The Truth About Search Engine Optimization - Blogging Bookshelf

[Short on time? Click play above to listen to a 1 minute review of the book, or right click here to save.]

The Truth About Search Engine Optimization is the first real book I’ve ever read about SEO. I’ve read lots of blog posts and ebooks on the subject, but I’ve never read a book about it till now. I think part of me felt like SEO was too fast-paced, too “now” to be in anything but the digital medium. Anything published in a book would undoubtedly be obsolete by the time it actually hit the shelves, right? And besides, aren’t books are for lame, Life 1.0 things like quilting or cooking, not mother-friggin’ search engine optimization? The sooner we can get SEO programmed into a chip and implanted into our brains, the better. Books are SO 1450 to mid-to-late 90s.

Well, not so much. This book is awesome. I think I probably learned more about SEO and how it works from this book than from most (if not all) of everything else I’ve ever read on the subject combined. This book brilliantly answers the questions: What is important in SEO and what isn’t? What should I be focusing on? What is the future of search?

This book is comprised of 51 bite-sized (2-5 page) SEO principles that total 208 pages. These are pretty general tidbits of SEO information. You’re not going to find much, “Ok, submit your page to Site X and Site Y, download these tools, and do this and you’ll have 1000 backlinks.” It’s more like, “This is how a search engine works. This here is a myth. You don’t need to worry about that there, but definitely worry about this.” In fact, here’s the Table of Contents so you can see what I’m talking about:

Part I: The Basics of Search
Truth 1: Getting noticed by spiders, robots, and crawlers
Truth 2: Learn to do the Google dance
Truth 3: It’s not about traffic–it’s about qualified traffic
Truth 4: Your reputation is on the line
Part II: The Truth About Being Site-Specific
Truth 5: SEO is an ongoing project, not set-it-and-forget-it
Truth 6: SEO is not an afterthought
Truth 7: SEO results aren’t immediate or lasting
Truth 8: You don’t have a homepage anymore
Truth 9: Think like a publisher, even if you’re not
Truth 10: Site and page design count
Truth 11: Write for users and search engines will follow
Truth 12: Keywords are key
Truth 13: Use analytics and keyword research tools
Truth 14: Site stats share the bad news, too
Truth 15: Think twice about hot new technologies
Truth 16: Content management systems matter–a lot
Part III: Tag, You’re It!
Truth 17: What’s in a title? Everything…
Truth 18: The relative importance of meta tags
Truth 19: Tag images, audio, video, and other media
Part IV: The Truth About Links
Truth 20: Some links are more equal than others
Truth 21: Building links through online directories
Truth 22: Using SEO PR as a link strategy
Truth 23: The jury is out on paid links
Truth 24: Share and share alike: Reciprocal linking
Truth 25: Ads are links, too
Truth 26: Build your site in a good neighborhood
Truth 27: Blogs are a terrific link strategy
Truth 28: Putting the kibosh on link love with nofollow links
Part V: You Call That a Search Engine?
Truth 29: Search is going vertical
Truth 30: Everyone is local somewhere
Truth 31: Get listed to get vertical
Truth 32: Optimize off-site searches
Truth 33: Universal search and personalized search
Part VI: Get a Social Life
Truth 34: Blogs are built for SEO
Truth 35: RSS feeds “feed” SEO efforts
Truth 36: Users will create content for you
Truth 37: Tag images, video, links, and other media
Part VII: Search Ranking
Truth 38: Being #1 ain’t what it used to be
Truth 39: Don’t live and die by PageRank
Truth 40: Wag the long tail
Part VIII: The Truth About SEO Management
Truth 41: In-house or outsource?
Truth 42: Hiring a great search professional
Truth 43: Great SEOs sweat the small stuff
Part IX: Don’t Be Evil
Truth 44: Beware blackhat SEO
Truth 45: Search engines frown on keyword stuffing and spam
Truth 46: Don’t cultivate link farms
Truth 47: It’s very difficult to get unbanned
Truth 48: Moving to a new domain is stressful
Part X: Going Beyond
Truth 49: Global SEO
Truth 50: Mobile SEO is more important than ever
Truth 51: Sometimes you don’t want to be found


So as you can see, it covers most of SEO’s bases.

This book wasn’t written for webmasters or super-ultra-mega-geek types. It was written for the person who wants to know sound SEO principles and wants to distinguish between fact and fiction. There are things that I’ve read online about SEO that are downright wrong according to this book.

Ok, that’s all well and good, but is the author legit? Does she know what she’s talking about? Has she done more than just pay for some $29 Wordpres SEO book? Yes. Let’s talk about the author real quick. The author, Rebecca Lieb, has long been in the industry for ages as a writer, editor, and journalist. And according to the back cover, “For almost eight years, she was Vice President and Editor-in-Chief of the ClickZ Network, including, the largest source of interactive marketing and advertising news, opinion, commentary, and resources in the world, online or off.” So those are pretty good credentials.

