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?
On the other hand, structured data are also a real asset to increase your organic traffic and improve your CTR. They refers to values that help search engines categorize and index your content in a creative ways for the user. While there is no direct correlation between those data and a SEO improvement, structured data can really help you boost your visibility in SERPs.
Good point,The thing with this client is they wanted to mitigate the risk of removing a large number of links so high quality link building was moved in early before keyword research. So it is on a case by case basis, but defiantly a good point for most new clients I work with who do not have pre-existing issues you want to do Keyword Research very early in the process. 
Black hat SEO refers to the practice of trying to trick the search engines into giving you higher rankings by using unethical tactics, such as buying links. The risk is just too great. Even if you enjoy a temporary boost in rankings due to black hat tactics, it’s likely to be short lived. Google is getting better and better at spotting dirty tricks and sooner or later the progress you made will be wiped out by an algorithm update, or worse, your site will get removed from the index altogether.

Thanks for the comment Slava good too see your team is on top of things and happy you liked the post. The website in the case listed was a client who has taken on an agency who was doing lower quality SEO work which was affecting the site such as the huge link network and a strategy which only revolved around mainly head terms. We saw no long tail integration from the old agency's strategy, so we were able to yield great results to begin with. The clients site has 100's of high quality articles which we were able to re optimize and update as noted. Further to this they had a large index of high quality pages to work from. Sure enough the points listed above were key elements to a far wider strategy which could be 100's of points. I just wanted to include some of the biggest wins and easy to implement points.  
One of the reasons for a traffic drop can also be due to your site losing links. You may be seeing a direct loss of that referral traffic, but there could also be indirect effects. When your site loses inbound links, it tells Google that your site isn't as authoritative anymore, which leads to lower search rankings that in turn lead to traffic drops (because fewer people are finding your site if it's not ranked as highly and more).
One important thing to note is a website’s domain authority (DA) and page authority (PA). This is a number from 1 to 100 that indicates the strength of a website’s domain or a specific page. DA and PA are two of several factors that go into how a website will be ranked on a SERP. The higher the DA and PA, the better the chances are of that webpage ranking on the front page of a SERP (everyone’s dream!). This number is determined by a few things, such as the age of the website and number of links leading to it (backlinks).

You can then use the Data Cube to uncover topics relevant to prospects later in the buyer’s journey, such as your brand versus a competitor or case studies illustrating the value you provide for customers. Since your organic search research will help you understand what people are interested in reading, your emails will be more targeted and helpful, boosting your success rates.
how is this good? What google is doing is atrocious. I’m not interested in what google decides is the right answer. I want to get to a website(s) and search for answers. When I look for a a local business I cannot even get to their website. There are no business phone numbers listed or hours of operations because small business do not have stafff or are not educated about latest google shanagans, time to change search engines.

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.

