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? 

When people hear organic/non-organic, they’d most likely envision the produce section at their local supermarket. Society has become not only aware but educated on the differences between the two and how it affects their personal lives. Although the familiarity with these options has grown significantly, many business owners are completely in the dark when it comes to organic vs. non-organic Search Engine Optimization or SEO. If you have a business online or just a website that you’re looking to draw more attention to, read on to learn more about how to make the best, cost-effective decisions to boost your search engine ranking.
The most reliable way to increase search engine traffic is to create great content that your audience is looking for. For example, if you’re a pest control company, you may write a bunch of quality blog posts on getting rid of pests. The idea is to educate your prospects and move them towards buying from you. This is exactly where SEO intersects with content marketing.
SEO techniques can be classified into two broad categories: techniques that search engine companies recommend as part of good design ("white hat"), and those techniques of which search engines do not approve ("black hat"). The search engines attempt to minimize the effect of the latter, among them spamdexing. Industry commentators have classified these methods, and the practitioners who employ them, as either white hat SEO, or black hat SEO.[49] White hats tend to produce results that last a long time, whereas black hats anticipate that their sites may eventually be banned either temporarily or permanently once the search engines discover what they are doing.[50]
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.

That’s not to say that there isn’t the same kind of competitive intelligence where SEO is concerned. In fact, I’m a big fan of analyzing your competitor’s SEO landscape. You can check what keywords they’re targeting and their sources of referral traffic to strengthen your strategy. But the bottom line is this: Your competitors can’t steal your content. The experience that you provide to users is unique to you.The more organic traffic you have, the more currency you have in the online space.
On October 17, 2002, SearchKing filed suit in the United States District Court, Western District of Oklahoma, against the search engine Google. SearchKing's claim was that Google's tactics to prevent spamdexing constituted a tortious interference with contractual relations. On May 27, 2003, the court granted Google's motion to dismiss the complaint because SearchKing "failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted."[67][68]
Even if you don’t have a website, you can still make sure customers can find you online by creating listings on sites like DexKnows and Yelp. Just be aware that your customer base will be relying more and more on the internet to learn about your company, and a website will better provide the information they seek, as well as helping you build their confidence in your business.
Use Facebook Insights to gain a better understanding of your Facebook fans. You can then target specific messages to meet the specific needs of subsets of your audience. For example, if you’re selling clothes and have written an article on the latest fashion trends for women, you can target your post to appear in the news feeds of women who have expressed an interest in clothes. Targeting options include Gender, Relationship Status, Location and Interests, etc. To target your Facebook post, simply click the targeting icon at the end of your post before you click Publish.
Even if you don’t have a website, you can still make sure customers can find you online by creating listings on sites like DexKnows and Yelp. Just be aware that your customer base will be relying more and more on the internet to learn about your company, and a website will better provide the information they seek, as well as helping you build their confidence in your business.
Rand, by all these gated searches and search cards etc are google effectively taking our homework ( in this case in the form of webpages / content), scribbling out our name and claiming it for their own? And then stopping users getting to the actual page? and if they are planning on removing organic traffic would they not suffer with regards to their ad revenue? Or is all this tailored for "ok google" and providing a more friendly search result for voice commands etc? Love Whiteboard Friday BTW, James, UK
Paid or sponsored ads usually charge you for a click, while SEO doesn’t require you to pay for impressions or clicks. But do keep in mind that quality SEO isn’t exactly free. Depending on the target market you are in, you will have to invest time and money into getting the desired results. And if you’re not an SEO expert, then you would have to work with a reputable SEO company do it for you.
I feel we can also focus a lot on the kind of keywords we target. I had a client who was in a very competitive market place, we optimized their site for some really targeted, long tailed keywords which didn’t have very high search volume, so the traffic didn’t really go up drastically but the amount of conversions & the kind of CTRs the site received was incredible.
It’s unreasonable to assume that you will pull top rank in Google for every keyword relating to your industry. Your goal should be to pull top rank on the most desired keywords. This is an exercise that will take the effort of both marketing and management. Think about how people would search for your products and services, make a list of these keywords, and check the traffic for each term with a tool like Google’s Keyword Planner. Naturally you will want to rank for the keywords with the most traffic, so whittle your list down to the highest-trafficked, most relevant terms.
Your keyword research will determine whether or not your search optimization effort will be a success or a failure. Many businesses make the mistake of basing their keywords on just the search volume. This often leads to attempting to rank for keywords that are very difficult and costly to move up, or even keywords that aren’t “buyer” keywords and just send useless traffic to the website.
Internet marketing professionals refer to search that isn’t organic as paid search. Instead of organically, or naturally, reaching the top of the search results for a particular keyword, businesses can pay to get noticed. So, paid search is a bit like doing a local endorsement, TV ad or radio spot—but for the internet. When a consumer types in a search term that you’ve incorporated into your campaign, your ad will show up at the top of search page results, above the organic results. Sometimes, your ad may appear in the sidebar. Only if the consumer clicks on your ad do you pay anything.
Thanks for the comment, I would not say it is impossible to create high quality backlinks from scratch without content, you just need to do a review on competitor backlinks and see if their are any easy targets. We have had some good luck in the education space acquiring links on the same pages as competitor from PR5+ edu sites. It all revolves around the outreach strategy in which you put in place.
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.
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