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How to Rank Well in Google with Your Blog Matt Cutts Style

Performancing have a great interview with Google engneer and webmaster relations guy Matt Cutts where he talks about splogs, Adsense and ranking well in Google. It’s a really worthwhile article – especially his answer to a question about how bloggers could rank well in Google. I’ve broken his answer down into some bite sized points (with some of my own comments beside them in brackets and italics):

  • I wouldn’t bother with year/month/day in blog urls; I’d just use the first few words from the title of the post in the url – (this is key information. If I was to make one change to the way I set up ProBlogger it’d be along these lines – I’m halfway there with keywords in titles but the date numbers were a silly move).
  • Don’t try to rank for a huge phrase at first–pick a smaller niche and get to be known as an expert there, and then build your way out and up – (very wise. The beauty about being the number 1 blog in a small niche is that you get a lot of inbound links virtually every time someone talks about the topic. This enables you to build up your authority both in the eyes of readers, other bloggers and search engines which in turn allows you to expand and perhaps even compete for some of the big terms)’
  • Controversial posts are sure to build links, but too many controversial posts may undermine your credibility. I think you attract more links with a conversational style, humor, and doing your own research to produce new insights or tidbits of info – (I’ve written about this myself on a number of occasions. Controversy can have an impact in the short term but to sustain it can be difficult. If you want a sustainable blog you better be willing to back up those controversial posts with worthwhile content that stands on it’s own two feet).
  • In my opinion, just commenting on other blogs isn’t as useful. There are a lot of ways to build a reputation, from having a great blog to producing a unique service to speaking at conferences. A single creative idea that catches fire in the blogosphere or digg.com is probably more useful than just chasing/buying/trading links. Original information or research is great bait to attract link – (I agree but not completely with this one. There are some bloggers out there that do very well with link style blogs. It’s much much harder to make it big these days with this style of blogging though and most new blogs coming on the scene that are making it big are doing so with original content).

Read the full interview at Google Talks About Splogs, Ranking & More

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Chris Howard says:

    Smart titles. I’m surprised he didn’t mention being smart about how you title your posts. My understanding – please correct me if I’m wrong – is that the words in the title receive greater recognition from the Google indexing formula than the words in the post. So try to get keywords in your post title.

    Is that right Darren?

  2. Chris says:

    Regarding year/month/day numbers in the URL, while I understand they detract from the keywords in the URL they are useful for your search engine visitors to be able to tell if a link they are about to click is timely. Many times, I’ll pick the result that I can tell is more current and often that isn’t the result that ranks the highest.

  3. That can cut both ways, Chris… If you have a highly ranked post with an older date, it might detract from your page.

  4. Tommy says:

    For search engines to start penalizing for dates in url’s would really go against the whole concept of “relevant” results. Concentrating on the date, which would be very easy to do, would push “recent” results ahead of potentially more “relevant” results. I’m not buying it.

  5. IO ERROR says:

    The date in the URL is not particularly relevant to the search engines, it seems. It’s the “archives” in the URL which is going to hurt you, sooner or later.

    The key is to find a good URL design and stick with it. The WordPress default of /%year%/%monthnum%/%day%/%postname%/ is about as good as it gets (but you still have to turn them on).

    More on good URL design.

  6. IO ERROR says:

    Ah, you know I’d forget something.

    Almost all of the blogs I’ve seen which don’t use dates in the URL turn out to be splogs. So eventually I’d expect to see this style of URL fall into disfavor. I certainly don’t favor it.

    I do use dates in URLs, for blog posts, though I don’t always use the complete date. If I expect the blog to have posts less than once a day, then I will only use the year and month.

    And the tip to read Google’s webmaster guidelines is solid. WordPress will do much of this for you automatically, but they are still issues to be aware of when building a new site, doing a redesign or even small tweaks.

    You’d be amazed how many people break their blog and suffer because they didn’t pay attention to this sort of thing — or the author of their theme didn’t pay attention. Most WordPress themes have either minor or major problems and you’ll wind up fixing the theme before doing anything else.

  7. Jake says:

    I am switching over to use the date and title.
    Not sure if this is best, and I could argue it both ways.

    but on my new blogs I can do this, so that is what I will do.

  8. I do not use dates in my permalinks and don’t seem to have too many problems with it. Whether or not an article is timely doesn’t really matter to me. I’m more interested in the information rather than when it was written.

    Also, regarding the digg.com mention, there is a lot of traffic that can come from digg.com. I’ve seen “some people” digg a blog post as a third party, and then push it with their main account. I guess if it drives traffic that’s all that matters. But even so, a ton of people visit digg everyday, and that’s a lot of traffic not to tap.

  9. vivek says:

    Google News needs format yyyy/mm/dd and it is one of the thing they need it if you wanna get your site listed on Google news. See discussion http://performancing.com/node/254#comment-669

  10. Croak says:

    Having experimented with the dates myself when I first started, I ended up dropping them. But the good news is, since you use WordPress, if you go in and modify your permalink structure, your .htaccess file will still reference the OLD links as well as the new ones.

    Long story short, you can stop using the dates today if you choose, and it won’t break any of your old link love, it will simply add yet another alias to all your old links (you know that you can still access the posts using the default WP pageXXX address as well, right?)

    The only problem is, you’ll light up the RSS readers, as every changed post url will register as a new one.

    Visit the WP Codex to verify what I’ve just said (I did my change using WP 2.0 Beta 2, the permalink code may not have been as robust with 1.5x).

