Author: Brent Chaters
Publisher: O'Reilly, 2010
Aimed at: Search specialists, marketers and executives
Pros: Authoritative and comprehensive
Cons: Not an easy read due to level of detail and wordiness
Reviewed by:Sue Gee
An in-depth guide subtitled "Mastering SEO, SEM and Site Search". Will it help you?
I picked up this book thinking it would help me towards a better understanding of search analytics. I was therefore a bit taken aback to read in the section "Assumptions This Book Makes" in the preface that it expects you to be a search specialist who understands the basics of SEO, SEM and site search - but reading the explanation I realized that yes, I do know something about how all of these work so I persevered. But if you are looking for an introduction to SEO and SEM or site search this is not the book to start with - and it does list recommended titles for each of them in the preface.
One of the main premises of the book is that SEO (search engine optimization) and paid search (SEM - search engine marketing) should not be separate initiatives but should be used together as part of a comprehensive strategy. Another is that rather than focus on focusing on quantity of traffic it is its quality that is important so you should focus on conversion and usability rather than on driving larger volumes of traffic.
This is a practical book and uses as tools software that is widely available - Google Analytics is used a lot but so are other programs, both free and commercial. A list of all the tools introduced in the book is included as an appendix. You are also expected to use Excel, or another spreadsheet package and some chapters require PowerPoint or similar. But don't expect lots of step by step instructions - there are some and there are also find mathematical equations along the way.
Despite the fact that this is an advanced book on the topic, the first chapter, Introduction to Search Analytics, does cover some of the basics. If you are a search specialist already you'll probably skim through this very quickly - and the use of clear headings facilitates this. If however, like me, you are looking to understand what search analytics is about then its a valuable starting point.
Chapter 2, Establishing ROI, has the tag line "Follow the money" and thus addresses the rational for being concerned with search analytics. It looks first at paid search and then applies the same techniques to, SEO and site search.
If you are primarily interested in traffic, and for a website that isn't trying to sell a product, traffic volume is the major concern. Chapter 3, Tracking and Optimizing SEO and Paid Search Traffic is therefore of interest whether or not you are primarily interested in conversions, that is actually turning a visitor into a customer who makes not just one but many purchases. As well as introducing the purchase funnel, it covers a lot of key topics including bounce rates and the use of testing to improve landing page optimization. After a short section on back to considering conversions. Chapter 4 is on tracking keywords and gives some useful insights into how Google and Bing differ.
Chapter 5, Coordinating SEO and Paid Search goes over some of the strategies introduced in the two previous chapters to emphasize the author's message that SEO and SEM need a combined approach. Then Chapter 6, Site Search Analytics, introduces the third thread and Chapter 7 Correlating SEO/Paid Search and Site Search brings all three search disciplines together.
The next four chapters look into specific areas discussing what indicators to use and techniques for tracking them. Chapter 8 looks at monitoring competitors, 9 deals with exploring offsite trends, 10 is on mobile search and 11 on the impact of social media.
The final four chapters come back to more to how to gain insights into what is going on and make the information accessible. Chapter 12 looks at the Webmaster tools provided by Google and Bing; 13 explains how to audit a site for issues that cause problems for spiders or users; 14 is on creating dashboards and expanded reports and 15 is on building your own audit tools.
For the right reader this is a useful volume to have available. Its level of detail and wordy style probably means you need to skim read some chapters rather than read from cover to cover, but given its broad scope and in-depth treatment, you are likely to encounter a useful idea or a useful technique.