As a SEO analyst the fact that recent changes Google has made has made it hard for websites to rank scares me a bit but on a second thought I see a lot of opportunity here for growth. Because as SEO gets more challenging true meaningful strategies are now needed to optimize a site rather than just link building and basic on page. SEOrs really need to understand the nature of a client’s business, work on their buyer’s persona & understand their clients Goals. I am a big fan of Point #2 & #3 you highlighted under potential solutions. Local businesses (LB) really need to setup up and take full advantage of Google My Business (unfortunately I don’t see many LBs doing that). With point #1 i.e. demand generation, I am bit confused about how that strategy will unfold for small businesses. This would mean a lot more investment from their end on building their brand equity and brand awareness, but some businesses don’t really have that kind of funding. I mean yes, they can implement aggressive social media strategies and take advantage of GMB but that will still be very challenging I feel. Maybe a bit more information on how we can generate demand for small businesses be helpful!
Apart from the above mentioned factors, analyzing your competitors’ social strategy, the industry your business falls into, and individual social platforms will also help you in deciding the right social strategy. For instance, last year Facebook reduced the exposure of organic content, so for exponential results on Facebook a brand must go for paid ads.
Well, yes and no. Sure, you can get hit with an algorithm change or penalty that destroys all your traffic. However, if you have good people who know what they are doing, this is not likely to happen, and if it does, it is easy (in most cases) to get your visits back. Panda and Penguin are another story, but if you get hit by those it is typically not accidental.

The piece on generating demand for branded queries rather than just product-based ones is particularly interesting here. It sounds as though it'll be more important than ever to have a strong brand in order to succeed (rather than just having a well-optimized site -- and ideally, having the strategic, technical, and creative sides all working together cohesively). Perhaps it's possible that brand exposure through things like answer boxes can still deliver some value too, even if it's difficult to measure, and CTRs are diminished?
Basically, what I’m talking about here is finding websites that have mentioned your brand name but they haven’t actually linked to you. For example, someone may have mentioned my name in an article they wrote (“Matthew Barby did this…”) but they didn’t link to matthewbarby.com. By checking for websites like this you can find quick opportunities to get them to add a link.

The position of a link on a search results page is important. Depending on the search term, organic search results often make up only a small portion of the page. Since ads are at the top of the results page, on a device with a relatively small display -- such as a notebook, tablet or smartphone -- the visible organic search results may consist of only one or two items.
More eyes on your website are all well and good, but if you can’t get them to interact, you lose. Engagement is what’s going to facilitate the conversion that you want. When users become invested in your content, they keep coming back, and they become the fuel for your sales funnels. So what is a “rich content experience?” Here’s what I recommend. Be intentional.  Most people pump out content because they heard it’s the right thing to do. No rhyme. No reason. That’s a mistake. Every piece of content should serve a goal.
Social Media Marketing (SMM): Focuses on branding, reputation enhancement and enhanced customer service via social networks like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn. Smaller SMM channels include Digg, Delicious, Wikipedia, StumbleUpon and MySpace. Social networks are visited by a collective total of over one-billion people. Thus, even the simplest marketing efforts, like paid advertising, reach potentially large audiences.

Link building is a catchall term for the practice of creating new external links to your site. Beyond creating great content people want to share, guest blogging and asking webmasters from authoritative sites relevant to your business to link back to your pages are great ways to build links. When possible, use keywords are the anchor text for your links, as this will help send signals to Google that your pages are relevant for those terms.
A good call to action has a clear message and action. It should move people in the direction of purchasing. On a blog post, a good CTA may point people to more in-depth content like an e-book. It can also point people to your products and services. However, the in-depth content is more effective. You can then pitch your product or service using the in-depth content.
Organic search is extremely important for online retailers, as many studies suggest it drives around 50% of website traffic. When it comes to search engine optimization for eCommerce, marketers get obsessive about testing all methods available to them to try and achieve higher rankings. The logic is very simple: higher positions on SERPs automatically result in higher impressions and a significantly better click-through rate. More people visiting your store should ultimately translate into better conversions and higher revenues.  
Organic search is the backbone of a strong digital marketing strategy. It not only drives people to your website, but the insights offered through search trends can help you properly plan and execute your broader marketing course. Brands that want to employ strong marketing tactics should not neglect the power of organic search and the Data Cube in guiding their success.
Pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns generate paid traffic. The goal of running a PPC ad campaign is to increase visibility of and traffic to your website by showing up in the paid search results – you can identify ‘paid’ results easily as they are brief advertisements separate from the organic results. These ads are prompted when a user types in a relevant keyword into the search engine.
In February 2011, Google announced the Panda update, which penalizes websites containing content duplicated from other websites and sources. Historically websites have copied content from one another and benefited in search engine rankings by engaging in this practice. However Google implemented a new system which punishes sites whose content is not unique.[35] The 2012 Google Penguin attempted to penalize websites that used manipulative techniques to improve their rankings on the search engine.[36] Although Google Penguin has been presented as an algorithm aimed at fighting web spam, it really focuses on spammy links[37] by gauging the quality of the sites the links are coming from. The 2013 Google Hummingbird update featured an algorithm change designed to improve Google's natural language processing and semantic understanding of web pages. Hummingbird's language processing system falls under the newly recognised term of 'Conversational Search' where the system pays more attention to each word in the query in order to better match the pages to the meaning of the query rather than a few words [38]. With regards to the changes made to search engine optimization, for content publishers and writers, Hummingbird is intended to resolve issues by getting rid of irrelevant content and spam, allowing Google to produce high-quality content and rely on them to be 'trusted' authors.

So just how much of the traffic that finds itself labeled as direct is actually organic? Groupon conducted an experiment to try to find out, according to Search Engine Land. They de-indexed their site for the better part of a day and looked at direct and organic traffic, by hour and by browser, to pages with long URLs, knowing that pages with shorter URLs actually do get a large amount of direct traffic, as they can be typed quickly and easily into a browser. The results showed a 50% drop in direct traffic, clearly demonstrating how all of these other factors come into play during the analytics process.
Organic Search: Organic search results are the listings of Web pages returned by the search engine’s algorithms that closely match the search string of keywords. Marketers use SEO and content assets to get high search engine rankings. The goal is to be on the first page and then move into the top three rankings for specific keywords. That’s because the advantages of organic search are dependent on visibility. The higher the ranking the more pronounced the advantages. They all but disappear if your listing is not on the first page.
With stats like that, you’re probably wondering why you should even bother with organic posts. Although organic reach is low, it’s still important to have an active, consistent presence on social media. Your Facebook page, Instagram account, Twitter profile, etc. are often where people turn to for updates from your company or to ask questions. Low organic reach doesn’t mean you should stop posting organically all together—it means you should focus more of your efforts on a paid social media strategy while maintaining a solid organic strategy.

Organic search (SEO): When you enter a keyword or phrase into a search engine like Google or Yahoo!, the organic results are displayed in the main body of the page.When your prospects search for information about your products and services, you want to rank highly in search engine results. By “optimizing” your site, you can improve your ranking for important search terms and phrases (“keywords”). You can also improve your rank by getting other important sites to link to yours.
Google claims their users click (organic) search results more often than ads, essentially rebutting the research cited above. A 2012 Google study found that 81% of ad impressions and 66% of ad clicks happen when there is no associated organic search result on the first page.[2] Research has shown that searchers may have a bias against ads, unless the ads are relevant to the searcher's need or intent [3]
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