So if you're in the local space and you're saying, "Gosh, Google has really taken away the ability for my website to get the clicks that it used to get from Google local searches," going into Google My Business and optimizing to provide information such that people who perform that query will be satisfied by Google's result, yes, they won't get to your website, but they will still come to your business, because you've optimized the content such that Google is showing, through Google My Business, such that those searchers want to engage with you. I think this sometimes gets lost in the SEO battle. We're trying so hard to earn the click to our site that we're forgetting that a lot of search experience ends right at the SERP itself, and we can optimize there too.

The challange is for SEO's then to tell this to the clients and not worry of loosing them. What to report on then, for GMB- impressions (this should decrease because I found on the maps that the link to website isn't always there!), GMB dashboard for views (a test showed stats on the GMB dashboard are incorrect) the suggested channels social, youtube don't fall under organic traffic
Aggressive "answer" boxes. So you search for a question, and Google provides not just necessarily a featured snippet, which can earn you a click-through, but a box that truly answers the searcher's question, that comes directly from Google themselves, or a set of card-style results that provides a list of all the things that the person might be looking for.
Every one of those engagements can amplify a post tenfold depending on the size of their network. And really you’re educating them on, ‘Hey, when you engage with our content,  you’re not only just liking the content, but you’re opening that content up to all of your network, which can ultimately help with building the business’ bottom line, getting more awareness, which in turn drives more leads, and helps move people down the funnel, they build trust when they see your name more often.’
Keyword research is one of the most important thing you need to do before producing any content. Understanding what your target audience is searching for and what content to produce for them is vital in getting your content found, read and shared. In this session, Sameen shares how to do a keyword research and her strategies for finding the best keywords for your brand.

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?
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I still believe that Facebook and Google are great platforms to promote your business, but only if you are willing to pay. If your goal is Organic growth, I recommend looking at newer platforms such as Quora, Reddit, Snapchat, Medium, Instagram, Tumblr and similar. These are all established platforms that still offer some opportunities for organic reach, because although popular, they are nowhere near the saturation levels of Facebook and Google. You can also look at startups that you feel will become very successful in the future, take a small gamble perhaps and try to establish a strong presence there.
Hi Lynn, WOW another well written and informative post. I only use PPC to make sure my copy converts, otherwise I use organic traffic only. I have printed off this post and will have by my computer, as another tool to read everyday to make sure I am keeping on track. You are 1 of 3 people I keep subscribed to, because you help, you keep me motivated, you tell it like it is. You give great content, which is a lesson for us all to remember, it is OK to drive traffic to your site, but if you do not have what the seeker wants, then they leave, giving you a horrendous bounce rate and no conversions.
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!

The Google, Yahoo!, and Bing search engines insert advertising on their search results pages. The ads are designed to look similar to the search results, though different enough for readers to distinguish between ads and actual results. This is done with various differences in background, text, link colors, and/or placement on the page. However, the appearance of ads on all major search engines is so similar to genuine search results that a majority of search engine users cannot effectively distinguish between the two.[1]
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