Building Findable Websites

Web Standards, Seo, and Beyond
Making Your Website Understandable Not Only to Search Engines but Readers as Well.

There’s plenty of SEO books on the market, many written in just the last two years; Findable Websites goes further than some of these books into the whole area of making your website understandable not only to search engines but readers as well. The material covered is quite broad: from CSS image replacement to micro-formats to SEO for WordPress.

Findable Websites is a small book (19x23cm) and only 240 pages, but it contains a fair amount of information. For SEO, it’s not as in-depth as, say, Wrox’s Professional Search Engine Optimization with PHP, (a book I’d recommended to anyone getting started with SEO), but rather, the book’s goal can be summed up as: help people find your site in the first place and once there, help them find what they’re looking for, then finally, get people to come back. SEO can get people to your site in the first place, but the next two parts are what this book teaches you.

It’s not without its problems: early on there are a few statistics like: “keyword density shouldn’t be more than 7%” – but where this statistic comes from isn’t explained until page 106 (it comes from studies of writing, precisely how many times a word would naturally occur in text), I’d have preferred if there had been some references to statistics like this, but I guess space is at a premium in a small book like this. The layout is clear with numerous screen-shots in black, white and red. There are copious notes and break-out boxes high-lighting topics, often with links to websites for further information. Reading through, I found the data seemed entirely up to date in terms of blog listings and current topics.

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The sections of the book include:

The first is on mark-up strategies that cover using web standards, creating accessible content and the relatively new micro-formats.

Next, server-side strategies look at choosing domain names, creating search-engine-friendly URLs, handling redirects and 401 error pages as well as caching files through proper headers and the robots.txt file.

The big second section is all about creating content. It has chapters on building a findable blog covering best practices, working with WordPress and making WordPress more findable.

It’s followed by a chapter that looks as ways to add search to your site. This covers free search systems (Google/Yahoo!), purchased search systems and even building your own. Also, adding OpenSearch (basically an open-specification site-map format) support to your site is covered.

After this, the next chapter covers preventing find-ability roadblocks which include JavaScript pitfalls, progressive enhancement, making audio and video and Adobe Flash pages more findable.

From there, the focus shifts to getting viewers to come back. You learn how to create a mailing list and how to encourage subscriptions, using a mailing list system and building an Ajax-powered subscription system.

Finally, the last chapter is titled putting find-ability into practice. It covers how to prioritized, discovering problems on your site and ultimately, what you can realistically expect from this in terms of seeing results.

My initial reaction to this book was, “another SEO book”, but this one goes further than SEO into how to build a website that is useful to the human visitor as well as the search engine spider. In similar books, writers have explained that this is not something that can be easily tacked on after the website is built, this book follows that advice, but as a set of practices using modern examples.

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