"Attract Visitors to Your Site": A Short Guide to Improving Traffic

Imagine you’re at a family reunion, and your Aunt Sadie comes up to you and asks, “How can I get people to visit the web site I’m using to sell my quilts?”

“Auntie,” you reply, “I know the perfect book for you to read. It’s called ‘Attract Visitors to Your Site: The Mini Missing Manual’ by Matthew MacDonald, and you can get it as an e-book from O’Reilly for only $4.99.”

As a web worker, there’s probably not much that’s new to you in this book. But it’s well-written, and at just over 50 pages, it can be read in a hour, and it provides a good introduction to some useful techniques for improving the visibility of web sites.

The author makes it clear that he’s written the book for the proprietors of both hobbyist and small business sites. His writing style is straightforward, and he uses a bit of humor to lighten up what can be a pretty dry subject.

MacDonald starts the book by emphasizing the importance of putting together excellent content, “shameless self-promotion,” and a promotion plan. The author’s idea of a promotion plan is very simple, though — it’s really more of a checklist, with items like “1. Build a truly great web site.”

Once past the introductory sections, the author moves into basic descriptions of what can be done (and not done) with with SEO. The final third of the book is taken up with discussions of how Google Analytics, Webmaster Tools, and AdWords work, and how to use them. These last sections are slightly more technical, but are still clearly written, although they do assume some knowledge of HTML.

The book is not without its faults. I’m surprised that, in 2010, there is no mention of how social networks like Facebook and Twitter can be used to drive traffic to web sites. And there are some sections, particularly near the beginning of the book, that feel outdated and could probably have been omitted. The discussion of reciprocal links and web rings, for example, seems to have come right out of 1998, although the author seems a bit embarrassed by the subject:

Sadly, the majority of web rings consist of gaudy, amateurish Web disasters. Pair up with these nightmares and your site will be deemed guilty by association. However, with a little research, you may find a higher-quality ring. Maybe.

On the whole, though, “Attract Visitors to Your Site” doesn’t do a bad job of providing an accessible introduction to a subject that is often covered in mumbo-jumbo. And at $5, it’s an investment that you can recommend to family, friends and customers with even the smallest of budgets.

How do you introduce friends and clients to SEO and search engine placement?

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