Reviewed September 17th, 2007 @ 08:31PM
Professional Search Engine Optimization with PHP by Jaimie Sirovich and Christian Darie is a very thorough resource and tutorial on how to optimize your website for search engines, using PHP as your programming language of choice. If you are a Search Engine Marketer, there probably isn't much new information in here for you. However, if you are an experienced PHP programmer wondering how your work on the back-end affects the front-end aspect of things, and how you can be more conscious as a developer, then this is a book for you. If you are just beginning your journey with PHP, this book is a must-read.
Search engine optimization is an ever changing field, but understanding some of the core principles will help you build a solid foundation that will allow you to grow or scale with the industry. That is exactly what this book sets out to achieve: Give you a solid foundation as you optimize your website for search engines.
Without repeating the same information you can find from the back of the book or the introduction, I am going to briefly touch on some of the topics that were discussed in the book.
This book covers a broad range of topics, and does so in great detail and with excellent code examples. The book starts off with the basics of both PHP and search engine optimization. They give a quick SEO primer, including some extra resources for homework. The PHP examples start with creating basic functions, then progress into creating useful objects that are reusable and portable as you develop your sites. The PHP code is very well structured and organized, something I was pleasantly surprised to see.
Creating a site that is friendly to search engines means understanding how a search engines finds your content, makes sense of your content, and indexes your content. The first exercise begins by creating search engine friendly URL's using Apache and mod_rewrite. This allows you to create more lean and meaningful URL's.
From there they move to understanding some of the basic HTTP status codes and how they affect the robot's indexing of your website. Here you will learn how to properly redirect your pages if necessary, and how to properly flag a page as an error. All of this focuses on having one point of entry for your pages, giving you a clean index to deal with.
Duplicate content is something that is often times overlooked or ignored. This chapter discusses the details necessary to avoid duplicate content, and how to use robots.txt to block the robots from pages that could potentially look to be duplicates, such as archives.
Before we view some of the case studies, we look at link bait, cloaking, geo-targeting, and IP delivery, and dealing with SEO and foreign languages. These chapters seemed to cover the most controversial topics related to SEO, and the authors take a solid stance on their process and cite solid reasoning for their specific stance. Much is discussed here, more than could be elaborated in a review.
The last few chapters discussed dealing with technical issues, an e-commerce case study, working with existing websites and fixing them for SEO, and how to create a SE-Frienly blog with Wordpress. All of these chapters put SEO into action and show by tutorials and examples of how to create a SE-Friendly website. They touch on the important topic of working with a legacy system and how to migrate or make changes to enhance SEO. Wordpress, being a common platform for blogging, is briefly examined and extra resources are given to help you expand your Wordpress blog. These chapters wrap things up nicely. The foundation is set in the previous chapters, and the building blocks we create in the previous chapters are used in real-world examples.
Any qualms with this book are few and far between, and are mostly minor details when looking at the big picture. Jaimie and Cristian have done an excellent job of bridging the gap of search engine optimization and PHP. Good search engine optimization is comprised of many different fields and practices: copywriting, writing excellent headlines, understanding the medium of the web and HTML, and the programming that often times glues all of these things together. As a PHP programmer, this will help you make that glue stronger and more cohesive. Though this book is aimed at PHP developers, the principles explained in this book could be carried over to any other programming language of choice.
NOTE: It is important to note that, since the printing of this book, the major search engines now support the sitemap.xml format. Not all support the full extent, but it is becoming more standardized. This just goes to show how rapidly things change.