Review: The Truth about Search Engine Optimization

Rebecca Lieb’s The Truth about Search Engine Optimization provides a concise introduction to the basics of SEO in an engaging way. It’s avowedly not a technical book, but it manages to get across some complicated concepts in an accessible fashion.

Its non-techie language makes it a good choice to give to clients or marketing colleagues who you want to steer away from SEO scammers. The author provides solid advice focusing on the need to provide ‘strong relevant content for users combined with links, keywords and phrases that make it search-engine friendly’. Readers are given a good appreciation of what to expect from an SEO professional and will also learn plenty of things they can do themselves to improve their site’s performance in the SERPs.

Amongst the sensible points made, there’s advice to ‘never hire anyone who promises the number one slot on Google’ and suitably dire warnings of the perils of link farms and black hat SEO. Detailed guidance is given on building a link strategy and minimising the effects on search engine ranking of moving domains. There’s nice balanced analyses of the importance of PageRank, the pros and cons of outsourced vs. internal SEO in organisations and the benefits of user-generated content for search. There’s also a welcome emphasis on the benefits of standards compliance for SEO, which it’s great to see presented to a non-technical audience.

Alongside all the good recommendations in the book, there were just a couple of things I didn’t totally agree with. There’s one section which reads like it encourages viewing “alt” text primarily as a keyword-placement opportunity rather than as a useful description for people using screen-readers. (Elsewhere however there is good accessibility advice on posting HTML transcripts for audio files.)

Also, I thought the section looking at Flash from an SEO viewpoint was overly negative for a book published in 2009. In 2008 Adobe and Google cooperated to deliver a great improvement in SWF search indexing and Flash sites now don’t have to be the search engine pariahs they once were (as long as developers know what they’re doing). Todd Perkins’ recent O’Reilly book on Search Engine Optimization for Flash covers the current state of play in great detail. It would be a shame if site owners just read ‘The Truth about Search Engine Optimization’ and dismissed all Flash development out of hand.

Generally though, this is a useful book you can recommend to anyone as an introduction to SEO or use as a refresher to provide a checklist of points any SEO project should cover.

The Truth about Search Engine Optimization by Rebecca Lieb is published by Que.

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Other books on SEO I’ve reviewed are Building Findable Websites and Where Search Meets Web Usability.

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