This all sounds amazing right? unfortunately, organic marketing is also very difficult to implement and resource intensive. Ranking organically on Google and other search engines can be very hard, especially for competitive keywords such as “buy shoes.” Ultimately you want to rank within the first page, and possibly within the top 3 organic results, but this can be next to impossible when you are competing with large companies that have teams dedicated to ranking their keywords.
I'm having a problem that I suspect many marketers share. Quite simply … SEO or just buy the traffic. I noticed that you switched to SEO because you like the passive income component. But when I consider ALL the work and ongoing moving parts to SEO .. visions of the hamster on a treadmill appear in place of couch potato cash. Have you noticed that there is always something new to do … now it's Google+ ect. and "more to do" is surly on it's way. It's reached the point where it's mind numbing.
Solid analysis on this tough topic Rand. It will definitely be interested to see what in-serp features Google continues to add to keep you on their site as opposed to clicking through to a website. I think SEOs need to take more consideration into branding and content marketing tactics in order to supplement potential lost organic traffic as time goes on.
I think for agencies as far as how we appear in organic search ourselves, we are definitely going to need to leverage all 3 of the solutions you talk about and agencies who haven't branded their products/services are going to have to do that and are going to have to also employ branding strategies. In addition, we have to optimize for other search ares like you say in your point #2 and we must look at optimizing existing content for voice search and answers/featured snippets like you say in point #3.
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.