BOOK REVIEW: Search Engine Optimization (3rd Edition) by Kris Jones

SEO Visual Blueprint Kris Jones 3rd Edition

Want to learn SEO? You’ll find hundreds of websites and forums, and dozens of books and ebooks willing to teach you. That alone should suggest that it takes more than a simple “how-to” to learn how to optimize websites for search engines and people. Some resources get outdated more quickly than others. Others can be too generic to be useful. Every SEO, myself included, has an opinion on how to go about it because we get asked ALL THE TIME by anyone with a website.

How well are you going to learn SEO if you pick up a copy of Search Engine Optimization: Your visual blueprint for effective Internet marketing?

In all seriousness, I think you are going to be months ahead of someone who relies on a varied collection of websites, forums, ebooks, conference presentations, etc. to build their SEO knowledge base. I think that anyone who reads a foundational book about SEO is going to be rewarded, but Kris Jones is to be commended for really bringing the core of SEO to the reader in an accessible way in this third and latest edition that he was kind enough to send me.

Here’s an overview of how the book works:

Kris Jones wrote this book for somebody who appreciates visual, simple, step-based learning, which is exactly what someone new to SEO often needs. There are a couple of highly recommended, free online SEO guides, but these don’t actually walk you through the steps like this book does.

Each page has excellent screenshots and labels. Pages are designed to take you through a particular task that will be relevant to learning some aspect of SEO. Here’s an example:

SEO Visual Blueprint Page Example

Each task has an overview followed by steps to get through the task. The page layout is one of the really strong differentiators, in my opinion. I especially love this format for some of the more technical tasks, like working with .htaccess files and redirects. You don’t need to be a coder. Everything is right there for you.

The other thing this book does is provide a very generous amount of extra Internet marketing material, including topics like PPC, social media, shopping engines, etc. This is an added bonus, since most SEO’s are interested in expanding their marketing skills to become a “full-stack Internet marketer.”

This wouldn’t be a real book review without some observations and caveats, none of which is meant to detract from my overall praise for the book.

1. You’re going to be funneled into particular tools, conferences, and resources. Kris Jones has a good reputation in the industry. I haven’t met him, but I’d like to. It’s not a criticism to say that Kris has definite loyalties that impact his recommendations. He’s the Chairman of Internet Marketing Ninjas. This means that there are a lot of recommendations for tools and resources that are connected to IMN, but which may not be the most common, industry-wide. Who cares, as long as they do the job, right? Do I think it’s necessary for you to register for the SES Conference or “Like” their Facebook page as part of your SEO training, as instructed on the page example above? No, that’s silly.

2. You’re going to be given a certain “style” of SEO training. I would rather have one organized, methodical style like this book presents, than be given a whole slew of options with no way to differentiate between them. (Although the book will dump way more keyword research tools on you than necessary). As a practicing SEO, I find the style in this book to sometimes border on “old guard” thinking. For example, there is zero reason to devote pages to optimizing meta keywords or saying that text modifiers like bold and italic “can lead to higher rankings.” Tips like these aren’t harmful, but they are no longer helpful. I have to think that some of this may just be tied to how long IMN has been around (1999). As a result, you’ll get pages on adding forums with vBulletin or phpBB, how to create static HTML web pages (who does this?), and optimizing for Technorati and This is cool and all, but I question the present-day effectiveness a little.

3. There’s a certain type of content I think this book needs for the next edition. SEO is a continuous cycle, but the book can sometimes feel too siloed in its approach to teaching skills. For example, it would be great to devote space to organizing and modifying keyword research over time, measuring and improving rankings over time, link building to pages over time. See what I’m getting at? People need the tools to do SEO. They also need the strategic perspective that will help them run an SEO campaign and perform well in the long-run by means of measurement, analysis, and adjustment.

Now, as an experienced SEO, it’s interesting to examine a beginner-level book and wonder how much of my judgment is due to experience or legitimate issues. I think SEO (Visual Blueprint) is a work of art and fantastic at what it aims to do and how much it accomplishes. I think it’s the best SEO book available and I recommend it to those learning SEO for the first time, or more experienced SEO’s who are in a position to teach SEO (or just need a solid reference).

For more on what Kris is up to, you can check out his current company, ReferLocal and his investment fund, KBJ Capital.