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24 March 2012

The Art of SEO by Eric Enge, Stephan Spencer, Jessie Stricchiolla and Rank Fishkin

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) has a reputation of being a rather mysterious, even clandestine practice. The aim of this book is to lift the lid on this art form.

The book's four authors are highly active in the SEO field and have associations with organisations such as the Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization (SEMPO), Stone Temple Consulting, Netconcepts, Science of SEO and SEOmoz. This high-powered meld of business intelligence, technical knowledge and practical expertise has the potential to deliver a rich reading experience.

So, I already had high expectations as I started to work my way through the book. A glance at the table of contents hints at a meticulous eye for detail and comprehensive approach. After reading each subsequent chapter this feeling is only intensified. The tactics and methodology covered range from straightforward but essential SEO information to deep, sophisticated insights aimed at the advanced practitioner.

Subjects discussed include search engine theory and behaviour, key analytical tools, the impact of social media, user-focussed data, effective website creation, result tracking, SEO best practices and much more. The text is full of links to relevant organisations, in-depth reports, appropriate industry analysis and case-in-point websites. In addition the content is supported by a website, artofseobook.com, which contains content updates plus hands-on resources and guides.

The authors also found space to include a chapter on the merits of whether to build an in-house SEO team or outsource the operation. At over 30 pages this chapter is just as comprehensive as any other topic, and of significant value to any manager responsible for delivering a high quality SEO solution.

Despite the detailed coverage I found the material easy to read and understand. My relatively limited SEO knowledge didn't allow me to verify the accuracy or fine-grained quality of much of the book's material. However, I can say my own SEO knowledge was greatly enhanced by this book.

In conclusion I feel The Art of SEO is an absorbing read for anyone interested in SEO, and a book that will become a well-thumbed encyclopaedic reference for practitioners. As the authors note in their final chapter, SEO is an evolving art form, so it's obviously difficult to write a truly definitive book. Yet, I feel the Art of SEO is as close as you'll find anywhere.

After all, in today's marketplace taking full advantage of search technology can be the difference between a dominant success story and a business failure.

15 March 2012

The Case of the Missing Books by Ian Sansom

Ian Sansom's 'The Case of the Missing Books' is the first in his 'The Mobile Library' series, which includes 'Mr Dixon Disappears', 'The Book Stops Here', 'The Bad Book Affair' and 'The Delegates' Choice'.

The early pages are largely dedicated to introducing the central character, Israel Armstrong. This resoundingly individual, richly eccentric librarian is the source for most of the narrative's social interplay, zany adventures and bizarre incidents. Indeed, while this is in essence a detective story, Israel is one of the most unconvincing sleuths you're ever likely to encounter. Hence all the fun.

Israel's new job in Northern Ireland is a far cry from his normal London stomping ground, lifestyle and routine. This alienation from the familiar and comfortable only accentuates his highly individual character traits.

The levels of intrigue and secrecy run deep in the close-knit Tumdrum and District community. It's colourful characters - no doubt drawn from Sansom's astute observations of the County Antrim area's real life inhabitants - are vividly brought to life by the author's considerable writing talent and deft style.

My only niggles are a rather slow beginning and that certain comic dialogue passages, written in a halting, leading-nowhere conversational form, might be easier to listen to rather than to read. Nevertheless, I found it a highly entertaining book. I'll certainly be seeking out the rest of the series.