As Ian Lurie was mentioning in 2010 in his article on portent.com, the inevitable reference to “write great content”, “put more keywords on every page” or “exchange links with other sites” is redundant and mostly helpless in such SEO evangelization books. I will not be very original and will simply agree with Ian: this statement is not true for “The Art of SEO”.

You might wonder: “why is this marketing kiddo writing something about that book four years after it was released.” Good point. My answer would be: doesn’t an old Tarantino movie make your cinema culture more accurate? YES IT DOES. By reading this book, my second objective was to find out how fast SEO technics have been involving since 2011, which I think has an interest considering the blurry and quick evolution of Google’s SEO criteria since this company was created in 1998. “Much has been learned in SEO, many mistakes have been made, but now an entire industry of professions in search engine optimization and marketing has matured. The sooner you get started, the better you and your business will become.”

“This book can shave years off the learning curve of anyone thinking of delving into the world of search marketing” declares Duane Forrester, and I couldn’t agree more with this.

Some key facts found in “The Art of SEO”

Before I start giving you my humble opinion about this book, I would like to share with you some useful and fun statistics and key information found in this book:

  • 25% of the searches on Google contains one word, 25% two words, 20% three words,
  • 80% of the searches are informational, and only 10% are navigational or transactional, which should lead the marketing people to focus on content marketing of course,
  • 20% of the people don’t find what they are looking for via Search Engines (big improvement perspectives…),
  • 30% of online transactions occurs more than 24 hours after the initial search (imagine the same statistic for B2B only…),
  • What the authors of the book call “the long tail of search” (e.g. “Chart of Argentinian Market in 1994”) is where 70% of search queries occur,
  • in 2007, Google Vice President Udi Mander  indicated that 20% to 25% of all search queries that Google receives on a given day are queries that Google was seeing for the first time. “You can think this a the “ultra-long tail”” (page 171),
  • Search Engines can determine pixel color and, in many instance, determine whether images have pornographic content by how much flesh tone there is in a JPEG image,
  • SERP = Search Engine Result Pages,
  • QDF = Query Deserves Freshness. Google uses this to balance its results between fresh qualified content and old content that has stood the test of time,
  • Main Search Engines Ranking Factors,
  • Not new but important to remind: “Search Engines place the most weight on the words that appear at the start of the title”,
  • Negative Ranking Factors: easy access for crawlers, duplicate content, low-quality linking, shady link schemes, duplicate titles/meta tags on many pages,
  • I knew nothing about Advanced Google Search Operators, and I should feel ashamed about this,
  • Blended Search was implemented in 2007. Blended Search is the notion of integrating  images, videos, and results from other vertical search properties directly into the main web search results,
  • I have learnt the existence of another B2B search: ThomasNet.

“The Art of SEO”: to concrete to be called a Bible, to smart and complete to be called a refresher course

As you will find out if you read this blog from time to time, I don’t consider myself as a web marketing tech, but my humble experience in the B2B marketing industry enabled me to learn enough to deal pretty efficiently with tech teams and guide them. I guess that is all I am asked as a web & digital marketing manager. Well, at least I hope I didn’t get it wrong…

Anyway, I went thought “The Art of SEO” because a lot of people I could meet at web marketing conferences, experts I could discover via their blogs, etc. always described this book a the Bible of SEO, even four years after its release. I got curious about this book in particular because I was actually running an important SEO project at the time I started reading it. I can’t lie: it was of a great help.

At the time I discovered this book I was running an quite important SEO pilot project. It was just the beginning of it, and I was still working on determining which keywords I should pick up (together with product managers, marketing managers). I already knew that for each of those keywords the plan would be to create a dedicated and fully SEO-friendly landing page to ensure a better ranking in Google for this specific keyword. However I was sort of struggling to find best practices to determine to keywords.

When I read the fifth chapter entitled “Keyword Reasearch”, I realized that my keywords definition work was not wrong but incomplete. This chapter of the book (besides the advises of my SEO agency) really guided me into an efficient keywords definition process and made me understand that defining keywords, whatever process you use, is not an exact science. I believe one of the best part is when the authors explain how to include your competitive analysis into your keywords definition process. Understanding the SEO strategy of your competitors is more than critical : actually, your SEO projects will go nowhere without this and become nothing but a sword strike into water.

I am obviously not going to describe all the book, but I would like to emphasize of Chapter 13: “An Evolving Art Form: The Future of SEO”. Just a pure delight to me. Indeed, the authors don’t only describe (and this is a fact) that a lot (a lot!) of parameters will influence the way that search marketing will evolve in the future, they put words and hypothesis in front of this statement. They go through the ongoing evolution of search, but they also map a change history of what main criteria used to influence Google since the 1990′ : the keyword as a main criteria first, in 1999 the emergence of “link analysis” (the fact to count links to a website as a vote for its value, and all the technical improvements implemented by dominant Search Engines to make spammers’ life more complicated until today. They also describe very clearly what are the expected changes of search engines criteria in the future and illustrate some further phenomenon like Google’s dominance, the direction towards “more searchable content and content types” (multimedia becoming more indexable, Google to deal with flash-based content, etc.), the evolution of search patterns, the migration from software-based computing to the Cloud, and of course the already impactful growth of mobile search on SEO strategies.

“The Art of SEO” is surely not the type of book you would take to bed with you at night. This book represents roughly 600 pages of modern and concrete SEO wisdom. Of course every marketer will pick what he likes in this book, depending on his particular needs. What I love in this book is the perfect balance between SEO technical and “newbie educational” aspects. I will remember this book as the “SEO Russian doll”. If opening the first one (“newbie educational”) is enough for your project of the moment, good for you. If one day you choose to internalize more and more SEO practices and knowledge, you might need to open the wooden doll inside the first one you already open. By the time you will need to open the smaller wooden doll to run one of your SEO project by yourself, you might want to open your own SEO agency!

“The Art of SEO” might not be a bedside book, but keep it aside you when you work on anything close to SEO. There will always be something interesting for you in there…

“The Art of SEO by Eric Enge, Stephan Spencer, Rand Fishkin and Jessie C. Stricchiola. Copyright 2010 Eric Enge, Stephan Spencer, Rand Fishkin and Jessie C. Stricchiola, 978-0-596-51886-8”



Written by Aurélien Gohier