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?

Click through rates: Searches using terms that denote high purchase intent such as product or brand-specific keywords will get more clicks than organic results. The advantage of paid search can clearly be seen in the Internet retailers MarketLive Performance Index data. For the year 2013 as a whole, PPC accounted for 36.5% of search traffic but an outsized 47.9% of revenue from search.
Earlier I touched on using ultimate guides to shift the awareness of the reader to facilitate a conversion. That’s a solid example. Your content can serve any number of goals including sales, lead generation, etc. You could even use it to warm up a cold audience before you expose them to a paid campaign. It can lower your ad costs and increase your click-through rates. The utility of content is endless. You decide.
Of course, there is a lot more that needs to be considered but this is a simple example of how all of these things work together. I would recommend having no less than one page for each step of the organic marketing plan if you are a small business. The larger your business the more planning that you should do. If you do not think through all the details you will miss something that will cost you.

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.
Marketing strategies have evolved over the course of time. Back then, organic search, when hit right on the spot, would give you the right amount of exposure that your business needs. Apart from that, it used to give you a better deal at a lower cost compared to when you do pay per click. However, with the digital age coming in and small businesses are starting to become popular, they are now mostly leaning towards the fast-paced wonders of paid search.
Anyone with a website can greatly benefit from understanding organic search engine optimization. Also called organic SEO, organic search engine optimization is a process of optimizing your website copy and HTML in order to help your website rank higher on search engines like Google and Bing. This way potential customers can find you quickly and easily.
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.
Though it can take a lot of time and effort to develop one, having an organic marketing strategy is important for any business to find success. Essentially, organic marketing is about growing your audience naturally versus using paid advertising and marketing tactics. To build a successful strategy, you’ll need to accumulate a variety of string organic marketing ideas that includes social media, search, and email marketing. But why should I look into organic marketing when I can just pay for everything? That’s a great question. The thing is organic marketing can bring a lot of benefits for your business including more authentic customer engagement and brand loyalty. Now, we’re not saying to cut paid advertising from your plan but a mix of organic and paid marketing strategies will be very effective. Here are some tips that you can use to improve your organic marketing strategy.
Using this data can help you identify additional “buyer” keywords to target and what keywords to stop targeting. Keyword research, content marketing, and link building are things that you need to constantly be doing, even when you reach the top of the search rankings. Many businesses think that they can slow down these efforts once they reach the top, but easing up on your SEO strategy will see your competition take over the top position if you are not continually improving your search engine optimization effort.
One important thing to note is a website’s domain authority (DA) and page authority (PA). This is a number from 1 to 100 that indicates the strength of a website’s domain or a specific page. DA and PA are two of several factors that go into how a website will be ranked on a SERP. The higher the DA and PA, the better the chances are of that webpage ranking on the front page of a SERP (everyone’s dream!). This number is determined by a few things, such as the age of the website and number of links leading to it (backlinks).
For example, we have seen retailers who produce seasonal items, such as ornaments, based upon data that they are able to find through the Data Cube. This information tells them about the themes and ideas that are popular throughout the year and during their peak selling seasons, helping them to know which items will be the most successful and the optimal names to select.

