If you have been dabbling in SEO you might be thinking, 'I need to sit down with a good book about this and learn it'. So what would I recommend?
OK, this actually is two questions. Do you want to learn how to do SEO or do you want to learn about SEO, how it all came to be and the journey it is taking (which will in turn help you understand where it will be going). I'll begin with the first question.
None. There isn't one. Well not a good reliable up to date one anyway. The market is awash with "The complete step by step guide to SEO" type titles but the trouble is they are out of date before they go to print - sometimes in one very critical area.
Search engine optimization is constantly changing because search engines are constantly changing their algorithms. They do this to outwit the scammers who are trying to rank unworthy pages through any means necessary and sometimes these changes are so profound that even those practicing clean SEO have to change their approach.
Search engines are also a constantly evolving and improving technology which means what they couldn't do yesterday they can achieve today. When a search engine proves capable of something new then SEO needs to change in order to ensure it fully takes advantage of that capability.
This is the fundamental reason why I put this website up. I can change and mature its content as search engine methods change and mature. It is always an up to date guide whereas if I had tried to put it in print I would have been constantly bringing out new editions. In the meantime readers who had picked up older copies would be cursing my name because they would think I was advocating outdated techniques.
That's not to say there aren't books out there with good advice but you only know which bits are good when you know SEO so its all a bit of a Catch 22.
My advice is to learn SEO from online resources where you can verify the date it was published is within the last two years. Take advantage of the search engines themselves. Google publishes a basic SEO guide and they should know. Whatever you do read, when its not the Google guide, double check the content with other respected online resources for consistency and to identify the parts of SEO where there is disagreement - and there are plenty of those.
I for one, for example, believe Google uses user behavior metrics as a ranking factor. Things like the click through rate from their search results. You'll find other people in my industry that will swear until they are blue in the face that this isn't true.
As I've mentioned elsewhere it is a sort of mute point anyway. You should be working to improve all your user behavior metrics regardless of what you believe. Its just academic whether or not you believe it helps your rankings.
So not one to miss out on a plug if you want to learn SEO this is the purpose of this website. Just follow it step by step from the 'Getting Started' option in the main menu and you'll know everything you need to know about modern search engine optimization by the time you're through.
Now if the whole SEO thing just fascinates you from a general interest point of view then I'd recommend The Art of SEO: Mastering Search Engine Optimization by among others, Stephan Spencer. At 994 pages it may have trouble fitting through your letterbox but it will put the How to SEO stuff into perspective because it includes a huge amount of background on how search engines operate and the technologies they have embraced over time.
It does also move through the 'how to' process. I'm not saying I agree with it completely but no two search engine optimizers every agree on everything!
You may also find it too techy. You know it will show you the code for a sitemap.xml file but anyone with a WordPress based site just doesn't need to know that - there are plugins that do the dirty work. Of course there are plenty of people who don't need to know, but they love to know how things work. To lift up the bonnet and see underneath. This book is for them.
What did make me laugh was one of the Amazon reviews The Art of SEO got. A buyer complained that the images had been badly printed, not understanding that these were images of websites with heat maps or similar applications overlaid (a heat map tells you where your customers click, hover, etc. on a page most often with different intensities of smudging.). So if you see that review it looks to be from someone who flipped through the pages, didn't read the texts, didn't like the images and through the whole book in the bin.
The rest of the market in terms of books is very commercial with exciting titles like Dotcom Secrets and How to Create Killer Blogs. Many are mainly a soap box for the author to point out their wealth and promise you the same or act as rather large sales brochures for expensive courses or mentoring.
I won't say they all contain nothing of value - each of them will have a nugget here and there but difficult to see how that makes it worth the time to read them.
If you want to learn how to SEO I would avoid the printed world. Everything you need to know if freely available online and more up to date. But on that note don't take any one persons advice on face value. Double check to ensure it is still up to date and what level of agreement there is in the SEO community about that action or point of view.
If you want to simply dig deeper into the world of Search Engine Optimization, and putting the 'how to' in historical context can make a big difference, The Art of SEO: Mastering Search Engine Optimizationis a great place to start and, given the size of the book, probably a great place to finish as well.
I'm Tim Hill, a Search Engine Optimization and Online Marketing specialist. I created this site to help others understand that SEO is not a mysterious black art!.
If your a newbie try the Getting Started in SEO page, otherwise feel free to dig around and learn more.