Michael DorauschBy Michael Dorausch

This post is a combination of transcribed content from video recorded at a PubCon 2007 evening session that featured Matt Cutts, my organization of that content, and related resource links for websites or articles Matt spoke about during his presentation. The discussion was moderated by special guest host Guy Kawasaki, who was a keynote speaker at PubCon 2006.

Thursday morning photo of Matt Cutts(photo: Matt Cutts speaking at Thursday morning PubCon keynote presentation)

Matt Cutts: I’m sorry my mental gears are still making the shift, this is not your typical panel, I’m still kind of…

Guy Kawasaki: No it’s not, I’m not your typical moderator.

Matt Cutts: No you’re not. Um, OK. So here, here is Matts 3 step process to building up a really good site and getting a ton of traffic.

Step #1: Make a Compelling Service
If you’re trying to sell junk you’re going to have a much harder time. So spend the time, and the thing is you can start up a website really for a lot less money than you could even five or six years ago.

So, I think this has been a very useful theoretical discussion but let’s ground it a little bit, let’s take an actual specific example. Suppose you were going to start a site about, I don’t know, rumors about different companies, or something like that, OK?

Guy Kawasaki: (laughing) And you only have 12 grand.

Matt Cutts: And you only had 12 grand. First step is you make a compelling site, so imagine you’ve got that.

Step #2: Start a Blog
Seriously, blogs are one of the easiest ways to get links, engage in conversation, if people badmouth you on the web you can… defend yourself or badmouth them right back, depending on what your personality is like.

Step #3: Smart Marketing
Step number three is smart marketing and that can involve good SEO. If you do everything on WordPress you’re pretty much automatically covered as far as SEO, but you want to make sure things are crawlable. But the other aspect of marketing is having something interesting to say. So for example, valleywag, which is a Silicon Valley rumor sort of site, started out with a really juicy piece of gossip claiming that one person at a big company was dating another person at a big company. I’m not going to name them but they work at Google.

Um, and that helped propel that site up to a really big consciousness. So if I were doing, I don’t know, rumors about you know companies, or something like that, I would open it up to the public, but I would also try to do some investigating reporting, and get some really juicy tidbits or some really good scoops, because it’s not just controversy, it’s controversy backed by interesting facts.

And then I would think about broadening my scope a little bit. Start out with one or two companies that people are really interested in. Apple or Google or Yahoo or whoever. Dig down deep but also be open to new approaches. For example, what if you were to open up gossip and rumors about universities? Kids love to talk, right? People who are 20 years old will talk about all kinds of rumors about the university administration, other people on the university, classes, stuff like that. So looking for those kinds of niches in related areas can really help boost the buzz, boost the links, and boost the visibility to your website.

Guy Kawasaki: Matt, you said something very interesting and I don’t want to let it just slide by, you said that if you use WordPress, you basically have taken care of everything for SEO, can you support that?

Matt Cutts: Yeah sure, there was a really good article ah Stephan Spencer…

Guy Kawasaki: There you go pointing to an article again. (laughter)

Matt Cutts: All right so Stephan Spencer has talked about it but in general WordPress is pretty well SEO’d. Right? If you just start blogging you’ll pretty much be in good shape to get crawled by the search engines. In fact, WordPress 2.3 took some steps so that instead of having your content in three or four different places, they’re all unified on a single URL. So you can make your own HTML or you can pay some web designer to try to make a bunch of flash, but in some cases it makes sense to go for something that’s really cheap and really proven. And then if it works out you can always go with something custom down the road.

Stephan Spencer has a plug-in for WordPress: SEO Title Tag 2.1.2

I’m not certain, but I believe this is the Stephan Spencer article Matt Cutts was referring to.

Matt presented these tips as a result of Guy Kawasaki asking how they would game the search engines (there were five other search engine experts on the panel) if they were to leave their current employers (Cutts works for Google) and start their own business.

Other news from this last week’s PubCon include: Search and Blogging Reporters Forum, Matt Cutts on Directories and Links (from his Thursday morning presentation), Craig Newmark of Craigslist Kickoff Keynote (the first speaker of the four-day conference), Things I learned from Guy Kawasaki (the keynote speaker from PubCon 2006 who saw his blog move into the top 10 on Technorati as a result).