For instance, before launching a new product or service, a business can create a simple landing page to gather feedback from the target audience. Or it can run a survey asking a bunch of targeted questions. Or it can even go a step further and create a minimum viable product to see how the target users are interacting with it. With a bit of creativity, PPC ads can help gather real-time feedback that can be used to improve the end product, or idea.
Plan your link structure. Start with the main navigation and decide how to best connect pages both physically (URL structure) and virtually (internal links) to clearly establish your content themes. Try to include at least 3-5 quality subpages under each core silo landing page. Link internally between the subpages. Link each subpage back up to the main silo landing page.
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.
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?
While there are several HTML tagging techniques that improve a page’s Google SEO results, creating relevant page content is still the best way to rank high. A big part of content creation is your use of targeted keywords. You should include important keywords in your first 50 words, since early placement can be a signal of relevance. And while you should never repeat keywords too often at the expense of good writing, you should repeat keywords in your content two or three times for short pages and four to six times for longer pages. Also, you may wish to use some keyword variation in your content – such as splitting keywords up – as this could potentially improve your ranking.
Another tip you can use is just reach out to the prior agency and say something like the following: “We realise you were using link networks for our website which has resulted in a Google penalty and loss in business. Can you please remove my website from any link network you have built?”. If the prior agency is decent, they will remove the links from the network.
Together is better! For many businesses, the best approach is a mix of both organic and paid search results. The advantage of this approach is that organic rankings give a business credibility and evergreen search results. Paid search (PPC) provides immediate top-of-the-page listings and greater click through rates, i.e., sales, when consumers are ready to purchase.
Black hat SEO refers to the practice of trying to trick the search engines into giving you higher rankings by using unethical tactics, such as buying links. The risk is just too great. Even if you enjoy a temporary boost in rankings due to black hat tactics, it’s likely to be short lived. Google is getting better and better at spotting dirty tricks and sooner or later the progress you made will be wiped out by an algorithm update, or worse, your site will get removed from the index altogether.
Search engines: Google vs. Bing. Google was the first search engine that provided better search results and people told others about it so it spread virally and became a verb “Google it”, whereas Bing is trying to buy it’s way into the market, doing ads, deals with Facebook and Yahoo, etc. Most people weren’t asking for a 2nd, “me-too” search engine, the first one solved their search pain and continues to do so, so trust was built and people have remained loyal to it.
You can then use the Data Cube to uncover topics relevant to prospects later in the buyer’s journey, such as your brand versus a competitor or case studies illustrating the value you provide for customers. Since your organic search research will help you understand what people are interested in reading, your emails will be more targeted and helpful, boosting your success rates.
The ad auction process takes place every single time someone enters a search query into Google. To be entered into the ad auction, advertisers identify keywords they want to bid on, and state how much they are willing to spend (per click) to have their ads appear alongside results relating to those keywords. If Google determines that the keywords you have bid on are contained within a user’s search query, your ads are entered into the ad auction.
In order to quickly identify the correct content and websites that will meet their needs almost all users will use a search engine such as Google. Typing a query into a search engine will generate a set of results that are a combination of paid and organic search listings. The user can then choose the most relevant link from these results or search again if the results are not helpful.

Since there is an obvious barrier of entry for anyone trying to beat you once you’re established, you won’t have to worry about having competitors “buying” their way to the top. Their only option is pay per click ads, but then again, it isn’t the same as getting a higher position on the SERPs. Again, this is assuming that you took the right steps and were patient enough to solidify your place in the top search results. 
In order to quickly identify the correct content and websites that will meet their needs almost all users will use a search engine such as Google. Typing a query into a search engine will generate a set of results that are a combination of paid and organic search listings. The user can then choose the most relevant link from these results or search again if the results are not helpful.
The social media landscape is constantly evolving. New networks rise to prominence (e.g. Snapchat), new technology increases user participation and real-time content (e.g. Periscope) and existing networks enhance their platform and product (e.g. Facebook,Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram launching ‘buy’ buttons). Organic reach is also shrinking as the leading networks ramp up their paid channels to monetise platform investment.
For our client: We took the top PPC terms based on conversion and worked these keywords into existing pages on the website. We also created new high-quality content-based pages from these conversion terms. This type of strategy can work very well in assisting overall conversions on the website and driving more revenue. We also conducted a large-scale keyword research project for the client which yielded in uncovering many areas of opportunity for content development and targeting. 
Search engine marketing’s greatest strength is that it offers advertisers the opportunity to put their ads in front of motivated customers who are ready to buy at the precise moment they’re ready to make a purchase. No other advertising medium can do this, which is why search engine marketing is so effective and such an amazingly powerful way to grow your business.
The Featured Snippet section appearing inside the first page of Google is an incredibly important section to have your content placed within. I did a study of over 5,000 keywords where HubSpot.com ranked on page 1 and there was a Featured Snippet being displayed. What I found was that when HubSpot.com was ranking in the Featured Snippet, the average click-through rate to the website increased by over 114%.
Beyond organic and direct traffic, you must understand the difference between all of your traffic sources and how traffic is classified. Most web analytics platforms, like Google Analytics, utilize an algorithm and flow chart based on the referring website or parameters set within the URL that determine the source of traffic. Here is a breakdown of all sources:
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