Review: The SEO Book

Aaron Wall's SEO Book has been on my must read list for over a year at the time of writing. I've finally finished all 220+ pages and would recommend it to anyone involved in Search marketing, from absolute beginner to guru - Seriously.

On This Page

Overview

The SEO Book takes you right through the vast spectrum of techniques, tools, theories and history of Search marketing. While some chapters are lighter than others, every one is packed with detail, with an interactive section at the end of each for quick reference to tools and sites mentioned.

For experienced Search marketers, it may not be quite what you think. I presumed it would be very much aimed at the newbie market, and whereas it will certainly benefit those new to Search, for the more experienced marketer it proves an invaluable reference, and refresher on each facet of the game.

The best part, for me, is the fact that it's an eBook, and is being contantly updated and revised. At the time of writing im reading another paper book on PPC, and that one, whilst enjoyable, and only just published, is already woefully out of date. The SEO Book is not.

Chapter Walk Through

Chapters 1 & 2: Why Search? - A Brief History of the Web

The first two chapters are introductory, well duh! They're not entirely skipable though. There's a basic introduction to Search which touches upon some concepts such as document frequency and inverse document frequency, which are explained in greater detail in a later chapter.

Search Spam is hit fairly early on in these early chapters and a good overview of the technical, consequential and ethical considerations is given without (too much) bias toward Aaron's personal stance.

"Tying ethics to SEO techniques is a Marketing Scam. Either a technique is effective or it's not"

The second chapter rounds of with an extensive run through of the issues to consider with domain names. It covers all you might expect including tld's, dashed-domain and language considerations. Though flagged as "not needed" by most site builders, the section on niche network building is pretty cool too, though lacking in serious specifics.

Chapter 3: General Internet Topics

For those new to site building, this chapter gives an overview of some of the seo-centric considerations to take into account when building from the ground up. The point being, that SEO is more than just links, it's built into everything you do, every decision you make. Such topics as CSS, templates, includes, and CMS software are covered in brief, with the only noticeable ommision being a good list of SEO friendly blog/cms program.

The copywriting section here was good, providing what looks to be an excellent list of recommended books and good tips on writing copy with an emphasis on sales copy.

Usability is also covered, with a large section on the evils of Flash based design and the virtues of CSS and small file sizes for Search engines.

An overview of revenue generation models concludes the chapter with talk of contextual advertising, affiliate programs, and a great piece on one of my favorite rant subjects: "It's not about price, dammit!" - "Price and Value" is a good read in this section if you're new to marketing in general, or just need to be reminded a little :)

The remainder of the chapter focuses on the bullet points of online business models, typically a long paragraph or two on each point.

Chapter 4: Writing for Search Engines

This is where the SEO Book, for me, really begins to take off. It depends on knowledge levels I guess, but this and the next chapter were the most interesting parts of the book as far as I'm concerned.

Keywords, keywords, keywords. Yep, it's all about those keywords, and this chapters primary focus is just that. We start off with some general admonishments to focus on specifics, and leave generics well alone. Swiftly moving into targeted Search phrases, the book walks you through keyword conversions, the keyword pyramid, and keyword research -- with a great list of keyword tools and services.

Keyword suggestion tools and discovery techniques are an essential part of any seo's toolkit. There are good explanations of such tools as Wordtracker, Google Suggest, Overture Keyword Suggestion and Google Keyword Sandbox, aswell as a whole list of lesser known but powerful research tools.

Keyword competition was a great section for me, as many of the tools cited were known to me, but not necessarily bookmarked, and some of the techniques for judging the competitiveness of a keyword/phrase were very new, or long forgotten -- This particular section i'll most likely come back to time and time again, not to mention finally sorting out my outdated keyword tools bookmarks. Smashing stuff.

Meta tags, along with page title's takes us right back to SEO 101, the take home here comes from the large section on page titles where the focus shifts to ROI.

Optimizing page copy as you would expect is de-emphasized as an important part of SEO in this next section. The focus instead, tunes to page structure and good use of headings, and other HTML elecments aswell as how to smoothly integrate keywords naturally into a page.

Content building concludes the chapter, with a strong statement on how junk content will only damage most websites. The list of ways to find quality free content however, is superb, with ideas for finding both cheap premade content, cheap custom written copy and more premium freelance hire.

Chapter 5: Interacting with Search Engines

This is where it all starts to get very interesting for Threadwatch regulars, it's the meat of the book, and for me, the best chapter by a long shot.

After busting a few myths as an inroduction, we kick right into the contraversial topic of comment spam on blogs. It's a contentious issue at best, and I think it's handled very well, presenting a view that's anti-automated script, pro-thoughtful commenting in order to attract both attention from peers in your niche, aswell as Search engines. It should be noted that this book isn't an instruction manual in the black arts, it's aimed at the ordinary to advanced site builder, not professional spammers.

