By relying so much on factors such as keyword density which were exclusively within a webmaster's control, early search engines suffered from abuse and ranking manipulation. To provide better results to their users, search engines had to adapt to ensure their results pages showed the most relevant search results, rather than unrelated pages stuffed with numerous keywords by unscrupulous webmasters. This meant moving away from heavy reliance on term density to a more holistic process for scoring semantic signals. Since the success and popularity of a search engine is determined by its ability to produce the most relevant results to any given search, poor quality or irrelevant search results could lead users to find other search sources. Search engines responded by developing more complex ranking algorithms, taking into account additional factors that were more difficult for webmasters to manipulate. In 2005, an annual conference, AIRWeb (Adversarial Information Retrieval on the Web), was created to bring together practitioners and researchers concerned with search engine optimization and related topics.
If you havent see it already, check out the links in shor's comment below - there are some great resources in there. In some cases you can also consider surveying your current audience or customers through email, on-site surveys or SurveyMonkey. Be sure to ask for some profiling information that you can use for determining specific persona needs like age, sex, location, etc. (Probably best not to make it sound like a creepy text chat like I just did though...) :)
Hey Ted, thanks for the great questions! The peak times refer to your particular time zone, if you are targeting an audience that resides in the same zone as you. You can also use tools to find out when most of your audience is online. For example, Facebook has this built into their Page Insights. For Twitter, you can use https://followerwonk.com/. Many social posting tools also offer this functionality.