I was disappointed in Mastering Search Analytics by Brent Chaters (O'Reilly Publishing, October 2011, 359 pages). While full of accurate information on the different sub fields of `search', organic, paid, site, etc., there is so much unneeded content, often poorly presented, that the book became burdensome to read. In retrospect I feel that the editorial staff at O'Reilly failed to do their job in helping the author produce a smaller yet higher quality book.
What could be said in a sentence took a paragraph. What should have been a link to supporting website often was pages of needless instructions on how to use interactive tools. In his chapter on Tracking and Optimizing SEO and Paid Search Traffic, Mr. Chaters takes three full paragraphs to basically convey the idea that "it is better to have smaller high quality traffic that converts well versus high volume low quality traffic that does not convert well." The book is weighed down by detailed step by step instructions on how to use free and paid online tools. This would have been much better if the author had only focused on the value and output the tool could offer while providing a link to a supporting site where anything from text instructions to screen shots to videos to updated content could be offered. Not to mention that the moment one of those tools is updated or modified the book is outdated. As of this writing MasteringSearchAnalytics.com is available for registration.
A seasoned interactive marketer even with no direct experience in the search field will find much of what is written here superfluous. Does a book whose stated target audience includes "search engine managers" really need to provide a lengthy explanation on the difference between month over month results versus year over year results?
The layout of the book also adds to its burdensome nature. Many useful URLS to articles and white papers are provided, however, instead of being a footnote the URL is dropped right into the middle of sentence. That's fine when the URL is six, seven even maybe ten characters but a URL that take up nearly a full line or more of a page really is upsetting to the eye and train of thought when reading. The number of times this occurs makes it noteworthy. Likewise Master Search Analytics could have been more impactful when describing mathematical formulae and theory if the equations had been placed in display or call out boxes rather than imbedded in the text as if it were the transcript of lecture on the topic.
I have to conclude with that after reading it that Brent Chaters is truly an expert in the field of search marketing and its analyses. I did take away a number of new learnings and "nuggets" that I will employ in my own marketing programs. With some significant editing I think this would be a good book for a person looking to enter the field or perhaps in their first role as a search marketing associate. While I cannot recommend Mastering Search Analytics, for those who decide to purchase it my recommendation is to read the beginning of each chapter, skim the rest and use it as a reference source in your business library.
John O'Farrell is an interactive marketing expert in the metropolitan New York area. You can visit his blog: AllThingsInteractive.com