SEO Tips From Google's Matt Cutts

by Jeff Garrett on August 20, 2009

I came across a video of Matt Cutts’ 2009 WordCamp San Francisco presentation last week and thought I would share it along with the key notes I took away. If you aren’t familiar with Matt, he is in charge of the webspam team at Google and specializes in SEO.

It should go without saying that anyone interested in ranking better in the search engines should listen up anytime an employee of Google speaks. Titled Straight From Google: What You Need to Know, Matt shares tips on how to do better on Google. Although the presentation is geared towards blogging and WordPress, many of the principles can be applied to any website.

My Notes from Straight from Google: What You Need to Know

Matt on WordPress

  • Quote: WordPress automatically solves a ton of SEO issues.”
  • WordPress solves 80-90% of SEO mechanics.

How does Google work?

  • To understand how Google works, you need to understand PageRank. In Matt’s words, PageRank is “the number of people that link to you and how important those links are.”
  • Google crawls roughly in order of PageRank. Thus the higher a site’s PageRank the faster Google finds it, the deeper Google crawls it, and the more frequently Google revisits it looking for fresh content.
  • Quality wins over quantity – high quality content can make a big difference.
  • Don’t obsess about PageRank.

Matt’s 50,000 foot view of SEO

  • There’s attention between relevance and being reputable.
    • Relevance = what you say on your page. Be on topic.
    • Reputable = what people say about you, or how they link to you.
  • Be relevant by writing about something that you care about. As a result you’ll write about it more often.

Keywords

  • Ask yourself: What would you search for on Google to find your product?
  • Think of all the different ways you can describe something and naturally fit them into your post.

URLs

  • Matt recommends using /%postname%/ for Permalink structure.
  • Edit your automatically generated URL. View your post title and URL as separate opportunities to rank for different keywords you want your post to be found for.
  • Make categories relevant.
  • Use dashes over underscores.
  • Don’t worry about changing old posts, rather keep these tips in mind for future posts.
  • Don’t overuse keywords.

How to Gain a Reputation (aka Get more PageRank)

  • Be interesting.
  • Update often.
  • Start small in a niche where you can do well then build up.
  • Don’t over reach.

Adsense Tip

  • Add these tags around your posts to mark out the meat of your posts – ignoring sidebar, footer links, etc. This will ensure the displayed ads are relevant to your content.
  • <!-- google_ad_section_start -->
    <!-- google_ad_section_end -->
    

Google Webmaster Tools

  • Use Crawlstats to monitor how long it takes for Google to load your site.

Interesting Note: When viewing the stats of his own blog Matt mentions he switched his theme this past May and as a result his site is loading much faster. I quote “because I changed my theme and it does better CSS handling.” Although it remained unnamed, this is a nice plug for my theme of choice, the Thesis Theme for WordPress, which of course is what Matt uses and was referring to.

Google Analytics

  • Use to view a list of your highest ranking pages. Go back and update old posts that may be ranking high because they may now be irrelevant or need updating. Or, write a new post about the same subject.
  • Try reducing bounces by showing “Related Posts” at the end of each entry.

Security

  • Keep your WordPress installation updated with the latest version.
  • Powertip: Add the following htaccess code in /wp-admin to block intruders out of that directory. You’ll obviously need to substitute your own IP addresses.

AuthUserFile /dev/null
AuthGroupFile /dev/null
AuthName “Access Control”
AuthType Basic
order deny,allow
deny from all
#whitelist home IP address
allow from 123.45.67.89
#whitelist work IP address
allow from 123.45.67.89

In Summary

Thanks to Matt for this powerful information. Although much of this isn’t news to my ears, it validates a lot of what I’ve already been practicing. It proves that Google wants to display “quality” content which is good news for us and I suspect more weight will be put on it in the future.

If you are interested, you can follow the link to grab a copy of the slides. For more information from Matt I suggest following his blog at Matt Cutts: Gadgets, Google, and SEO or on Twitter @mattcutts.

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