Search Engine Optimization Tricks for WordPress
If you missed Matt Cutts performance at San Francisco’s WordCamp 2007, you should totally kick yourself because it was awesome. And yes, it was a performance and believe me, the WordCampers Ate. It. Up.
Matt was on hand Saturday afternoon to give some whitehat search engine optimization tips for bloggers. I joked with him during lunch (cause we’re like, totally friends now) that there would only be a handful of people in his session because no one knew what search engine optimization was, but I was wrong. The room was packed and Matt was arguably Day 1′s MVP because he was both informative and hysterically adorable.
The tip shared by Matt that’s getting the biggest amount of coverage was the news that Google is very close to being able to interpret underscores as word separators the way hyphens have been in the past. This should make SEOs and bloggers alike very excited because it means the benefit of their keyword-rich URLs won’t be negated when their blog software automatically inserts underscores and not hyphens. This is also smart for Google because it should go a long way to strengthening their blog search, which at the moment is good, but not quite as good as Technorati.
Matt gave several other WordPress and blogging-related search engine optimization tricks, including:
- Don’t put your blog at the root page of your domain. What if down the line you want to do something else besides a blog? Also, people will typically link to your main page and to your main blog page so it’s a good way to gain extra links.
- Name your directory "blog" not "Wordpress".
- Use category names that are good keywords.
- Use Stephan Spencer’s SEO Title plug-in which swaps the name of your blog with the name of your post to make your keywords more prevalent.
- If you want any hope of getting your blog into Google News, make sure there are multiple authors. Hey, that reminds me, have you seen our new Authors Page? It’s pretty, except that I look psychotic in my photo.
- The type of file extension used in your URL won’t affect your rankings, unless it’s "exe". If each one of your blog entries is its own program, you likely have a problem.
In terms of including question marks or hash marks in your URL, Matt noted that Google will truncate the URL at the hash marks and that question marks typically signify a dynamic URL. Matt claims that dynamic URLs are treated the same as static URLs.
Beyond just the tips, Matt also discussed some optimization stuff that was really just common sense. In terms of keywords, Matt advised doing keyword research and/or thinking about the keywords users are most likely to use before writing (duh), naturally working in keyword synonyms to make yourself more well-rounded (Use this knowledge only for good, never for evil, pleads Matt), and using ALT tags on all forms of media content. This includes not only images, but video, audio and other forms as well. This is only going to get more important.
Matt says if you’re not sure if you should do a podcast or vidcast, head over to the site hotornot.com and submit your photo. If you’re a 7 or above, do a video. If you’re a 6 or below, stick to podcasts. Heh, nice.
Also noteworthy was that somehow during the session PageRank and Google’s supplemental index was brought into the conversation. (See, Matt, it’s not just us optimization folk who are obsessed). I giggled but Matt told the blogging audience that supplemental results are determined mainly by PageRank. The only way to get them out of the index is so get them more links. There may or may not have been some cringing by me when he said this. I don’t think Matt noticed, nor did my fellow WordCampers.
To create an optimization-friendly blog, bloggers should also:
- Make sure your site is crawlable.
- Make post creation dates easy to find. Anyone remember Sicko?
- If you’re worried that adding the date with put more slashes into your URL, don’t worry. Matt says this isn’t a problem for Google.
- Check your blog on a cell phone/iPhone, as more and more users are going to be looking at your site this way.
- Use full text RSS feeds to get loyal users. Partial feeds get more page views, but not as much love.
- Your blog should do standard pings.
Matt ended the session noting that Google really wants to be a reflection of the Web. The best thing you can do for your site and ensure that Google knows about you is to get noticed. Create compelling content and users and Google will find out about your blog naturally. Create fun tools (LOLcat builder), controversy (Dvorak!), mention Robert Scoble (hiss!) or go the linkbait route and sell your mustache on eBay (Oh, Dax…).
Matt offered a lot of great blog optimization tips, but for me, the good thing about WordPress and most other blogging software is that it’s really search engine optimization friendly right out of the box. I’ve played around with a lot of blog software over the years, WP included, and it does a good job of handling most of the technical things for you. All you have to do is provide compelling keyword-rich content in a way that people want to read and link to. That’s not so hard, right?
Okay, ducking now.