Matt Cutts speaks on SEO at WordCamp SF 2009

September 2, 2009

Matt Cutts speaks at WordCamp San Francisco 2009 on Search Engine Optimization

I came across a link this morning to what I have to say is one of the best talks on Search Engine Optimization I’ve ever seen.  It’s a video of Matt Cutts speaking at the WordCamp San Francisco 2009 about search engine optimization and WordPress.  What I liked about Matt’s presentation is that he is amazingly forthright and straightforward about the importance of what I would call  “common-sense SEO“.

The Key to SEO, in my Opinion

It drives me crazy when I hear people talking about over-engineering search optimization.  For years I’ve preached, sometimes feeling like its falling on deaf ears, that SEO isn’t about trying to trick the algorithms into thinking your site isn’t more important than it is – don’t get caught up in keyword over-analysis, “friendly” URL’s, “entry” or “landing” pages, building “backlinks”.  I’ve long believed Search Engine Optimization is, at its core, simply about building the best website for your audience and doing so in a fashion that helps search engines to recognize what you’ve built.

Notice the key points there?  Best website, your audience, help search engines recognize it.  That’s it!  In 10 years of working in the Interactive industry I’d say 75% to 80% of the “SEO needs” I’ve encountered aren’t best solved by some crack “seo expert”, but rather are caused by bad thinking.  Building a site that doesn’t speak to the core business audience, or building a great site but doing so in a fashion that prevents search engines from finding the content or easily recognizing the value it holds.

Matt points out one of the beautiful things about WordPress is that “it solves 80 – 90% of the mechanics of search engine optimization.”  I have to agree with him and I love to work with WordPress (admittedly I don’t always use it… this site is built in Joomla, for example, not WordPress).  There have been many times I wish I had built it in WordPress simply because of the “mechanics” part of SEO.  URL management, meta data management, ease-of-publishing, and more.

Greatest Cause of SEO Failure: Bad CMS Platforms

What most people fail to realize about SEO is that your choice of Content Management System largely determines the fate of your exposure to and success with search engines.  While there are an overwhelming myriad of CMS choices out there, most of which “claim” to support SEO, the reality is the majority of CMS platforms I’ve encountered don’t actually support SEO at all!  In fact, the attempts to support search optimization in many CMS platforms will actually hurt your chances of ranking well rather than help.

Things like badly engineered “search-friendly URL” features combined with “link management” features that use a mis-mash of 302 redirects and “document codes” to make it easy for lazy editors to never have to update links within content cause untold damage to search ranking equity.  One particularly stupid CMS platform would actually create dozens of completely unique, randomly-named static HTML files for the same page to support its document management feature (in all fairness, that experience was now two years ago in 2007 and RedDot has since been acquired by Vignette, and Vignette is re-branded as OpenText, so hopefully their product line has evolved to a better place now).

I just can’t underscore enough the importance of selecting a CMS that won’t ruin your chances of SEO, or else hire an agency with super-expert software developers who can code their way around and through the havoc most enterprise CMS systems will wreak to search engine equity.

Bonus: Matt Cutts’ WordPress Plugin List

matt cutts' wordpress plugin listI snapped a screenshot from the video of Matt’s plugin list in WordPress.  Amazing.  He doesn’t actually use any of the “seo” plugins out there for WordPress.  Maybe we should take note?  Here’s text of his list: