I'm thinking about "less to do" (linking-social media) sites with physical products … Amazon and other merchants. And adding a PPC campaign instead of using social media and constantly toiling away building links and writing articles. Is there an easy way to get sites like this to rank while profiting with some paid traffic? Your opinion on this dilemma .. SEO vs PAID traffic or both would be much appreciated.
I would like to talk about a case study for a large start up I worked on for over eight months in the Australian and US market. This client originally came to the company with the typical link building and SEO problems. They had been using a SEO company that had an extensive link network and was using less than impressive SEO tactics and methodologies over the last 12 months. The company was also losing considerable revenue as a direct result of this low quality SEO work. So, I had to scramble and develop a revival strategy for this client.

Many page owners think that organic reach (the number of unique individuals who see your post pop up in their news feeds) is enough to make an impact. This was true in the first few years of Facebook but is no longer the case. Facebook, and many other social media networks is truly a pay-to-play network. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn are all on algorithmic feeds, meaning posts are shown to the user based on past behavior and preferences instead of in chronological order. Organic posts from your Facebook page only reach about 2% of your followers, and that number is dropping. Facebook recently announced that, in order to correct a past metrics error, it is changing the way it reports viewable impressions, and organic reach will be 20% lower on average when this change takes effect.
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.
Guest blogging and infographic distribution are great ways to attract high quality links. Do not focus on the total number of links. Spend your time focused on quality links, from websites that are highly relevant to your business. If any SEO company tells you that they can rank your website virtually overnight you need to turn around and run away…fast. Google will continue to refresh their Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird updates, so make sure that you are focusing on quality rather than quantity.
Organic-search traffic is the only search traffic you should be interested in. This is the traffic you get without any direct action on your part. It’s not something you can achieve with ease, though. The statistics say that 83 percent of organic clicks go to the first four results under most categories on search engines. So, to see your site attain that status, lay the foundations well in advance for the traffic you want.
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. 
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.

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.
A good example is Facebook Custom Audiences. Within this Facebook supports email targeting, the ability to upload customer email addresses and then target those users on Facebook with tailored ads. This lets you micro-segment based on your existing customer database. One application is customer loyalty marketing, promoting offers to existing high value users via Facebook ads.
I think it has become harder and harder for smaller brands to really stand out in any kind of search. This is especially true with small brands who face lots of competition form other small brands in large cities. How does one build name recognition in NYC as an acupuncturists when any given building may house 3 or 4 practitioners with the same address. Then these small businesses are facing the Google Possum filter. And in some cases brands without websites are showing up in the three pack over highly optimized websites.
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.
Facebook Ads and other social media ad platforms, for example, are pay-per-click platforms that do not fall under the SEM category. Instead of showing your ads to people who are searching for similar content like search ads do, social media sites introduce your product to people who happen to be just browsing through their feeds. These are two very, very different types of online advertising.

Those who communicate value, attract others who seek that value in that topic. Those who are in the know, have an edge over those who don’t know, and that’s valuable. It helps people get more of what they want and like, and reduce their risk and negative experiences. In business, it’s profitable to have more of the right information than your competitors ahead of time (as long as it’s done and used legally to avoid fines and reprimands like with insider trading). Having valuable information first means you can make moves and investments before competitors, to buy cheaper and/or sell higher.
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?
When the topic of SEO vs SEM arises, some experts may argue that SEO is the best way to go as it offers higher quality leads at a cheaper cost when compared to SEM. However, it isn’t so simple. Every business is different and has unique needs. For example, your small business may not have a big ad budget and it may also lack the resources needed for doing effective SEO.
It increases relevancy: Siloing ensures all topically related content is connected, and this in turn drives up relevancy. For example, linking to each of the individual yoga class pages (e.g. Pilates, Yoga RX, etc) from the “Yoga classes” page helps confirm—to both visitors and Google—these pages are in fact different types of yoga classes. Google can then feel more confident ranking these pages for related terms, as it is clearer the pages are relevant to the search query.
Get a handle on your brand reputation. Your brand story is the one that you tell. Your reputation is the story that customers tell on your behalf. If someone consistently stumbles on your site when they type in niche search queries, they’ll be intrigued. The result? They’ll start conducting navigational searches for your brand. The intent behind that search? They want reviews and other customer’s experiences with your business. Ask your customers for reviews and reach out to third-party review sites in your niche. This way, these navigational searches don’t come up empty. I also recommend monitoring your brand mentions. The easy way is to set up Google Alerts. Type in your brand name and create your alert. Any mention online and you’ll be notified.

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.
Direct traffic is defined as visits with no referring website. When a visitor follows a link from one website to another, the site of origin is considered the referrer. These sites can be search engines, social media, blogs, or other websites that have links to other websites. Direct traffic categorizes visits that do not come from a referring URL.
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