A Beginner's Guide to Search Engine Optimization

  |  July 12, 2006   |  Comments

New to the sometimes confusing and seemingly arcane world of creating search engine friendly Web sites? A new book offers a systematic, commonsense approach to the art and science of SEO.

New to the sometimes confusing and seemingly arcane world of creating search engine friendly Web sites? A new book offers a systematic, commonsense approach to the art and science of SEO (define).

"Search Engine Optimization: An Hour a Day" by Jennifer Grappone and Gradiva Couzin is written for anyone who has a Web site and has yet to embark on the time-consuming process of optimizing the site for search engines. Both authors are experienced SEO professionals, and the book reflects the systematic approach they've developed whenever working with a new client.

Refreshingly, this approach focuses on not only technical tactics but also reasons SEO is important beyond just achieving high rankings in search engine results -- things like business goals, creating appealing marketing messages, and designing human-usable Web sites.

The book also avoids SEO techniques du jour, the kinds of tactics that are hotly debated in forums and that may or may not have any effect on your overall success. Rather, it focuses on a solid, fundamental approach using time-tested techniques that work regardless of seemingly arbitrary algorithmic changes by the search engines.

The book is very well written, using SEO-specific jargon only when necessary and always making sure to introduce new terms in clear English (there's an excellent glossary at the end of the book).

The first part of the book focuses on an area many newcomers totally neglect, often to their detriment: laying an effective foundation for SEO efforts. You must clarify your goals and really understand the fundamentals of how search engines work and what types of SEO activities do (and don't) work before plunging in to the work.

For anyone who works in an organization, the next key step is to create a strategy that works with your existing marketing, information technology, sales, and other groups to make sure your SEO efforts support the overall goals of the entire team. Part two of the book focuses on developing this strategy and offers suggestions on working with other groups and selling them on the importance of effective SEO.

Only when this important groundwork has been established should you begin the actual work of keyword selection and optimization, link building, and so on.

That's the focus of part three -- developing and implementing a comprehensive SEO plan for your Web site. This section takes a commonsense approach, breaking SEO efforts for your Web site into a 12-week process and, as the subtitle implies, dedicating an hour a day during this period to a specific goal-based task.

The authors provide useful tools for managing this process, in the form of spreadsheet-based worksheets to help you plan and organize your various tasks. Again, the emphasis is on providing simple but effective tools someone new to the process can use. That said, these worksheets are truly useful. You may find them becoming integral parts of your overall SEO toolkit.

Throughout the book, the authors offer useful tips as asides. "Pearls of Wisdom" tips are obviously tactics gleaned from experience, while "slacker" tips are great for letting you know when you can get away with less work or when you shouldn't obsess over a certain activity.

There are also longer case studies and expert opinions from other well-known SEO professionals, such as Aaron Wall and P.J. Fusco, scattered throughout the book.

In all, "Search Engine Optimization: An Hour a Day" is an excellent overview of SEO. It provides solid advice and guidance for anyone just getting started. The book is also useful if you've done SEO in the past but haven't kept up with the current state of search engines and the kinds of SEO techniques that work today (and want to know what to avoid to stay out of trouble).

Want to know more? Visit the companion Web site for more information, book excerpts, and downloadable copies of the worksheets described in the book.

Meet Chris at Search Engine Strategies in San Jose, August 7-10, 2006, at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center.

Want more search information? ClickZ SEM Archives contain all our search columns, organized by topic.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Chris Sherman

In addition to being Associate Editor of ClickZ's sister publication, SearchDay.com, Chris Sherman is a frequent contributor to Online Magazine, EContent, Information Today and other information industry journals. He's written several books, including The McGraw-Hill CD ROM Handbook and The Invisible Web: Uncovering Information Sources Search Engines Can't See, co-authored with Gary Price. Chris has written about search and search engines since 1994, when he developed online searching tutorials for several clients. From 1998 to 2001, he was About.com's Web Search Guide.

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