Great analysis and tips, Rand. Your first tip was to focus on branded search... but when it comes to small-medium businesses, there's a limit on how much brand search-demand one can produce. Are you saying that google search will eventually become an engine made only for entities/businesses we already know of? Where does that leave the whole discovery process?
Organic products have shifted from being a lifestyle choice for a small share of consumers to being consumed at least occasionally by a majority of Americans. National surveys conducted by the Hartman Group and Food Marketing Institute during the early 2000s found that two-thirds of surveyed shoppers bought organically grown foods. For a literature review of organic consumer studies, see the ERS report:
According to a Google study, paid search ads with an accompanying organic search result only occur 19% of the time, on average. Nine percent of the time a search ad shows with an organic ad in the top rank. What is surprising to many of us is the growth in incremental clicks when they appear together. Even the first organic ranking can benefit from an accompanying ad. Google’s results showed that 50% of ad clicks did not replace the clicks on the first organic search listing when the ads didn’t appear. The study found that 82% of ad clicks are incremental when the associated organic result is ranked between 2 and 4, and 96% of clicks are incremental when the brand’s organic result was 5 or below.

An important thing to note is the effect that localized searches will have on search engines. For example, say you’re in Atlanta and you’re looking for a photographer for your wedding. When you search “wedding photography” it wouldn’t be helpful to see results of photographers in Los Angeles. This is why Google takes into account where you are when you search for certain words, and shows you listings from businesses that are close in proximity to you.

I'm having a problem that I suspect many marketers share. Quite simply … SEO or just buy the traffic. I noticed that you switched to SEO because you like the passive income component. But when I consider ALL the work and ongoing moving parts to SEO .. visions of the hamster on a treadmill appear in place of couch potato cash. Have you noticed that there is always something new to do … now it's Google+ ect. and "more to do" is surly on it's way. It's reached the point where it's mind numbing.
The first one is pretty powerful and pretty awesome, which is investing in demand generation, rather than just demand serving, but demand generation for brand and branded product names. Why does this work? Well, because let's say, for example, I'm searching for SEO tools. What do I get? I get back a list of results from Google with a bunch of mostly articles saying these are the top SEO tools. In fact, Google has now made a little one box, card-style list result up at the top, the carousel that shows different brands of SEO tools. I don't think Moz is actually listed in there because I think they're pulling from the second or the third lists instead of the first one. Whatever the case, frustrating, hard to optimize for. Google could take away demand from it or click-through rate opportunity from it.

To give you an idea of just how much money is being spent on paid search, take a look at Google. Google's AdWords program is the most used pay-per-click (PPC) advertising program available today. While the tech giant owns YouTube and Android, among hundreds of other profitable brands, AdWords accounts for roughly 70% of their revenue -- which speaks wonders for its effectiveness.

Even though we think about it all the time, we usually take a “sit back and wait” approach to traffic. After all, you can’t force anyone to visit your website. But it’s not as simple as “if you build it, they will come.” And you need more traffic, and greater search engine visibility, if you want to get anywhere with your website and your business.

However, with a properly created PPC campaign, results can be analyzed and any conversion-related problems can fixed within no time. It shouldn’t be surprising to see massive results from a PPC campaign that’s been running only for a few weeks. When and if you have the budget, getting quick results with PPC is not only possible, it’s completely doable.

Keyword difficulty is a number that lets you know how difficult it will be to rank for a certain keyword. The higher the number, the more difficult it will be to rank on that keyword. There are a few sites online that will tell you keyword difficulty of a word or phrase. Record these numbers in your Excel document or Google Sheet that you made earlier.
That said, ground-up marketing works because it’s work. There’s no substitute for careful attention to your website’s content and careful curation of your business’s social media presence. Paid ads can be an effective tool within a high-budget marketing strategy, but if the consumer arrives at your website and doesn’t find what they’re looking for, how is that investment working for you? It’s not. If a sponsored tweet draws them in but a discrepancy in expectation chases them away, what’s the benefit there? It’s absent. Organic marketing is a long process, but ultimately it will yield more authentic customer engagement and more accurate SEO.
This way, you’ll know what percentage of these visitors are responsible for your conversions. You can find the conversion rate of your organic search traffic in your dashboard. Bear in mind: If you just configured this, you won’t have any usable data yet. Now let’s say that your conversion rate is 5%, and the average order value for a new customer is $147. 5/100 x $147 = $7.35.
The term is intuitive; the definition of organic marketing refers to the act of getting your customers to come to you naturally over time, rather than ‘artificially’ via paid links or boosted posts. It includes any direct, instinctive, and , with the exception of paid marketing tools. Paid tools, such as artificial paid link-ads, are considered inorganic marketing. If you’ve been putting your blood, sweat and tears into revising and reinventing your user interface, maintaining Twitter and Facebook accounts, building your email lists, and improving your SEO, you’re doing it already. Now, let’s take a closer look at why it’s effective, and how you can do it better.
I think for agencies as far as how we appear in organic search ourselves, we are definitely going to need to leverage all 3 of the solutions you talk about and agencies who haven't branded their products/services are going to have to do that and are going to have to also employ branding strategies. In addition, we have to optimize for other search ares like you say in your point #2 and we must look at optimizing existing content for voice search and answers/featured snippets like you say in point #3.
At our agency, we work with sites of varying sizes, from very large to quite small, and recently, we have noticed a trend at the enterprise level. These sites aren’t relying as much on Google for traffic any more. Not only are they not relying on Google traffic, but also, the sites are getting less than 10 percent (or slightly more) of their organic traffic from the search giant.