We nerded out about search engine optimization (SEO) last night at Meg Biram's Blog Biz + Buzz seminar (which was super fun - thanks for having us, Meg!). So today on the blog, we wanted to hit the highlights of what we shared.
Optimizing your website for search can be a long and tedious road (though using SpaceCraft makes it about 10 times easier and much more straightforward). But we like to think of it as a game we're playing where it's understood that if we cheat, we're out...and the other team (i.e., search engines) can change the rules whenever they want. But it's a constant back-and-forth, trying things, tweaking keywords, and building rapport.
Your first play is to create an account with Google Analytics or another analytics platform (Clicky, Woopra, GoSquared, and StatCounter are all great ones). Once you've hooked your website up with that, you can see what's working and what's not. Click on all the options to see how people are finding you, which pages they're staying on longest or exiting from, where they're coming from, and what they're clicking on. This helps you know what you need to tweak in your meta-tags and content, as well as in any social campaigns and paid search.
Google and Bing (which includes Yahoo!) have Webmaster Tools and these are invaluable. Once you've created an account, you can add your website, which helps get it on the search engines' radars. You can also verify ownership of your website, index all your pages, check to see who's linking to your site, make sure there are no crawl errors (like Page Not Founds) and request removal of those URLs from the search engines indices if so, etc. Get in there and play around. There's a lot of helpful information and some ways you can be proactive about raising search engines' awareness of your site.
We primarily use two keyword research tools, Google Keyword Tool and KeywordSpy. In KeywordSpy, we plug in the domain names of competitors and can see which keywords and phrases they're ranking for, as well as the words they're paying for. In Google Keyword Tool, we type a word we'd like to rank for or that reflects our content (i.e. "abstract photography" for the Shirine Gill website). Then we set parameters so we only see results that have low competition and high volume of search (over 1000 global searches monthly, for instance). That way we can see what people are currently interested in that not many websites are providing information on, and we can begin to direct our content and keywords toward those topics.