Use images. Images are vital for breaking up the monotony of a string of paragraphs. You also need to use a featured image ito make your content stand out in a list. This is like erecting a virtual billboard. If you don't include one, people won’t realize that your content exists. Think about how these images will look in thumbnail form, as that’s what will appear on your social media feed.
Every new blog post that you publish gives you an opportunity to spread it through social media, which helps to drive more traffic back to your site. Use your blog as a way to connect with your audience. Your blog isn’t a place to just post overly promotional posts. This is an opportunity to address possible concerns or even common questions related to your service or product. If you are worried about coming up with enough content ideas to publish blog posts on a regular basis then check out these resources:
SEO is not an appropriate strategy for every website, and other Internet marketing strategies can be more effective like paid advertising through pay per click (PPC) campaigns, depending on the site operator's goals. Search engine marketing (SEM), is practice of designing, running, and optimizing search engine ad campaigns.[55] Its difference from SEO is most simply depicted as the difference between paid and unpaid priority ranking in search results. Its purpose regards prominence more so than relevance; website developers should regard SEM with the utmost importance with consideration to PageRank visibility as most navigate to the primary listings of their search.[56] A successful Internet marketing campaign may also depend upon building high quality web pages to engage and persuade, setting up analytics programs to enable site owners to measure results, and improving a site's conversion rate.[57] In November 2015, Google released a full 160 page version of its Search Quality Rating Guidelines to the public,[58] which now shows a shift in their focus towards "usefulness" and mobile search. In recent years the mobile market has exploded, overtaking the use of desktops as shown in by StatCounter in October 2016 where they analysed 2.5 million websites and 51.3% of the pages were loaded by a mobile device [59]. Google has been one of the companies that have utilised the popularity of mobile usage by encouraging websites to use their Google Search Console, the Mobile-Friendly Test, which allows companies to measure up their website to the search engine results and how user-friendly it is.
Your keyword research will determine whether or not your search optimization effort will be a success or a failure. Many businesses make the mistake of basing their keywords on just the search volume. This often leads to attempting to rank for keywords that are very difficult and costly to move up, or even keywords that aren’t “buyer” keywords and just send useless traffic to the website.
Black hat SEO refers to the practice of trying to trick the search engines into giving you higher rankings by using unethical tactics, such as buying links. The risk is just too great. Even if you enjoy a temporary boost in rankings due to black hat tactics, it’s likely to be short lived. Google is getting better and better at spotting dirty tricks and sooner or later the progress you made will be wiped out by an algorithm update, or worse, your site will get removed from the index altogether.
how is this good? What google is doing is atrocious. I’m not interested in what google decides is the right answer. I want to get to a website(s) and search for answers. When I look for a a local business I cannot even get to their website. There are no business phone numbers listed or hours of operations because small business do not have stafff or are not educated about latest google shanagans, time to change search engines.
As of 2009, there are only a few large markets where Google is not the leading search engine. In most cases, when Google is not leading in a given market, it is lagging behind a local player. The most notable example markets are China, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the Czech Republic where respectively Baidu, Yahoo! Japan, Naver, Yandex and Seznam are market leaders.
Melissa Barker from Organic Demand Generation was recently a guest on the Rethink Marketing podcast, where she shared her essential organic B2B marketing strategies for LinkedIn in 2018. In addition to the many tech companies she’s consulted, including Act-On and Puppet, she also authored the first college textbook on social media marketing in 2010.
Since there is an obvious barrier of entry for anyone trying to beat you once you’re established, you won’t have to worry about having competitors “buying” their way to the top. Their only option is pay per click ads, but then again, it isn’t the same as getting a higher position on the SERPs. Again, this is assuming that you took the right steps and were patient enough to solidify your place in the top search results. 

Organic search engine optimization (organic SEO) refers to the methods used to obtain a high placement (or ranking) on a search engine results page in unpaid, algorithm-driven results on a given search engine. Methods such as boosting keywords, backlinking and writing high-quality content can all improve a site’s page rank. Black hat SEO methods, such as the use of keyword stuffing and link farming, can also boost organic SEO.

Audience insight.  The better you know your customers’ pain points, the more tailored your offers will be. The more you’re connected with how they feel, the more succinct and impactful your messaging will be. I can’t think of one aspect of marketing that isn’t strengthened by that depth of audience research.What does organic traffic have to do with it?  When you dissect your traffic, here’s what happens.
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Even though we think about it all the time, we usually take a “sit back and wait” approach to traffic. After all, you can’t force anyone to visit your website. But it’s not as simple as “if you build it, they will come.” And you need more traffic, and greater search engine visibility, if you want to get anywhere with your website and your business.

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?
On October 17, 2002, SearchKing filed suit in the United States District Court, Western District of Oklahoma, against the search engine Google. SearchKing's claim was that Google's tactics to prevent spamdexing constituted a tortious interference with contractual relations. On May 27, 2003, the court granted Google's motion to dismiss the complaint because SearchKing "failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted."[67][68]
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.