"The Art of SEO: Mastering Search Engine Optimization" Book Summary

The Art of SEO: Mastering Search Engine Optimization by Eric Enge, Stephan Spencer, and Jessie Stricchiola is a comprehensive and detailed SEO reference by authors who are clearly experienced. The book tells what works and what doesn't. It's packed with tool recommendations. It covers keyword research, on-site SEO, off-site SEO, technical SEO, local SEO, analytics, and more.

The book explains that search engines use 2 key ranking signals, keyword targeting and links, but that UX is also important.

The last chapter includes this list of major SEO objectives so you know what to focus on. The rest of the book provides detail on how to accomplish these.

  • Make content accessible to crawlers.
  • Determine questions and needs that prospects have, find keywords they use, make site speak their language.
  • Create content that users will find useful, valuable, share-worthy. Ensure they’ll have a good experience to earn links and references.
  • Earn links and social media mentions by creating shareable content and marketing it online.
  • Create pages that allow users to find what they want quickly.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Below are my notes from the book.

Note: This page contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Please see Affiliate Disclosure.

Search: Reflecting Consciousness and Connecting Commerce

Technical SEO only allows your pages to compete for rankings. How highly pages rank depends on quality and depth of content, site's reputation, online visibility (including inbound links).

Not every visitor that comes to an ecommerce site will be ready to buy, so ecommerce sites should publish content for every stage of customer journey, and capture those in stages before buying.

A 2019 study by Hallam Internet suggests that #3 and #4 ad positions may offer highest ROI. High cost of #1 spot can reduce net margin, though it provides branding and market share benefits.

Google Search's guidance about AI-generated content

Generative AI and Search

Sample GPT prompts

  • Determine keyword intent for a group of keywords
  • Group keywords by relevance
  • Generate a list of questions on a topic
  • Generate article outlines
  • Create potential title tags
  • Generate meta descriptions
  • Generate text descriptions
  • Generate a list of FAQs for a block of content
  • Find and source statistics
  • Summarize content
  • Create Schema.org markup for one or more Q&A questions
  • Generate hreflang tags
  • Generate .htaccess code

Search Fundamentals


  • Experience: experience or point of view based on experience
  • Expertise: deep knowledge
  • Authoritativeness: links from authoritative sites that have been trustworthy over time
  • Trustworthiness: long history of consistently following rules, not being compromised by spammers or scammers

Your SEO Toolbox

Open Web Analytics is a self-hosted Google Analytics alternative. It can track via PHP and JS, so it can collect some data from users who use blockers or have JS disabled.

Keyword analytics tools

Google Analytics doesn’t reveal keywords people searched for to arrive on your site; these tools can.

  • Keyword Hero
  • Keyword Tool
  • Kissmetrics
  • Adobe Analytics
  • Open Web Analytics
  • Semrush
  • Ahrefs
  • Conductor (formerly Searchmetrics)

Search engine tools for finding keywords

  • Google autocomplete
  • Google Ads Keyword Planner (available even if not using Google Ads, but accuracy will be limited; can give idea for keyword popularity, keyword difficulty, CPC)
  • Google Trends (Useful for identifying and predicting spikes in search volume, finding related topics and queries, comparing volumes of keywords over time, competitive brand strength research, country-level trends. Only samples popular searches, so won't give long-tail keywords. Spikes can reveal events and news that contributed to spikes, which can give ideas for content and media outreach.)
  • Google News (useful for extremely current keywords)
  • Related (related results on SERP, "people also ask" queries, related videos on YouTube; especially useful for competitive markets)

SEO platforms

  • Semrush
  • Ahrefs
  • Conductor (formerly Searchmetrics)
  • Moz Pro
  • Rank Ranger
  • BrightEdge
  • seoClarity

vidIQ helps gain YouTube views and subscribers.

TubeBuddy provides keyword explorer and A/B testing of YouTube video titles and thumbnails.

Some SEO platforms (e.g., Ahrefs, Rank Ranger) have YouTube keyword research and rank-tracking capabilities.

SEO Planning

Material for planning and keyword research

  • Lists of products, brands, trademarks
  • Commissioned studies, paid market research reports
  • Customer interviews, reviews, testimonials, surveys
  • Licensed content (photos, videos, music)
  • Analysis of previous marketing campaigns
  • Access to Google Analytics (or other marketing/analytics platform)
  • Access to Google Ads data
  • Site architecture or information architecture documents

Customer persona demographic questions

  • Age range
  • Location
  • Job title or role
  • Hobbies
  • Income (or net worth)
  • Marital status
  • Parental status (and number)
  • Primarily search from mobile or desktop?
  • Annual spending on industry products and services
  • How late do they work?
  • Weekend activities

Customer persona psychographic questions

  • Fears
  • Frustrations
  • Wants
  • Aspirations
  • Problems they're trying to solve (go deeper than spoken problem to find unspoken problem)
  • What does success look like? Failure?
  • Who are their mentors, heroes, supporters? Detractors, enemies, critics?

