Clients turn to search engines because they really need a product or service. They have already created a need; it only remains to find a company that suits their interests. It is a medium that can easily encourage conversion, if the company offers what the customer is looking for; the visit will result in action by the customer, either a direct purchase, request for a quote, or more information for a later purchase.
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?
Local SERPs that remove almost all need for a website. Then local SERPs, which have been getting more and more aggressively tuned so that you never need to click the website, and, in fact, Google has made it harder and harder to find the website in both mobile and desktop versions of local searches. So if you search for Thai restaurant and you try and find the website of the Thai restaurant you're interested in, as opposed to just information about them in Google's local pack, that's frustratingly difficult. They are making those more and more aggressive and putting them more forward in the results.
Content is key. You’re trying to build an audience organically, and that means making content that is easy for people to find, that answers their questions, that they’re willing to share with friends, and that establishes your company as a source of information or entertainment that people want to return to again and again. Keywords are an integral part of any strategy, as they help to drive your content up the search rankings, so start by establishing keywords that are relevant to your business, and that you expect customers to search for.
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.
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.