Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Wednesday, November 26, 2021

flyMy book-reviewing arrangement with Hachette has spurred a trickle of interest in my reading-for-hire services. The compensation ain’t much — with Hachette, it’s nothing more than the free reading material, and even the paying gigs (which haven’t appeared on this blog) are far from lucrative. But there are worse ways to occupy my time.

One of the review requests I’ve gotten in the past month was from Andrew King, who’s written “Website Optimization: Speed, Search Engine & Conversion Rate Secrets” (with companion supplemental website, of course). The book is part of O’Reilly Media’s popular ongoing series of tech how-to guides.

Why me? I can only assume Andy is looking for the Google-juice that will accrue from linkage for the book on this blog; it can’t be because he thinks I actually know what I’m talking about when I post on Web-media topics! But a free book is a free book, so I’ll throw in my two cents, for in-kind purposes only (assuming I ever write a book of my own).

“WSO” is predictably dense with under-the-hood info concerning the care and feeding of traffic-drawing websites. O’Reilly books are renowned as reference guides, and there are enough applied examples of CSS, metadata, and AJAX implementations (an entire chapter on that last topic) to make any programmer’s head spin. Since all these invocations are aimed solely at optimization efforts, they’re not particularly in-depth — but then, they aren’t meant to be. The task-specific focus is key, because it avoids the typical bogging-down that more comprehensive code guides deliver. Since it’s presumed that all you need is the nuts-and-bolts architecture to make a website (particular emphasis on ecommerce sites) a traffic- and revenue-generating machine, the brevity is a definite plus.

Where “WSO” shines is in the more non-tech sections, specifically on Web content and layout. King draws on loads of academic and market research knowledge to illustrate why the proper configuration of HTML, professional-level copywriting, and polished design is essential to effective optimization. A lot of SEO advice gives surface-level consideration to competent digital-content communication, when often it does little more than offer up keyword-gaming tricks for achieving prominent search-ranking placement. “WSO” doesn’t devolve into that sort of shortcut-seeking — it offers up solid marketing techniques for generating genuine Web media relevance (whatever “relevance” is supposed to mean in Googlespeak ;) ).

This guide’s not perfect. My main quibbles are with what I feel to be too much emphasis on the care and feeding of [meta] tags, which in my mind have been abused beyond credible redemption in the search-optimization field. And while the language throughout is informed and accessible without the need to know insider jargon, I think the discussion on paid-search (AdWords, etc.) keyword selection could have done with a bit more de-mystification of the process.

But overall, this is a great resource for building or enhancing a website from the ground up. “WSO” is a serious guide for serious Web development, and is worth the bookshelf space if you work in Web media.

PS: That signature O’Reilly colophon-animal on the cover of this book? It’s the common nighthawk (Chordeiles minor). No, I don’t know what it has to do with website optimization, either. But it does look cool.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 11/26/2008 12:19:41 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Book Review, Internet
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