WordPress and SEO

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matt-cuttsMatt Cutts, a software engineer for Google, gave a talk at WordCamp San Francisco 2009.

According to Matt, “WordPress takes care of 80-90% of (the mechanics of ) Search Engine Optimization (SEO)”. So by using WordPress, you are already better positioned for search than the majority of websites. But what else contributes to page rank and search optimization?

I would highly recommend watching Matt’s presentation in full, but if you don’t have 45 minutes to spare, I took some notes:

Permalink Structure

Use a permalink structure in WordPress that will take advantage of your keywords. If your post titles have the most relevant search terms, use a preset structure like “http://wptheming.com/2009/09/sample-post/” or a custom structure like “/%postname%/”. You can read about this more in depth at Michael Gray’s site.

Alternate Keywords in the URL

The url of your post is an opportunity to use alternative keywords. If your title is “Changing the default printer on Linux and Firefox” you may want to your url be “change-default-printer-linux-firefox”. The difference is the keyword “change” in your url vs. “changing” in your title. By using both you will increase the odds of someone finding your content.

Also, make sure to separate the keywords in the url with dashes. WordPress already does this by default, but you may want to pay more attention to what gets generated.

An Overview of Page Rank

page-rankPage rank determines how fast your site is found by Google, how often they search for new content, and how deep they look. Matt defines page rank as “The number and importance of links pointing to you.”

Your page rank improves when other sites link to yours- especially if those sites are very relevant or popular. A link from the New York Times, for example, will contribute more to your page rank than a link from a small time blog with just a few readers.

How to Increase Page Rank

Offering content people want to link to will help improve your page rank. Matt offers these tips for expanding your reputation and generating quality links:

  1. Provide a useful service.
  2. Do original research and reporting.
  3. Give great information.
  4. Have a creative niche.
  5. Make lists, people love to read top ten reasons why…
  6. Create controversy.
  7. Social network and make friends.

I won’t give examples for each of these tips, though Matt does in his presentation. The main idea is if create content people want to read and share, they will link to you.

Tips for Writing Good Content

Be interesting. Write often. And Katamari- which is Matt’s metaphor for starting small, finding your niche and slowly expanding.

Keyword Possibilities

Think about what people are likely to search for and include those terms in your content. If you want someone to find a post about “flash drives”, also include the keywords “thumb drive” and “usb drive”. Google offers a tool to help you find out which keywords are relevant. Matt’s instructions for it are: “Think about the words you want to rank for, type those words in, and make sure those words are in your post.”

Don’t Overdo It

The last important rule is to not overdo it. You don’t need to use a keyword five times in a post. The search engine will get it after one, and definitely by the second. The most important thing is to be relevant to your readers and write interesting content.

About Devin

I'm a WordPress developer based in Austin, Texas. Follow my projects on GitHub, or more general WordPress ramblings as @devinsays on twitter.

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