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?
I’ve always been a believer that hard work gets the best results, and in practice it always ends up being true. On the web it’s no different. If you want more organic traffic, you have to work for it. That means giving your best effort every time, going after opportunities your competitors have missed, being consistent, guest blogging strategically, and staying on Google’s good side.
You may be wondering, why pay to show up in search engines and have people click on your website pages? Can’t you just improve your website’s SEO and get online visibility and organic clicks for free? The answer is that organic search isn’t actually free. SEO strategies are very beneficial to your business, but SEO takes time to take effect, (up to 6 months) and the tactics involve a lot of work toward producing quality content. With SEM/pay-per-click advertising, you see results right away, in the form of your business name on page one of a search.
Your website should be the cornerstone of your content building strategy. Your website is the one piece of real-estate on the internet that you truly own. Facebook, Twitter, and Google are nice, but you don’t own anything on those platforms other than your intellectual property rights. The services they provide now may change in the future. Invest in the content on your website.
And then if that isn’t enough, what I’ve seen work well is provide some incentives. Have a social contest, a social engagement contest, where people can like content for an opportunity to win say $100 gift certificate, something small scale like that. I myself have been part of these sort of contests before for a number of organizations and see it really amplify the engagement, it gets it in front of your employees’ eyes and thinking about it. And then the beautiful part is after the contest is done, the habit’s built oftentimes. And you’ll notice those same people that were engaging initially for the contest continue to engage with your content and help amplify your message.