Guest post by Jack Dawson.
Everyone implementing SEO usually has the same question – how long before I rank first for my keywords? This question does not have a simple answer, mostly because it’s not in itself a legitimate question. It comes from misunderstanding the current nature of SEO and it is stuck in the rudiments of what SEO used to be.
Old vs. new SEO
In the past, SEO was about identifying the best keywords for businesses. These are relevant words with little competition and high organic traffic. You had to pick out 5-10 of those “golden keywords” which would help you capture the majority of your online traffic. If you’re still telling your SEO professionals that you want first rank for this keyword or that, then you’re stuck in the old paradigm.
Today, there isn’t a single keyword, or keyword group that can solely drive most of your traffic, especially when long-tail search is considered. If your focus is on a group of keywords, you’re missing out on the majority of users looking for you.
Currently, natural language searches drive SEO, i.e., users are searching in much the same way they would ask a normal question, instead of inserting a keyword or two. Google in fact offers voice search options, so that people can speak out their questions. This allows people conveniently to carry out more detailed searches that will provide them with better results.
The result is long-tail keywords, which are less competitive and therefore easier to rank on. They are also more relevant and hence lead to higher conversion rates. Therefore, you should base your ranking objective on a larger group of natural language queries, which is constantly shifting.
Rankings are important, but not quite
There are more important metrics you should focus on rather than just ranking. If you stay focused on getting top rankings, you will have a skewed view of the really important things. It’s not just about getting top rankings. Your rank is worthless if it does not come with leads, conversions and revenue increases, which are the real outcomes.
The right question
Rank is a mere output, your SEO firm/professional should be focused on these more than just getting you higher ranking. As you search for the right SEO partner, your question shouldn’t be how long it will take for you to get the top rank but rather how long before efforts culminate in leads, conversions and sales.
How long SEO takes to work
The real answer to this question is highly subjective. A lot of factors come into play to make SEO efforts effective, or not. A few of those include:
- How long the website has existed
- How much and what SEO techniques had been applied in the past
- The layout and general shape of the website
- How much content is uploaded on the site
- The website’s link profile, among many others
Even when there are two businesses in the same field competing for the same target market, SEO won’t work the same for both of them because of the above differences. However, here is a brief outline of the kind of results to expect from a valid SEO strategy over time:
Website audit, discovery and research, keyword strategy building and general planning. If you get through the research fast, you can start to make technical changes by the first month of operation. For larger or more complicated sites, the research and discovery phase can spill over longer than a month.
Implementation of major technical SEO techniques. Basing on results of the audit, you will make modifications to the site. Sometimes, the site requires a complete overhaul, a process that can take several months. Other SEO techniques include building one’s link profile and content marketing, which you can carry out along with technical changes.
During this phase, and especially if a complete overhaul is in progress, you’re likely to see little or no results for SEO efforts. You must complete the changes before seeing any real impact.
Major focus on improvement of content and content marketing. These include whitepapers, FAQ section updates, blogging, expanding product descriptions and company information. Where the budget is not a severely limiting factor, you can do this simultaneously with the technical overhaul phase; otherwise technical changes come first.
You may see some ranking improvements towards the end of the month. This may or may not lead to conversion and sales improvement yet, but if they’re not there quite yet that’s okay.
Involves a continuation of content creation, technical optimization and link profile building, including link audits to clean out bad/low quality links. This month should produce a notable rise in rankings, traffic as well as lead generation. It won’t be as big as what you’d see after a year, but enough to show that efforts are paying off.
By now, social media management and marketing is also part of the SEO strategy to increase direct traffic and promote content created. This simultaneously builds up healthy natural links. Content creation goes on, coupled with PR and other media outreach techniques (collectively, these techniques encompass a web presence optimization strategy). You’ll see more traffic by now, and your leads and conversions should also be increasing.
If you have traffic of 5,000 visitors monthly and higher, you can begin to direct SEO efforts towards conversion rate improvement. This converts the traffic coming in to leads and eventually sales. After this, your strategy revolves around content creation and promotion. Any other specific techniques will differ depending on the nature of your business, your website and your business goals.
The majority of SEO professionals and firms tell clients that results are visible in 4-6 months. This is an accurate description, but clients must remember that results only start to show within this time, growing as the time passes. By the time your hit one year, your results should be significantly better than what you saw at the sixth month.
Also, you may notice a tapering in results after a certain point, after which SEO efforts will be directed at maintaining the results as opposed to improving them. The key is not to stop just because there aren’t any results in the first 2-3 months. The minimum budget time for SEO should be 6-12 months, because SEO is a long-term marketing strategy. Plan properly and invest knowing you’re in for the long haul.
Author bio: Jack Dawson is a web developer and UI/UX specialist at BigDropInc.com. He works at a design, branding and marketing firm, having founded the same firm 9 years ago. He likes to share knowledge and points of view with other developers and consumers on platforms.