Last week I picked up a copy of Search Engine Optimization: An Hour a Day by Jennifer Grappone and Gradiva Couzin. I have a slight interest in SEO, however I try not to get drawn into it too much because it can really eat up your time and I prefer programming. There is a lot of data gathering, data analysis, and opportunities for modeling and statistics in SEO though, so it isn't totally without merit. But the main reason I bought the book was that it was packaged with a book I really wanted, Jakob Nielsen's new book: Prioritizing Web Usability. Jakob Nielsen's books are always so pretty - those nice glossy pages and pretty pictures just attract me. It's the same reason I love the Eric Meyer on CSS books. Damn the content - I like the pretty pictures.
Back to the SEO book: I am pretty impressed so far. It looks to be a great introductory book on the subject and really walks the user into being an expert step-by-step. While it is little big to be a one-nighter, I am about 2/3rds of the way through it after only 2 evenings - and I am looking forward to picking it up again after this post. The main reason I like it, besides the entertaining writing, is that the authors recommend a holistic and common sense approach to SEO.
I am no SEO expert, but I have taken one expedition into the search marketing world and it was a pretty successful jaunt. I started with a few things that I had heard here or there and then applied my knowledge of search engines and the internet in general and used a liberal dose of common sense.
I may write more details later in another post, but basically I figured out the search term that made the most sense for my product/site and then made sure that term was in my page titles, headers, meta tags, and splattered through the HTML content (now known as keyword density, but I didn't know that at the time). Additionally my product title was very similar to my important keyword - which is a byproduct of choosing a good name that actually describes the product rather than something cutesy. After taking care of the prerequisites I submitted my site to all the search engines I could think of and then spent time afterward submitting to niche engines like ASPIndex and HotScripts. Did I mention before that I got some great results? For a long time I was #1 on Google for that term (as well as Yahoo and other search engines) and it drove more than 50% of my visitors to my site.
How good does the holistic/common sense approach work? Well I'll tell you that I haven't done any SEO "optimization" on my site since somewhere in 2002, I haven't actively worked on getting any additional links since that time, and I haven't even looked at my sites web stats in over a year. And even through all the "advances" in search marketing since that time and the "big" Google algorithm changes that have occurred - if you do a search for "open source intranet" on Google you will see a listing for Digger Solutions - Intranet Open Source sitting right there at #2.
As for Digger Solutions, Intranet Open Source, and the rest of those products? Well they are all growing a little long in the tooth, being written in ASP. It is over 4 years old at this point and I haven't actively worked on any part of it in well over 2 years - probably more like three. I've had thoughts of writing new versions and I even have 2-3 cob-web covered versions of those partially-started versions sitting on my hard drive now. I'd like to someday and I've even purchased a new domain name for the "new" product/project - Ntranet.com.
Here comes the tie-in back to the book: So based on my past experience it is easy enough to infer that I like the author's approach because I know it works. I've even picked up a few new bits of knowledge... in case I ever feel the need to jump into an SEO project again at some point :)