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!
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.
Good question, for most directories I use they ask for mobile number to send a message of verification, for the ones which phone you for verification inform the company before hand to tell their customer service people to be ready. I know the bigger the company the more tricky these things get you just have to find out what works best to answer the calls even if they give you a direct number to use. 
However, while bidding $1,000 on every keyword and ranking #1 for every relevant search sounds nice in theory, most businesses have to play a balancing game between ranking higher and paying too much for clicks. After all, if it costs $17.56 to rank in position #1, but you can only afford to pay $5.00 per click, bidding $1,000 on a keyword to guarantee yourself the #1 position would be a great way to bid yourself out of business.

The most common form of organic SEM is search engine optimization (SEO). SEO refers to a variety of techniques designed to help your website rank higher in search engine results. Optimizing your website involves doing a little bit of research on what keywords or phrases your customers or potential customers are searching for when they are looking for your products or services online. It then involves writing web content using those keywords in a way that is both easy for search engines to pick up but still readable and pleasant for your website visitors.

As the number of sites on the Web increased in the mid-to-late 1990s, search engines started appearing to help people find information quickly. Search engines developed business models to finance their services, such as pay per click programs offered by Open Text[7] in 1996 and then Goto.com[8] in 1998. Goto.com later changed its name[9] to Overture in 2001, was purchased by Yahoo! in 2003, and now offers paid search opportunities for advertisers through Yahoo! Search Marketing. Google also began to offer advertisements on search results pages in 2000 through the Google AdWords program. By 2007, pay-per-click programs proved to be primary moneymakers[10] for search engines. In a market dominated by Google, in 2009 Yahoo! and Microsoft announced the intention to forge an alliance. The Yahoo! & Microsoft Search Alliance eventually received approval from regulators in the US and Europe in February 2010.[11]
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?
hey james - congrats on your success here. just a question about removing crummy links. for my own website, there are hundreds of thousands of backlinks in webmaster tools pointing to my site. The site has no penalties or anything  - the traffic seems to be growing every week. would you recommend hiring someone to go through the link profile anyway to remove crummy links that just occur naturally?
Organic traffic, on the other hand, are those visits which are tracked by another entity — usually because they have arrived through search engines — but also from other sources. Hubspot’s definition emphasizes the term “non-paid visits,” because paid search ads are considered a category of their own. But this is where the lines between direct and organic start to get little blurry.
Search engines use complex mathematical algorithms to guess which websites a user seeks. In this diagram, if each bubble represents a website, programs sometimes called spiders examine which sites link to which other sites, with arrows representing these links. Websites getting more inbound links, or stronger links, are presumed to be more important and what the user is searching for. In this example, since website B is the recipient of numerous inbound links, it ranks more highly in a web search. And the links "carry through", such that website C, even though it only has one inbound link, has an inbound link from a highly popular site (B) while site E does not. Note: Percentages are rounded.

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For a long time, digital marketers summed up the properties of direct and organic traffic pretty similarly and simply. To most, organic traffic consists of visits from search engines, while direct traffic is made up of visits from people entering your company URL into their browser. This explanation, however, is too simplified and leaves most digital marketers short-handed when it comes to completely understanding and gaining insights from web traffic, especially organic and direct sources.
Hi , the post is really nice , and it made me think if our current strategy is ok or not , 2 things are important " High quality content strategy " and " Good quality Links " now joining those correctly can pose some real challenges , say if we have n no of content writers who are writing for couple of websites, to be generic let’s consider , 1 writer @ 1 website . We have to write make a content strategy for in-house blog of the website to drive authentic traffic on it and a separate content strategy for grabbing  links from some authentic High PR website i.e. CS should be 2 ways , In-house / Outhouse .
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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