It's a great read, and give tons of useful information.
My initial problem with SEO was that Google was only indexing my front page, it wasn't picking up any of my taxonomy terms, or any node pages. Although OpenConcept offers paid services, Mike was kind enough to help me out with more than one topic that I had questions about. I've summarized the advice that I received from him.
- Is there a methodical way to check what pages of your website Google has indexed?
Yes. Goto site:www.yourSiteName.com. (e.g. site:www.portfolioofpb.com) If you can access your site without the www. try looking that up in Google as well. (e.g. site:portfolioofpb.com). It turns out that my frontpage, taxonomy terms, and the directory, where index under site:www.portfolioofpb.com. All my nodes and comments where index under site:portfolioofpb.com.
- One of the most important files on your website, and where it should be located.
After talking to Mike and having read up on what exactly the robots.txt file does, I shocked to realize its importance. From now on, every website I create will have a robots.txt file before I have content. The robots.txt file must be in the root. Drupal had created a robots.txt file for me, but it was under /blog/.. this is no good. It must be placed in the root folder of the website. (e.g. http://www.portfolioofpb.com/robots.txt)
- What the heck is a sitemap and how do you create one?
An XML sitemap is a XML file that conforms to a defined schema and stores simple information about your webpages on your site and assigns them a priority, along with a changeFreq and lastmod tag.
There are lots of free services out there that you can sign up for and they will generate these XML files for you. If you are using a CMS, it's even easier. Drupal has the XMLSitemaps module, and Wordpress has it's equivalent. Read up on the importance of a sitemap. Here is what a sitemap looks like.
- What are backlinks, why are they important, and how to create them?
Backlinks are just as important to the growth of a site as the content it serves. If you have great content, but if no one knows about it, or no one can find it, that content is no good. One way to 'publish' your content is to have it indexed by a search engine. Another way is backlinks - these are incoming links to your website. i.e. A links on another website that points back to your website.
Search engines use the number of backlinks to a website as one of their parameters to judge its popularity. So more is better - But there is an ethical way of increasing your backlinks and it is not by spamming.
You can increase the number of backlinks to your site by posting comments along with a link back to your site. Making the comments useful and relevent also help. The 'blogosphere' is a giant conversation, and the more relevant content you contribute to it, the more recognition and popularity you will receive.
- Taking care of all the loose ends - Google webmaster tools
All this might be a lot of content to keep track of, and if you have more than one website, it becomes even harder to maintain, but Google Webmaster Tools help you sort it all out. They have a tool that will help you verify your robots.txt file to see if it is in the correct spot and that it does not contain any errors. There are tools that will help you get your sitemap into the Google index quickly. The webmaster tools also tell you the last time Google indexed your page, how many pages it knows about, how many pages point to your website, and many more statistics. All those are worth keeping any eye on. They will help you tweak your website to generate more traffic, and retain existing traffic.