This book IS

    • For people brand new to SEO or who want to start learning about it.
    • For people like me who have read a bunch about SEO online but want a clearer, bigger picture of SEO and know what exactly they should focus on and know what is myth and reality.
    • An easy, digestible read.
    • For marketers who want to know more about search engine marketing in particular.
    • Useful because it not only teaches you SEO theory, but tells you specific things you can do to make your website better.
    • In fact, let me throw in this quote from the intro:
  • “Though there have been many books written about SEO already, most have been very tactical and dealt exclusively with the particulars of tweaking your HTML or building inbound links. Although Rebecca’s book surely contains SEO tactics that can immediately be put into practice to gain higher rankings, her unique perspective as someone immersed in marketing both online and offline ensures that the book speaks o the boardroom or the marketer, and not exclusively to the webmaster [vii].”

This book is NOT

  • For you if you’ve read multiple books about SEO. I have not (thought I’ve read free ebooks and lots of blog posts), and found the info very useful. But if you’ve read multiple books on the subject, you might be bored.
  • A step-by-step guide of how to get from page 3 to page 1 in Google, though if you follow everything in here, that will likely happen.
  • For professional SEOs.
  • For hardcore programming geeks who want info about things like how to make more SEO-friendly code.
  • For people looking for a guaranteed solution to their SEO problems. This book will not make you rich by itself. It will not give you a magic bullet that will kill your competitors. But it will let you know sound principles that, when applied, will help you rank higher in Google (and other search engines).

Some of the info in the book applies to blogging more than others. For example, I doubt most bloggers are going to hire their own SEO expert any time soon. But even in those chapters there’s useful information you can glean. Like in the chapter about an SEO expert’s duties (which seems to be written  for boardroom types who need to hire an SEO guy), the author lists a few things that the SEO expert should do that you as a blogger can be doing on a regular basis. Wow, that was kind of convoluted sentence. Hope that makes sense.

Anyway, here are some of the things I learned about SEO from this book:

  • Google’s market share in the US is nearing 70% of all searches. In Western Europe, Google has 91% market share!
  • Search is the fastest growing sector of the Internet.
  • Place nonessential graphics lower on the page.
  • Place keyword-rich content near the top of the page. “Most search experts agree the keywords should appear in the first 100-200 words on the page.”
  • Among the most important stats for you to track: unique visitors, referrers, keywords, time spent, bounce rates, exit pages.
  • Optimize your title pages. I feel like I try to optimize my posts pretty well, but fail to do so on my pages. The book the example gives is that the “About” page on a law firm’s website should be “About the law firm.” Throw in keywords wherever you can.
  • At present, Google displays 160 characters of meta description (including spaces). This is good to know when optimizing your meta tags for posts and pages.
  • Does PageRank really matter in SEO? “Sort of. Early on in the history of both Google and SEO, it mattered a lot. But PageRank is longer the be-all, end-all criterion of whether a search optimization endeavor is effective.” That’s surprising to me; I’d always thought PageRank was a huge part of SEO.
  • 16 types of search engine spam: 1) Keywords unrelated to the site, 2) Sneaky page redirects, 3) Keyword stuffing, 4) Mirror/duplicate content, 5) Tiny text, 6) Doorway pages, 7) Link farms, 8) Cloaking, 9) Keyword stacking, 10) Gibberish, 11) Hidden text, 12) Domain spam, 13) Hidden links, 14) Mini/micro-sites, 15) Page swapping (bait and switch), 16) Typo spam and cyber-squatting

I do have two gripes about the book. But the first is not so much about the book as it is about SEO itself. There are several instances in the book where the author says things like, “Doing X MAY hurt be bad,” or “Doing Y COULD hurt your ranking.” I’m annoyed by the fact that there was sometimes a lack of concretness (is that even a word?). I felt like shouting, “Dangit, I don’t want to know if something MIGHT be good or bad, I want to know what definitely IS good or bad!” I realize, however, that this is an industry problem, not just a problem with this book. The major search engines do not entirely reveal the algorithms they use to rank websites. The result is that there is and always will be a degree of ambiguity in this field. It’s annoying, but it’s the way it is. Anyone claiming sure-fire stuff is full of it.

And then here’s the second gripe. Throughout the text, the author refers to different websites and tools that you can find in Appendix A, which is supposedly online here. But I went there and for the life of me, I see no appendix. Seems like a rookie mistake to me. I can understand why an appendix that would be just a bunch of links would be best as on online page and not just a list in the back of the book. But if you’re going to do that, make sure the site you’re sending people to is actually what you say it’s going to be.

In short, this is a great book and a great addition to any blogger’s bookshelf. Let me finish this review by giving it my highest praise as an avid reader and reviewer: I will not get rid of this book, and I will read it again.

Click here to check out the book on Amazon.