Search Engine Optimization for Dummies
By Peter Kent
When I recently Twittered that I was reading this book, I received two or three replies suggesting that SEO was "snake oil." SEO is certainly vulnerable to this claim: search engines are secretive about their exact algorithms, which seem to change frequently, and much of SEO consists of following good web design practice in any case. But this book makes the case that there is a there there: You really can do some things to boost SEO.
SEO, or search engine optimization, "refers to 'optimizing' Web sites and Web pages to rank well in the search engines" (p.14). The author, Peter Kent, argues that although many companies offer SEO without real expertise or measurable outcomes -- and many web designers will claim to build SEO sites without anything to back up that claim -- SEO is actually achievable.
One basic way to achieve SEO, Kent says, is simply to follow web standards: use validated markup, make sure images have ALT text, make sure the META tag is properly filled with keywords. (Coincidentally, these are the same measures you should take for ensuring web accessibility.) But other ways include registering links with web directories; getting reciprocal links; and examining keywords to see which ones will capture traffic to your site, then weaving them into your text and META tags. The latter was most interesting to me, since it involves actual research and some degree of what might be regarded rhetorical analysis.
In all, this book appears to provide a solid foundation for SEO. It doesn't tell you everything you need to know, I'm sure, but it gives you an idea of what SEO is and how it differs from snake oil.