Review: Building Findable Websites

May 2, 2008 by

Web Teacher

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★★★★★ Building Findable Websites: Web Standards, SEO, and Beyond by Aarron Walter (New Riders, 2008) is one of those rare books that is so full of good ideas, it makes me enthusiastic about what I can do when I put the book down and go work on my blog or website. By expanding the topic beyond SEO into a broader concept called findability, all sorts of interesting new ideas for getting found are introduced.

As the author defines findability, it includes

  • Information architecture
  • Development
  • Marketing
  • Copywriting
  • Design
  • Search engine optimization (SEO)
  • Accessibility
  • Usability

He delves into each of those topics, giving concrete examples—often several examples—for ways to improve your site in terms of findability. The writing style is clear and often humorous. Some of the headings will serve as examples of the easy-going writing style used in the book: “The Deepest Desires of Search Engines” and “Web Standards and Findability Sitting in a Tree…” and “Final Notes: The Day Findability Saved the World.” That last one is actually a serious discussion about the spread of SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome).

Examples are easy to implement. In the chapter on Server-Side Strategies, he talks about the importance of file and folder names. He mentions that keywords in file and folder names should be separated with hyphens rather than underscores, so that each word is read individually by the search engines. The same chapter talks about cache, reducing http requests, and tools to analyze download speed such as YSlow—a Firefox extension.

In the chapter on Creating Content that Drives Traffic he covers the usual copywriting and keyword advice, but goes on to talk about developing content with RSS, and using RSS to create link libraries from or ma.gnolia.

In the chapter on Building a Findable Blog there are tips for titles, topics, summaries, and all sorts of blog plugins to build findability such as popular posts, recent posts, links for social networking sites, related posts. There’s a special section for WordPress blogs.

Other chapters talk about markup, adding search to your site, findability roadblocks, and mailing lists. The last chapter is interesting in that it takes all the ideas from the book and prioritizes them so that you can do the most effective first and work your way through them all in a sensible order.

Transparency disclosure: I met Aarron Walter at SXSWi this year and he convinced me to work on the Web Standards Project Education Task Force, where he is one of the leading voices. Nevertheless, I made every effort to evaluate this book objectively, and feel confident that my opinion is unbiased in terms of the value that people can get from this book.