100 best SEO documents of all time, part 1

I was asking myself what the classics were in the field of Search Engine Optimization. What documents would you introduce people to if you wanted to help them learn and understand what Search Engine Optimization was, and possibly what it could be.

I started a list earlier today, and quickly got up to 30 articles, patents and patent applications, white papers, forum threads, books, and more, and decided that I would list those here, and see if I could get up to 100 of the best. I’m going to try to post these over a number of days, and I consider the documents I’m listing to be nominees for the best that the industry has to offer.

Many of these come from search engineers, and a good number come from Search Engine Marketers, usability consultants, and other commentators on search engines, the web, and other folks who have played a part in making the web alive, and vibrant, and a place where commercial and noncommercial activities could thrive.

I’ve chosen a number of these documents because I’ve seen them mentioned a lot on SEO and marketing forums, where I seem to spend a lot of my time. Others I selected because they made me think about the web or marketing or the technology behind the internet in different ways.

If you have some suggestions for documents, I’m open to other nominations for the best SEO documents of all time.

These are in no particular order, except perhaps for the first three.

The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine

There was a time when search engines relied upon the text that showed up on web pages, and metadata that the builders of those pages added to them. Sergey Brin and Larry Page came up with a way to “exploit the additional information present in hypertext.”

The PageRank Citation Ranking: Bringing Order to the Web (pdf)

When one document is referred to by another on the web, it might be interesting. When one document is referred to by many others, it can become a lot more interesting. The shortest definition I’ve heard of Pagerank is that it is “the chance that you could go to particular document from any other document on the web.” A lot of people have said that PageRank is a flawed measure in one way or another. And more than a couple of other approaches have been pointed to that might improve upon it. But, an understanding of how PageRank is supposed to work is probably one of those things you need to do if you want to practice search engine optimization.

Filthy Linking Rich And Getting Richer!

How much should we rely upon the PageRank that shows for a page in the Google Toolbar? The author of this article is perhaps one of the most erudite and articulate critics of pagerank, and the showing of PageRank above a page in the toolbar, referring to it as a ” little sprinkling of green fairy dust above the pages.”

The 3-Page Search Engine Optimisation Technique – Updated – Multi-Page SEO Technique

A lot has been made recently of a paper sponsored by a meta search engine which claims to prove that there is little overlap amongst the top results in different search engines. If you think that this might make it hard for you to create a web site that can be found across a number of web sites, you haven’t read this article from Ammon Johns. Building pages that provide an intelligent structure and increased usability for your visitors can also help you do well in multiple search engines. Brilliant stuff.

Authoritative Sources in a Hyperlinked Environment (pdf)

This white paper introduces a number of interesting concepts. If you’ve heard of the phrases “hubs” and “authorities” when it comes to optimizing web pages, but didn’t know much about the ideas behind those, this isn’t a bad paper to read to learn more. There is some math in here that the average marketer may struggle with, but if you can make your way past that, there are some notions worth considering in this paper. If you want to find out more about search engines that use some of the ideas presented here, I’d suggest that you go to Ask Jeeves, and find out more about the roots of their ranking system.

Successful Site in 12 Months with Google Alone

Since I’m pointing out hands-on documents about improving web sites, and making them easier to be found in search engines, I definitely need to include this one, too. It’s a couple of years old, and some of the suggestions might be a little dated, but this is probably one of the most influential documents in SEO.

Topic-Sensitive PageRank

Ranking search results by reranking the results based on local inter-connectivity

Since I linked to articles about PageRank and Kleinberg’s “hubs and authorities” above, I felt that I had to include some variations and alternatives to show that time hasn’t stood still since those documents were written. These are only a couple of the different approaches that have been suggested to “improve” upon rankings from search engines. There are others…

As We May Think

Published in July of 1945, this article predates SEO, search engines, the internet, and more. If you work on the web, and you haven’t come across references to the memex before, you’ve been missing out.

More tomorrow…

Posts in this series of the 100 Best SEO documents:


21 thoughts on “100 best SEO documents of all time, part 1”

  1. Your blog is outstanding.

    I have bookmark your blog. I also run a SEO company.

    But I can still learn so much from you keep up the great work.


  2. Hi Bill,
    Thanks for the list. Bookmarked!
    I will spend some times to read them.

  3. Very good stuff Bill. Have you personally read all these documents? I started on some of the heavy academic stuff but found myself skimming rather briskly through much of it :)

  4. Hi Matthew,

    I wouldn’t have included those documents if I hadn’t read them first.

    Skimming through them is a good start – I don’t think you need to be a mathematician or a computer scientist to get the basic ideas behind many of them.

  5. I love your blog, but you just took up my free time for the next few months in felt swoop you should be ashamed. Kidding keep up the great work

  6. Hi Blake,

    Thanks for your kind words. It’s been a few years since I started this series of posts, and looking back on the documents that I included, I think I would cite most of them all over again if I were writing this post today. Maybe I should finish out the list? :)

  7. Love this list. Larry Page and Brin’s Anatomy of a search engine was one of the first things I read when I first started SEO. Whenever you begin learning you should always goto the source.

  8. Hi Vince

    Thanks. I agree with you completely about going to the source, and the first couple of links from Google’s founders are definitely essential reading when it comes to SEO.

  9. “Successful Site in 12 Months with Google Alone” – I wish all clients would get the 12 months bit into their heads when establishing expectations :)

  10. Hi Matt,

    It’s often surprising how little time most people are willing to spend to create a successful business online. Success rarely happens overnight, and more even rarely to people who aren’t willing to roll their sleeves up and work for it.

  11. I’m sure you’ll get around to it, but Percolator replaced MapReduce for indexing and the introduction to the Percolator paper in that last link reveals a lot about search engine limits and capabilities. It definitely deserves more attention than it gets in SEO circles.

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