How Long Does SEO Really Take To Start Working?
As the owner of a digital marketing firm I find there is no question I am asked more than “How long will it take to get me ranked #1 for my keywords?” The answer isn’t a simple one. The question itself is misguided and born from an understanding of the way seo once worked, but no longer does.
NEW SEO vs OLD SEO
Not so long ago the best strategy was to identify those golden keywords that were the most relevant to your business, received the most traffic, and weren’t very competitive. It used to be much easier to simply figure out 5-10 keywords that would bring in the majority of your traffic.
When you are focused on “being #1 for a certain keyword or set of keywords, we instantly know that you are stuck in the old paradigm. This keyword strategy is wrong, because there is no one keyword, and no small group of keywords, that is going to drive a lot of traffic to your website. At least not compared to what you will receive from the long-tail keyword search.
If you’re focusing on a small group of generic keywords, the reality is that you are not being found by most of the people who are searching for you.
SEO today is driven by natural language search, meaning, people are doing searches that are more like normal questions instead of two or three keywords.
This is happening because people are using tools like Siri and Google Now to speak their searches, instead of typing them in. And because people are including more detail in their typed searches as they try to find what they’re looking for much faster. These keywords are much easier to rank for because they are not as competitive.
These long-tail keyword phrases and questions are much more relevant because they include more detail, and thus the traffic from these keywords convert at a higher rate. The number of searches in the long-tail quite often adds up to many more searches than you would get from your “golden keywords”.
With this in mind, the objective now, when it comes to rankings, is not to rank for a few top keywords that remain the same over time, but to focus on a much larger number of natural language searches that are growing and changing rapidly.
So now that you know that seo has changed, you need to start asking instead, “how long will it take to start generating leads and sales?”
How Long It Takes For SEO to Start Working
The answer is…. it depends. What does it depend on? It depends on a few factors, including how long your website has been around, how much seo has been done previously, has the seo been done properly, what shape the website is in, how much content is on it, its link profile, and various other seo factors.
No two websites are starting from the same place, even if they are in the same industry and competing for the same customers.
Here’s a plausible scenario to help answer the question for you:
Month 1: Research and discovery, website audit, keyword strategy, and planning.
If the research and discovery phase can be completed quickly, then technical changes can start being made to the website within this first month. In other cases, a thorough research and discovery phase can last more than a month.
Month 2: The technical seo work begins which requires making modifications to the website based on site audit results. In some cases, the website will require a complete overhaul which can take months itself. Other seo activities like working on the link profile and building content can be done at the same time while the overhaul is happening.
If you have to go through the overhaul phases you won’t be seeing any results at all because the changes being made will only start to have an impact once they’re finished.
Month 3: Here we start focusing on content creation which includes blogging, FAQs, whitepapers, articles, expanded product and company information, etc. Ideally, this would have been started directly after the strategy and planning.
During this time you might start seeing some improvements in rankings by the end of this month. If those rankings are translating into leads and sales, then even better, but they wouldn’t necessarily be expected yet.
Month 4: Here we focus on continued content creation, technical optimization of the website, and development of a healthy link profile (which may require cleaning up low quality links). During this month you could expect to see a marked increase in rankings, traffic, and lead generation. It should be significant enough to know that your seo efforts are working.
Month 5: By now you will have started incorporating social media management into your plan to amplify your content and increase direct traffic to your website. This can lead to a healthy, natural link profile, and generate leads in and of itself. You would continue with content creation and perhaps engage in some PR or media outreach.
You should be seeing more and more traffic coming from seo now, and your leads should be growing as a result.
Month 6: If your traffic has reached 5,000 visitors per month or more, you could benefit from adding conversion rate optimization to your efforts to improve how the traffic you’re receiving converts into leads and/or sales.
From this point on, your activities may be consistently focused on content creation and promoting that content. These specific activities can vary greatly depending on what type of company you are and what kind of website you have.
Most seo firms will advise you that it takes 4-6 months to start seeing results from your seo efforts. This is generally accurate, but keep in mind that this is when you START seeing results, and seo results grow over time. Any results you might be seeing after 6 months should be considerably less than what you’re getting at 12 months.
At some point you may see your results taper off, and then it may be a matter of maintaining results rather than growing them.
Don’t Give Up On Your SEO Efforts Too Soon
The majority of companies underestimate how much time and money is required to be successful with seo. Success by any standard rarely comes in the first 3 months, even with a healthy seo budget.
Paying for just a few months of seo is no better than throwing your money away. Seo is a long-term marketing tactic, and should not be seen as a way to generate sales quickly.
However, if you make the proper investment, and plan on being in it for the long haul, seo is a marketing tactic with one of the best ROIs out there.