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.

Each paid ad will likely point to a product page, a specific landing page, or something that has the potential to drive financial results. As paid marketing would suggest by its name alone, you’re spending money on ads to drive specific actions. You need to determine ROAS beyond vanity metrics alone (like engagement or total leads). Say you drove five leads but spent $5,000 on your paid campaign. Your ROAS would be $1,000 per lead, which is a bit steep (depending on your industry). In this case, you’d want to adjust your strategy to avoid wasting money.
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.
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?
As you can see by the example above, organic marketing tactics are natural, authentic, and value-based. The benefits that businesses reap from these tactics are cultivated over longer periods of time, ultimately helping you build a brand that customers want to visit regularly. And although you’re doing less “pushing” with organic marketing, when done right you can still generate a steady stream of loyal traffic. Remember, this is about building high-value brand equity and industry authority with your customers. You’re not just attempting to drive sales here; you’re working hard to engage and educate your target audiences.  

Organic search should not be viewed as just one of many different marketing strategies. Instead, it should be the cornerstone of your efforts. Your materials should all be optimized to maximize their appearance on the SERPs. You should also be using the insights that can be gleaned from organic search to inform the rest of your marketing endeavors.
You’re not going to like this answer. But wouldn’t it be so simple if we would tell you to do one or the other and get stellar results? The truth is, an effective marketing campaign should include a bit of both strategies. For the short-term, a paid search campaign can give your business a quick boost, helping you gain exposure to customers searching for the relevant keywords in your campaign; however, sometimes consumers don’t trust—or even look at—paid ads. Using organic search methods, which consumers tend to see as trustworthy, will help drive traffic and increase revenue over the long haul, and solidify your position as a leader and authority in your niche.

Entertainment — The Internet is a plethora of things to do. Some are looking for videos. Others are looking for games. Many are entertained by new stories. Others like financial calculators. Others want to learn something new. Think about what kind of entertainment your target is looking for. Relate it back to your brand. That’s a great way to use SEM to connect.

Another ethical controversy associated with search marketing has been the issue of trademark infringement. The debate as to whether third parties should have the right to bid on their competitors' brand names has been underway for years. In 2009 Google changed their policy, which formerly prohibited these tactics, allowing 3rd parties to bid on branded terms as long as their landing page in fact provides information on the trademarked term.[27] Though the policy has been changed this continues to be a source of heated debate.[28]
This topic seems actually quite controversial. Google answered the question by what could be taken as a denial. But their answer was kind of open to interpretations. And on the other hand, there are studies (one of them from Moz) that showed linking out has an impact. So, how can you be so assertive? Is it something that comes out from your own experiments?
Incidentally, according to a June 2013 study by Chitika, 9 out of 10 searchers don't go beyond Google's first page of organic search results, a claim often cited by the search engine optimization (SEO) industry to justify optimizing websites for organic search. Organic SEO describes the use of certain strategies or tools to elevate a website's content in the "free" search results.
For our client: We rolled out a successful implementation of rel="author" for the three in-house content writers the company had. The client had over 300+ articles made by these content writers over the years and it was possible to implement rel="author" for all the aged articles. I advise anyone who has a large section of content to do so as it will only benefit the website. We were also in the process of rolling out further schema markup to the site's course content as it only has a benefit for CTR.
Second thing, optimizing across additional platforms. So we've looked and YouTube and Google Images account for about half of the overall volume that goes to Google web search. So between these two platforms, you've got a significant amount of additional traffic that you can optimize for. Images has actually gotten less aggressive. Right now they've taken away the "view image directly" link so that more people are visiting websites via Google Images. YouTube, obviously, this is a great place to build brand affinity, to build awareness, to create demand, this kind of demand generation to get your content in front of people. So these two are great platforms for that.
I'm having a problem that I suspect many marketers share. Quite simply … SEO or just buy the traffic. I noticed that you switched to SEO because you like the passive income component. But when I consider ALL the work and ongoing moving parts to SEO .. visions of the hamster on a treadmill appear in place of couch potato cash. Have you noticed that there is always something new to do … now it's Google+ ect. and "more to do" is surly on it's way. It's reached the point where it's mind numbing.

It’s an investment. Whether you have a trusted Internet marketing company handle your SEO activities or you travel the journey solo, you are making a solid investment in your website. Every time you optimize a landing page or write a blog post, you’re introducing new and relevant content to your website. Search engines love recent, relevant content.

I think for agencies as far as how we appear in organic search ourselves, we are definitely going to need to leverage all 3 of the solutions you talk about and agencies who haven't branded their products/services are going to have to do that and are going to have to also employ branding strategies. In addition, we have to optimize for other search ares like you say in your point #2 and we must look at optimizing existing content for voice search and answers/featured snippets like you say in point #3.

Unless you have an invite, you can’t comment or submit a new product to PH. Even then, if you were to submit yourself, the likelihood is that you’d miss out on a lot of traction compared to someone influential on PH submitting. You only get one chance to submit to Product Hunt so you’ll need to identify someone who would be interested in your startup that also has influence within the PH community. To do this, go to Twitter and search the following query in the search bar:
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?
Black hat SEO attempts to improve rankings in ways that are disapproved of by the search engines, or involve deception. One black hat technique uses text that is hidden, either as text colored similar to the background, in an invisible div, or positioned off screen. Another method gives a different page depending on whether the page is being requested by a human visitor or a search engine, a technique known as cloaking. Another category sometimes used is grey hat SEO. This is in between black hat and white hat approaches, where the methods employed avoid the site being penalized, but do not act in producing the best content for users. Grey hat SEO is entirely focused on improving search engine rankings.

