Getting Positive SEO Results
SEO can often seem unpredictable and complicated to those who are unfamiliar with it or have misconceptions about it. Its seemingly technical jargon and steep learning curve combined with its black hat history often cause business owners to dismiss the strategy entirely. Those who do venture into the depths of SEO often expect to see results within a month or so.
After all, that’s approximately how long it takes to judge the effectiveness of most other marketing campaigns. After a month passes their efforts usually haven’t paid off and the effects on their businesses are negligible. An expert in the field will tell you that this isn’t something to worry about. SEO is a long term strategy and getting results from an SEO campaign can take a while. But how long is “a while” and what do we mean by results?
Time for Results
Firstly, let us take a look at what exactly “results” mean. The most important metric by which to measure the success of an SEO marketing campaign is conversions or traffic that converts.
There are many secondary benefits, especially if it tied to social media and content marketing, but a good SEO campaign is one that drives conversions. As your website’s visibility increases and its position on search engines improve you’ll get more traffic and more conversions.
Why success can be thought of as failures in SEO
SEO is a long-term marketing strategy. It usually requires significant investment with very little payoff at the start of a campaign. Even a great SEO campaign can seem like a failure after the first month. If you manage to net a gain of 39 positions for your most prized keyword you might think that you would get a significant increase in traffic. However, that’s not necessarily the case. For example, if you move from the 50th rank to the 11th rank on Google, there will be a very small change in traffic if there is any change at all.
This is because the 11th position isn’t on page 1. On the other hand, gaining positions can make much more of a difference if you start with a higher ranking. Going from ranking 11th to 5th, an increase of 6 positions, will increase traffic by approximately 5% for that keyword. An increase in rank yet again from 5th to 2nd will yield approximately another 5-8% increase in traffic. However, the biggest change in traffic occurs when you reach the top of page 1. Getting from rank 2 to rank 1 can increase traffic up to 20-30% for that keyword.
For people unfamiliar with SEO, a dramatic increase in rankings can seem like a failure without an accompanying increase in traffic. It is for that reason why knowing how your keywords are doing in the citext of rankings is so important. Keyword rank tracking and research is a must when trying to measure the short term success or progress of an SEO campaign. You have to know what keywords you’re trying to optimise and track and graph their progress over time to realistically evaluate how well your campaign is doing.
The more competitive a keyword is, the longer it will take to see significant results while targeting that keyword. Similarly, if your business is in a niche with few competitors, an SEO campaign will produce results a lot quicker.
Generally, the more specifically targeted you are within your niche, the better. One tool that can help you decide what keywords to target is an SEO competition analysis. You’ll be able to see how strong your competition is, who they are and how easy or hard it would be to top them.
As with most marketing, there are a variety of ways to approach an SEO campaign. Your SEO strategy will strongly influence how quickly you see results and how strong those results are. You could decide to go all in and target a few or even one pivotal keyword or try to test the waters and spread your efforts amongst numerous relevant keywords.
Will those keywords be high-traffic, high-competition, or low-traffic, low-competition? An appropriate strategy and proper keyword research at the start of your campaign are the keys to its success.
Channels and Angles
The individual tactics you choose to execute will also play a role in your development, sometimes in unforeseeable ways.
For example, will you focus on long-form or short-form content? Will you seek publication on lots of small-time publication networks or a handful of major players? What types of social media outlets will you use, and how active will you be on them?
How big should your SEO budget be? In SEO, you get what you pay for. Unless your competitors are paying for more. As a general rule, the more money or effort you put into an SEO campaign, the more you get out of it. A bigger investment means getting better results faster. That being said, SEO is like a competition.
If you are investing $5000 a month into your SEO campaign and you competitors are all investing $15000 a month, you could end up not seeing any results for a while. Everything you do affects your competitors, and everything your competitors do affects you.
SEO is a complicated field with a steep learning curve. If you’re just starting out, you will probably make mistakes. Search engines are constantly changing and there is a lot of out of date or plain wrong information out on the internet from SEO “experts” whose rhetoric benefits only themselves.
Be critical of information and wary of untrustworthy or shady websites. Instead, stick with the trustworthy names and brands in the SEO space.
When to expect results
Now that I’ve told you about all those variables, let’s ignore them. That is, let’s consider a case where each of the variables is set to an average amount. If you’re just starting your SEO campaign, you most probably won’t see any significant changes in the first month. Your traffic might increase if you’re lucky, but in all likelihood it won’t be anywhere near the amount required to make up for your expenses.
Typically, results start to show themselves at around 3-6 months. Your results could vary depending on the status of the variables mentioned above, but 3-6 months is still a fairly accurate estimate for how long it could take to first start seeing results.
According to this article by Josh Steimle at Forbes, "Many SEO firms will tell you that it takes 4 to 6 months to start seeing results. That's generally accurate, but bear in mind this is when you start seeing results, and SEO results grow over time."
The main goal
SEO is a long-term strategy and while it could take a while, you eventually want to see more than just traffic or results. The main goal for an SEO campaign is to maximise ROI. Assuming an average and constant investment rate, most campaigns take around 12 months (the early stage of a campaign) to start to break even or to reach the turning point where they start to gain a positive ROI. It usually takes a little over a year to consistently gain a positive ROI.
If you aren’t able to consistently yield a positive ROI within 1-2 years, there’s no need to worry. That doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with your SEO campaign. It could be that you have more or stronger competitors than the initial evaluation suggested. If you’ve vetted your SEO vendors and are confident they are doing a good job, then you could
re-evaluate your budget to bring your campaign to a more appropriate position relative to that of your competitors.
When to start worrying
Unfortunately, SEO is too multifaceted and has too many variables to make any degree of an accurate prediction as to when exactly your campaign absolutely should start seeing results. Search engines don’t let the world know how exactly they rank pages, so often SEO requires trying out several tactics and seeing what does or doesn’t work. While a big part of SEO stays the same, a large amount of variables are unique to your company that changes the campaign’s landscape and how effective it can be.
For example, past SEO campaigns conducted competitor activity and how new your website is are all factors that change the way your SEO campaign will behave. Those as well as many other factors make it almost impossible to make an accurate plan or explanation that applies to everyone.
Try to remain patient with your SEO campaign. As mentioned previously, SEO is a long-term strategy and one that changes daily as search engines tweak and revise their algorithms. Make adjustments, measure frequently, and stay the course. You'll be glad you did.