Rebecca Lieb knows about creating content that engages visitors. There are few people I respect in the industry the way I do Rebecca. She was the VP and Editor-in-Chief at the ClickZ Network (editing hundreds of my column) and Search Engine Watch for over 7 years. As a journalist, Rebecca has written on media for numerous publications, including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, and spent five years as Variety’s Berlin-based German/Eastern European bureau chief. Until recently, she was a member of the graduate faculty at New York University’s Center for Publishing, where she also served on the Electronic Publishing Advisory Group.
I recently had the pleasure to ask Rebecca about her new book, The Truth About Search Search Engine Optimization.
1. With so many SEO books out there, why is this one different different than all others?
Most of the books dealing with search engine optimization cover the topic from a pretty geeky, practical aspect. They’re written for coders, developers, webmasters and other technical types who are up to their elbows in the plumbing, so to speak, of web sites. I wrote “The Truth About Search Engine Optimization” for the rest of us right-brained people. We’re marketers, advertisers, bloggers, small business owners, publishers and business people who don’t necessarily build and maintain complex web sites, or write code, or any of that other geeky stuff. What we do want to be able to do is wrap our heads around the ideas and concepts behind SEO — many of which are not technical in the least. If you’re running your own site, this book will help you to understand how to make it more ‘findable’ on the web. If you’re running a marketing program, or have hired an outside agency to manage SEO for your site, the book will help you understand what your role should be in the process, and how to have meaningful conversations with your vendors or SEO staff. In fact, a bunch of my SEO friends have told me they’re buying this book for their clients!
And finally, the book isn’t intended to be a dry, instructional manual, but a pretty good read as well. It won’t hurt a bit to read it — and you may just learn a thing or two! Moreover, it’s not written to be read in a linear fashion. You can dip in and out, and skip around the short, bite-sized chapters to easily get to the bits you want (or need) to read. Someone told me it makes for a great bathroom book. I’m gonna choose to take that as a compliment!
2. The majority of books are by SEO practitioners. This one isn’t, so why is it such a critical read?
There are plenty of good SEO books out there by practitioners, but they aren’t necessarily for everyone. First, these can tend toward the technical and tactical, rather than the conceptual. Second, it’s important to bear in mind that a book by a practitioner could very well be by someone with a certain agenda. They’re likely trying to sell you something, right?
As an editor and journalist, it’s part of my DNA to present a broad palette of information on SEO objectively, but with a bent for best practices. And these are gleaned from the dozens and dozens of SEO practitioners I’ve dealt with over the years (and count among my friends) while I was running both the largest marketing, and the largest search, news and information sites on the web. This fairly unique perspective has also put me in unusually close proximity to every development in search, major and minor, of the past 10 years.
On top of that, I am a practitioner of sorts. I run web sites and I certainly do have occasion to practice what I preach. In fact, I’ve been accountable for the findability of some pretty major web sites!
Finally, and as a writer/editor (albeit one with a pretty deep background in marketing), what most attracts me to search is that in the end, it really does all come down to the content, more specifically, to the written word. That’s something I definitely have a pretty darn deep affinity with.
3. What are some takeaways people will get from the book? What priorities do they need to focus on for the next quarter?
Content, content, and yet again, content. You want to get found? Think like an editor and a publisher. You need a strong content strategy to run and maintain a findable web site. What kind of content can you get onto your site? How often, because the more frequently you update, the more often you’ll be visited by search engine spiders. What kind of editorial calendar can you design to keep content — relevant content — flowing through the pipelines? And I’m not just talking written copy here, though that’s certainly the most important thing. Links are content, too. So are images, videos, audio streams, and auxiliary supplements to your site, such as a social media presence. What’s going to be important in the next quarter is the same thing that’s been important since Creation: In the beginning was the Word!
4. What other books should they be reading now?
I’m going to go out on a limb here. Yes there are plenty of other good SEO books out there, and I don’t hesitate to recommend them. But this is a conceptual book, so I’m going to recommend conceptual reading. Bone up on reading about digital marketing in general. Understand what you’re doing. In addition to that, immerse yourself in books, articles and ideas about your particular subject matter. That’s where you’re going to get ideas and inspiration for all the content you’re going to have to generate to make your site fresh, updated and findable going forward. Really, SEO is more about strong ideas and communication than about coding and building web sites. Keep those ideas coming and you’ll be on the right track.
I know we are all busy out there, but I can’t think of a reason you wouldn’t benefit from picking up a copy of The Truth About Search Search Engine Marketing.