RankBrain can have an impact on your keywords campaigns. When you are defining your keywords, you are looking for relevant terms that respond to customers queries. This is how a successful SEO strategy works. And logically, if you are picking keywords your audience is not searching for, you campaign will have no chance to succeed. This is where RankBrain can play a role.
Unfortunately, this particular client was fairly new, so as a result, their Moz campaign data wasn’t around during the high organic traffic times in 2015. However, if it was, a good place to start would be looking at the search visibility metric (as long as the primary keywords have stayed the same). If this metric has changed drastically over the years, it’s a good indicator that your organic rankings have slipped quite a bit.
Forums are probably one of the least effective forms of free traffic, but it all depends on the forum. You’re looking for large, active communities where you can carve out a bit of a reputation for yourself. Sure, you can dominate a small forum, but the returns won’t be worth it. Conversely, too large a site and you may have trouble attracting attention at all. It’s a hard balance to strike.
Now that we have the data we want in the chart, we use the advanced search to filter it down to only the traffic we want to see. Click the blue “Advanced” link beside the search bar that is just to the top right of your list of landing pages. This will open the Advanced search screen, where we want to setup our query. In the green drop down, choose “Medium” and in the text box at the end of the row we type “organic”. Click the Apply button below the query builder to apply this search.

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.
For the short-term, PPC is generally your best bet. The minute your ad runs, it delivers results. But when the budget stops, so do the benefits. Because SEO relies on your website’s content, linking structure, and meta data, developing a thorough strategy that delivers real results takes more time than setting up a PPC campaign. However, SEO’s results may be more valuable to you and your organization in the long run.
Good point,The thing with this client is they wanted to mitigate the risk of removing a large number of links so high quality link building was moved in early before keyword research. So it is on a case by case basis, but defiantly a good point for most new clients I work with who do not have pre-existing issues you want to do Keyword Research very early in the process. 
Hey Brankica, These are some great sources to get more traffic to your sites. I do agree with your arguments about answer sites and forums. Most of us, including myself, don't use these much, nowadays. I clearly don't know the reason. But I can tell you one thing : Some forums ban you if you promote your site (that depends upon what type of forum it is). Anyway, thank you for sharing the great resource ! And Best of luck with the contest :D I think you would probably win the contest :D (because you have useful posts). Jeevan Jacob John
Referral traffic in Google Analytics can also include your social traffic or even your email visits. This is largely because there are different ways to track data and there are imperfections in the system, but it also depends on which reports you look at. For example, Acquisition> All channels> Referrals will include much of your social traffic, but the default All channels report does not include Social in your Referrals. The best solutions:

The first step to digging into organic traffic is to analyze what content on your website is performing best in this area. For obvious reasons, the homepage is almost certainly the landing page for most organic traffic, but the other top pages are often revealing. To view this data, we’re going to head over to the Behaviour section in the Analytics sidebar, then choose Site Content and finally Landing Pages.
Secure (https) to non-secure sites (http): Since Google began emphasizing the importance of having a secure site, more websites are securely hosted, as indicated by the “https” in their URLs. Per the security protocol, however, any traffic going from a secure site to a non-secure site will not pass referral information. For this issue, you can correct by updating your site to be secure through a third-party SSL certificate.
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