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Tuesday, Apr. 14, 2009 at 7:47 am

The Truth About Search Engine Optimization: An Interview with Rebecca Lieb

By Bryan Eisenberg
April 14th, 2009

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.

Add Your Comments

Comments (30)

  1. Looks like you got the title wrong– it is “the truth about search engine optimization” (not “marketing” according to the cover.

  2. Rebecca is so right when she says that ‘in the beginning was the word’ it never went away, it just got lost for a few years, but is now back and key to your success.

  3. I also agree with Rebecca’s comments on content – if you provide well structured, well optimised content that your target customers will find valuable and will want to read and link to. The search engines will rank you and your customers will come. Write that content without it your irrelevant to humans and search engines.

  4. yes Agree but contents should be very structured and optimized that will lead you to the best results.

  5. Didn’t really tell us very much about SEO, but was a good plug for someone’s book.

  6. [...] The Truth About Search Engine Marketing: An Interview with Rebecca Lieb, GrokDotCom [...]

  7. Rebecca is so right about the importance of content. I am not a professional web developer but my website which is in its second year is ranked on the top pages of and because of its content.

  8. I skimmed through this book and it is certainly not advanced and most of the information may be easily be found online, but it does seem to be a great overview of the SEO landscape for a beginner, or even an executive who needs to get the lowdown on SEO.

  9. Realy good post.
    Content is king!

  10. Who can introduce some good SEO sites and SEO books? Thanks

  11. I honestly appreciate the concept that SEO is all about strong ideas and communication.Simply having a dynamic website and doing a lot of submissions will not do the trick.We have to spread the idea of the website across the internet..

  12. The thing with SEO books in hard copy is they become outdated too quickly. I think soft copy is the way to go when dealing with topics that change so rapidly that way the information is fresh and constantly updated. Within a few years that book will be out dated as Google is constantly changing there algorithms.

  13. I agree with the above comment. The rules of optimization change so quickly that you could buy a $50 technical manual today that was published a month or two ago, and the techniques inside become null on the next Google update.

    Although I like the idea of a right brain approach to SEO and will probably check this book out for its different viewpoint, I prefer to get my information on trusted SEO blogs. They are keeping up to date with the latest changes, and have some foresight into the future of SEO.

    ~ Kristi

  14. very good info
    i like it

  15. Intertesting book. good knowledge for seo

  16. Thank you very good site.

  17. Thanks for this great article.

  18. i agree.
    content is kings.

  19. It’s true that the Google search algorithm remains one of the biggest mysteries across the web. I think that it’s very helpful to have such a quick and not geek oriented manual especially with newbie users that are not familiar with all of these techniques. I’m curios if this book also analyzes Google’s US Patent Application #20050071741 – Information Retrieval Based on Historical Data

  20. Content is priority one. That said, you do yourself a huge disservice if you don’t also research and include targeted primary keywords and LSI keywords. The two strategies together are greater than each individually.

  21. I would say that content is king, while backlinks are his queen. Both are necessary for a successful site.

  22. This is a great book! A must read for any developer that wants to stay in business and keep current with practical SEO pratices. I would agree that content is very much important is SEO.

  23. This is a great post – as someone with a marketing background, the technical aspects of SEO are confusing to me. I will be sure to pick up a copy… thanks!

  24. Content is King or Queen? Rebecca clearly indicates that quality content is what is needed. So whenever you are plannnig to hire an agency to look into this SEO on your website make sure they have good quality content.

  25. I agree with what Rebecca said; but the most of it, you should have more ideas in becoming an SEO. It’s not just doing all the link building, write articles, and other techniques, but the main goal in being an SEO is helping clients get maximum exposure on page one.

  26. Thank you for sharing this article.

  27. SEO is such a fast developing field that books become outdated rather fast. Still, however, I recommend reading SEO books especially if you are a beginner since they give a good alround understanding and gathers information in a way you do not see on most blogs.

  28. I totally agree with point #4. It is essential to read, read, read so that you can be inspired and stay fresh. The best ideas are so often sparked by something you read. An article or a chapter can lift the cobwebs or start you moving in a creative direction you hadn’t thought of. Good article!

  29. All aspects of seo and content are important – but we are aiming at a constantly moving target.

  30. I also agree with Rebecca’s comments

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Bryan Eisenberg, founder of FutureNow, is a professional marketing speaker and the co-author of New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling books Call to Action and Waiting For Your Cat to Bark and Always Be Testing. You can friend him on Facebook or Twitter.

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