  11. Scrivs says:

    This goes well with what I had to say on WordPress and Permalinks. Dates to me are more of a publishing issue than a SEO one.

  12. Cary says:

    One caveat that hasn’t been mentioned here…if you’re writing about medical research, you may want to keep your dates in place. I for one get a large percentage of my traffic from people looking for research published during specific months/years.

    This is not a case of one size fits all.

  13. Here’s instructions on how to switch to “postname.html” URLs without losing old permalinks (for WordPress).

  14. Duncan Riley says:

    Problem is if you dont use a date in the URL you run the risk of duplicate entries, if you are writing 30 posts a week chances are you are going to repeat your headline on occasion, dates makes sure this cant happen.

  15. Darren Rowse says:

    Tommy – as far as i see they are not penalising the use of dates but rather they seem to give more weight to keywords in titles. Google looks for keywords from your post in many positions – all Matt was saying (if I’m reading him right) is that while many bloggers differentiate their posts with numbers that it’d be more effective at getting indexed for certain keywords if you included those words in your URL instead of numbers.

  16. Duncan Riley: No, WordPress “slugs” are unique for each post. If you had a post called “something”, the next post on this will be “something-1″.

  17. Esoos says:

    Actually, I don’t think it’s the date in itself that’s the problem, rather it’s that fact that each date segment adds another directory level.

    From my experience, the deeper the page, the less often it gets crawled, the longer it takes to get assigned PageRank, and the poorer it tends to rank in general. Of course, that varies with the popularity of the site, as a popular site can afford to have pages buried several directory levels deep and still do quite well. But newer or less popular sites can be putting themselves at a disadvantage.

  18. TLB says:

    “you can stop using the dates today if you choose, and it won’t break any of your old link love”

    Does WP use a 301 redirect to send /date/post.html to post.html? If so, it might take a while for the search engines to a) figure that out and show the new page and b) give the new page the same pagerank as the original page.

  19. Chris Howard says:

    What’s the relevance of dates in URLs? Who even cares about finding posts by date when they’re reading most blogs? (Cary’s excellent example excepted)

    So what’s the point of dates in URLs? I use seach to find old posts. I don’t go “Hmmm? I wonder what Fred wrote on blogging in February?” or “I know that post on Google adding glom-detection was around August…”

    Besides Cary’s example, I’m yet to see how dating URLs adds value to *most* blogs.

    The posts themselves are dated, so a person can easily distinguish between which (on a topic) was written more recently if that’s important.

    If your blog is a diary…then maybe it’s of value to be able to go back to April 2000 and see that you were going through your cheese phase.

    Otherwise, dating URLs is a throwback to when blogs were simply glorified diaries and most modern blogs don’t need to do it.

    What we needed is advanced search in WordPress (I can’t speak for the others) so users could search by words, categories, dates etc and combinations thereof. If someone knows of one for WP – please let me know!

  20. TLB says:

    Addendum to #19: If WP doesn’t do a 301 redirect, but just transparently shows the contents at the old URL at the new URL, that would probably be a problem. In that case you’d be showing the same the same content at two different URLs. If you have links to both forms of the URL and one doesn’t redirect to the other, one of those is probably going to end up in the supplemental results, and the pagerank derived from the links to that page will probably be lost.

    So, WP doing a 301 is the best option and probably what they do. But, in that case your web server has to do extra work everytime someone requests an “old” URL: it has to figure out the page has been moved and then serve the 301. Then, it gets an additonal request for the “new” URL. There might even be more redirects involved in some cases where, for instance, it redirects from site.com/dir to site.com/dir/ (with the slash on the end).

  21. BlogBoy says:

    Quick question: why hasn’t anybody tried to use /postname/ first, and then the date? So that it would be:

    http://www.yourblog.com/post_title_with_keywords/2005/12/16

    Let me know if this is feasible at all… the point of this of course, is to get the keyword closer to the site’s address, which is the real factor for search engines if I understand correctly. This way, you could have both the keyword boost and the archival/organizational value of using the date.

  22. miscblogger says:

    Hey Everybody, this is what I do with the dates in permalinks. I used to do the default wordpress url/year/month/day/postname. Then i read this article. So i decided to use a url/year-month/postname. i just used my htaccess file to do 301 redirects so it will be a seemless experience for returning and new visitors. so far, its been working great. check it out at http://freewarereview.info and http://bankblog.info.

  23. Lon Kost says:

    Usefull information and all is good arranged. Just want to say that I find your site enough interesting for me.

  24. fher98 says:

    I have spent the last few days trying to make up my mind about how to write my permalinks,.. before reading this post i was using the ugly p=?number,… now I believe this post has pretty good advise on the subjet,.. just change my permalinks to %postname%,..

    thanks for quite a usefull info!!!

  25. Great tips! Will consider them once I move to a self-hosted blog

  26. Team Nirvana says:

    Great tip.No matter how many years earlier it had been posted. This is very valuable to the new bloggers like me. Thanks for sharing them.

  27. renan orola says:

    nice blog it is very informative more people appreciate this kind of blog..thanks for the tips i learn in this blog.

Trackbacks

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    How to switch to Google-optimized permalinks in WordPress

    Darren Rowse wrote today the points he extracted from interview of Performancing with Matt Cutts, Google engineer, where he talks about optimizing blogs for search engines.
    The first point was “I wouldn’t bother with year/month/day …

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