Whitehat SEO Tips for Bloggers by Matt Cutts
This post is a summary of 68 minutes of talk by Matt Cutts in WordCamp 2007, “Whitehat SEO Tips for Bloggers.” Pretty much all of the tips and strategies explained still apply nowadays.
For those who prefer to watch the video (or listening while reading), here is the embedded video from the talk. It is worth listening to at least once if a big chunk of your traffic relies on SEO — especially Google.
Enjoy… wish you an optimal day with your blog.
Google doesn’t hate your site, unless you are trying to trick search engines. For that, it will respond by penalizing your site in the search engine result pages (SERPs) — either a drop in ranking or banned from the SERPs.
WordPress Plugins that Matt Cutts Uses for SEO and to Improve User Experience
Here is a list of plugins that he is currently using in his blog:
- Akismet. Comment spam filtering. Note: Why a lot of people spell it as Askimet?
- Match Comment Spam Protection. Challenging an author of a comment to answer a simple math question to ensure that people are actually submitting the comment.
- Google Analytics. Put in footer.php, most likely to make the page loads as fast as without the web analytics code.
- FeedBurner Feed Replacement. Matt uses a feature that lets you make your FeedBurner’s feed appear as if it is hosted in your own domain, like feeds.marketingloop.com/<afeed> instead of feeds.feedburner.com/<afeed>
- Democracy. Polling plugin that supports AJAX and widget, so you can put a poll in the sidebar without editing the code.
- SEO title. Instead of using an additional plugin, Matt simplifies it to <?php if (is_home()) bloginfo(‘name’); else wp_title(“”); ?> in header.php.
- WP-Cache. This is something he has love and hate relationship with. When you’re bombarded with traffic from Digg, you want to have this installed, but normally you may prefer to run without it.
Besides those above, here are plugins Matt considers:
- Brian’s Threaded Comments. Turns your comment into threaded and indented comments. This makes your comments area more usable.
- Comment Karma. This plugin allows users to rate comments.
- Author Highlight. Prints out a user-specified class attribute if the comment is made by the specified author.
- WWW Redirect. Allows you to pick the canonical URL of your blog. (I personally don’t recommend a plugin. Use the internal web server configuration because it is faster and much more efficient.)
- Permalink Redirect. A WordPress plugin that replies a 301 permanent redirect if requested URI is different from the entry’s (or archive’s) permalink.
- Related Entries. Outputs a series of related entries based on keyword matching. There are also plugins that look for tags and other factors to determine relevance.
SEO Keywords Tips
It helps to think about the keywords people are typing in. By using Google Keywords Tools, you may be able to find relevant keywords. With those keywords, you can work on those keywords into your blog post, or create entirely new blog posts.
Category names should be keyword rich. Use dashes to separate words. The second best is underscore. If you already have a permalink scheme set before, don’t bother to change because while it matters, it doesn’t impact rankings that much.
Use the alt attributes in images.
Different extension in the URL doesn’t matter when it comes to SEO, but avoid .exe and perhaps other extensions that may trigger cautions.
Dynamic URLs should have low number of parameters if you want Google to be able to index them.
SEO Usability Tips
If you use WordPress installed, you can almost ensure that it is good in crawlability. The fact that WordPress displays a post in 3-4 different ways does make it suffer a bit though.
In blogs when freshness counts, make sure post publishing or creation dates are easy to find. Preferably, put them on top of or below the title. Dates could also appear at the end of the blog posts.
Google doesn’t care about link depth — the number of slashes in a URL — but other search engines may.
Moving to a New Domain
Use 301 (permanent) redirect. It is standard advice because it transfers your page authority to new location.
This is where things can go wrong, so if you are not sure pick one sub-directory and move it first. If the traffic stays roughly the same on the desired domain, go ahead and switch.
It is an opportunity for you to fix things if necessary before moving entirely.
Don’t forget to standardize your backlinks (canonicalization) on the new domain too and write to everyone to update their links if possible.
Free Google Tools
Google provides Webmaster Console for every site owner.
If you use robots.txt to control behaviors of search engine robots, make sure you test before pushing live. Webmaster Console helps you with that. The tool is also useful to submit an authenticated spam report and remove URLs.
(While you can see backlinks data, they are not complete and fresh but still useful and better than nothing.)
Other data you could see in Webmaster Console include 404s, crawl errors, and crawl stats.
You can get extended feed stats for free by using FeedBurner. It also lets you brand — with the MyBrand feature — your feed accordingly with your own domain but still access the complete functionalities.
Google Custom Search Engine enables every blogger or web publisher to integrate site search into his/her web site.
If you are an AdSense publisher, use section targeting to help Google displays more relevant ads.
Finally for this section, Google Analytics — in my humble opinion is an indispensable tool — is great to gain insights into your web site and/or blog.
SEO Ranking Advice
What Google wants is that you get noticed, then get traffic from Google instead of get traffic from Google and then get noticed.
If you create resourceful and useful service, rankings should be natural. (Of course, you also need promotion to spread the words and let people find it.)
It helps to be creative.
Avoid SEO Mistakes
Change default permalink to clean URL. /%postname%/ is great and used by many bloggers.
Never use sponsored theme. It may cause you to lose all your trust in different search engines.
Avoid Pay Per Post, especially on WordPress.com that is not allowed in the Terms of Service. They even highlight it in blue.
Protect Your WordPress Installation
A quick way is to restrict the /wp-admin/ directory so it is accessible only from IP addresses that you use to access and publish blog posts.
This avoids many security issues, although it is by no means the be-all and end-all solution to avoid security related break-ins.
Return to Blog SEO — Whitehat SEO for Bloggers in a Nutshell.
Return to Blog Tips for a Better Blog — Blog Building University.