Time was when someone asked me to recommend a good book on search marketing, there were only a few available—Search Engine Visibility, by Shari Thurow, Winning Results with Google AdWords, by Andrew Goodman, Search Engine Marketing, Inc., by Mike Moran and Bill Hunt, and a few others. These books have mostly stood up to the test of time (and all have been relatively recently updated with second editions), but search marketing techniques and tactics change quickly, so it’s always good to be on the lookout for new publications.
This year we’ve seen a significant increase in the number of search marketing books being issued in dead-tree format. Over the course of the next couple of weeks, I’ll be doing a roundup of the best that I’ve seen.
- A Roundup Of 2009′s Best SEO Books (this article)
- A Roundup Of 2009′s Best Search Advertising Books
A roundup of 2009′s best SEO books
The Art of SEO
by Eric Enge, Stephan Spencer, Rand Fishkin & Jessie Stricchiola
O’Reilly Media, $44.99
If you could assemble a dream team of highly respected SEOs, with years of collective experience practicing the art of SEO and constantly pushing the envelope to develop new strategies and tactics to gain competitive advantage—the four authors of this book would be at the top of any list of candidates.
The Art of SEO is a deep dive into virtually all aspects of search engine optimization, from basic blocking and tackling to highly complex techniques that address thorny challenges for website owners. The authors are all not only skilled practitioners of what they rightly describe as an “art,” but are also adept communicators who can explain sometimes arcane topics clearly and with insightful examples drawn from experience.
Of all the books on SEO I’ve seen this year, this one is most likely to wear out from frequent use as you return to it again and again for practical advice.
When Search Meets Web Usability
by Shari Thurow & Nick Musica
New Riders, $29.99
“Usability” is one of those words that many SEOs have heard, but don’t really use as part of their working vocabulary. And that’s a shame, because website usability is an increasingly important factor in how search engines determine relevance, and thus, rankings.
Unlike other books on SEO, When Search Meets Web Usability doesn’t focus on page or site-level optimization tactics and techniques. Instead, the focus is squarely on the user—specifically, on searcher needs and behavior, and how you can design your website to satisfy those needs and accommodate the behavior in a way that leads to fulfillment of your ultimate goal: conversion.
The authors offer some great insights into searcher behavior and how good usability makes sites more search engine friendly. There are some excellent checklists and questions to ask yourself that go a long way toward improving both the user and search engine experience of virtually any website.
And if you (or your boss/client) is skeptical that paying attention to search usability can really have an impact on the bottom line, there are some great worksheets and examples that clearly map out costs and returns of both neglecting and including usability as part of your SEO efforts—without taking anything away from the rest of the book, these alone are worth more than the price of the book.
by John I. Jerkovic
O’Reilly Media, $44.99
Like The Art of SEO, SEO Warrior serves as a comprehensive overview of current SEO best practices, and offers some good insights into some of the tools available to make life easier for the practitioner.
SEO Warrior would be a good choice if you want to get up to speed quickly on current search engine optimization techniques. Although John Jerkovic writes in the preface that he wrote the book with a diverse audience in mind, the book is really most appropriate for practitioners who have to get their fingers dirty with the daily routines of SEO rather than managers or executives.
The Truth About Search Engine Optimization
by Rebecca Lieb
FT Press, $18.99
Anyone who attends search marketing conferences knows that some of the best learning and insights into what’s currently happening with SEO takes place outside of the session rooms, in informal conversations in hallways, restaurants and bars.
Reading The Truth About Search Engine Optimization is similar in many ways to hanging out with the pros and networking at conferences. The book is organized as 51 “truths” about search engine optimization, each a nugget of wisdom gleaned from Lieb’s many years experience of working with writers and subject experts as Executive Editor of online marketing publication ClickZ.
Lieb’s style is conversational and breezy, and while she offers tons of tactical and how-to advice, she also deals with business and marketing issues that are sometimes overlooked in other SEO books. As such, this makes The Truth About Search Engine Optimization probably the best book in this batch to give to C-level executives or other business-types who are less concerned with nuts-and-bolts and more concerned with how SEO efforts impact the bottom line.
Search User Interfaces
by Marti Hearst
Cambridge University Press, $50.00
With our focus on search marketing at Search Engine Land, it’s unusual for me to review an academic textbook, but Search User Interfaces is an unusual book—and I mean that as high praise.
Author Marti Hearst is a professor in the School of Information at the University of California, Berkeley. A primary focus of Dr. Hearst’s research is user interfaces for search, and she’s invented or participated in the development of many of the search interfaces that are now standard on the web.
For search marketers, the book offers some great insights into how people interact with search engines—what they look for, things they like and dislike, and how the overall search experience can be improved—all things that we can learn from to improve our own campaigns. Apart from being a fascinating history of the development of search interfaces, the book also discusses research that points to new developments we can expect in search interfaces in the coming years that will undoubtedly have an impact on how we practice our craft as search marketers.
What’s unusual about the book? For starters, the entire book is available free online. You can also watch videos from Dr. Hearst’s U.C. Berkeley course, Search Engines: Technology, Society, and Business. Speakers include a veritable whos-who of luminaries in interface design, including Dr. Jan Pedersen, Yahoo Search, Manager of Search Relevance (also a chief architect of AltaVista), Dr. Peter Norvig, Google’s Director of Search Quality, Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, Dr. Sue Dumais from Microsoft Research and many more.
In all, a wealth of information to satisfy the inner search geek in all of us.
FTC 16 CFR Part 255 Disclosure: The publishers of most of the books reviewed here provided Search Engine Land with complimentary review copies, but had no editorial influence and did not provide any compensation to be included in this roundup.