You might have heard that search engine optimization (SEO) is a quick and easy way to get
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.
Google search rankings – page one. The online Holy Grail.
Every business wants to be at the top of the list of search results, or at the very least, on the first page. After all, most people don’t look beyond the first page of results.
Depending on which report you read and how the data is presented, the number of people who can’t be bothered to even have a look at page two results can range anywhere from 71% to as high as 95%. Regardless of who is right with the exact percentage, it is clear that page one is prime real estate when it comes to search results.
“Content is king” was the mantra for quite some time.
Others placed large amounts of energy into link building.
So, what is the 2019 roadmap for local businesses looking to secure their place with Google search rankings?
Throughout the years, various single metrics have become the focus of local businesses. After all, there’s only so much time one can allocate to managing their online presence. In order to move up in Google search rankings some – especially the smaller businesses – had to pick and choose which ones would give the biggest bang for their efforts.
Google currently looks at over 200 indicators as part of their algorithm, when calculating rankings. Focusing on just one particular indicator is no longer a viable option. Fortunately for the smaller businesses there are some broad-brush strokes that can be utilized to help with their rankings, while still leaving them time to focus on their actual business.
If your business doesn’t have a lot of time or resources to devote to SEO, make sure you at least give attention to the following basic items:
- “Local” online presence
- Social media
- User experience
Local Online Presence
What makes a local business “local”? The location of course.
Don’t just place your address in the footer of your webpages and hope Google will find it when crawling your site (assuming you’ve set things up properly). Directly tell Google your address by creating a Google My Business account. This is even more important now that Google is phasing out Google+, previously a favourite among smaller local businesses.
When it comes to info the search engine giant can never get too much. Whether you are signing up for an account for the first time or have had your GMB account for years, be sure to fill in as many of the available fields as possible.
While we do not recommend relying solely on content for online efforts, it is also foolish to abandon it altogether. Those who rise in Google search rankings are generally seen by their algorithm to be an expert in that particular field.
This is indicated, in part, by presenting content. Do it like you know what you’re talking about, even if you’re just starting out. Do it as often as time will allow but be consistent. It is better to post one blog a month, than to post 3 in one month, then nothing for the following two or three months.
Ensure the quality of the content is high!
This not only means being knowledgeable in your subject, it also means presenting the information in an easy-to-read format. Google will look at your spelling, grammar and syntax. Even professional writers have their work proofread. Have someone look over your content before publishing and make recommendations regarding corrections or changes. If you just don’t have the manpower, at least use an app built for this purpose. Grammarly is one of the better-known offerings around.
Content doesn’t always have to be in the form of blogs. It can be helpful tips on social media, a recipe, a quote, even a picture. Anything that adds value to the user experience is good, and can pique interest leading to increased traffic to your site via links in your posts.
This is part of a process called backlinking – basically any link on another website that links back to your site. An increase in traffic from social media linking through to your website is an indicator that people are interested in what you have to say and see you as an authority on whatever your specialty is.
A word to the wise: as a general rule, do not use your personal social media account as your business social media account. You may wish to keep your family photos and personal info private.
For a business social media account to be most effective it should be as transparent as possible to google. Most will have the option of making it visible to the public, or even specify that you wish it to be discoverable by search engines.
In case you haven’t noticed by now, securing a place within Google search rankings has become about the overall user experience.
While a goofy viral video can get a person or business their 15 minutes of fame, Google looks at the complete unified picture. Their main goal when presenting search results is to ensure that the user receives the information which is most relevant to their search. This not only means the quality of the information, but the way in which it is presented. You want to rank with Google because ultimately you want traffic coming to your website to buy your product, secure your services, or consider visiting you in real life.
Is your website slow to load? How is your bounce rate? Is your site optimized for mobile devices? Are pages on your site buried (more than 3 clicks away from the home page)? Is your site overloaded with industry specific jargon, or is it easy to read? Are the backlinks which drive traffic to your site from quality sites? Are the links leading out of your site relevant to the information being presented?
If you are a brand-new startup, and are familiar with these metrics, then you may want to be adventurous and create your own website with a website builder such as Wix.
If on the other hand you are not tech savvy, or a small to medium business, we recommend you secure a web designer. Having a professional build your site can make a world of difference to your search engine optimization, which directly impacts your Google search rankings. Great SEO can also improve your bottom line.
The Bottom Line
Any local business’s online efforts for 2019 should be unified across various platforms and outlets. Don’t place too much value on any one single metric or indicator. Google likes to see quality and relevance in all aspects of an online presence.
The bottom line of all this? In everything you do, keep in mind the user experience is paramount.
Featured snippets. Instant answers. Position zero. Whatever you call it, it’s prime real estate in the search engine results.
But how do you get there?
Like most things in search engine optimization, there’s no magic formula that applies to featured snippets. The algorithmic scheme that selects snippets is opaque and ever-changing.
