December 3rd, 2009 | 3 MIN READ

The Art Of SEO [Book Review]

Written by author_profile_images Linda Bustos

Linda is an ecommerce industry analyst and consultant specializing in conversion optimization and digital transformation.

O'Reilly recently published The Art of SEO penned by the rock star cast of search engine experts Eric Enge from Stone Temple Consulting, Stephan Spencer of Netconcepts, Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz and Jessie C. Stricchiola of Alchemist Media.

With all the changes we see each year in the search landscape, it's always good to have an up-to-date reference for your ecommerce team. The authors have included the recent updates like Bing, how search engines handle "nofollow" today, your options for canonicalization and how to optimize for mobile search, Flash content and video.

What You'll Learn

As with most SEO books, The Art of SEO kicks off with a couple "how search engines work" chapters and finishes with some guidance on the in-house vs. outsource decision and thoughts on the future of search. But what's in the middle is what makes this book unlike the others I've reviewed. There is lengthy and meaty sections on long tail keyword targeting (how to identify long tail patterns and how to work them into your copy, how to identify seasonal fluctuations in demand and conduct pre-holiday optimization). There is also very thorough explanation on how content management systems can hinder SEO efforts and how to overcome the challenges, rather than just alluding to the fact that "sometimes your CMS can be a problem." Ditto for Flash content.

I was impressed with an entire chapter dedicated to moving content after a re-design, domain change or server change including ways to mitigate your risk before the move and troubleshooot after. This is good supplemental material for ecommerce professionals who have more of a marketing background when it comes to SEO than a technical bent.

There's also a section on how to identify opportunities and measure SEO success using your web analytics. If you can't name at least 5 metrics off the top of your head that directly relate to SEO, pick up a copy of this book. And testing...there's great information on how to conduct SEO testing, which is much different than PPC or landing page testing.

SEO and Ecommerce

Early in the pages of The Art of SEO you'll find a very juicy statistic - 11.86% of search engine queries are retail related, second only to directories/resources at 16%. That means there are more commercial searches than there are for entertainment, news/media, games, business, finance and sports. Unfortunately most SEO books (or blogs) I've read have not dug deep into the specific issues of optimizing ecommerce websites, especially for large, complex sites. The Art of SEO is written to appeal to all types of websites and certainly addresses online retail issues throughout the book, but it has no dedicated chapter for online retailers. Nevertheless, all the content in the book is useful for online retail owners and ecommerce marketers, and as a reference, this book should address many of the issues pertaining to an online store.

Topics I would love to see covered in an SEO book for e-tail include link building for commercial sites (it's tougher than other types of sites, for sure), how to identify and optimize for keywords with commercial intent, how to handle discontinued product pages (do you just delete, redirect or keep on your site?), how to boost your rankings for branded and category pages, where to focus your energy when you have a site with over 100,000 products, etc. Retail specific case studies and SEO checklists would really boost the appeal for such a book. Maybe in the next edition...

The Verdict

Great reference for online retailers. Will bring you up to date on the major SEO issues on both the technical and marketing side.

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