You might have heard that search engine optimization (SEO) is a quick and easy way to rank number one on Google and get more traffic to your website.
Here’s why that’s wrong.
The truth is…once upon a time, SEO could work quickly.
But as search engine algorithms have evolved and the online space has become more competitive, the SEO landscape has changed drastically.
Every business owner wants to see results come quickly. But when it comes to legitimate, proven SEO strategies, results simply don’t happen overnight.
Any agency that says otherwise is not to be trusted.
Below, we’ll cover the real factors that will affect how long it will take for SEO to get measurable results for your business, as well as the minimum time investment to really get your money’s worth from SEO.
How Long It Takes for SEO to Generate Leads and Sales
When it comes to SEO, business owners often ask, “How long does it take for SEO to work?”
Which usually means, “How long before I rank #1 in Google?”
This is the wrong question to ask because ranking #1 in Google isn’t the end goal. The goal is to generate qualified leads and sales opportunities.
In other words, organic search traffic is only as valuable to your business as the revenue it generates.
The real question that you should be asking is, “When will SEO start generating sales and leads for my business?”
Based on our experience and that of our colleagues at other reputable SEO agencies, we can give an estimated timeline of 4-6 months for SEO to begin producing some form of results, which could include:
- Overall improved average ranking
- Website being indexed for more keywords
- More traffic to your website and opportunity to close that traffic
The above timeline represents our average client experience. This is when things start to work, but not necessarily when you achieve your end goal.
There are numerous factors to consider when determining when you can expect to begin seeing SEO generate results. It would be impossible to cover them all in detail here ‒ but some of the most significant factors are:
- Competition for high-priority keywords
- How effective are the site’s inbound links
- Healthy, SEO-friendly site
- Regularly published content on the site
1. Importance of Competition in SEO Timelines
Generally, the more competing websites that your business is up against, the harder and longer it will take to see your website climb to the top of search engine results.
In a crowded industry, many of your competitors will have experienced SEO professionals behind them to improve and maintain their rankings. Understanding the level of competition based on your products/services and location will help you get a sense of how long it will take for SEO to get results.
For example, a small local massage therapy clinic will face less competition than a real estate brokerage business serving a large city, amongst many other real estate brokerage businesses. That same brokerage would face less competition than a national-level mortgage company with competitors in every market in the country.
Search results are all relative, and that is the key to understanding why SEO works differently for different businesses online.
2. Importance of Inbound Links in SEO Timelines
Acquiring more inbound links will help your business achieve the SEO success you are striving for more quickly… but it is not all a numbers game.
Quality over quantity, like most things, is always the way to go. Having fewer, high-quality links from relevant websites will have a much greater impact on your overall results than having a greater number of low-quality links from other irrelevant websites.
Acquiring higher quality links are much harder to earn, having them on your website will make it more difficult for your competitors to replicate and compete with you. As well, higher-quality links last longer and keep their effective power.
The speed in which your business online can acquire links takes time, make sure to look out for any abrupt increase in links. This could identify an inorganic attempt at a manipulative ranking and negatively affect your business’ SEO.
3. Importance of a Healthy SEO-Friendly Website
SEO isn’t just about keywords and content. Your website’s internal workings also have a big impact on how it ranks.
When your website appears on a Google search results page, it becomes part of what Google offers its users. And Google cares a lot about its users’ experience.
So, a big part of its search ranking algorithm is focused on checking the ‘health’ of your website. It looks at technical aspects of the site that have an effect on the user experience, like:
- Site speed
- Crawl errors & broken links
- Mobile friendliness
- Site structure
When your site is healthy and SEO-friendly, the work being done on the content and external links side takes effect much faster. On the other hand, a site that is not technically optimized for SEO will move slowly or not at all.
4. Importance of Content in SEO Timelines
Quality content published on your website plays a vital role in how quickly you will see SEO results.
There isn’t a set length/word count for SEO optimized content. It just has to be long and detailed enough to solve the visitor’s problem.
Along with quality content requires consistent content. Maintaining a publishing schedule will encourage Google to come back to your website to read and learn more about your expertise. It also encourages users to return, suggesting a positive user experience that Google’s signals will notice.
If you focus on producing helpful content that answers specific questions your target market may have, you will see results. Users will come, have a great experience and build trust with your brand (possibly reaching out) and Google has more information about you to determine where else you can rank.
SEO Timelines Then vs. Now
To explain why SEO doesn’t happen overnight, it helps to recognize a crucial difference between the early SEO landscape and what we see today.
Old SEO: When Low Competition Got Big Results
In the early days of SEO, it was possible to skyrocket a website’s search ranking by identifying and optimizing for a small number of high volume, low competition keywords.
The trick was to target keywords that were popular, but not competitive.
You could build an entire strategy around these ‘golden’ keywords, climb to #1 in the rankings, and have most of your traffic come from them within a few months.
Nowadays, it’s extremely rare to find a single keyword or small group of keywords that can drive a lot of traffic to your site.
People just don’t search like that anymore. Plus, the web is way more competitive today than it was in the early 2000s. There are nearly 2 billion websites today, compared to just 17 million in 2000, an increase of nearly 11 thousand percent.
New SEO: Targeting the Long Tail
Today, people are adding more words than ever to their searches to get faster, more specific results.
They’re asking specific questions that they need answers to, rather than searching individual keywords and seeing what comes up.
We call these searches long-tail keywords. And search engines like Google and Bing have gotten very good at delivering long-tail keywords relevant results.
Long-tail keywords are:
- Easier to rank for, because they’re less competitive
- Generate more revenue, because they’re more specific
- Account for a higher search volume in total than shorter “golden keywords”
Today, generating search traffic that brings you leads, sales, and revenue means curating a larger number of natural language or long-tail keywords searches that grow and change over time.
Is SEO a Good Investment?
When you have the funds and stamina to be patient with the results, as well as stay in the game for the long haul, SEO is an incredibly powerful marketing tool that all businesses should invest in.
A minimum of 4 to 6 months of SEO services will allow you the time and money to see the results that you want. For businesses that do not have a budget for SEO services for up to a year, we recommend a few key steps regardless:
- Make your website SEO and user friendly – you may need a professional to help with this as a one-time project
- Work on building out good quality content on your website if you build genuinely helpful content to your target market, it will pay SEO dividends down the road
- Consider using additional funds towards paid advertising to start generating traffic to your website
It’s important to remain patient throughout the SEO process. When businesses fail to see results after a couple of months of SEO services, they are tempted to give up ‒ when they could actually see results in a matter of weeks. We often refer to this time period as the “trough of sorrow” in the industry.
We as agencies or individuals cannot control a lot of the SEO process. We don’t control Google, their algorithm, or what competitors do. The only thing we can do is understand what Google is looking for, give them what they want, connect with our customers and give them what they want, and we will start to see results.
SEO is not only a science, but also the art of adapting to changes in the industry.
Remember that SEO results increase over time, not overnight. Your results should be significantly better after 12 months than they were after 6 months.
To get the results that you need online for your business, professional SEO services are OFTEN worth the time, energy, and money that you invest.
If you would like more information about our SEO and digital advertising services, please do not hesitate to contact our SEO team here at TrafficSoda.