p. “Professional Search Engine Optimization with PHP” arrived on my doorstep as I was heading to Orlando, FL. I was headed for a week of working out of a hotel room while Wife 1.23 (the lovely and talented “Kathy”:http://www.kathyevans.biz) attended a very expensive conference on SEO put on by 4 SEO Professionals. When we arrived back home and I started paging through the book to prepare for this review. I was really surprised at the amount of overlap there was between the notes she took at her conference and the information presented in this book. Given the $40 price tag and the 4 digit price of the conference, I really expected this book to be light-weight compared to the information presented at the conference. That just isn’t so. This is a book that is packed with useful information and code samples along with a hidden gem at the end.
p. I’ve always considered “SEO Professionals” to be the used car salesmen of the web. (no offense intended to used car salesmen) My justification for this has been the highly un-scientific theory that there are only 10 slots on the first Google search page for any term. So if you don’t hire one of the top 10 SEO Professionals, you are wasting your money.
p. One of the problems I’ve had with the SEO Professionals that I’ve met is that there seem to be very few benchmarks they will guarantee. Most won’t guarantee a specific level of placement for a given set of keywords on a search. Since when it’s all said and done, that’s really what you are paying for; it’s hard to understand what you are getting for your money other than their best efforts. Since I don’t even hire my lawn boy under those terms, it has always been hard for me to understand the lure for SEO professionals. (other than the obvious, your competitor hired one so you had better hire one.)
p. I’d like to say that this book has changed my way of thinking about SEO Professionals, but it hasn’t. It has, however, given me enough information so that I can make my own projects more SE friendly and allow me to help my friends do the same.
p. “Professional Search Engine Optimization with PHP” was authored by Jamie Sirovich and Christian Darie and published by Wrox. It’s not a thick book, weighing in at less than 380 pages, cover to cover. However, in those 380 pages, the authors manage to pack a lot of information.
p. The authors dive right into the meat of the subject early on, skipping the obligatory history of the Internet that so many programming books love to start with. Early on, they offer you this bit of wisdom.
bq. SEO Cannot Be an Afterthought
p. Now, that may seem to be trite when you read it the first time but when you’ve finished the book and realized how much there is you can do to affect the ranking of your pages, it really starts to sink in that for most of these techniques to be effective, you have to design for them.
p. Given the relative advanced topic of this book, I was surprised to find a section on how to get your “playground” up and running. They devote 4 pages to getting XAMPP up and running. However, once you are beyond that, the good stuff starts to unfold.
p. Chapter 2 was for me, by far, the most useful chapter, “A Primer in Basic SEO”. As the title suggests, it takes you through the basics of what you need to know and do. This chapter alone was worth the price of the book to me as it defines terms like “Link Equity” and “PageRank”. It also goes into a bit of detail on Search Engine ranking factors. This chapter, while being an excellent overview of the black-arts of SEO, lays the groundwork for the rest of the book. Chapter 2 tells you what you need to do, the rest of the book tells you how to do it. (Side Note: chapter 2 also gives a list of tools you can use to help you improve the ranking of your page. All the tools that the conference wife 1.23 went to are listed in this chapter.)
p. The rest of the book is divided up into chunks that will help you with a specific task or concept. They cover things like “SE Friendly URLs”, “Duplicate Content”, “Link Bait” and “Black Hat SEO”. Really, you can read chapters 1 and 2, cherry-pick the concepts you want to implement and then read those chapters of the book. All the example code is given in PHP and it’s obvious that the authors are very knowledgeable about their subject matter and PHP.
p. Chapters 13-16 are different in that they help you start bringing it all together. Chapter 16 is especially interesting as it’s a step-by-step guide for setting up a SE friendly blog using WordPress.
p. The hidden gem at the end of the book is Appendix A. Appendix A is a simple primer on Regular Expressions. Now this is not the equivalent of O’Reilly’s seminal tome. It was, however a pleasant surprise to find a great intro for Regular Expressions tucked away in an already great book. A note in the book indicates that this appendix was “borrowed” from the Wrox title Beginning Regular Expressions by Andrew Watt.
p. I review a lot of books revolving around PHP. “Professional Search Engine Optimization with PHP” is one of the more unusual titles I’ve reviewed. Given my attitude on SEO, I admit that I approached it with a jaundiced view. I was really pleased to see that the book does give concrete advice and realistic code samples to help developers build sites that rank well. I would recommend this book to any PHP developer interested in helping their clients with SEO. Will this book make you a SEO Professional? No. However, I’ll be happy to sell you that certificate separately.