I agree with the point that a small or medium-sized business will have limits for budget and resources in generating brand search, but I wouldn't say that stops them from potentially producing huge growth there if they do something interesting/innovative etc. I can think of quite a few small to medium sized brands that have more name recognition than larger companies in their space. The challenge is that many of those brands are led by people who are very good at generating marketing and publicity - it's harder for small brands to be able to afford to pay for a top level consultant or agency.


By relying so much on factors such as keyword density which were exclusively within a webmaster's control, early search engines suffered from abuse and ranking manipulation. To provide better results to their users, search engines had to adapt to ensure their results pages showed the most relevant search results, rather than unrelated pages stuffed with numerous keywords by unscrupulous webmasters. This meant moving away from heavy reliance on term density to a more holistic process for scoring semantic signals.[13] Since the success and popularity of a search engine is determined by its ability to produce the most relevant results to any given search, poor quality or irrelevant search results could lead users to find other search sources. Search engines responded by developing more complex ranking algorithms, taking into account additional factors that were more difficult for webmasters to manipulate. In 2005, an annual conference, AIRWeb, Adversarial Information Retrieval on the Web was created to bring together practitioners and researchers concerned with search engine optimization and related topics.[14]
In December 2009, Google announced it would be using the web search history of all its users in order to populate search results.[32] On June 8, 2010 a new web indexing system called Google Caffeine was announced. Designed to allow users to find news results, forum posts and other content much sooner after publishing than before, Google caffeine was a change to the way Google updated its index in order to make things show up quicker on Google than before. According to Carrie Grimes, the software engineer who announced Caffeine for Google, "Caffeine provides 50 percent fresher results for web searches than our last index..."[33] Google Instant, real-time-search, was introduced in late 2010 in an attempt to make search results more timely and relevant. Historically site administrators have spent months or even years optimizing a website to increase search rankings. With the growth in popularity of social media sites and blogs the leading engines made changes to their algorithms to allow fresh content to rank quickly within the search results.[34]
Additionally, knowing how your SEO is performing can help you make the necessary changes over time to keep your rankings high. Look around for a keyword tracking tool to help you track how your SEO is performing. It’s typical for your ranking to fluctuate from week to week and even day to day. Look for a general upward trend from month to month that shows that your efforts are successful.
The thing about SEO in 2018 is that Google changes its algorithms more than once a day! Reports say that the company changes its algorithms up to 600 times a year. While the majority of those updates consist of smaller changes, among them is the occasional, major update like Hummingbird or Panda that can really wreak havoc with your traffic and search rankings.
That said, ground-up marketing works because it’s work. There’s no substitute for careful attention to your website’s content and careful curation of your business’s social media presence. Paid ads can be an effective tool within a high-budget marketing strategy, but if the consumer arrives at your website and doesn’t find what they’re looking for, how is that investment working for you? It’s not. If a sponsored tweet draws them in but a discrepancy in expectation chases them away, what’s the benefit there? It’s absent. Organic marketing is a long process, but ultimately it will yield more authentic customer engagement and more accurate SEO.
You control the cost of search engine marketing and pay nothing for your ad to simply appear on the search engine. You are charged only if someone clicks on your ad, and only up to the amount that you agreed to for that click. That’s why SEM is also known as pay per click (PPC), because you only get charged for each click that your ad generates. No click? No charge.
On April 24, 2012 many started to see that Google has started to penalize companies that are buying links for the purpose of passing off the rank. The Google Update was called Penguin. Since then, there have been several different Penguin/Panda updates rolled out by Google. SEM has, however, nothing to do with link buying and focuses on organic SEO and PPC management. As of October 20, 2014 Google has released three official revisions of their Penguin Update.
With organic search, you don’t have to outspend your competitors to outrank them. Your competitors can’t recreate the content experience that you use to drive organic traffic.  This one is major. PPC is easy to replicate and reverse engineer. Many spy tools allow you to dissect paid campaigns to see what’s working and what’s not. You can get insight into what ad creatives generate the most clicks.

H1 and H2 title tags are names for the two most important types of titles in your website. H1 tags are your main titles – usually large or bolded on a website, and at the top – and H2 tags are secondary titles that clarify your main title, or might be the titles to different page sections. To utilize these sections effectively, you can use the format “Business | Keyword” as your H1 tag. For example, if my business name was “Emily’s Images” and my keyword was “Atlanta wedding photography,” my title would look like “Emily’s Images | Atlanta wedding photography”.
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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. 
If we can do that effectively, it is in the best interest of the search engine to serve our content to our target audience for us, providing highly targeted visitors to our pages at no incremental cost. This is the secret to the organic channel, and why organic search listings are so valuable. Other channels often come with additional cost for each new visitor provided.
Paid marketing, on the other hand, allows business to target, reach, engage, and convert their audiences quickly and directly. Instead of waiting – or hoping – for someone to find your blog post in organic search or on social, paid marketing has you “pushing” content – mainly in the form of ads – directly to your target audiences. As such, it’s much more sales-forward and focused on driving specific actions, like making a purchase or attending a webinar. Here’s an example of this in action:
Step #3: Calculate your ROI based on the right performance indicators The performance indicators will depend on the objective you selected in the first step. Want to generate leads? You could track your new subscribers. Want to increase engagement? You could track clicks, comments, shares, etc. Let’s go with the first example: Your goal is customer acquisition. You’ve already set up tracking for sales conversions. It’s time to dissect your organic search traffic.
Great topic Rand! I have found that being well-versed in PPC and Content Marketing have not only helped my expertise grow as an SEO, but are also great options to fall back on when offering solutions to clients, depending on the SEO opportunity available. It will be interesting to see if Organic Search Traffic will continue to drop or bounce back overall though. Solids tips and insight, and glad to see you back for a WBF!
Well, yes and no. Sure, you can get hit with an algorithm change or penalty that destroys all your traffic. However, if you have good people who know what they are doing, this is not likely to happen, and if it does, it is easy (in most cases) to get your visits back. Panda and Penguin are another story, but if you get hit by those it is typically not accidental.