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!
Make sure you have some good analytics software installed on your website. You will want to know where your traffic is coming from. Is it coming from social media, referrals, search engine queries, or is it direct traffic? It will also help you determine where people are getting lost, or dropping out of the funnel. It can also help you determine what approaches, content, and CTAs are the most effective.
I would like to talk about a case study for a large start up I worked on for over eight months in the Australian and US market. This client originally came to the company with the typical link building and SEO problems. They had been using a SEO company that had an extensive link network and was using less than impressive SEO tactics and methodologies over the last 12 months. The company was also losing considerable revenue as a direct result of this low quality SEO work. So, I had to scramble and develop a revival strategy for this client.
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:
Direct traffic is defined as visits with no referring website. When a visitor follows a link from one website to another, the site of origin is considered the referrer. These sites can be search engines, social media, blogs, or other websites that have links to other websites. Direct traffic categorizes visits that do not come from a referring URL.
Website ranking doesn't just come from what's on your website. Google, the number one search engine used today, uses a variety of other factors to rank websites. Things like your social media activity, appearances on other sites through interviews or guest blogging, and being listed as a resource on another site all increase your standing in Google's eyes.
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?
The HTML tag is meant to be a concise explanation of a web page’s content. Google displays your meta description beneath the page title in their organic results. While meta descriptions aren’t as important as page titles in your Google ranking, they do play a big role in getting clicks from users. People read descriptions as a preview of your page and use it to determine if your content is worth visiting. You should keep your meta descriptions to under 150 characters since Google won’t display text beyond that. You should also include target keywords in your text, since any words matching a user’s search query will be displayed in bold.
Clients often ask me the difference and I give them a simple answer that normally puts an end to the conversation and their questions, much like the answer shane thomas gave, but less detailed.  Direct is people putting in your url in the top and organic is people searching for you.  Here is an example: If I want to buy a book i type in amazon.com (direct traffic) but if i forgot where to buy a book online i search for "where to buy a book online" which directs me to amazon.com (organic traffic).  When i explain it like this, a light bulb goes off and they understand.  Hope that helps.
While network marketing companies financially incentivize their distributors to sell their products, just like in affiliate marketing, it’s not just the money that motivates word of mouth and it’s not money alone that will make the sale. It’s got to be a game-changing or life-changing product or service to give people something talk about with positive emotions like excitement and enthusiasm, so that the people they talk to want to be a part of it (and fear being left out). If people believe the company has a lousy product and compensation plan, then people won’t feel motivated to talk about it or have persuasive reasons to tell others to buy into it as well. If people don’t believe in the person or company selling it, the seller won’t generate any sales. This is why brands can charge more and generate billions in value, like these top 10 most valuable brands in the world:

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.
Marketing strategies have evolved over the course of time. Back then, organic search, when hit right on the spot, would give you the right amount of exposure that your business needs. Apart from that, it used to give you a better deal at a lower cost compared to when you do pay per click. However, with the digital age coming in and small businesses are starting to become popular, they are now mostly leaning towards the fast-paced wonders of paid search.
If you check out some of the suggestions below this though, you're likely to find some opportunities. You can also plug in a few variations of the question to find some search volume; for example, I could search for "cup of java" instead of "what is the meaning of a cup of java" and I'll get a number of keyword opportunities that I can align to the question.
Another tip you can use is just reach out to the prior agency and say something like the following: “We realise you were using link networks for our website which has resulted in a Google penalty and loss in business. Can you please remove my website from any link network you have built?”. If the prior agency is decent, they will remove the links from the network.
Today, organic marketing does not exist in Social Media and in SEO. Even if you somehow manage to rank first on the search results for a specific word, how many resources did it take you? how many resources will it take you to maintain this ranking against eager competitors? your time is money, and many businesses spend way too much time trying to rank for keywords or trying to grow their social media page organically.
PPC (paid search marketing): PPC (pay per click) advertising involves paying to have search engines display your website offer in or alongside search results. For example, Google's Adwords program will display your ad at the top or right side of the search results page (placement depends on many factors including keywords and quality of ad). Google will also feed your ads to websites running its Adsense program. There are other types of PPC marketing, such as Facebook Ads. In PPC advertising, you pay each time someone clicks on your offer. Paid search differs from organize search in that you're paying to have your website or offer displayed higher in search results.

All your content, social media, brand, and other online assets that you develop in that process are there to stay. And they keep going up in value as time goes by. Even if you stopped investing in organic search, these assets would still be working for your business. You’d get traffic because you’ve built an ecosystem that fuels itself. Now imagine that you’re generating traffic and you’re paying little to no money for it. Your cost per organic visitor will decrease by many factors as your return increases. Bear in mind that this is a cumulative effect that happens over time. Still, it’s a fantastic position to be in.
That's why it's necessary to always stay abreast of developments in the SEO world, so that you can see these algorithm updates coming or you can determine what to do once they’ve been released. The WordStream blog is a great resource for SEO updates, but we also recommend Search Engine Land and Search Engine Roundtable for news on updates. Glenn Gabe of G-Squared Interactive is also a great resource for analyzing the causes and impact of algorithm updates.

