Book review: Understanding SEO by Franz Enzenhofer

Book cover of Understanding SEO by Franz Enzenhofer

There is a lot of bad SEO advice out there. Many SEO agencies still buy links and give esoteric recommendations. A whole industry that promises things it can’t control (search rankings) or don’t matter (overall traffic). I tend to not listen to people who call themselves SEOs.

Nevertheless I bought the book Understanding SEO by Franz Enzenhofer. Why? Because someone I trust recommended it. (Funfact 1: Ten years ago, on 1.10.2012, I was asked for the first time if I know Enzenhofer. Funfact 2: Enzenhofer blocked me on Twitter. Nobody knows why.)

Enzenhofer tried to write the definitive book on SEO. He already knew that he would fail. The result is a solid resource for everyone who works with websites.

The end of SEO agencies

The first 3 chapters (50 pages) are setting the stage what SEO is and what it isn’t; As well as introducing a model how to think about SEO. Enzenhofer is an outspoken opponent of people who sell SEO, because he believes it can’t be sold. He doesn’t just state this, but argues why. He wants the reader to question advice that doesn’t make sense and suggests to not read SEO blogs because of the nonsense they publish. Instead to follow the specs and guidelines of Google.

Enzenhofers definition of SEO:

all business activities that contribute to the goal of being found online.

This hints at why SEO can’t be outsourced or added to your existing web presence. SEO is something that needs to be part of your strategy. In his systematic approach he gives the responsibility to development (UX, speed), content (content) and marketing (inlinks, branding). Only if these three understand SEO and make it part of their activities, it can be successful. Don’t do SEO for the sake of SEO, but to be found by people looking for what you have to offer. There are no magic tricks, only shortcuts that won’t work in the longterm. Instead the book helps you to create a lasting strategy.

Core concepts

The book takes a step back from the execution and teaches concepts to grasp SEO as strategy, not as a checklist or one-off task. Every business is different and needs a different strategy.

The setup

A website needs to be fast, have a good user experience and follow the Google specifications. If it is slow or confusing, that needs to be fixed before everything else. UX and speed are key. And the website needs to be constantly improved. Especially the content but everything else as well. At least if the business relies on being found online.

Search intents instead of keywords

It’s unreliable to focus on keywords. You need to understand why users visit a certain page and fulfill their expectation. Creating pages to capture certain traffic (keywords) is stupid, if the page doesn’t solve the intent or if it doesn’t help your business. Google became quite good at tracking if a search result worked for a user or not. If they go back and choose a different page, it shows Google you failed and your page should be ranked less for that intent.

References instead of links

The number of inlinks is irrelevant. You need references. Getting them should only be a secondary goal. Don’t write a guest blogpost to get a link, but to reach a new audience. Don’t write a press release to get a backlink, but to get validation. Marketing needs to think with links and they should be part of most activities, but not the driving force.

Only do what you can track and control

You don’t have power over Google, your users or other website. Focus on the things you can change. Your website. It needs to be blazing fast, have great UX, follow the Google specification and recommendations (eg. structured data), and should solve the users intents.

Practical advice

In the last two thirds of the book there are many things I found practical or even directly actionable. Rules for URLs, that help you to decide how to structure URLs. Quality criteria to decide what kind of content should be on the website and which shouldn’t. Some parts are a bit abstract and depend on what kind of website you have. It explains targeted and targeted detailed pages. There are suggestions for sitemaps. How often you should look at Google Search Console and statistics tool as a rule of thumb.


The book does not offer magic or revolutionary content. It is a mean to an end. I have read a lot of useless SEO advice. This book is different. Chapter 1-3 is a great introduction to SEO which should be read by everyone who comes in contact with the company website. Chapter 4-8 may be too technical for some. With the exception of Chapter 7, which is suitable for everyone.

There are some things I didn’t like. But those are about my personal taste. I didn’t like the use of made up numbers. „SEO is 5% know-how and 95% execution“, „80% of everything that is written about SEO on the internet is bullshit.“. They sound insightful and I immediately get what Enzenhofer wants to say. But I don’t like them. Similarly I have problems with his self description: „probably the best SEO consultant in Europe (most likely the world)“. But it doesn’t make the content of the book worse.

Overall the book is the best I have ever read on SEO. Good structure, a useful model, comprehensible concepts and actionable suggestions. I recommend it to anyone who works with websites and does not have a strategy for being found.

You can buy the book on the official website.

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