The most reliable way to increase search engine traffic is to create great content that your audience is looking for. For example, if you’re a pest control company, you may write a bunch of quality blog posts on getting rid of pests. The idea is to educate your prospects and move them towards buying from you. This is exactly where SEO intersects with content marketing.
Rand, by all these gated searches and search cards etc are google effectively taking our homework ( in this case in the form of webpages / content), scribbling out our name and claiming it for their own? And then stopping users getting to the actual page? and if they are planning on removing organic traffic would they not suffer with regards to their ad revenue? Or is all this tailored for "ok google" and providing a more friendly search result for voice commands etc? Love Whiteboard Friday BTW, James, UK

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.

The position of a link on a search results page is important. Depending on the search term, organic search results often make up only a small portion of the page. Since ads are at the top of the results page, on a device with a relatively small display -- such as a notebook, tablet or smartphone -- the visible organic search results may consist of only one or two items.
Another tip you can use is just reach out to the prior agency and say something like the following: “We realise you were using link networks for our website which has resulted in a Google penalty and loss in business. Can you please remove my website from any link network you have built?”. If the prior agency is decent, they will remove the links from the network.
You can also make sure that you’re not bleeding revenue due to friction somewhere along that path. How does that work? When you focus on organic search traffic, you’re compelled to take the battle to multiple marketing fronts. While SEO outperforms all other channels regarding ROI, it doesn’t always work in isolation. Email marketing, content marketing, social media, and other channels can all serve your SEO strategy. I’ll tell you something about marketers who are truly worth their stuff.
Early versions of search algorithms relied on webmaster-provided information such as the keyword meta tag or index files in engines like ALIWEB. Meta tags provide a guide to each page's content. Using metadata to index pages was found to be less than reliable, however, because the webmaster's choice of keywords in the meta tag could potentially be an inaccurate representation of the site's actual content. Inaccurate, incomplete, and inconsistent data in meta tags could and did cause pages to rank for irrelevant searches.[10][dubious – discuss] Web content providers also manipulated some attributes within the HTML source of a page in an attempt to rank well in search engines.[11] By 1997, search engine designers recognized that webmasters were making efforts to rank well in their search engine, and that some webmasters were even manipulating their rankings in search results by stuffing pages with excessive or irrelevant keywords. Early search engines, such as Altavista and Infoseek, adjusted their algorithms to prevent webmasters from manipulating rankings.[12]

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).