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Tom Pick Reviews Website Optimization Book

The B2B Marketing blog has reviewed our Website Optimization book from O’Reilly. Pick says that the book removes a lot of the mystery in improving the online performance of a business.

“King’s book makes it possible for any business to improve its online performance.

The book is divided into two major sections: Search Engine Marketing Optimization and Web Performance Optimization. It pays for itself in the first 50 pages – two chapters covering natural search engine optimization and an organic search case study. While much of the material here is well-covered in blogs and other books, even experienced SEOs are likely to find a few new ideas here.”

Pick does have a few bones to pick about the SEO portion of the book. We’ve found that SEO is the most controversial topic to research and write about, as the algorithms change frequently. Also, conventional wisdom colors many of the guidelines you read about on and off the Internet. When we wrote the book, we were careful to cite trends and guidelines that had empirical evidence behind them, or experience with actual clients.

One guideline that Pick takes issue with is the relationship between inlinks, PageRank, and the rank of a page. We show in the book that the rank of a page is related to its PageRank and PageRank is related to inlinks. In our experience, especially among competitive keyphrases, the number and PageRank of inlinks usually trumps onsite optimization and is the most important factor for high rankings.

There are exceptions of course, for lower PageRank topics (like the one he mentions for call center M&A) onsite optimization can bump a lower PageRank site above a higher PageRank site (PR 2 ranks higher than PR 3). That is the beauty of SEO and one reason why companies hire SEO firms, to out-optimize their sites in the quest for higher rankings. However, while both onsite and offsite optimization are important factors, in general we have found that a higher number (and quality) of inlinks is a more important factor than onsite optimization. Higher PageRank (and thus inlinks/quality) has been shown to correlate with higher rankings (see the SEO chapter for cites).

Pick also disputes our recommendation of paying for links. What I was referring to was places like Yahoo.com (pay for a faster review), Business.com (ditto), and Superpages.com and Yellowpages.com. These sites, especially the online directories, are factored into Google Local results as well as natural results so offer a double whammy. We’ve also been experimenting with paying for links on blogs, with favorable results. What you don’t want to do is pay for links that are temporary, or rotate in and out using an advertising system. You also want to avoid non-relevant links, ideally acquire links from sites related to your topic areas. Finally, avoid low PageRank inlinks, and strive for high PageRank inlinks, these will get you higher rankings (and PageRank) faster.

As for outlinks, avoid linking to any sites with gray PageRank bars (in the Google Toolbar). A page with a gray PageRank bar has raised a red flag for Google due to linking to another gray PageRank site, or using tactics that Google’s algorithm objects to (keyword stuffing, duplicate content, etc.).

For the full review see:

Book Review: Website Optimization