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!
More eyes on your website are all well and good, but if you can’t get them to interact, you lose. Engagement is what’s going to facilitate the conversion that you want. When users become invested in your content, they keep coming back, and they become the fuel for your sales funnels. So what is a “rich content experience?” Here’s what I recommend. Be intentional.  Most people pump out content because they heard it’s the right thing to do. No rhyme. No reason. That’s a mistake. Every piece of content should serve a goal.
Hubspot found that their articles up to 2500 words drive the most traffic. Similarly, posts with more than 2500 words generated more social shares and links. Naturally, it takes some investment to create that quality of content. The key is to come up with evergreen ideas. This way, your investment will more than pay for itself because your content will be serving your business goals years down the line. Put people first. The thing about search engines and how they rank content? It’s unpredictable. But one thing will remain constant. The job of a search engine is to connect users with the most relevant and useful information. If your content serves that purpose, you don’t have to fear algorithm changes.

In 1998, two graduate students at Stanford University, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, developed "Backrub", a search engine that relied on a mathematical algorithm to rate the prominence of web pages. The number calculated by the algorithm, PageRank, is a function of the quantity and strength of inbound links.[21] PageRank estimates the likelihood that a given page will be reached by a web user who randomly surfs the web, and follows links from one page to another. In effect, this means that some links are stronger than others, as a higher PageRank page is more likely to be reached by the random web surfer.
● Collect conversion related data from your PPC campaign and use it to convert your organic search visitors better. Also, keywords that worked for you in PPC are best to optimize your website for, so using them for SEO purposes makes sense. Your PPC campaign will end, but the rankings you achieve for the same keyword will remain for quite some time.
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.
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.
Mobile traffic: In the Groupon experiment mentioned above, Groupon found that both browser and device matter in web analytics’ ability to track organic traffic. Although desktops using common browsers saw a smaller impact from the test (10-20 percent), mobile devices saw a 50 percent drop in direct traffic when the site was de-indexed. In short, as mobile users grow, we are likely to see direct traffic rise even more from organic search traffic.
I agree with the point that a small or medium-sized business will have limits for budget and resources in generating brand search, but I wouldn't say that stops them from potentially producing huge growth there if they do something interesting/innovative etc. I can think of quite a few small to medium sized brands that have more name recognition than larger companies in their space. The challenge is that many of those brands are led by people who are very good at generating marketing and publicity - it's harder for small brands to be able to afford to pay for a top level consultant or agency.
You’re not going to like this answer. But wouldn’t it be so simple if we would tell you to do one or the other and get stellar results? The truth is, an effective marketing campaign should include a bit of both strategies. For the short-term, a paid search campaign can give your business a quick boost, helping you gain exposure to customers searching for the relevant keywords in your campaign; however, sometimes consumers don’t trust—or even look at—paid ads. Using organic search methods, which consumers tend to see as trustworthy, will help drive traffic and increase revenue over the long haul, and solidify your position as a leader and authority in your niche.

It increases relevancy: Siloing ensures all topically related content is connected, and this in turn drives up relevancy. For example, linking to each of the individual yoga class pages (e.g. Pilates, Yoga RX, etc) from the “Yoga classes” page helps confirm—to both visitors and Google—these pages are in fact different types of yoga classes. Google can then feel more confident ranking these pages for related terms, as it is clearer the pages are relevant to the search query.

Use social media. Build a presence on social media networks like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google+ etc. All of these activities help to get your name out and website address out on the internet. Read about how we doubled our social media audience in a week. Add share buttons to your site to make it easy for people to share your content. And write content worthy of sharing.

The objective of (SEM) is to drive traffic to your website with the intent of converting those visitors into customers. With SEM, it is important to have your business site listed near the top of the search engine rankings since very few internet users will actually look at search results beyond the first couple of pages. SEM can be divided into two categories: organic and paid. Both are important.
Influencer marketing is a great way to expose your brand to a much larger audience, which often results in a significant spike in traffic that can lead to more subscribers, followers, and leads. It can also lead to long-term SEO improvement. In this session, you will learn how to leverage influencer marketing to drive organic traffic and rank your website higher.

At the retail level, the two top organic food sales categories, receive significant price premiums over conventionally grown products. ERS also analyzed organic prices for 18 fruits and 19 vegetables using 2005 data on produce purchases, and found that the organic premium as a share of the corresponding conventional price was less than 30 percent for over two-thirds of the items. The premium for only one item—blueberries—exceeded 100 percent. In contrast, in 2006, organic price premiums for a half-gallon container of milk ranged from 60 percent for private-label organic milk above branded conventional milk to 109 percent for branded organic milk above private-label conventional milk. See the ERS report for more on this topic:
Google doesn't always include a whole paragraph of text in the Featured Snippet. If you add "Step 1," "Step 2," "Step 3," etc. to the start of each HTML heading within your content (for example, within your H2 tags), Google will sometimes just list out your headings within the Featured Snippet. I've started to see this happen more and more in keywords beginning with "how to".

By relying so much on factors such as keyword density which were exclusively within a webmaster's control, early search engines suffered from abuse and ranking manipulation. To provide better results to their users, search engines had to adapt to ensure their results pages showed the most relevant search results, rather than unrelated pages stuffed with numerous keywords by unscrupulous webmasters. This meant moving away from heavy reliance on term density to a more holistic process for scoring semantic signals.[13] Since the success and popularity of a search engine is determined by its ability to produce the most relevant results to any given search, poor quality or irrelevant search results could lead users to find other search sources. Search engines responded by developing more complex ranking algorithms, taking into account additional factors that were more difficult for webmasters to manipulate. In 2005, an annual conference, AIRWeb, Adversarial Information Retrieval on the Web was created to bring together practitioners and researchers concerned with search engine optimization and related topics.[14]
Search engine marketing, or SEM, is one of the most effective ways to grow your business in an increasingly competitive marketplace. With millions of businesses out there all vying for the same eyeballs, it’s never been more important to advertise online, and search engine marketing is the most effective way to promote your products and grow your business.
Once you've set up an alert within Mention, go to your settings and then 'Manage Notifications'. From here you can select the option to get a daily digest email of any mentions (I'd recommend doing this). You also have the option of getting desktop alerts - I personally find them annoying, but if you really want to stay on the ball then they could be a good idea.

The Featured Snippet section appearing inside the first page of Google is an incredibly important section to have your content placed within. I did a study of over 5,000 keywords where ranked on page 1 and there was a Featured Snippet being displayed. What I found was that when was ranking in the Featured Snippet, the average click-through rate to the website increased by over 114%.

Organic traffic is the primary channel that inbound marketing strives to increase. This traffic is defined as visitors coming from a search engine, such as Google or Bing. This does not include paid search ads, but that doesn’t mean that organic traffic isn’t impacted by paid search or display advertising, either positively or negatively. In general, people trust search engines, and sayings such as “just Google it” reinforce that humans are tied to the search engine. Thus, paid search, display, or even offline campaigns can drive searches, which may increase organic traffic while those campaigns are running.