SEO will only improve by opening more digital marketing channels. Even if some like PPC compete with organic clicks, the end result increases brand awareness.
Former Google CEO & Chairman Eric Schmidt said in 2008, “Brands are the solution, not the problem. Brands are how you sort out the cesspool.”
Brand awareness increases linkless mentions across the web, a ranking factor, with Gary Illyes saying that:
“Basically, if you publish high-quality content that is highly cited on the internet, and I’m not talking about just links but also mentions on social networks and people talking about your branding… then you are doing great.”
This syncs well with direct traffic as most important according to SEMrush’s Ranking Factors 2.0 study.
The goal then is to develop a brand within a niche. Pursue this as narrowly as possible to overcome competition, so that you are both relevant & authoritative within even a small space. Then, get yourself out there however possible.