But thanks to the efforts of data geeks like Rob Bucci (of STAT) and Eric Enge (of Stone Temple), we do know a thing or two about what it takes to propel part of a page into the featured snippet position.
Here’s a top-level summary of what featured snippets are, how they work, and what are considered best practices for snippet optimization in 2019.
Featured Snippets: What They Are
The ‘how’ and ‘why’ of featured snippets all comes back to Google’s bottom line.
Google wants to give searchers the best possible results, meaning the most relevant and useful content on the user’s search query. That’s what keeps people coming back to Google when there are plenty of alternative search engines – the quality of its results. Google’s army of engineers are constantly tweaking and fine-tuning search to deliver better results.
In a world where more and more people are searching on-the-go (and increasingly through voice assistants), better results means results that are instant and concise.
Enter rich answers: quick, precise results highlighted in a box at the top of the SERP below the paid listings.
Rich answers come in several different forms, including:
- The knowledge panel, which provides detailed answers to localized product and service-based searches;
- Direct answers, which draw information from Google’s personal data files; and
- Featured snippets, which display relevant bits of information from third-party sources, along with a link back to the page.
Recently, featured snippets on mobile search have links that jump to the exact spot on the page the snippet came from, making it easier to see where that information came from.
Featured snippets often appear in queries that Google takes as questions: searches that open with who, what, where, why and so on. But the snippet algorithm can also catch on to queries that imply a question. It’s getting better and better at guessing the unspoken question behind the search.
If I search, “when is E3 in 2019?” for example, that’s obviously a question-based query; if I instead search, “E3 2019 date” the algorithm knows enough deliver the same answer.
Vox has a video on featured snippets that summarizes this well (and humorously).
Why Do Featured Snippets Matter in Marketing?
Put simply, featured snippets get clicks. Lots of clicks.
When a page holds the featured snippet for a high-value search query, it can lead to a sharp increase in traffic, conversion and clickthrough.
In one case, a featured snippet led to a 516% increase in organic search sessions and a 4% higher clickthrough rate for a lucrative keyword. Others have noticed a similar boost for pages on their sites that secure snippets for search terms that matter to their sales funnel.
The continual rise of voice search is another reason to give snippets a second look. Rich answers are Google’s go-to result for voice queries, where results are spoken out loud to the user in reply. Optimizing a page for snippets also serves it well in voice.
Optimizing for Featured Snippets: What We Know
Featured snippets are not an exact science, but there are clear trends to and themes as which pages are likely to rank for featured snippets.
- Google favours questions with multiple answers rather than one. When there’s a single clear-cut answer to a user’s search query, the algorithm can just pull from Google’s own Direct Answers database; when the answer’s more complex, it’s more likely to pull a relevant snippet from a third-party site.
- A good answer is a comprehensive one. Stone Temple’s data confirms that, although only 100 or so words will appear in the snippet itself, the algorithm likes to pull snippets from pages with detailed, comprehensive information. Sub-topics and tangents are a good thing, so long as they’re relevant to the page’s core topic.
- The fresher, the better. Snippets need to accurate and up-to-date. It’s important to keep your content current have a chance of being featured.
- There are patterns that lend well to snippets. It’s no trick or formula, but there are ways of structuring content to make for good snippets:
- In the headline, tell readers they question you’re going to answer.
- Write a brief paragraph that provides context to the content that will follow.
- Give a point-by-point breakdown of the possible answers to the query, or, if there’s only one answer, expand on it. Depending on what best fits this specific query, this information can come in the form of subheadings and paragraphs (one subheading per point), a numbered or bullet list (one number/bullet per point) or a table (one point per row).
How to Track Featured Snippets
Long ago, in the bygone year of 2015, Google’s own Gary Illyes said there’s a chance you might someday be able to monitor featured snippets in the Search Console. But as of 2017, he’s denied it’s something Google is working on yet. So, it isn’t currently possible to keep track of a site’s snippets using Google’s proprietary tools.
But there are several third-party sites that document how many pages on your site have featured snippets (if any) and to which search terms they apply. And the good news is, if you’re an SEO nerd, you’re probably using one or more of these tools already:
- Moz’s rank tracker
- Advanced Web Ranking
- SEO PowerSuite
Is It Worth Chasing After Featured Snippets?
The pages that tend to rank for featured snippets have a lot of good things going for them: they’re current, relevant, comprehensive, and structured in a way that makes it easy for readers to scan and digest the info.
In other words, they’re doing all the things great content should do.
Featured snippets come and go. You could spend weeks working on reaching that coveted spot and be dethroned by a competitor through a shrug of the algorithm days later. But in general, the steps you can take to optimize your content for snippets are things you should be trying to do anyhow – so at worse, you’ve improved your site and added value regardless.