Network marketing: Network marketing companies have a great business model (for those who own the company), because they only pay their sales people (a.k.a. “independent business owners”) when they make a sale or recruit another person. They only pay on performance. So to sell a bunch of product, the direct sales company really doesn’t go directly to the consumer through TV or magazine ads or similar methods that could easily cost millions; instead they go indirectly through their sales people and only pay for the word of mouth advertising as a commission on a product sale. It’s really savvy business strategy that’s low-risk and high-reward, if it spreads far and fast enough by emotionally exciting the distributors. Distributors are heavily using social media like Facebook, YouTube, blogging and the like to generate sales and grow their network online.
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.
To avoid undesirable content in the search indexes, webmasters can instruct spiders not to crawl certain files or directories through the standard robots.txt file in the root directory of the domain. Additionally, a page can be explicitly excluded from a search engine's database by using a meta tag specific to robots. When a search engine visits a site, the robots.txt located in the root directory is the first file crawled. The robots.txt file is then parsed and will instruct the robot as to which pages are not to be crawled. As a search engine crawler may keep a cached copy of this file, it may on occasion crawl pages a webmaster does not wish crawled. Pages typically prevented from being crawled include login specific pages such as shopping carts and user-specific content such as search results from internal searches. In March 2007, Google warned webmasters that they should prevent indexing of internal search results because those pages are considered search spam.
Paid search is a great option for anyone targeting transactional queries. The people behind these types of queries have already researched and decided what they want, and are often one click away from getting their credit cards out. In fact, these “high commercial intent” searches for product or brand-specific keyphrases receive more clicks via paid ads than organic results, by a margin of nearly 2:1 It is worth noting however that 94 per cent of web users prefer organic results to paid results so it is best not to put all of your eggs in one basket.
Google claims their users click (organic) search results more often than ads, essentially rebutting the research cited above. A 2012 Google study found that 81% of ad impressions and 66% of ad clicks happen when there is no associated organic search result on the first page. Research has shown that searchers may have a bias against ads, unless the ads are relevant to the searcher's need or intent 
Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising is the most common form of paid SEM. PPC ads are the ones you see at the top of your Google search with the word “ad” written discreetly next to the link. Search engines such as Google sell keywords to the highest bidder. One of the nice things about this form of advertising is that – as the name suggests – you only pay for the ad when someone actually clicks on it.
Make your content longer. Despite video marketing's rise seeming to point to consumers' desire for shorter content, that implication couldn’t be further from the truth. Google wants content that’s longer and more detailed. Studies have shown that this is what ranks higher in the search engines. Don’t artificially inflate your word count, though. You should hone in on topics that naturally require more words to write about.
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.
Before you dig into some of the more technical ways to improve SEO ranking, always remember that writing compelling, high-quality content that attracts interest and compels visitors to share it and link back to it is vital. Good content has the best chance of being viral content, and Google rewards content virality heavily in its rankings algorithm.
Social media is the easiest and most effective way to push out your SEO-based content. While the incoming links from your social media shares don’t have the same impact as authentic links from high-quality sites, they can influence your bounce rate and time-on-site engagement. If your content is good and people stick around to read it, those engagement metrics communicate value to search engines. Your goal should be to turn your best organic content into social media content so you can then encourage engagement and drive traffic back to your site.
Entertainment — The Internet is a plethora of things to do. Some are looking for videos. Others are looking for games. Many are entertained by new stories. Others like financial calculators. Others want to learn something new. Think about what kind of entertainment your target is looking for. Relate it back to your brand. That’s a great way to use SEM to connect.
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?
For our client: We only used a smaller quantity of very high-quality link building each month. So, for example we only built 40 of the best links each month to supplement the work we were doing on the content marketing front. We also invested heavily into tracking competitor backlink profiles, using Majestic SEO and Open Site Explorer. We worked out how the competitor's acquired specific backlinks, then by using outreach and content creation we obtained these links.
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.
As small businesses arise, they start to think of ways on how to compete with bigger brands. One way to do this is to go digital. As internet and high-tech gadgets are highly accessible, consumers are now just one click away. Given this, once you go into the web, there is a high chance that you will be able to capture the market you are trying to reach. To help you decide whether to seek help from a professional SEO consultant or go the easy way of pay-per-click (PPC) or maybe even have both, we have laid down some pros and cons of both SEO and PPC.
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).
An effective tactic to use to improve your SEO analysis is to measure the sources of your visitors and leads. By doing this, you will understand how impactful your tactics and strategy truly is. By using website tools such as Google Analytics and Adobe Omniture, you can learn about your traffic sources which can be helpful in learning if your SEO optimizations are effective. For example, are your users entering your website through your social media posts or are they finding your content through an organic search? Or maybe, you’ll find that your paid marketing tactics are more effective than you’d imagine. The bottom line is tracking your visitors and leads can provide many insights for both your paid and organic marketing strategies.
Paid search advertising focuses on investing in the right types of ads to achieve prominent positions on search engine results pages and drive traffic to the site. Well optimized search ads can sometimes achieve higher positions than organic search results, while others might be displayed on the right side of the browser page. The success of paid search campaign rests on targeting the right keywords and selecting optimal advertising channels.
Beyond organic and direct traffic, you must understand the difference between all of your traffic sources and how traffic is classified. Most web analytics platforms, like Google Analytics, utilize an algorithm and flow chart based on the referring website or parameters set within the URL that determine the source of traffic. Here is a breakdown of all sources: