WordCamp San Francisco

Matt Cutts at WordCamp SF – How to do better in Google

by on May 30, 2009 · 11 comments

“WordPress takes care of 80-90% of SEO mechanics.” – Matt Cutts, Google Search Quality team

Matt’s presentation at WordCamp – Straight from Google: What you need to know was full of little nuggets about WordPress SEO.

He stared off with a simple and direct definition of Google PageRank:

Google PageRank = the number of people that link to you and how important those links are.

He then went on to describe some details of how Google ranks pages for the search results.

How does Google rank pages?
It looks for pages that are both relevant and reputable.

From the floor at WordCamp SF 2009

From the floor at WordCamp SF 2009

Being Relevant

Matt’s advice to making your blog relevant was to ask yourself these questions:

  • What do I love?
  • What am I really good at doing?
  • What do I have to say?

If you don’t love what you write about, don’t write about it!

Being Reputable

Here are some tips on producing reputable content:

  • Be interesting (e.g. Fake Steve Jobs)
  • Apply Katamari philosophy – start small in a niche, roll up things into bigger things…
  • Provide a useful service for your niche
  • Do original research or reporting (Danny Sullivan – compared spam on Gmail, Yahoo. | Louis Gray – watched his referrers, strange user agents, blogged about it, called out some new bots..)
  • Give great information (e.g. Lifehacker – High quality tutorials and guides)
  • Find a creative niche (icanhascheeseburger, One Sentence, [email protected]#$ My life, Penny Arcade, xkcd

SEO Tips from Google

Next, he gave some general SEO tips.


  • Think about the keywords that users will type. Include them naturally in your posts
  • ALT attributes are handy (3-4 relevant words)
  • Don’t forget image search, videos, etc.
  • Don’t stuff your content with keywords – just use natural language.
  • Look for keyword opportunities using the Google Keyword Tool.

He gave an example of a site that was all about iPod car accessories. Their primary keyword phrase was popular in Google, with about 540K searches per month. But using the Google Keyword Tool, they found the keyword “itrip” was getting 224k searches per month but wasn’t anywhere on their page. Add that phrase!

PageRank is one of 200 things the Google algorithm looks for. Here are a few other things it looks at:

  • Things in title tag
  • Things in your URL
  • H1 tags

WordPress SEO Tips

He wrapped up with some SEO tips specific for WordPress.

WordPress SEO recommendations:

  • Use %postname% for the URLs
    Having the date is ok in the URL, but make sure some keywords are in your URL. Using %postname% includes your post title in the URL.

  • Here’s a cool example of helping your post match multiple keywords. You can slightly vary the keywords in the title tag and URL of your post. For example:
    title tag = Changing the default printer on Linux and Firefox
    url = change-default-printer-linux-firefox

  • For keywords in the URL – use dashes, better than underscores, but do NOT do no spaces!! Here’s an example:
    Good: blogname.com/experts_exchange/
    Better: blogname.com/experts-exchange/
    Not good: blogname.com/expertsexchange (oops!)

  • Another quick tip: you can also include good keywords in your WordPress category names.

Here is a link to Matt’s presentation: Straight from Google: What You Need to Know

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Don is an entrepreneur based in Silicon Valley. He founded Expand2Web and is the publisher of the Expand2Web Blog, and the GetFiveStars Customer Feedback and Reviews service.

Don has written 313 articles on Expand2Web

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

David Mihm May 30, 2009 at 7:49 pm

Don, thanks for the great recap. I didn’t have the patience to go all the way through Matt’s preso online. Nothing earthshattering to the SEO world here but kudos to him, and to Google, for making the effort to reach out to bloggers at large!


Don Campbell May 31, 2009 at 9:57 am

David ,
Right – I think Matt does a nice job of distilling the “mysteries” of SEO down to the basics that everyone can understand and repeating the message.

Every time I see him present he does this to debunk some of the myths of SEO and reinforce that what wins with Google are the basics – great content, basic site structure, and a few very basic mechanics (title, url, headers…) -vs- all the “tricks” that people think are the keys to manipulating the search results.


Keith davis June 14, 2009 at 1:40 am

Thanks for the summary Don.
David is right, there are no great revelations to the world of SEO but perhaps the interesting point is the quote from Matt Cutts “WordPress takes care of 80-90% of SEO mechanics.”

I didn’t know that, but it’s a good reason to be changing over to Wordpress for small business sites, which I guess is what you have been telling us for some time.


Larry September 29, 2009 at 3:49 am

Hi Don,
I just came across your post as I am new to WordPress and researching. I noticed in the post you mention that Matt Cutts recommended using /%postname%/ for the url and that you are using /%category%/%postname%/. Everywhere I read, someone has a different opinion on this. What do you think is better for a new WordPress Blog?


Don Campbell September 29, 2009 at 8:26 am

Hi Larry,
Thanks for your comment and the opportunity to clarify this.

I am using %postname% but WordPress automatically inserts %category% when you are viewing a category page. So if you view an actual post you will not see the category in the URL.

I used to use a format that included the date in the URL, and then I ended up removing that and moving to %postname% which I agree is the best URL structure for most cases.


Larry September 29, 2009 at 8:33 am

Thanks for replying Don.

The reason why I asked is because when I am viewing this page on your site, it is showing up as:

By looking at the url, it appears that /blog/ is the category. As I mentioned above, I am new to WP but when I add a post using /%postname%/ in the settings, there is nothing else put in such as blog. You can see on my site I am setting up through my user link.

Either way, thanks for the good article. I think I will use /%postname%/ in my blog(s).


Don Campbell September 29, 2009 at 8:37 am

Ah, I see. Yes, the reason that /blog/ is in my post URLs is because for this site I’ve installed WordPress in the /blog/ directory. So you’ll see that in all of my URLs. /blog/ is the ‘root’ of my blog installation.

Many times it is better to just install your blog at the root of the domain, but in my case for Expand2Web I have other things going on and I wanted to keep the blog in its own directory.


Larry September 29, 2009 at 8:39 am

Got it. Thanks again for the quick reply. I’ve bookmarked your site for future reference.


Derek (Cheap Websites) Carroll August 8, 2011 at 7:48 am

Great post (as always)… I have a quick question if OK [this is how I actually found this post]
My review site is not WP, did Matt mention any disadvantages to having the blog located in a location other than the root, as yours is?
I would like my site up-datable from anywhere online, for example I’m away for 3 weeks now, but don’t want to lug my computer around all the time.
Would I be better to try to change it over to WP [it’s +/- 25 pages] now before I go any further, or should I just add the “/blog” on?
I have quite some content ready to start drip-feeding over the coming months and I don’t want to mess up this site.
I know you have a lot of experience in this.. would appreciate your comments!


Don Campbell August 8, 2011 at 10:48 am

Hi Derek,
It doesn’t matter from an SEO perspective. In fact, I remember Matt saying in an earlier interview that the best arrangement is to have your home page on / and your blog in the /blog/ directory. It really depends on your situation and what you are trying to do, but there is no inherent disadvantage to putting your blog in a sub folder or sub directory.


Derek (Cheap Websites) Carroll August 8, 2011 at 2:30 pm

Thanks for that Don,
I remember seeing that on his video too.
I guess I’ve got to clarify what I want to do exactly for myself here.
Appreciated your input, it helps to clarify the situation.
Gets me moving though.


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