Matt Cutts talks how to rank on Google with WordPress

My brother has always been singularly design-focused — he’d spend hours and hours on making something (whether it be a WordPress theme or a website logo) look better. If we were building a product, he couldn’t care less about beating the competition and getting to market first. To my design-oriented (superficial, if you ask me) brother, looks matter the most.

So I was really surprised when he sent me a message with a link to a video of Matt Cutts from the WordCamp SF 2009. In this throwback video, Matt talks about how to rank on Google using WordPress. I hadn’t seen this video, so I was curious if any of the tips that Matt Cutts mention in it still apply to our real and up-to-date Panda-slash-Penguin Google world.

Surprisingly, most (if not all) of the SEO principles that Matt Cutts espouses in this 2009 video are still valid today. If you have time to spare, watch the 46-minute video above — it’s like a refresher course on SEO for WordPress.

To watch the video, click the play button on the video above this post.

Five takeaways from the Matt Cutts video

Here are five things I learned (reminded of, in a couple of cases) from watching this video.

1. Vary the URL and post title

I always thought that for a post to have a better chance of ranking well on search engines, I must use the exact same keywords in both the URL and post title. Not so, says Matt. He recommends changing them up a bit. For example, if your post title is “How to Rank Number 1 on Google”, you could change your URL title so it says /ranking-top-spot-google.

2. Make the WordPress permalinks SEO-friendly

The default WordPress permalink is not SEO-friendly (for example, http://www.metahead.com/?p=123). I have no idea why WordPress hasn’t changed this. So you must remember to change the permalink settings in Settings > Permalink to make it SEO-friendly (for example, http://www.metahead.com/%postname%).

3. Don’t bold your keywords

When I was just starting with blogging, there was a school of SEO thought that espoused the idea that we must bold our primary keywords in a post to tell search engines that they are your primary keywords. I guess this follows the logic of using heading tags (h1, h2, h3, etc.) for your heading titles. Again, Matt says bolding your keywords a hundred times isn’t going to help.

4. Focus on a niche

Matt says that if you’re building a blog or a website, remember to start small and focus on a particular niche. It will be easier for you to communicate your website’s theme to search engines if your pages focus on a particular niche and use similarly-themed keywords. The example he gave was, if you want to start a gadget blog, don’t tackle all types of gadgets at once. Start small, focus on a niche in which you can do well (maybe a niche with fewer competition). For example, focus on a smaller niche when you’re just starting — maybe focus Android or BlackBerry phones. Once you have established that your blog is about this small niche, you can gradually introduce other niches into your blog, until it becomes a full-blown, authority blog on gadgets.

5. Show related posts at the end of post

Have you been caught in a YouTube loop or spending hours on 9gag because you keep finding other funny posts after your initial visit? You can do the same to your blog visitors, Matt says, by presenting a list of related posts at the end of posts. There’s plenty of WordPress plugins out there that do this. On metahead.com, I use YARRP.

There you go — the five most important things I learned from watching Matt’s video from 2009 that are still valid today.

Of course, over and above these tips is what I believe to be the single, most-ignored tip from Google — Put your visitors’ interests ahead of yours. If you do that, your visitors will be happy and they’ll probably be back for more — and with them, maybe even a friend or two.