This is adapted from a post on my Redbubble page.
Without the help of search engines, most people trudge along with a trickle of traffic from social media, fail to get results, and give up. Search engine optimization (SEO) is how you get the attention of search engines and their users.
You shouldn’t avoid SEO unless you’re confident you can drive traffic to your content without the help of a search engine. Most people can't, at least not at first. SEO isn’t difficult, and has the side effect of making your content more relevant to readers.
What should you look for in a keyword?
Google provides a free keyword research tool that, while not perfectly accurate, gives you an idea of what people are searching for.
(note: the tool has changed some since I wrote this, but it's still mostly the same)
But most people use it incorrectly, and sit there for months wondering why no one’s finding what they write. I experienced this first hand, and wasted time on terms I thought thousands of people were looking for.
But nope. Turns out it was tens of people. Tens! I learned that broad match is for people who’ve already built up a strong authority site. Broad match is your enemy for now. Untick it and go to exact match any time you’re looking for a keyword.
Confusing? It can be until you understand what’s happening. Broad match might cover stuff like this:
* how big is jupiter
* gas giant
* large planets
A new site would be lucky to rank for one of those, much less all of them. It usually takes having high-quality content for every related keyword to match up to all of them. A long-running site like Bad Astronomy (blogs.discovermagazine.com/bad…) probably ranks for quite a few search queries that fall under a single broad match phrase.
Phrase match is less broad, and looks more like this:
* composition of jupiter
* orbit of jupiter
* atmopshere of jupiter
A single highly-detailed piece of content could rank highly for all of these, even on a newer site.
Aim for exact match, which will only match the keyword you put in. Make sure you have “Only show ideas closely related to my search terms” ticked unless you have a good reason for keeping it off.
Understanding keyword competition
The competition value gives you a very rough idea of how many people are aiming for your keyword. The competition in the AdWords tool only shows how many people are bidding for that keyword for display on Google’s ad network, but it’s a useful estimate.
Don’t take the “Low,” “Medium,” and “High” as absolute though. It can change daily, and sometimes hourly.
An older site has a good chance of ranking for competitive keywords. New sites aren’t so fortunate, and need to aim for keywords with lower competition until they’ve built up enough signals for Google to know the site is trustworthy.
The idea of a niche
There are people out there who build hundreds of tiny sites around one or two keyphrases. These usually work for a time and can provide a lot of money through affiliate offers and advertising. But there’s one big problem with them: they’re extremely vulnerable to competition and changes in Google’s algorithms.
In the case of your deviantART portfolio, all you should worry about is putting your best work up, and organizing it into collections with good descriptions and tags. Don't forget the descriptions on collections. And if you publish to multiple sites, avoid using the same description. Google will ding you for duplicate content. dA already handles the bulk of the SEO work, such as deep linking, so there's not much to worry about. Seeing how many people are actually looking for what you want to make helps, but the bulk of your sales/views will probably come from dA's own discovery tools as long as your tags and descriptions are clear.
Search engines tend to favor people with huge collections of content since they have more people coming in through more keywords across more pages. Generally, the more you have up, the better you do.
It also helps to have a blog/journal with regularly updated and useful writing. But that's only part of my motivation for posting this.