If you don't have budget to compete for high-difficulty keywords in web search, try to rank in image or video search.

Keyword Research

Building topics list

  • Identify entities and concepts relevant to company, products/services, industry. Begin at lowest level, go up 1 step at a time.
  • Identify related topics. Why do people buy products/services? What are their concerns? What purposes do products/services serve? What are alternatives? What are most important features, qualities?
  • Are there other high-cardinality topics worth exploring?

Changing word order can generate more keywords. When in doubt, choose keyword closest to natural language question.

Internal resources for keyword research

  • Web logs, search console reports, analytics
  • Competitive analysis (check competitors’ sites, try to determine target keywords; look for variations and synonyms in content)
  • People (marketing, sales, engineering/product, IT, customer service, owners, customers, non-customers; ask questions below)

Questions to ask employees

  • What words define our business, products/services?
  • What words do customers use when they talk about our products/services?
  • What questions do prospects and customers ask us?
  • What questions do people ask before they connect with us?
  • Are there gaps in how we talk about our products/services and how customers see their needs?

External resources for keyword research

  • Natural language questions (try to have at least 1 for each keyword)
  • AlsoAsked.com analyzes natural language questions and returns mind map of related questions.
  • AnswerThePublic analyzes topic and returns mind map of most popular natural language questions and prepositions. AnswerSocrates.com is similar.

Researching trends, topics, seasonality

  • Google Trends
  • X sidebar, hashtags
  • BuzzSumo tells what content is trending overall, by topic, by keyword
  • Soovle shows popular related searches on several sites

Check for disambiguations and alternate spellings and phrasings of high-difficulty keywords (hyphenation, verb tenses, singular/plural variations). Use thesaurus.

95% of SERP clicks are on page 1 (top 10 results), and large percentage goes to #1 result. It probably isn't worth investing much to improve ranking until you're around #20 or higher.

Developing an SEO-Friendly Website

See what initial fully rendered version of a page looks like with Google’s Rich Results TestMobile-Friendly Test, or Chrome Inspector.

Pagination is problem for SEO because pages are about same topic and can be seen as "thin," content of pages shifts as posts or products are added or removed, and can create spider traps. Keep pagination to minimum and use HTML links to connect paginated pages or create a view-all page and use canonical tags to point paginated pages to it.

Subfolders are better than subdomains for SEO; subdomains don't always inherit SEO metrics from root domain. Subdomains are useful when you want to create separation from root domain, for content or business purposes.

A single good external link to a page positively influences entire domain and every page on it.

Best gTLD is .com or ccTLD for country your site serves.

Choose domain names that make site content obvious (e.g., AutoTrader.com).

If you have hundreds of posts or products and are targeting long-tail traffic, it may be better not to write meta descriptions, as search engines will then pull relevant text from page, and display keywords user searched for.

Bolding or italicizing text adds a little SEO value.

Google recommends Schema.org JSON-LD for structured data.

Avoiding issues with syndicated content

  • Get site publishing your content to include rel="canonical" link to your original page.
  • Have other site noindex their copy of content.
  • Have other site link to your original page.

If you put content licensed from others on your site, put in page header.

Addressing copyright infringement

  • Ask publisher to remove offending content. Provide documentation to show you created content.
  • File DMCA infringement request with Google, Bing, site’s host.
  • Threaten or file legal suit. DMCA.com is effective and inexpensive.

Avoid duplicate content on your site

  • Ensure each page is referred to by only 1 URL. 301-redirect others
  • Use robots.txt to block spiders from crawling duplicate versions
  • Use rel="canonical" link element (won't work if you block page with robots.txt)
  • Use meta robots noindex tags on duplicate pages (won't work if you block page with robots.txt)

If content can be viewed in multiple sort orders (e.g., tag, rating, etc.), you can prevent search engines from indexing multiple pages with same content by requiring cookie for users to access alternative sort order versions, or by using the rel="canonical" link element.

If you force users to register to view some content, keep URL same for logged-in and non-logged-in users, and show 1-2 paragraphs to non-logged-in users and search engines. If you want to display full content to search engines, control content delivery via cookies or sessions (e.g., show 1-2 pages to new visitors without requiring registration). Consider Google’s flexible sampling program to allow Google’s spiders to view content.

nofollow any links that are paid for.

Use rel="ugc" on outbound links in user-generated content.

Use rel="sponsored" on outbound links in ads or sponsored content.

Don't use URL parameters in gTLDs to target different languages countries, because then you can’t use Google Search Console’s geolocation feature when targeting countries, or rely on translation/localization of URL structure depending on selected language or country.

Geolocating by using subdirectories under gTLDs will likely be easiest option if already using a gTLD

Hosting within a country isn’t a definitive signal.

Don't automatically redirect users based on IP location or browser language; this might prevent search engines from crawling all language/country versions. Instead, suggest that user go to version in their language/country.

Specify page’s language/country by using "content-language" meta tag, embedding info in HTTP headers, or using hreflang annotations (usually in HTML head). Use hreflang when you have more than one language/country.

