Organic is different. Matching keywords to user intent means you may be present in many searches. The user may find you consistently, and once they get to your site, they are more likely to stay. Organic users are still your best long-term customers. In my experience, they have lower bounce rates and more pages visited, and they are more likely to return.
If both page are closely related (lots of topical overlap), I would merge the unique content from the lower ranking article into the top ranking one, then 301 redirect the lower performing article into the top ranking one. This will make the canonical version more relevant, and give it an immediate authority boost. I would also fetch it right away, do some link building, and possibly a little paid promotion to seed some engagement. Update the time stamp.
Now in your reconsideration request make sure you are honest and tell Google everything that the prior agency was up too. Be sure to include all Excel information of removed links and say you are going to make an ongoing effort to remove everything negative. It is common knowledge that Google may not accept your first reconsideration request, so it may take a few times.
As a SEO analyst the fact that recent changes Google has made has made it hard for websites to rank scares me a bit but on a second thought I see a lot of opportunity here for growth. Because as SEO gets more challenging true meaningful strategies are now needed to optimize a site rather than just link building and basic on page. SEOrs really need to understand the nature of a client’s business, work on their buyer’s persona & understand their clients Goals. I am a big fan of Point #2 & #3 you highlighted under potential solutions. Local businesses (LB) really need to setup up and take full advantage of Google My Business (unfortunately I don’t see many LBs doing that). With point #1 i.e. demand generation, I am bit confused about how that strategy will unfold for small businesses. This would mean a lot more investment from their end on building their brand equity and brand awareness, but some businesses don’t really have that kind of funding. I mean yes, they can implement aggressive social media strategies and take advantage of GMB but that will still be very challenging I feel. Maybe a bit more information on how we can generate demand for small businesses be helpful!
Melissa Barker from Organic Demand Generation was recently a guest on the Rethink Marketing podcast, where she shared her essential organic B2B marketing strategies for LinkedIn in 2018. In addition to the many tech companies she’s consulted, including Act-On and Puppet, she also authored the first college textbook on social media marketing in 2010.
There is limited real estate for the top positions in organic search results. With the amount of content on the web today and the number of competitors you have, it can be hard to get in a top position, even despite your best efforts. If you’re a new business or an existing one trying to build your online presence, SEM/PPC advertising can get you in front of highly targeted customers.

Google is a king. What best Google has done, kept all the bloggers life in a big web. Try to become as independent/different as you can, which Google might not have heard. It can be either name, brand, activity, etc...People focus on that things which they have never heard. It's unique way to come up in SERP's. We are used to EverydayHealth, EverydayLife, gets bored. Make sure people have reasons to return to YOUR site as often as possible.
Although it may have changed slightly since BrightEdge published its report last year, the data still seem to hold true. Organic is simply better for delivering relevant traffic. The only channel that performs better in some capacities is paid search ads, but that is only for conversions, not overall traffic delivery (Paid Search only accounted for 10 percent of overall total traffic).
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