SMC Book Club Review: "Optimize" by Lee Odden
I have to start of my evaluation of “Optimize” by noting that I have been familiar with Mr. Odden’s work for some time now. His TopRank Online Marketing blog has been an inspiration and essential resource throughout my personal journey into digital communications media. Given this prior exposure, the subject matter and instructional tone of the book is no surprise. That said, at this risk of over-enthusiasm, I believe that this publication is instantly the most cohesive guide of its type on the market, a step-by-step workbook for any person or company looking to make sense of and excel at connecting with and marketing to communities online.
Coming from a social media strategist’s perspective, I have always found SEO experts a bit standoff-ish, in the way that one generation scoffs at another for its fashion sense or taste in music. It’s understandable; for a while, they held the keys to castle of search and the kingdom of riches that marketers would offer for the insights that lay within. However, constantly changing algorithms and a shift towards social media changed the game. Savvy SEO men like Lee Odden recognized these trends early on and embraced them, focusing their energy on integrating their expertise with the new rules and opportunities. This book is not only the culmination of his work to this point, but many of his colleagues mentioned therein, folks like David Meerman Scott, Joe Pulizzi and David Armano, just to name a few.
As I said previously, this book should be approached as a workbook and read actively. It frequently challenges you to consider your situation and perspective on digital marketing, so be prepared to take notes. Certain insights and quotes scream to be highlighted and each chapter ends with “Action Items”. This is your homework, your chance to at consider how you will or would implement what you’ve just learned. In addition, each chapter contains external references for readers who want to learn more about a given topic. This is one of the book’s true strengths as an ongoing resource.
The book is smartly organized into three “phases”. The first phase serves as a primer, bringing each reader to a common starting point, sorting out some terminology and laying the foundation on which the subsequent concepts will be built. From there, you progress to the core of the program, the methods, tools and tactics that everyone can use to develop and execute a strong, integrated online communications plan, buttressed by case studies and best practices. The third phase gives the book its title. Now that you know what to do, do it better. Keep doing it. Odden closes by saying what should be painfully obvious by that point: “Optimize and socialize” is a frame of mind; a journey, not a destination.
I mentioned before that I do not consider myself an SEO person. Prior to reading this book, I was familiar with its tenets, but possess no more than a working knowledge of its terms and techniques. Odden often goes into depth to explain the relationship between current best practices and the part they play in an integrated, optimized strategy. I have a greater respect for that side of the equation than I did previously, even if those passages struggled to keep my attention at times. I would expect that sections on content and social media might be likewise slow to people more interested in a particular subject versus the whole, but it is exactly that holistic approach to the endeavor that makes the book stand out amongst its peers.
Everyone who reads through this book and gives it full consideration should walk away with a broader understanding of the big picture when it comes to online marketing or at least, to use a puzzle metaphor, have a greater insight to how all the pieces will fit in the end. More importantly, they’ll have a guide they can return to subsequently for a refresher, for reinforcement or for resources to continue their “optimize and socialize” journey. I look forward to sharing this book with colleagues and clients alike. - TM