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.
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.
Optimization techniques are highly tuned to the dominant search engines in the target market. The search engines' market shares vary from market to market, as does competition. In 2003, Danny Sullivan stated that Google represented about 75% of all searches.[63] In markets outside the United States, Google's share is often larger, and Google remains the dominant search engine worldwide as of 2007.[64] As of 2006, Google had an 85–90% market share in Germany.[65] While there were hundreds of SEO firms in the US at that time, there were only about five in Germany.[65] As of June 2008, the marketshare of Google in the UK was close to 90% according to Hitwise.[66] That market share is achieved in a number of countries.
Having large groups of content that all revolve around the same topic will build more relevance around keywords that you're trying to rank for within these topics, and it makes it much easier for Google to associate your content with specific topics. Not only that, but it makes it much easier to interlink between your content, pushing more internal links through your website.
To sum up all of this information, even organic traffic, like direct traffic, has some gray areas. For the most part, though, organic traffic is driven by SEO. The better you are ranking for competitive keywords, the more organic traffic will result. Websites that consistently create content optimized for search will see a steady increase in organic search traffic and improved positioning in the search results. As a marketer, it is important to look at your keywords and high-ranking pages to identify new SEO opportunities each month.  

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 network marketing companies financially incentivize their distributors to sell their products, just like in affiliate marketing, it’s not just the money that motivates word of mouth and it’s not money alone that will make the sale. It’s got to be a game-changing or life-changing product or service to give people something talk about with positive emotions like excitement and enthusiasm, so that the people they talk to want to be a part of it (and fear being left out). If people believe the company has a lousy product and compensation plan, then people won’t feel motivated to talk about it or have persuasive reasons to tell others to buy into it as well. If people don’t believe in the person or company selling it, the seller won’t generate any sales. This is why brands can charge more and generate billions in value, like these top 10 most valuable brands in the world:
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.
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