SEO is a road that should only be travelled by those with patience. Let me tell you why..
Wondering how long SEO will take is a valid question for all marketing managers and business owners. After all, if you’re spending money on marketing, you want to be able to know when you can expect a return. However, SEO is not for anyone seeking a quick fix solution. SEO is very much a long-term strategy when done correctly and should only be implemented by someone who understands this.
Over the years, I’ve seen some potential clients not choose Reload Media due to us not providing guaranteed rankings within a particular time. Ironically, many of these clients end up coming back after failed attempts elsewhere by overpromising and under-delivering SEO agencies.
Every client has a different perception of time and results. This lack of definition can sometimes result in mismatched expectations. Therefore, it’s critical that you keep reading to ensure you and your SEO agency can form a valuable long-term partnership that will meet your goals.
What is Google Trying to do?
Firstly, let’s take a step back and look at what Google is trying to do. Google has two main sections – paid and organic. The paid section houses Google AdWords or pay per click (PPC) ads and the organic section is where the SEO results lie. This is illustrated below:
Google’s mission is to ‘organise the world’s information’.
In 2013, Google made around $55 billion dollars and 97% of this came from people clicking on Google AdWords (i.e. PPC). But what drives someone to click on a Google AdWord? Typically, people use Google to search for something they need or want. Initially, they consume information and compare alternatives through the organic section (i.e. SEO). Once they are educated, they then begin to take notice of call to actions or offers within ads.
Based on this, hopefully you can see that the organic section is very important to Google, despite it not directly generating revenue. Google knows that if they do not return accurate and relevant search results, people will turn to competitors like Yahoo or Bing to search. Subsequently, Google would lose advertising revenue.
Google is simply trying to return results that are relevant and this should be kept in mind by anyone who is thinking about implementing SEO. You need to consider how you will become relevant for keywords and there is no quick fix for this. It takes skill and experience to do this.
So How Long Does it Take?
In short, there is no easy answer to how long SEO will take.
The time can vary for every client and depends on a number of things, including:
- The technical state of your website: If your website doesn’t speak Google’s language, it’s going to need some work to get up to speed. Depending on the size of your website and the number of technical issues, it can vary between a couple of weeks to a couple of months to get the technical elements fixed. Also, the speed and willingness of your web designer and developer to implement some of the technical recommendations will affect how long it takes to get these technical elements sorted. It pays to have a good web developer open to suggestions on hand!
- Keywords: It’s important that you understand the competition for the keywords that you want to target. Generally, high traffic keywords also mean high competition. Therefore, you can expect highly competitive keywords to take a lot longer to rank than less competitive keywords. We generally recommend that you target keywords that are most relevant to your business that are more likely to drive conversions instead of traffic as this will ultimately lead to a better return on investment. This means that most clients will have a keyword strategy containing a combination of branded terms (e.g. Telstra), non-branded terms (e.g. mobile phone plans, iPhone plans) and long-tail terms (e.g. best value mobile phone plans).
- The content on your website: If you’re one of many dentists operating in Sydney, how will you provide more value to people searching for a dentist online than every other dentist in Sydney? To prove that you should appear in the SERPs (search engine results pages) instead of your competitors, you need to have industry leading content that genuinely helps people searching for information. If you have lots of content already, than SEO may work sooner. If you have none to very little content, it will take some time for your SEO agency to collaborate with you to produce some high quality content.
- Competitors: Unless you’re selling a relatively new product or service, it’s likely that your competitors have been doing SEO for a while now. If your competitors are leaps and bounds in front of you from an SEO perspective, it will take time to catch them. Once you catch them, you then need to leapfrog them.
- Your resources: Good SEO agencies need to closely collaborate with you to ensure your web designer and developer implement technical recommendations and that your internal resources are utilised to assist with content creation. Some clients have staff internally who can create the content. Some clients rely on their SEO agency to create content. If you have internal resources that you can commit to your SEO strategy, you should expect to see results sooner if they are guided by your SEO agency.
- The age of your website: If your website has been around for a while, it’s likely that you have a history with Google. Google trusts websites that have been around longer than new websites.
- If you’ve been penalised: If you’ve implemented spammy SEO before by a non reputable SEO agency, it’s possible that it will take some time for you to clear your name with Google and begin to see positive SEO results.
SEO really is a marathon, not a sprint. I’ve seen some clients get great results within a couple of months and I’ve also seen some clients take 12-18 months to get results. The key is to work with your SEO agency to understand your current situation and what is required to get you to where you need to be. From here, some estimations can be put in place to ensure your expectations are in line with what can be achieved.
It’s also important to define what SEO success is. Early on in your SEO strategy, you will likely see increases in organic rankings which is excellent. But if you ranked outside the top 100 before starting SEO and have made your way up to number 50 over a couple of months, you’re still unlikely to see traffic increases, despite getting good early ranking improvements. Success will come once you hit the first page and work your way up, provided that you have a great website that will convert the traffic into dollars for your business.
Things to Look Out For
Now that you understand that SEO is a long-term strategy, it can be tempting to consider some spammy alternatives to get quick results such as creating many spammy links. Many SEO companies will offer guarantees within a certain timeframe and to an uneducated marketing manager or business owner, this can sound pretty good. But beware! Google rarely trusts speed (just to clarify, Google likes site and page speed, but not SEO speed by the way of quick spammy link building). SEO is in a constant state of flux with many things affecting the organic results. If you achieve results quickly by implementing questionable tactics, don’t expect this to last as Google adjusts its algorithm to intentionally remove websites that cheat the system.
Before pressing the green light on your SEO strategy, make sure that you’ve worked with your SEO agency to clearly understand your current situation and what is required to get you to where you need to be. This will include the commitment of resources internally to ensure your SEO strategy remains on track. I recommend asking your SEO agency the following questions:
- What is the current state of my website and content? Many SEO agencies including Reload Media will offer you a free SEO audit.
- What is the competition like for my target keywords?
- What level of service would you recommend for me to be successful?
- What tactics will you implement and are these best-practise tactics?
- How will we monitor results and stay on track?
- What case studies do you have?
In summary, if you’re after quick results, pay per click advertising such as Google AdWords might be a better option. If you’re after a marketing solution that will keep working time and time again and you’re willing to be patient, SEO is for you. If you want the best of both worlds, combine both PPC and SEO.
For extra reading, check out: How Much Does SEO Cost?
Have you had any interesting experiences with how long SEO takes?