Before you dig into some of the more technical ways to improve SEO ranking, always remember that writing compelling, high-quality content that attracts interest and compels visitors to share it and link back to it is vital. Good content has the best chance of being viral content, and Google rewards content virality heavily in its rankings algorithm.
Using this data can help you identify additional “buyer” keywords to target and what keywords to stop targeting. Keyword research, content marketing, and link building are things that you need to constantly be doing, even when you reach the top of the search rankings. Many businesses think that they can slow down these efforts once they reach the top, but easing up on your SEO strategy will see your competition take over the top position if you are not continually improving your search engine optimization effort.
Lynn, you have one of the best sites for affiliate marketing that I've ever seen. Just read your interview with Rosalind Gardner and found some interesting nuggets. Marketers should note the intuitive and spontaneous way you approached a niche and keywords. This is usually where "paralysis analysis" begins … some spend weeks with keyword and research tools until there is no "creative energy" left to build the site.
As pointed out, they are certainly not the same, but it might not be a bad idea to track and report on the direct traffic. If there has been outreach done and the company is mentioned in print with a URL, direct traffic (along with some search traffic on the URL or business name itself) is likely to go up. If your email newsletters are not tagged, they're likely to show up under direct traffic. Depending on your role, some of what you do under the greater SEO/inbound marketing role can show up under the direct traffic.
Well, yes and no. Sure, you can get hit with an algorithm change or penalty that destroys all your traffic. However, if you have good people who know what they are doing, this is not likely to happen, and if it does, it is easy (in most cases) to get your visits back. Panda and Penguin are another story, but if you get hit by those it is typically not accidental.