Directories provide a strong topic for the next section, and it's really where you start to see just how current the SEO Book really is. After listing some of the larger, better respected directories, the topic of junk directories is broached, with references to Trustrank graphically explained, aswell as techniques for determining the value of a directory link and places to find good ones. Current thinking on Google and directories is a damn good read in this section. From what i've seen around forums at the time of writing, many just don't want to believe -- If you're ignorant of current Google trends in this regard, this short explanation will put you bang up to date.

Search engine specific SEO provides the focus for the next several sections, running through each engine in order of market share. Topics for each engine typically include:

  • Ranking algorithms
  • Specific tools and techniques
  • Perils and pitfalls
  • How to succeed in that engine

The section on Google as you might imagine, is particularly strong. Everything from topic sensitive pagerank, to latent semantic indexing, to Hilltop is covered with varying degrees of detail. If the section on Google was an eBook in itself, I'd buy it.

Really, this part of the book is so jam packed with information i couldn't take it all in, i think it will take me three or four goes to for it to sink in properly.

After some advanced tips for Google, that includes some great techniques for finding link partners, the other engines are all given similar, but lesser treatment. That's not to say that they're lacking, just that the main emphasis is somewhat proportionate to Search engine market share.

Linking, as a general topic gives much food for thought, with topics such as varying anchor text, directory submission tips and the pros and cons of reciprocal linking.

Tools for link analysis are discussed in some depth, with references to such essentials as SEOElite and Optilink before touching on tips for link requests, both sending and receiving.

The hot topic of buying links bows us out of the chapter, with good sections on how to evaluate links for rent. Link brokers are touched upon, but the odd, and glaringly obvious ommision here is the lack of any kind of commentary, recommendation or even list, of link brokers. Instead, Aaron wants you to email him...?

Chapter 6: Pay Per Click

This section particulary interested me as at the time of writing, im anticipating my first foray into the murky waters of PPC.

After a brief introduction, we move right into the two main players: Yahoo! Search Marketing (which needs updating, as it still reads as Overture) and Google Adwords.

Yahoo! Search Marketing, formerly Overture is something i know even less about than Adwords, so i'l confess to skimming a little here, as it just didn't interest me as much as moving onto the Adwords section. It did seem to be a reasonable introduction to YSM though, with sections on SiteMatch and LocalMatch, a good overview of the YSM provided tools, third party tools and copy writing for this specific medium.

Google Adwords -- Now this did interest me, and as again you might expect, being Google, it was a more comprehensive section to wade through.

Click Through Rate (CTR), is the first port of call as we navigate through the, what is to me at least, quite complex Adwords set of topics, features and considerations. CTR's role in the Adwords algorithm is the topic of course, and well explained -- we move onto cover ExactMatch, BroadMatch and PhraseMatch, which prior to reading, were all a bit of a mystery. If i can get it, anyone can.

Details on how to use the Keyword Sandbox aswell as negative keywords and dynamic keywording make for good reading also.

Look out for the bonus! "How to Slash Google Adwords Costs to Maximize Profits" was an eyeopener to a PPC newbie like me.

Syndication levels are explained in the next section, covering each in detail, with tips on how to maximize performance for each. This moves on to a large section on Adsense, and in particular, what it means to Adwords advertisers including some advanced advice on click fraud.

General tips conclude the chapter, with a range of information from simple to sophisticated.

Chapter 7: Monitoring Results

At this point, the book starts to wind down. After a brief note on the importance of constant monitoring of results, we move right into the juicey subject of SEO worst practices which outlines many techniques that no longer work, and may get your site penalized or removed from Search indexes. There are a few mentions of shady techniques that currently work, if done correctly also.

The chapter serves as somewhat of a miscellaneous section to the book, covering a range of tips and tricks to bear in mind, and although a little disjointed does contain some of the "good stuff".

Chapters 8, 9 & 10: Buying and Selling SEO, Quick Start Tips

To be frank, the business of buying and selling SEO services holds little interest for me, so for now at least, i've just not read them.

The Quick start tips chapter is a nice roundup of the more important points raised throughout the book, and brings us to the end nicely.

And the Verdict is...

I loved it! I've wanted to read this book for over a year now, and can't believe I've been without it all that time.

As both a tutorial, and a reference, it's a wonderful piece of work, with an unrivaled depth of current, up to date information on an ever changing subject: Search Marketing.

My only criticisms are that it reads rather disjointedly, perhaps due to contant updates. The style of writing is often not up to par with the depth of information, and it could use a little reorganizing. What it could really use, is the services of a professional copywriter, if only to help organize all the sections into a more coherent order.

Having said that though, I'd thoroughly recommend it to anyone, at any level, involved in Search marketing for any reason.

Share Your Thoughts

You'll notice that tnere are no affiliate links in this review, it's my opinion, for no reason other than I wanted to write it. We can do a little better than that though eh?

If you've read The SEO Book, tell us what you think.

Note: Comments in the resources section may occasionally be pruned.

