matter of life and death for all WordPress users.

You need to create content that gives your audience what they’re looking for. Give them tutorials on topics you know best. Give them lessons you learned. Share emotional stories with them.

The last thing the web needs is another mediocre blog post.

Too many people publish twice a week for the sake of publishing twice a week. I’d never publish without having something to say.

Getting Social Proof

Starting a conversation about your content on social media is probably the best way to drive free traffic to your site—and to show Google your content is relevant to your audience.

By that, I mean you shouldn’t just share the link to your latest article. Package it in a nice story, share it in relevant groups, and get people talking about your content.

Fast Websites

If a website doesn’t load within a matter of seconds, I’ll leave (and may never visit again). Chances are most Internet users will follow the suit.

To get a fast website, WordPress users should invest in professional hosting. When you took over my WP Summit website, you increased the site speed by 100%, which is pretty impressive.

Also, they should leverage caching plugins like W3TC and image optimization plugins like WP Smush.It.

Speaking of plugins, I recommend having as few plugins as possible. It’s easy to install 20 or even 30 plugins, but every single one is slowing down the website. I’d stay with the bare minimum requirements.

SEO is more complex than I can elaborate here. But the WP Summit interviews with Rand Fishkin and Alex Moss will give a very comprehensive insight on this topic.

Cloudways: We all have those people around us whom we consider as ideals and our inspirations. Name five of the most influential WordPressers who have had inspired you the most throughout your career?

Jan Koch: OK, so of course I have to say Matt Mullenweg for being the face of WordPress and one of the founding members.

Another WordPress user who really inspired me was Pat Flynn from SmartPassiveIncome, because his story of becoming self-employed gave me enough confidence in myself to also quit my job.

Joost de Valk is also my inspiration. His work at Yoast is incredible and his plugins are some of the most popular plugins around.

Tony Perez from Sucuri is also an idol of mine and I’m proud to have interviewed him for the WP Summit! I love dabbling around with IT security (though I’m by no means a hacker), and the work he does over at Sucuri is protecting countless WordPress sites.

The last one I’ll mention in this roundup is Dan Norris from WP Curve. They do an amazing job at helping WordPress users. Dan also wrote a brilliant book on startups and he’s currently writing a book on content marketing. His interview on the WP Summit definitely is one of my favorites, which is why I have him on the first day.

Cloudways: WordPress websites are vulnerable to DDoS and Brute Force attacks. Do you have any disaster recovery plan in place in wake of such security threats? As a consultant, what you would suggest your clients to protect WordPress sites?

Jan Koch: Yes, they are vulnerable to DDoS and Brute Force attacks. But, it’s pretty simple to prevent those attacks from harming your site.

Brute Force (and Dictionary) attacks try to find a valid username/password combination that gives access to WP-Admin. To prevent them from being successful one should never(!) use the “admin” username. They should use a password manager like LastPass to create a strong (20+ character) password. You can also install plugins like WordFence that limit the number of consecutive wrong login attempts, which makes most attacks against wp-login.php useless.

Regarding DDoS attacks, one could leverage a service like Sucuri or CloudFlare. These premium services charge a reasonable fee for protecting your site from DDoS and most other attacks. If your site makes a bit of income, you definitely should invest in either of those services.

For disaster recovery, I usually recommend two solutions, a free and a paid one.

The free solution would be running a plugin like BackWP Up. It can create backups on auto-pilot (daily to monthly schedule), so you can backup your site as often as you need to. Then, you should store the backups in Dropbox or Google Drive, so you can access them when your hosting account isn’t accessible.

The paid solution is even easier. Just create an account at Blogvault.net and have them back up your site for you. Akshat is a great WordPress expert who really knows his stuff, and he’s proven his experience during our interview for the WP Summit.

[Read: Cloudways Adds Hourly Backup Frequencies]

Cloudways: Cloudways offers 1-click WordPress deployment on its cloud platform. You have already tested it. Share your feedback about speed and performance. We would also appreciate your opinion on how to further improve the platform’s functionality and performance.

Jan Koch: I can only say three words about Cloudways: I LOVE IT.

I really was worried about migrating the site to your server, because you did it during the pre-launch phase of the summit. Downtime would have killed the complete event.

I don’t know how you achieved it, but you limited the downtime to an incredible amount. The website is extremely fast. Thank you for doing that.

Like I said earlier, the website speed improved by 100%—which is extremely important for a website with long-form essays and lots of images. You also assisted in optimizing the contents even more, which was really helpful.

At one point I had an issue with a configuration of a plugin to handle the sales process for the All Access Pass, a crucial part of the WP Summit. I reached out to your support. They were able to help me within minutes and we got the sales process implemented.

My feedback would be to extend the Varnish caching functionality where certain URLs could bypass. Varnish creates conflicts with login forms. It will be great if you can find out a way to avoid these conflicts.


You can follow Jan Koch on Twitter.

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Owais Khan

Owais works as a Marketing Manager at Cloudways (managed hosting platform) where he focuses on growth, demand generation, and strategic partnerships. With more than a decade of experience in digital marketing and B2B, Owais prefers to build systems that help teams achieve their full potential.

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