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SEO Fitness Workbook by Jason McDonald Book Review
Teaching search engine optimization (SEO) to public relations and marketing students is an essential part of our jobs as PR and marketing professors. In this post, I review the SEO Fitness Workbook by Jason McDonald. Whether you teach SEO in a writing class or in another course, this book offers opportunities to build lessons in SEO keyword research, offer instruction on best practices for writing SEO-friendly website content, and more.
Why We Should Teach SEO to Public Relations and Marketing Students
We educators need to prepare our students with a fundamental understanding of how SEO works and how to help clients rank in search.
Organic search is one of the key ways people find content online. So it is essential to teach it. Just for this blog alone, about 80% of the traffic comes through organic search.
But teaching SEO is hard because, for many professors, they do not have control over or access to a website to put to practice the strategies and tactics of SEO. Without a site to monitor results on, it is hard to teach this stuff (One solution would be to build your own website [I’ll be talking about launching your own blog as a professor in a future post], partner with your department’s website, the campus newspaper website, or a local business). Yet, another challenge, is that professors today have to teach so many different skills: ethics, strategy, history, writing, video, audio, SEO, campaigns, case studies, social media, and on, and on. Because SEO seems complicated, we may opt to teach a shinier, less opaque object.
But here’s the truth that McDonald’s book teaches: You don’t have to be an expert at SEO to be effective at SEO.
The good news is, teaching the basics of SEO is not all that hard.
So don’t let that scare you.
Some of my students have gone on to focus in SEO or SEM in their careers whereas others have utilized it as one of a range of skills. No matter where your students are going, they need to at least know the basics of SEO.
What’s In McDonald’s SEO Fitness Workbook?
In learning and teaching SEO, I have traditionally relied on research and articles from sites like Backlinko.com and MOZ.com’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO. These are definitely great tools and I recommend reading them.
The advantage of McDonald’s book is that it offers a comprehensive, simple, easy-to-understand, and actionable plan for teaching, understanding, and executing SEO strategy.
After introducing SEO and demystifying it, McDonald offers readers a step-by-step action plan for taking a business and planning out its SEO strategy. The first few chapters define SEO and its importance and offer a preview for what is to come. Each chapter thereafter offers a checklist of tasks to complete that will enhance your page’s SEO.
Readers are taught to establish business goals. Then, the reader learns to begin creating a keyword brainstorming list. To build this list, the reader researches keywords using a variety of free and/or paid tools, such as Ubersuggest, Twinwords, and Google Keywords Planner tool. Keyword research is done using a series of tactics McDonald teaches. The end goal of this is to determine which keywords are important to one’s business (McDonald provides a helpful keyword worksheet readers can download).
Next, McDonald teaches how to build proper page tags and establish an SEO-friendly website structure, using tools like Google Search Console. Then, content marketing and blogging are covered with tips on how to plan and create content based on the keywords identified during the earlier research phase. Different content types are discussed with recommendations as to where on your website you want to place these types of content (e.g., landing pages, blog, etc.). Readers learn to build a content map. Press releases and press syndication services are also discussed as part of the content strategy.
Then, the SEO strategy of link building is discussed followed by a discussion of social media and of reviews. All three of these are forms of off-page SEO, or things you do off of your own website to increase your SEO. Link building is the process of getting other websites, hopefully authoritative ones, to link back to your website. This is important because Google sees others linking to you as a ‘vote’ for your website. These votes help the authority of your website increase. Google has a bias towards relevant, authoritative websites when deciding what content to display in a search result.
Do the Skills Taught in McDonald’s SEO Fitness Workbook Work?
This blog is proof of that.
I’ve used only a handful of the strategies and tactics discussed in SEO Fitness Workbook over the last 2 months and have seen gains in several areas:
- Ranking higher in search results for specific keywords – Or, technically, this is ranking lower as I am ranking at or closer to the #1 spot for several searches that I wasn’t ranking for before.
- More visitors and views – Because I am ranking better, I am getting more visitors to my website, which then is helping me sustain or improve my keyword ranking.
- Lower Bounce Rates – Improvements to my content and other things I have done (see below) have helped lower my bounce rate, which is a sign that people are finding what they want from my website.
- Faster website load times – I made some basic changes to my website to speed up load times. These have helped drive down my bounce rate because people don’t become impatient for my page to load and thus follow through to the website loading completion.
Is the SEO Fitness Workbook Right For Me?
In summary, McDonald’s SEO Fitness Workbook is easy to read and highly actionable. It is good for anyone wanting to learn how to improve their SEO knowledge and improve their search rank. It is a good resource for teaching search engine optimization to students. But it is also a great resource for teaching yourself SEO. If you are planning to use this text in your class, you may want to check out the SEO Fitness Workbook teacher’s edition.
Here’s my one critique of this book. Although I have the 2019 edition, the content is outdated in several cases. I noted this complaint was echoed by others who have reviewed other editions of this book on Amazon. Some of the content in the 2019 version seemed several years outdated based on my prior experience with some of these tools. While I realize that Professor McDonald releases a new edition to make his content appeal to customers as up to date, I would like to see the content of the book more closely reflecting the title. Frustratingly, Google changed their rank algorithm in mid-November, hurting sites like mine. These pains have come after all the work I did to improve my site. The SEO Fitness Workbook does not address these issues as they are brand new changes. I have not read the 2020 version and thus do not know if it is more up to date. However, it appears the 2020 book was out before the November 2019 changes.
Next Steps: SEO and Content Marketing
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