Comments

Three thumbs up

I agree it's a great book. For me, reading it was reaffirming a lot of what I knew--but don't get me wrong, there were also quite a few times when I thought, "duh, why didn't I think of that!"

And really I ought to be RE-reading it, I read it over six months ago and it's probably been updated several times since.

I agree with Nick's crticism that it can be a bit disjointed, but I think that's the price we pay for constant updates.

And I disagree that a professional copy editor would help things... The blunt language and occasionally informal writing style convey the knowledge best, methinks. Maybe the jumbled non sequiturs provide a clue about how Aaron's mind works ;-)

btw nice review Nick. You could make that into an ebook!

Excellent SEO Book

I second that. Great review too, Nick.

Great Book, Great Revew

I've never actually got round to reading straight through the book, but I've dipped into it so many times, and always found something helpful, something I didn't know - about more than just SEO. One of the benefits of the slightly disjointed nature of the text is that you can just leap to the relevant section and get what you need without having to have had a lot of context from earlier pages.

Updates

One of my favorite things about the book is you get periodic updates. Nick's right that probably does make it a bit dijointed if you read it start to finish. Another suggestion is instead of or in addition to sending email updates, why not do the RSS thing.

RSS

That would ROCK!

My!

I've never seen you so positively happy about something Nick. I think this book did wonders for your attitude, too, somehow!

OK, well after putting it off this long, I think I'll order myself one next week and try to read it on the plane to San Jose for SES.

Quailty and such a deal...

Aaron's eBook is quailty at its best and it is such a deal. I got in when it was only $39.95 and I kind of felt like at that price I had just ripped him off.

With all the updates what you really have done is hired a SEO/SEM'er to work for you full time doing research and sending you monthly reports of his findings.

Nick you pulled out another home run. This was a quality review of a quality eBook and it was nice to see you didn't swear once.

SEO

Great book, and great work Aaron. Excellent review Nick.

Nick you pulled out another

Nick you pulled out another home run. This was a quality review of a quality eBook and it was nice to see you didn't swear once.

it's a shame you didn't curse, nick, because, truthfully speaking, the book fucking rocks.

Money well spent

I think you've got a new testimonials page Aaron! ;) I know he's worked extremely hard on constantly improving his book. Very nice breakdown too Nick. I think Andy's right that it's definitely soon time for a re-read.

Is it an e-book?

Is it an e-book?

No it's an eBook.

No it's an eBook.

eBook - pdf

grnidone, I bought and downloaded it yesterday, and got it as a pdf file. I am a Paypal member, so payment was easy, although I assume that paying by credit card is pretty easy too.

Found the separate joining up for the update emailing list a bit peculiar: You receive a confirmation email in which you need to click a link, and when you do, you are sent to the SEObook site and no mention anywhere about succes, failure or the next beer is on me.

This was one (more) conversion through editorial mention, Nick - feel your power? :-)

Great for Staff Training

I bought the book recently to use as a training manual for new staff. It provides a good, comprehensive understanding of all aspects of SEO as well as wider web issues. I now make all new staff read the book before starting. It brings them up to speed quickly and saves me loads of time in training. Cheers Aaron.

?

Nick, I bet you wish you DID add your aff code now.

Don't forget to do that next time. I'm 99.9% sure people won't mind.

I like it when people to it like this:
some link sign up
some link?me sign up using my affiliate ID - thanks.

Agreed Wit

Giving the option of either for those saavy enough to notice this sort of thing is a good way to go. Skeptics like me sometimes think that if you have your aff code in their, you're only givin' the testimonial for the $$. When there is two versions it adds credibility in the eyes of a skeptic. Not the case for all instances, but when marketing to a bunch of slanted-eyed online marketers, it's a nice touch.

Nick doesn't need the money off 50 or 100 aff sales

I would say that if the aff links were in the article it would have compromised the article in some peoples eyes in a big way and would have discounted a good review and taken the comments off what really needs to be discussed - the quality of the SEO Book and how much of a deal it really is.

I have suggested to Aaron that he raise the price quite a while back. I would say at $199 with a yearly fee of $49 it would still be a steal.

For those that don't have time to visit all the forums, wade thought lots of SEM articles this book is a great way to stay on top of what is happening.

I think it is yet to be discovered!

This was mentioned on Webmasterradio

by Danny Sullivan today.

Value

I bought the SEO Book at my last job, and left my successor set up to receive the updates. I spent a while trying to find a good SEO book to order at the local bookstore, and was happy to find Aaron's book. The best advice was to focus more on building a good web site, and not spend all your time on tricks that will be ineffective the next time a search engine updates its rules.

Given our web site's update cycle, that was great advice.

RSS

In case you miss it, Aaron is asking about RSS Security

We spoke last night about this, and i *think* you can just use htpasswd, and use the settings in your reader to access the feed - but i did suggest he get a proper DB of all his clients, and issue some proper account mgt..