Author: Andrew King
Publisher: O'Reilly, 2008
Aimed at: Website developers
Pros: Covers the issues of SEO and performance optimisation
Cons: Nothing very new or different
Reviewed by: David Conrad
This is really two books inside one cover. The first is all about SEO - Search Engine Optimization - and it covers the usual topics of selecting and using keywords, metatags, HTML and content. In the main there is nothing new here but it is well presented and is a comprehensive and useful account. Its main target is the ecommerce website and it deals with optimising so as to get customers to buy or sign up for your services. It has a number of case studies and here the emphasis is on pay-per-click advertising optimisation. A section on conversion rate optimisation, i.e. getting visitors to actually buy or sign up to what you are offering, is a good account of marketing psychology as applied to web design. It contains enough appeals to real data to make you think that it all might just work.
The second half of the book is about performance optimisation and it is motivated by the argument that Part One brought you the traffic and now you need to make sure that your web site can handle it. Again there isn't anything new here and it's an account of using the standard tools and metrics to work out what could be done to speed up your website. Some of the early chapters are basically a list of tips that tell you how to make things work faster without any great evidence that they are worthwhile - for example, use short names in a CSS. It might save you a few tens of bytes on the page size but I doubt the effort would be worth it. A more rational approach to optimisation is to use metrics - i.e. find out what takes so long to download and concentrate on it. This part of the book is much more credible and well done. The subject of metrics naturally brings us back to SEO style optimisation with a discussion of A/B testing and gathering data to optimise pay-per-click campaigns.
If you need a book that tells you the basics of SEO and performance optimisation then this will get you started. It’s a relatively easy read and does succeed in opening up a world that you might only know as something seen through a fog of rumour and folklore.