Make your content longer. Despite video marketing's rise seeming to point to consumers' desire for shorter content, that implication couldn’t be further from the truth. Google wants content that’s longer and more detailed. Studies have shown that this is what ranks higher in the search engines. Don’t artificially inflate your word count, though. You should hone in on topics that naturally require more words to write about.

People are more receptive to hearing these marketing messages because they are more natural and organic. They’re not paid for and stuffed in their faces through interruption marketing. An indelible experience has intrinsic emotional and psychological value, as people enjoy it. They then feel emotionally compelled to share their experience with others that they have a close relationship with as part of relating, so that they can share in the emotional experience too. This is done through conversation, phone, text, email, Facebook shares, Tweets, and the like.
Look at the different search engines (sources) that drive traffic to your site to determine where you want to invest your resources. For example, if you're getting an overwhelming amount of visitors and revenue from a particular search engine, that's an obvious source of profitable traffic and an area in which you might want to make further investment; but you might also find another search engine that delivers only a few visitors, but ones who represent a very high Per Visit Value. In this latter case, you might want to increase your spend in that area to drive more of those high-value visitors to your site.
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.  
In March 2006, KinderStart filed a lawsuit against Google over search engine rankings. KinderStart's website was removed from Google's index prior to the lawsuit and the amount of traffic to the site dropped by 70%. On March 16, 2007 the United States District Court for the Northern District of California (San Jose Division) dismissed KinderStart's complaint without leave to amend, and partially granted Google's motion for Rule 11 sanctions against KinderStart's attorney, requiring him to pay part of Google's legal expenses.[69][70]
Hi Rand! Thanks for a really informative and thought provoking Whiteboard Friday. I agree with Namrata about the challenges to local and small businesses that all the rapid changes with little to know warning from Google as far as they're concerned. In many cases, they're just rapping their heads and marketing strategies around having someone create and optimize their website and content for how Google SERPs used to work, and even with basic GMB listings, they have been unaware or unsure of how to use them. Some have been taken advantage of because of lack of understanding and awareness of how Google listings and GMB work and that it's free.
Hey Ashok! Good question. I work with clients in a lot of different industries, so the tactics I employ are often quite different depending on the client. In general though, creating killer resources around popular topics, or tools related to client services. This provides a ton of outreach opportunity. For example: We had a client build a tool that allowed webmasters to quickly run SSL scans on their sites and identofy non-secure resources. We reached out to people writing about SSLs, Https migration etc and pitched it as a value-add. We built ~50 links to that tool in 45 days. Not a massive total, but they were pretty much all DR 40+.
Another way search engine marketing is managed is by contextual advertising. Here marketers place ads on other sites or portals that carry information relevant to their products so that the ads jump into the circle of vision of browsers who are seeking information from those sites. A successful SEM plan is the approach to capture the relationships amongst information searchers, businesses, and search engines. Search engines were not important to some industries in the past, but over the past years the use of search engines for accessing information has become vital to increase business opportunities.[31] The use of SEM strategic tools for businesses such as tourism can attract potential consumers to view their products, but it could also pose various challenges.[32] These challenges could be the competition that companies face amongst their industry and other sources of information that could draw the attention of online consumers.[31] To assist the combat of challenges, the main objective for businesses applying SEM is to improve and maintain their ranking as high as possible on SERPs so that they can gain visibility. Therefore, search engines are adjusting and developing algorithms and the shifting criteria by which web pages are ranked sequentially to combat against search engine misuse and spamming, and to supply the most relevant information to searchers.[31] This could enhance the relationship amongst information searchers, businesses, and search engines by understanding the strategies of marketing to attract business.
To avoid undesirable content in the search indexes, webmasters can instruct spiders not to crawl certain files or directories through the standard robots.txt file in the root directory of the domain. Additionally, a page can be explicitly excluded from a search engine's database by using a meta tag specific to robots. When a search engine visits a site, the robots.txt located in the root directory is the first file crawled. The robots.txt file is then parsed and will instruct the robot as to which pages are not to be crawled. As a search engine crawler may keep a cached copy of this file, it may on occasion crawl pages a webmaster does not wish crawled. Pages typically prevented from being crawled include login specific pages such as shopping carts and user-specific content such as search results from internal searches. In March 2007, Google warned webmasters that they should prevent indexing of internal search results because those pages are considered search spam.[46]

I would also advise to continue doing what works. If something you have rolled out generates great traffic and links bring out a new version of the content, for example the 2012 version worked effectively bring out the 2013 version of the content. Another effective strategy is to make the piece of content into an evergreen article which you add to over time so it is always up to date.

While farms and processing facilities for organic products are required to get organic certification, it’s optional for retailers. For certification, there are numerous steps and processes to insure organic integrity from when products arrive at a store until you put them in your basket. That integrity is important to us – and many of our shoppers – so we became the first national certified organic grocer.
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.

Although it may have changed slightly since BrightEdge published its report last year, the data still seem to hold true. Organic is simply better for delivering relevant traffic. The only channel that performs better in some capacities is paid search ads, but that is only for conversions, not overall traffic delivery (Paid Search only accounted for 10 percent of overall total traffic).
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