Every day, you are an advertiser. It doesn't matter if you are spending a dime on advertising in the traditional sense. You are an advertiser, asking people to become aware of you, to be entertained by you.
Don't believe me? Pull out your mobile phone and Google for something. See all those ads surrounding your non-paid listings? There is no functional difference between what is an ad and what isn't. A fair percentage of people online can't even tell the difference, nor do they care. If you find an ad useful, you'll tap on it rather than an organic listing.
Open up Facebook. See those lovely newsfeed ads? They are functionally no different than the content from your friends. Both want you to notice them. Both want you to engage with them, to do something meaningful and tangible.
Load your favorite news websites. Chances are at least one of them is using native ads, which are ads that look like regular site content. Advertising content is getting as good as regular content, and may in some cases even be preferable to reading non-paid content.
You and your content are competing against other advertisers. If you're not structuring your content to be as interesting as what the advertisers are doing, then you're going to continue to see your organic, non-paid results decline. Advertising has taken over every form of media there is. Advertising content fills every channel. Whether or not you're paying money, your content is going head to head with the content of people who are paying.
Learn to think like an advertiser. Learn to write like an advertiser. As ad targeting gets better and better (and it really has), more and more of your audience's attention will be attracted to relevant ads - and that means less attention towards you unless you keep up, because attention is a zero-sum game.
If advertising is winning, it's coming at someone else's expense - possibly yours.
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