Content that ranks well in organic search – and does so for a long time – is particularly hard to out-rank due to the strong, positive signals it sends to the search engines and the subsequent authority it has developed. Gearing content to meet natural search intent is perfect for businesses looking to create a lasting presence and develop authority in relevant topics and/or industries. Focus on evergreen queries, question-based content and topic optimisation (where you look to cover every single facet of a topic) and you will be on your way.
Paid social can help amplify organic content, using social network advertising tools to target the audience. Using the rugby example, on Facebook you could target people who like other leading rugby fan pages. I recommend testing paid social campaigns to promote key content assets like reports and highlight important news/announcements. With a small budget you can quickly measure amplification impact.
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.
The leading search engines, such as Google, Bing and Yahoo!, use crawlers to find pages for their algorithmic search results. Pages that are linked from other search engine indexed pages do not need to be submitted because they are found automatically. The Yahoo! Directory and DMOZ, two major directories which closed in 2014 and 2017 respectively, both required manual submission and human editorial review.[39] Google offers Google Search Console, for which an XML Sitemap feed can be created and submitted for free to ensure that all pages are found, especially pages that are not discoverable by automatically following links[40] in addition to their URL submission console.[41] Yahoo! formerly operated a paid submission service that guaranteed crawling for a cost per click;[42] however, this practice was discontinued in 2009.

James, you give a great template for how a business needs to move forward in their chosen niche online.  Quite informative and the meeting of minds has been something a number of us have done online and in person to gain better insight into our small similar businesses.  Thank you for sharing your detailed approach to increasing organic traffic...content still is king.
In February 2011, Google announced the Panda update, which penalizes websites containing content duplicated from other websites and sources. Historically websites have copied content from one another and benefited in search engine rankings by engaging in this practice. However Google implemented a new system which punishes sites whose content is not unique.[35] The 2012 Google Penguin attempted to penalize websites that used manipulative techniques to improve their rankings on the search engine.[36] Although Google Penguin has been presented as an algorithm aimed at fighting web spam, it really focuses on spammy links[37] by gauging the quality of the sites the links are coming from. The 2013 Google Hummingbird update featured an algorithm change designed to improve Google's natural language processing and semantic understanding of web pages. Hummingbird's language processing system falls under the newly recognised term of 'Conversational Search' where the system pays more attention to each word in the query in order to better match the pages to the meaning of the query rather than a few words [38]. With regards to the changes made to search engine optimization, for content publishers and writers, Hummingbird is intended to resolve issues by getting rid of irrelevant content and spam, allowing Google to produce high-quality content and rely on them to be 'trusted' authors.

As you can see by the example above, organic marketing tactics are natural, authentic, and value-based. The benefits that businesses reap from these tactics are cultivated over longer periods of time, ultimately helping you build a brand that customers want to visit regularly. And although you’re doing less “pushing” with organic marketing, when done right you can still generate a steady stream of loyal traffic. Remember, this is about building high-value brand equity and industry authority with your customers. You’re not just attempting to drive sales here; you’re working hard to engage and educate your target audiences.  

With 88 million tech-reliant Millennials taking their places as decision makers in households and the workforce, crafting a strong online presence is more important than ever. According to the Harvard Business Review, Millennials will account for over 50% of the workforce by next year. Already, this demographic shift, in combination with rapidly developing technology, is drastically changing the way successful companies go to market. 
While network marketing companies financially incentivize their distributors to sell their products, just like in affiliate marketing, it’s not just the money that motivates word of mouth and it’s not money alone that will make the sale. It’s got to be a game-changing or life-changing product or service to give people something talk about with positive emotions like excitement and enthusiasm, so that the people they talk to want to be a part of it (and fear being left out). If people believe the company has a lousy product and compensation plan, then people won’t feel motivated to talk about it or have persuasive reasons to tell others to buy into it as well. If people don’t believe in the person or company selling it, the seller won’t generate any sales. This is why brands can charge more and generate billions in value, like these top 10 most valuable brands in the world:
Companies that employ overly aggressive techniques can get their client websites banned from the search results. In 2005, the Wall Street Journal reported on a company, Traffic Power, which allegedly used high-risk techniques and failed to disclose those risks to its clients.[15] Wired magazine reported that the same company sued blogger and SEO Aaron Wall for writing about the ban.[16] Google's Matt Cutts later confirmed that Google did in fact ban Traffic Power and some of its clients.[17]
Consumer demand for organically produced goods continues to show double-digit growth, providing market incentives for U.S. farmers across a broad range of products. Organic products are now available in nearly 20,000 natural food stores and nearly 3 out of 4 conventional grocery stores. Organic sales account for over 4 percent of total U.S. food sales, according to recent industry statistics.

“Organic” is something of a buzz word. In the food sector, it carries connotations of healthy living, natural growth and honest, responsibly sourced products. Those connotations are just as relevant when the term relates to marketing campaigns. Companies encourage and maintain healthy growth through the use of carefully targeted organic content marketing. Doing so builds trust in the customer base while extending the brand’s reach. You may already be using organic marketing as part of your business strategy (perhaps without even realizing it). But, if you aren’t, it’s time to consider how to plant the seeds of a new campaign that helps your business to grow and flourish.
The term “organic” refers to something having the characteristics of an organism. Although black hat SEO methods may boost a website’s search engine page rank in the short term, these methods could also get the site banned from the search engines altogether. However, it is more likely that readers will recognize the low quality of sites employing black hat SEO at the expense of the reader experience, which will reduce the site’s traffic and page rank over time.
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