Our clients face a variety of challenges today. Overall what we are seeing is a compression in the market place. Big box stores like Walmart and Best Buy have become much more aggressive in paid search, they are expanding their SEO programs, and the algorithm that Google uses has favored them over the last couple of years. This has lead to a significant shift in the placement of big box stores in organic search and created real problems for smaller, niche companies.
Amazon has been another major factor in the market. Manufactures are now directly competing against their distribution partners, MAP pricing problems are widespread, and in many cases it has become a race to the bottom in terms of price and margin.
In both the SEO and PPC fields we are seeing an increase in the use of software enabled processes, and a general rise in the level of sophistication being employed by larger, better funded companies. If you are still manually logging into Google and setting your bid parameters, but you're competing with companies that are using automated, SKU level bid management software, you're probably in trouble. Likewise, if you are relying on content creation as your only SEO tool and are up against sites that use sophisticated programs to manage meta structure and compare competitive activity, you are at a significant disadvantage.
Fortunately, because we have a free market economy, small businesses can now get access to a lot of the same tools that larger sites are using, and at a fraction of the cost they were even two years ago.