SEO book review: ABC of SEO (George)

I never know what to make of books organized in this pseudo-glossary style, where the only organization is alphabetical-by-topic-title. It seems like an abdication of the author’s responsibility to impose meaningful structure. It also makes the reviewer’s task slightly artificial – no doubt the encouraged mode of reading is dipping and sampling (perhaps with odd free moments in the smallest room of your house), but of course as a reviewer I felt obligated to read it cover-to-cover. So how will my experience match up with yours?

With that said, The ABC of SEO is surprisingly meaty, and rewards cover-to-cover reading too. It’s really a set of small essays, each of which is organized nicely on its own, and is surprisingly dense with technical info. It becomes increasingly clear that the glossary use-case is a fiction (would you really turn to this book for definitions of terms like “Competition”?), but it supports browsing through the table of contents for the topics you care about. Before the alphabetically-organized portion, George gives a good and balanced overview of the search-engine ecosystem, and the roles that engines, publishers, SEOs, and advertisers play in it.

The book really shines in the longer in-depth technical entries, where George explains details of crawlers, webservers, log files, and so on. Entries I thought were particularly strong or compelling (in alphabetical order, naturally 🙂 : Altavista, Anchor Text, Banning, Black Hat SEO, Content Targeted Advertising, In-Bound Links, Keywords, Misspellings, Robots and Spiders, and (especially) Traffic Analysis.

I like the point that George makes at several points in the text: no contract for services has been signed between SEOs (or webmasters) and the engines. Webmasters have no obligation to abide by rules set up by the search engines; engines have no obligation to include or rank a given site, and are entirely within their rights to exclude sites if they feel it improves user experience. I like this because it clarifies a debate that often gets a little hysterical and/or moralistic in both directions.

The book has a copyright of 2005, which (in this fast-moving domain) dates it slightly – it’s clear from the text, for example, that MSN was just launching its own in-house web search engine at the time of writing (with some entries written before, some after). Also, in general, it has to be said that the book focuses much more on Google than on the other major engines, including a lot of focus on PageRank itself. Although there are entries for both Y! Search and MSN, you’ll find nothing particularly detailed there on aspects of those engines not shared by Google.

George also cautions against some practices that might confuse SE crawlers, without naming specific engines that might be confused. He’s right in general that _some_ engines have had problems with these constructs, especially in the past. But it’s worth clarifying that Yahoo!’s crawler in particular has no problem with the following:

o Framesets. Whether or not framing is good web design, the crawler can snarf up the framed components into one bundle, without problem.

o Dynamic URLs. In general, it’s good to minimize the number of arguments after the ‘?’ in the URL, particularly when the arguments don’t affect the content and cause the same content to have many URLs (as with session IDs). But the crawler does not have any inherent problem with such URLs.

o Invalid HTML. No engine that I know of will discard your pages just because the HTML is badly formed (e.g. has start tags without corresponding end tags).

Overall, The ABC of SEO gets an enthusiastic thumbs-up for detail, accuracy, and sensible advice.

6 thoughts on “SEO book review: ABC of SEO (George)”

  1. Well, I finished the book last night, and give it two thumbs up! I think I could easily read it again. I have been playing around with SEO for a couple of years now, and as far as SEO goes I have been self taught up until this point. I had no clue that there was even a SEO industry until the last few months. I’m not sure how I was able to stay in a vacuum for so long especially since I run 5 blogs and two business websites. Up until this point my SEO adventures have been analogous to me ending up in a new room with no lights on. I was constantly bumping into walls and ending up back at the same place and not knowing how I got there.

    I know this might sound cliché but this book turned the lights on for me. I had been running on instinct the last couple years and this book put into words some of the theories I have had about SEO. At several points while reading this book I got so excited that I had to put the book down. Of course for you this would not happen because you already knew most of what was said in the book, but for me this book opened my eyes to a lot of SEO tips I would have never stumbled into.

    Side Note: You could tell this was the first edition of the book. There was at least a half dozen grammar errors I ran into. And, if I were the author I would not have chosen the title he did. I almost never gave the book a chance because of the title. In retrospect the title is appropriate, but it sounds too much like a kid book.

  2. I liked the book very much.First I changed my website title from M.K. gandhi to *Mahatma Gandhi* & the next day i found increase ranking of my site in google by keywork *Mahatma Gandhi*

  3. I’m the author of the ABC of SEO. First off, sorry about any grammar errors you may have found. The manuscript went through three proof readers and still there were some mistakes. I hope the next edition is an improvement.

    The point about the title is valid. As TC points out it is a bit of a fiction to enable the contents to satisfy the glossary “ABC” style. My aim was to write an introduction to the subject simply because so many websites miss out on the basics. This is as true today as it was two years ago. I wanted people to be able to dip into a section directly without having to commit too much of their precious time in a single sitting. The book could be a companion to other research, particularly websites and forums which use a lot of jargon.

    I’ve been working on a second edition, quite actively over the last month. My plan is to put this online but there will also be a book version as this is still a good format.

    Microsoft Search, aka, is a problem as they don’t seem to have settled on a strategy. At the moment they seem to be skimming sites and are quite heavily influenced by keywords in the domain name and URLs.

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