My first session of the day is with Matt Cutts from Google whose presentation will be “Straight from Google: What You Need to Know”.
Matt says that the number one request he receives or hears is “I want to do better in Google”. He says that WordPress already takes care of 80-90% of your SEO and offers up a few plugins that will help you fight spam and up your SEO. “The beauty of WordPress is that you don’t need to do a lot of stuff.”
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He goes on to explain that before you can rank better on Google you need to understand how they work. Getting to PageRank most people in the audience think it’s based on “fairy dust” or “secret sauce” although Matt explains it’s based on: The number and importance of links pointing to you.
Avoid Backlink Obsession or what Matt calls “BO”. How does Google rank pages? You want to be relevant and reputable. “If you do not love something, don’t write about it – life’s too short.” It all comes down to being relevant — What do you love? What are you good at doing? What do you have to say? His SEO tips = keywords. Think about all the ways you can naturally describe something, “you don’t have to stuff it or sound unnatural.” A great tool is the Google Keyword Tool.
Basics in WordPress include optimizing your URL structure… having clean urls like http://miss604.com/contact instead of http://miss604.com/p=?1222546. You can also update your post’s permalink structure individually to optimize single posts. He says you can also optimize your category structure — mark things as “apple” and not “cool stuff”.
“After you mention ‘furniture’ once, two or three times, we know you’ve got furniture.” Don’t go keyword crazy – you still need to keep your content relevant. “If you’re reading it aloud and it sounds stilted, you’re overdoing it.”
Matt’s next tip is to update often followed by applying the ‘Katamari Philosophy’… “the one thing you learn in Katamari is that you’re always reaching.” He adds, “Start small, start in a niche where you can do well, and that might be a very small niche. But then build up, build up, build up. Don’t overreach.”
He also says gaining reputation is important to Google and ways to build that up is by providing a useful service, doing original research or reporting, give great information, and find a creative niche. “If you have one good idea, that can carry you so, so far.” Next tips are writing some code and live blogging is a great help. Also you can make lists (people love lists) and create controversy (bumps up comments).
“Should I do a podcast or a video? Well put your photo up on Hot or Not and if you’re a 6 or higher, do video,” says Matt.
There are a ton of Google tools for bloggers including Webmaster Tools. A tip from Matt is to look at who is linking into your 404 pages (broken links) and it may be worth contacting the author to get them to fix the link. Also, use Analytics to find out what your top posts are. Revisit them and toss in some updates if they’re old or outdated.
A question from the audience is about bounces, meaning how many people come to your site then leave right away. Matt says that “related posts” plugins and links are helpful in keeping readers on your site, exploring your content.
Matt also says don’t fall for scams and don’t run scams — it’s actually in the WordPress terms of service to not use the site for evil err I mean phishing or scamming.
He says one of the top tips he can give is to UPDATE your WordPress, make sure you’re using the latest version. An example he gives is the Nazi Party website where there is a bunch of code at the bottom that is obviously spam… “Who do you hate more, the Nazis or the hackers that hacked the Nazi Party website?”
Matt has his talk up on his website, which you should check out since I missed a few chunks. I think his commentary was great and they’re all things I believe in. I’ve been asked how I get readers or followers on Twitter, as though there’s some kind of a trick or scam to it. The thing is it’s organic — I care about my content, my readers, my audience, and I use all of the legitimate tools out there to help build and promote what I create and share.