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?

‘There’s really two core strategies I always recommend. The first is looking after prospecting in groups. This one is a big one because I think this is one of the single best ways for sales and marketing to drum up new business on LinkedIn. But the caveat is I’ve also seen this go horribly wrong. And without getting into too much detail, there’s a few recommendations I have to avoid some of those pitfalls.
The Featured Snippet section appearing inside the first page of Google is an incredibly important section to have your content placed within. I did a study of over 5,000 keywords where HubSpot.com ranked on page 1 and there was a Featured Snippet being displayed. What I found was that when HubSpot.com was ranking in the Featured Snippet, the average click-through rate to the website increased by over 114%.
When you’re truly faced with the dilemma, “Organic vs. paid search traffic?” don’t get too worked up. There’s always a solution to your specific situation – trust us, we deal with it all of the time! Every business is different and has different goals, so the perfect search marketing mix does exist for your company. First, think about each of these bullet points, and at the end ask yourself, “Am I willing to commit?”
In 2007, U.S. advertisers spent US $24.6 billion on search engine marketing.[3] In Q2 2015, Google (73.7%) and the Yahoo/Bing (26.3%) partnership accounted for almost 100% of U.S. search engine spend.[4] As of 2006, SEM was growing much faster than traditional advertising and even other channels of online marketing.[5] Managing search campaigns is either done directly with the SEM vendor or through an SEM tool provider. It may also be self-serve or through an advertising agency. As of October 2016, Google leads the global search engine market with a market share of 89.3%. Bing comes second with a market share of 4.36%, Yahoo comes third with a market share of 3.3%, and Chinese search engine Baidu is fourth globally with a share of about 0.68%.[6]
Thanks for the comment, I would not say it is impossible to create high quality backlinks from scratch without content, you just need to do a review on competitor backlinks and see if their are any easy targets. We have had some good luck in the education space acquiring links on the same pages as competitor from PR5+ edu sites. It all revolves around the outreach strategy in which you put in place.
A variety of methods can increase the prominence of a webpage within the search results. Cross linking between pages of the same website to provide more links to important pages may improve its visibility.[47] Writing content that includes frequently searched keyword phrase, so as to be relevant to a wide variety of search queries will tend to increase traffic.[47] Updating content so as to keep search engines crawling back frequently can give additional weight to a site. Adding relevant keywords to a web page's meta data, including the title tag and meta description, will tend to improve the relevancy of a site's search listings, thus increasing traffic. URL normalization of web pages accessible via multiple urls, using the canonical link element[48] or via 301 redirects can help make sure links to different versions of the url all count towards the page's link popularity score.
Another ethical controversy associated with search marketing has been the issue of trademark infringement. The debate as to whether third parties should have the right to bid on their competitors' brand names has been underway for years. In 2009 Google changed their policy, which formerly prohibited these tactics, allowing 3rd parties to bid on branded terms as long as their landing page in fact provides information on the trademarked term.[27] Though the policy has been changed this continues to be a source of heated debate.[28]

Though it can take a lot of time and effort to develop one, having an organic marketing strategy is important for any business to find success. Essentially, organic marketing is about growing your audience naturally versus using paid advertising and marketing tactics. To build a successful strategy, you’ll need to accumulate a variety of string organic marketing ideas that includes social media, search, and email marketing. But why should I look into organic marketing when I can just pay for everything? That’s a great question. The thing is organic marketing can bring a lot of benefits for your business including more authentic customer engagement and brand loyalty. Now, we’re not saying to cut paid advertising from your plan but a mix of organic and paid marketing strategies will be very effective. Here are some tips that you can use to improve your organic marketing strategy.
I feel we can also focus a lot on the kind of keywords we target. I had a client who was in a very competitive market place, we optimized their site for some really targeted, long tailed keywords which didn’t have very high search volume, so the traffic didn’t really go up drastically but the amount of conversions & the kind of CTRs the site received was incredible.
Search Engine Marketing or SEM encompasses the steps taken to increase relevant traffic to your website, through higher rankings on search engines. Traditional SEM is made up of two processes: “organic” search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click advertising (PPC) (or cost-per-click (CPC)). However, the field of SEM is a changing and expanding field thanks to constant new developments, such as:

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.
Hi , the post is really nice , and it made me think if our current strategy is ok or not , 2 things are important " High quality content strategy " and " Good quality Links " now joining those correctly can pose some real challenges , say if we have n no of content writers who are writing for couple of websites, to be generic let’s consider , 1 writer @ 1 website . We have to write make a content strategy for in-house blog of the website to drive authentic traffic on it and a separate content strategy for grabbing  links from some authentic High PR website i.e. CS should be 2 ways , In-house / Outhouse .

Now, it is not that these sites are not interested in Google users. In fact, they have hired us to help them increase their share. However, they are getting so much traffic from sites like Facebook that it seems there is less urgency about attracting this traffic and less willingness to change the site to meet organic standards. Not long ago, sites would urgently and unquestioningly abide by Google’s standards to court that traffic.

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