Structured data aids indexing, but not ranking.

Verify structured data with Google’s Rich Results Test.

Core Web Vitals are more important than PageSpeed Insights metrics, but aren't a significant ranking factor.

Core Web Vitals tools

SEO Analytics and Measurement

Analytics platforms

  • Google Analytics
  • Adobe Web Analytics
  • Adobe Marketing Analytics
  • Woopra Customer Journey Analytics
  • Clicky (privacy-friendly)
  • Matomo (privacy-friendly)
  • Webtrends Analytics for Web Apps

Track which items in following categories bring most conversions

  • Keyword
  • Referrer
  • Page
  • Initial entry page

Conversion rate optimization (CRO) tools

  • Optimizely
  • VWO
  • Mouseflow
  • Plerdy
  • Unbounce
  • Attention Insight
  • UserTesting
  • Hotjar

Calculating ROI

  • Number of people searching for your keywords
  • Average conversion rate
  • Average transaction value
  • SEO revenue = people searching for keywords * click-through rate * average conversion rate * average transaction amount
  • SEO ROI = SEO revenue / SEO cost
  • SEO revenue = increase in (pages/content getting search clicks * search clicks per page) * average conversion rate * average transaction value [alternative equation, because you have little control over impressions and click-through rate]

Google Algorithm Updates and Manual Actions/Penalties

Even though page speed is a ranking factor for mobile results, Google says this only impacts slowest sites.

Auditing and Troubleshooting


  • Botify
  • Lumar
  • Oncrawl
  • Screaming Frog

Backlink tools

  • Ahrefs
  • Majestic
  • Moz Link Explorer
  • Semrush

Broken external links "do not add value to your site’s ranking," so fix them.

Local search tools

  • Advice Local
  • Birdeye
  • BrightLocal
  • GeoRanker
  • Localo
  • Moz Local
  • ReviewTrackers
  • Rio SEO
  • Semrush Listing Management
  • SOCi
  • Synup
  • Uberall
  • Whitespark
  • Yext

Tools to pull raw backlink data: Ahrefs, LinkResearchTools, Majestic, Moz Link Explorer, Semrush

Promoting Your Site and Obtaining Links

Tactics to avoid

  • Paying site owners to link
  • Swapping links
  • Exchanging charitable donations for a link
  • Excessive guest posting
  • Offering site owners gifts, free products, or compensation for links
  • Obtaining links from many other sites without regard to their relevance to your brand

Moderate guest posting is OK (e.g., monthly guest posts on 2 relevant sites, not 10 guest posts each month on 10 different sites).

Moderate donating to earn links is OK (e.g., donating to a cause aligned with your brand, not donating small amounts to dozens).

Link analysis tools for link-building: Ahrefs, Moz Link Explorer, Majestic, LinkResearchTools, Semrush

Effective headlines

  • Don’t lie or mislead
  • Short as reasonable
  • Include most important keywords
  • Address reader with 2nd-person pronoun (you)
  • Include a number
  • Use emotional adjective (e.g., surprising, exciting) and/or superlative
  • Include "how to" if applicable
  • Don't duplicate existing headlines from other sites (unless your content is much better)

Link research tools

  • Ahrefs
  • LinkResearchTools
  • Majestic
  • Moz Link Explorer
  • Semrush
  • SparkToro (audience research)
  • Pitchbox (outreach management)

In link-building, avoid asking for specific anchor text, reciprocal linking.

In US, anyone who posts product review must disclose that they received compensation (including free product).

Outbound links impact rankings, because you’re endorsing that site’s authority, and relevance of that site to yours.

Vertical, Local, and Mobile SEO

Google Business Profile > Performance shows calls and website clicks from Google Maps.

GetStat.net will track map pack changes.

Traditional keyword ranking tools can't accurately track Google Maps; need geogrid tool (e.g., BrightLocal, Local Falcon).

Check Google Maps for fake competitors monthly, and report them.

If you use call tracking number, make it primary number in Google Business Profile and make receiving number secondary number, so Google knows relationship between numbers.

If business hides its address in Google Business Profile, rankings will be based around address used to verify listing, and rankings will be strongest in 3-5 mi around that address.

In local search, links from your community carry more weight, even if unrelated to your site.

Citations (mentions of business’s name, address, phone) on third-party sites now have limited influence.

Title attribute may be used for images, but it’s likely unnecessary if you're using alt attribute. If you specify a title, use same words as alt text.

4-6 hashtags is enough for most YouTube videos.

Speechpad can transcribe videos.

Google prefers only 1 video per webpage, and that it be prominent.

You can buy The Art of SEO: Mastering Search Engine Optimization as an ebook or book on Amazon.

Don't Want to Do SEO by Yourself?

If you're optimizing your own website for search engines, this book will give techniques and tools that will help. Although there’s a lot you can do on your own, you’ll get the best results from working with professionals who have years of SEO experience. Contact us to see how we can help with your SEO, to get more traffic from search engines.

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