I told Kristina Halvorson on her 5 by 5 talk that our book is the only search book that emphasizes using keyword data from the very inception of content efforts. Now that I’ve read the second edition of Marketing in the Age of Google by Vanessa Fox, I can say our book is one of two that promote this approach.

Though the books complement one another, they have distinct points and purposes. Our book is more about search-first content strategy. Fox’s book is more about search-first business strategy. Our book has more keyword research and writing advice. Her book has more webmaster and development advice.

Rather than going into a detailed account, let me just point out what I like about her book and why I consider it a must read for digital marketing strategists. No book is perfect, however. By her own admission, her book leaves a lot of room for others to fill in the gaps left by its scope.

The business case for search-centric marketing strategy

My favorite part of the book is the beginning, where she compiles all the numbers you would ever need to prove to reluctant executives that:

  1. Search is the defining activity on the web
  2. It is growing ever more important with social content on mobile devices
  3. It is, therefore, the best source of data on which to base marketing strategy

The thing that I like best about this is her understanding that, even though the data comes from search, it isn’t only applicable to search. Search data tells us what our clients and prospects want or need. They want or need these things whether they are searching for them on the web or not. So search data can inform decisions about all kinds of online and offline business practices. Her book makes this point convincingly with more facts, figures and trends than you can keep in your brain at one time.

Intelligent personas

Marketers since the days of Don Draper have built personas to put a face, a name and a crucial characteristic or two on the audience we are trying to address with marketing. These fictional audiences are useful to writers and designers online and offline. What led me to write our book was the idea that they only encapsulate one person, and not a class of user. As an audience analysis tool, Mad Men-style personas leave a lot to be desired.

But if you can build personas backed with data, which encapsulate the majority of the audience you wish to attract, you can build experiences for the majority of your audience. Search data is the best source of audience information because it doesn’t just describe the demographics of your personas, it describes their psychographics. Her book shines in its approach to using search data to build intelligent personas.

Working with developers

She devotes a whole chapter to the gorpy webmaster code, which often makes or breaks search ranking and referrals. As the founder and former editor in chief of Google Webmaster Central, she is uniquely qualified to provide this information. I underlined more tips and tricks in this chapter than any other in her book.

My favorite part of this section is her discussion of site and URL management. The Panda algorithm places special emphasis on having a relatively clean site with a clear site map, free from URL clutter, excessive redirects and unreadable URL syntax. This chapter is the best collection of advice on these issues I have read.

The main gap

As I mentioned, the book leaves a few things to be desired. It seems to assume a relatively small, manageable business. For large enterprises, a lot of her advice is easier said than done. For example, if you are trying to build multiple microsites for a large product portfolio, you will need to carefully manage keywords across the sites so that you minimize internal competition for the same words. Since I write about this on my other blog, I’ll leave you to read that discussion over there.