Author Andrew King, president of Internet marketing firm Web Site Opimization, LLC has really done it. In Website Optimization: Speed, Search Engine & Conversion Rate Secrets, he gives away all the secrets of creating a website and search marketing program that effectively sells products and services. King’s book makes it possible for any business to improve its online performance.
Or at least almost any business. There are still some specialized skills required—it certainly helps to have some background in online marketing, web analytics and HTML coding—though King’s clear and concise prose removes a lot of the mystery.
The book is divided into two major sections: Search Engine Marketing Optimization and Web Performance Optimization. It pays for itself in the first 50 pages—two chapters covering natural search engine optimization and an organic search case study. While much of the material here is well-covered in blogs and other books, even experienced SEOs are likely to find a few new ideas here. For example, though I’ve used many keyword tools and even written about some of the best keyword research tools here and here, I somehow managed to overlook Wordtracker’s free keyword suggestion tool, which uses data from Dogpile and Metacrawler to estimate search volume across all search engines.
Here are several more key SEO insights provided by King:
- Wordtracker’s fee-based tool goes beyond free keyword tools by tracking what it calls a keyword effectiveness index. According to King, “The keyword effectiveness index, or KEI, is a comparison of the number of searches and the number of web page results. Targeting high KEI phrases with adequate search volume gives you the best chance to rank quickly on particular terms by going where others aren’t competing. Very Sun Tzu.”
- “Create your keywords tag using your master keyword list and the visible words in your page. Although you can separate keywords with a comma or space, omitting commas will give you more proximity hits between adjacet terms.” King recommends using up to 30 words, with specific key words repeated up to four times.
- “After title tags, headlines are the most important component of web pages for search engine rankings…Include the primary keyphrase of your web page in the first-level header…The main header should describe the content of the page succinctly in 40 to 60 characters.” Use real header tags (h1 through h6) rather than “fake” p-class tags in your CSS files. And keep in mind that h2-h6 tags are just as important, possibly even more important, than h1 title text.
- Bake in your most important key phrase to your home tab, so instead of having the text link to your home page be “Home,” use “Your Most Important Keyphrase Home.”
- Target one main keyphrase per page, keeping in mind the page should also rank well for variations of that phrase. Thus, a page optimized for “records management software systems” will likely also rank well for “records management software,” “records management systems” and possibly even just “records management.”
- “Press releases are an especially effective way to get guaranteed inbound links that say exactly what you want in the link text…Spend the extra money to include link text for your URLs rather than using ‘naked’ URLs for maximum Google juice.”
- Use social networking to get high-value links by contributing content and tagging links on sites such as relevant industry blogs, YouTube, Facebook, del.icio.us, Yahoo! Buzz, Digg and Photo.net. “A link from one of these high Pagerank sites drives a lot of traffic and is worth hundreds of links from lesser sites.”
- Use the free Marketleap.com link popularity tool to compare your site against competitors on inbound links.
Though King’s SEO guidance is excellent overall, I do take issue with a few of his points. For example:
- He recommends using compete sentences in title tags and keeping these to 10-15 words and no more than 60 characters total, but I’ve seen excellent SEO results using short, keyword-rich phrases and up to 80 characters.
- He also recommends using up to 250 characters for the description meta tag, though moost other guides I’ve seen recommend no more than about 150 characters.
- He writes that “(getting) more inbound links…especially from high pagerank sites, is the most important way to increase your search engine rankings.” While there is no question that links are very important for SEO, particularly high-value links from authoritative sites, it’s not at all established that this is the most important factor in rankings. For example, WeOpenYouClose.com ranks #1 on Google for both “call center M&A” and call center mergers acquisitions despite having almost no external links pointing to the site.
- He recommends paying for links. Given all the concern over Google banning sites for engaging in this practice, it’s best to avoid this. In fairness to the author, Google may have changed its algorithm in this respect after the book was published, making his advice accurate at the time of publication.
But those are relatively minor quibbles. On the whole, the first section of King’s book is a top-notch primer on SEO.
The book’s guidance on pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is, if anything, even more comprehensive than its SEO tutorial. King walks the reader through the entire process of keyword selection, ad group design, ad writing, bid optimization, landing page design, quality scores, geotargeting, metrics and analytics, testing and ongoing optimization in a detailed yet easily understood manner. My only criticism of this section would be the inclusion of some fairly complex mathematical formulas for calculations such as confidence interval testing and conversion rate profitability that make the PPC management task seem more complicated and intimidating than necessary. In general, the answers will be obvious without the need to resort to such calculations. On the other hand, it’s good to have these formulas on hand in case they are ever needed.
The second half of the book is written with the same clarity and economy as the first half, but is much more technical than marketing-oriented. The final five chapters cover web page load speed optimization, CSS optimization, Ajax, advanced client- and server-side performance optimization techniques, and website optimization metrics.
In all, King’s book is not one to be read and then set upon a shelf, but one to keep handy on the desktop and refer to frequently as a marketer or online marketing team works through the process of creating an optimized website and maximizing its sales or lead generation potential.