In December 2009, Google announced it would be using the web search history of all its users in order to populate search results. On June 8, 2010 a new web indexing system called Google Caffeine was announced. Designed to allow users to find news results, forum posts and other content much sooner after publishing than before, Google caffeine was a change to the way Google updated its index in order to make things show up quicker on Google than before. According to Carrie Grimes, the software engineer who announced Caffeine for Google, "Caffeine provides 50 percent fresher results for web searches than our last index..." Google Instant, real-time-search, was introduced in late 2010 in an attempt to make search results more timely and relevant. Historically site administrators have spent months or even years optimizing a website to increase search rankings. With the growth in popularity of social media sites and blogs the leading engines made changes to their algorithms to allow fresh content to rank quickly within the search results.
Google Analytics is an invaluable source of data on just about every conceivable aspect of your site, from your most popular pages to visitor demographics. Keep a close eye on your Analytics data, and use this information to inform your promotional and content strategies. Pay attention to what posts and pages are proving the most popular. Inspect visitor data to see how, where and when your site traffic is coming from.
I completely agree that defintion of a target audience isa great first step, but would ask if adding in competitors to the analysis (mentioned here as a later step) helps draw out who your target audience would be via comparisons, i.e. showing who you are an who you are not - would be very interested to hear opinions on how this tactic can be used within the overall step in coordination with targeted keyword discovery.
Excellent post Brian. I think the point about writing content that appeals to influencers in spot on. Could you recommend some good, manual strategies through which I can spot influencers in boring niches *B2B* where influencers are not really talking much online? Is it a good idea to rely on newspaper articles to a feel for what a particular industry is talking about? Would love to hear your thoughts on that.