BOOK REVIEW: The Art of SEO and The Art of Community

O’Reilly’s two books The Art of SEO: Mastering Search Engine Optimization and The Art of Community: Building the New Age of Participation tackle two important aspects of web design that have been heavily researched and written about in the past couple years. There are a lot of books on the market about social media, online communities and search engine optimization, and these two books offer thorough surveys of their respective topics.

The Art of SEO

art-of-seo

The Art of SEO is written by four authors, which generally worries me because such books often feel like compilations of diverse voices rather than a unified piece of writing. The authors mostly avoided this, making The Art of SEO a good read. It seems like an advanced book with a lot of technical information that SEO intermediates and experts will appreciate but novices and readers in other professions—such as marketing and design—might find dry and hard to slog through. I’d expect some IT professionals who are in charge of corporate websites will also find the book helpful.

The other thing about The Art of SEO that impresses me is it has some cutting-edge information, such as coverage of Bing.com and other new search engine technologies. One thing I would have liked more of in the book is general tactics and emphasis on strong content, and less emphasis on all the little tools and technologies out there. A commenter on Amazon.com used the old phrase “not seeing the forest for the trees,” and I think this is close to the truth.

The Art of Community

art-of-community

I think The Art of Community is really interesting because it’s the only book I know of that focuses on online communities—social media circles, news sites, mailing lists and so on. Jono Bacon used to manage the Ubuntu Linux community, so he has a strong pedigree working with online communities and I thought his insight was very remarkable. He has some good anecdotes and also has contacts who moderate other online communities and have been quoted in this book.

Being about human behavior and online participation, The Art of Community is not too technical and is often more about psychology than technology. I was really surprised at the level of planning and thought that goes into creating and conducting an online community, but there really is more to it than setting up a list server and letting users go at it. Given that the subject matter really is human behavior and emotions, sometimes I wished The Art of Community had more compelling stories and didn’t read so much like a textbook, but I suppose it wouldn’t be right for Jono to reveal some major flame wars in these pages.

The Art of SEO: Mastering Search Engine Optimization
Eric Enge, Stephan Spencer, Rand Fishkin and Jessie C. Stricchiola
Published by O’Reilly
US$44.99
Rating: 8/10

The Art of Community: Building the New Age of Participation
Jono Bacon
Published by O’Reilly
US$39.99
Rating: 9/10

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