This is a crucial area. If you do not have schema markup and rel="author", you are costing your business money. It is as simple as that. As an example, say I want to make spaghetti (pasta) for dinner I search for “Spaghetti Recipe” and instantly I see some great markup in play, but one competitor has no markup and no rel="author" they are losing business in my eyes. Wouldn't you agree?.

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.
It is important to target keywords that your target consumer is likely to search for while looking for the product or service that you offer. For example, if you are an accounting firm located in Miami you would not want to target a general keyword such as “accounting firm.” Not only is it a very difficult keyword, but also you will be attracting visitors from all over the globe. Instead, you would want to target a more precise keyword such as “accounting firm in Miami” or “Miami accounting firm.”
Organic-search traffic is the only search traffic you should be interested in. This is the traffic you get without any direct action on your part. It’s not something you can achieve with ease, though. The statistics say that 83 percent of organic clicks go to the first four results under most categories on search engines. So, to see your site attain that status, lay the foundations well in advance for the traffic you want.
While inbound links are important, backlinks are just as important, but a little more difficult to acquire. We already went over how backlinks are important for building your domain authority, but the process to acquiring them can cost you hundreds. If you don’t have a budget for backlinks, try building relationships with other relevant quality websites that will link to your webpage.
Content is one of the 3 main Google ranking factors. As a matter of fact, having a blog can help you get your content indexed faster. An active blog – relying on qualitative and insightful content, and backed by authoritative links – will help you improve your rankings and thus your organic traffic. Also, long-form copies (above 1200 words) tend to rank higher and be crawled more often.
Every online marketer swears by search engine optimization and its effectiveness. Prior to the infamous Google Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird updates, SEO made a lot of black hat or unethical marketers rich. But things are no longer that easy. Google has upped the game, and now, it’s all about the kind of quality and the amount of value you’re able to deliver.
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:
In addition to helping you find keywords you should be bidding on, thorough keyword research can also help you identify negative keywords – search terms that you should exclude from your campaigns. Negative keywords aren’t terms with negative connotations, but rather irrelevant terms that are highly unlikely to result in conversions. For example, if you sell ice cream, you might want to exclude the keyword “ice cream recipes”, as users searching for ice cream recipes are unlikely to be in the market for your product.
Social is no longer just about conversation and content; it’s now an established channel for customer acquisition, remarketing and engaging existing fans/customers to support retention programs. It may be relatively immature compared to search and email marketing but it’s a channel in which most ecommerce teams are ramping up investment (people and tools).

The position of a link on a search results page is important. Depending on the search term, organic search results often make up only a small portion of the page. Since ads are at the top of the results page, on a device with a relatively small display -- such as a notebook, tablet or smartphone -- the visible organic search results may consist of only one or two items.
Google is currently been inundated with reconsideration requests from webmasters all over the world. On public holidays the Search Quality teams do not look at reconsideration requests. See below analysis. From my experience it can take anywhere from 15-30+ days for Google to respond to reconsideration requests; during peak periods it can even take longer.
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.
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.
Black hat SEO attempts to improve rankings in ways that are disapproved of by the search engines, or involve deception. One black hat technique uses text that is hidden, either as text colored similar to the background, in an invisible div, or positioned off screen. Another method gives a different page depending on whether the page is being requested by a human visitor or a search engine, a technique known as cloaking. Another category sometimes used is grey hat SEO. This is in between black hat and white hat approaches, where the methods employed avoid the site being penalized, but do not act in producing the best content for users. Grey hat SEO is entirely focused on improving search engine rankings.
Keyword difficulty is a number that lets you know how difficult it will be to rank for a certain keyword. The higher the number, the more difficult it will be to rank on that keyword. There are a few sites online that will tell you keyword difficulty of a word or phrase. Record these numbers in your Excel document or Google Sheet that you made earlier.

Optimise for your personas, not search engines. First and foremost, write your buyer personas so you know to whom you’re addressing your content. By creating quality educational content that resonates with you>r ideal buyers, you’ll naturally improve your SEO. This means tapping into the main issues of your personas and the keywords they use in search queries. Optimising for search engines alone is useless; all you’ll have is keyword-riddled nonsense.
I think it has become harder and harder for smaller brands to really stand out in any kind of search. This is especially true with small brands who face lots of competition form other small brands in large cities. How does one build name recognition in NYC as an acupuncturists when any given building may house 3 or 4 practitioners with the same address. Then these small businesses are facing the Google Possum filter. And in some cases brands without websites are showing up in the three pack over highly optimized websites.

Understanding the working mechanism of social algorithms is not a piece of cake. The algorithm for each social platform works differently. For instance, on Facebook, a core factor that affects the rankings of a post is its relevancy score, whereas on YouTube the total watch time of the video per session decides whether a video enters a ‘Recommended Video’ section or not.

Remember when you used to rely solely on search engines for traffic? Remember when you worked on SEO and lived and died by your placement in Google? Were you #1? Assured success. Well, okay, maybe not assured. Success only came if the keywords were relevant to your site users, but it was the only real roadmap to generating site traffic and revenue.

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