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Digital Insight for Business Marketing

Why Does SEO Take So Long To See Results?

Posted by Nicholas Dimitriadis on Jan 22, 2020 4:25:51 PM

This post has been updated for 2020


So you are at the point where you know you need SEO and decide to do something about it. You can either buckle down and do it yourself or hire an SEO expert to start and manage the process for you.

In either case, you might see minimal results…

This is obviously frustrating. You're spending a considerable amount of time and money into getting everything right, but instead, you're not seeing any immediate results, not even a noteworthy amount of traffic. Why?

SEO takes time img

Why does SEO take such a long time to reap any rewards?

Well the reason SEO takes so long is because it simply does…

SEO is a process that has a multitude of parameters that involve the front end (you and your action) and the back end (Google and their algorithms.)

Front end:

  • You need time to hone in on your audience’s intent
  • You need time to perform keyword research
  • You need time to understand the market
  • You need time to see what your competition is doing
  • You need time to analyze all the information you gather
  • You need time to create the perfect piece of content
  • You need time to distribute it

Back end:

  • Google needs time to crawl through your site and pages
  • Google needs time to assign an authority grade to your domain
  • Google needs time to compare your pages and content to that of others in the same niche
  • Google needs time to see if you are appropriately updating your content
  • Google needs time to see how audiences search, what they want, what questions they have, and how they want them answered


We Need to Be Realistic

As marketers, you might be used to running a specific campaign, A/B testing, making appropriate changes and seeing results within the first one or two months. This is not the case for SEO. Instead of sitting around and waiting to rank for number one on Google, and +60% increased traffic and conversions, we might want to be a bit more realistic.

We all want results, but results can be different for different people. These outcomes can range from increased traffic to more conversions, to higher engagement, to higher SERP ranking. As a result, different goals will require a different amount of time.


Times Are Changing

In simple terms, SEO used to be all about determining which keywords were the most “winnable” i.e. which keywords were attainable and had the potential to drive the most traffic. Once these were found, all you had to do is optimize your website or content for these phrases to “impress” Google.

Was this easy? Relatively, yes. Was this effective? Indeed it was. Was it easy to predict? For the most part. Was it sustainable? Not so much.

Those who used tactics to “short-cut” their rise to the top of SERPs did not enjoy success for long. While this might be expected in any case, even companies that used methods that were accepted at the time found themselves struggling to maintain their high ranking.

These tactics, while easier and faster than those of today, were also unnatural; in the sense that they felt too mechanical, too robotic.

Today, SEO is much different. Visibility factors nowadays rely heavily on having content that focuses on user intent. Ranking for webpages is no longer about who had the best keywords, it is about who can answer a specific question, or satisfy a need with value driven content.


What Are Experts Saying?

Depending whom you ask, estimates for “results” may vary anywhere from 4 to 12 months. While this is the general rule of thumb, why settle for estimated opinions when you can get the info straight from the source; Google themselves.

We’ve time-stamped the video below for your convenience.

(Note: If the video does not jump to the set time in your browser, just skip to 1:40 to get to their answer)

For those who couldn’t view (or didn’t really bother with the video,) Google themselves estimate the same range; 4-12 months to even start seeing results.


Variables That Affect SEO Results

Now 12 months for results isn’t something anybody wants to hear but the number is not set in stone. Many sites have the ability to place closer to 4-6 months, but again this is heavily influenced by the “results” that are expected and the variables at play.

Some examples of these variables might include:

  • Keywords, phrases, and topics that relevant to you
  • The level of relevance between your content and these keywords
  • The age of your domain and website
  • The current design of your website
  • The amount of time the average visitor spends on your site
  • Your geographic location
  • What your competitors are currently doing
  • Your social presence and activity
  • How fast you react to new trends
  • The quality of your content
  • How quickly you implement needed changes


The more variables at play when optimizing your site for search engines, the longer it will take to see desired results. Generally speaking, it will take at least 2-3 months for any form of content to even start performing as an integral part of your campaigns. This includes time for research, audits, technical SEO (mobile optimization, XML maps, HTML to content ratio, etc.), and actual content creation.

Again even this time will vary; it all comes down to the variables that are present. Let’s quickly look at those which are most common (and will always be present when starting a campaign.) These include: The quality of your content, what your competition is currently doing that can affect you, how fast changes and updates can be implemented, and of course the budget you are able to allocate.


Creating and Establishing Quality

If you’ve ever created a piece of content you know that quality takes time. It takes time to research, time to create, time to perfect, and time for Google to acknowledge its existence and quality. Of course, you also know that the “create it, and they will come” philosophy does not apply here. You need to promote your piece (you should always spend as much time distributing your content as you did to create it.)

Once this is done, its Google’s turn. The search engine will have to determine the number of views, engagement, number and quality of backlinks, and the number of links it will gather over a period of time. All of these factors provide information to Google, helping it appropriately judge how valuable your piece of content really is.

It is important to show search engines, and even more importantly your audience, that you can provide high-quality content that answers to its consumers’ intent. The higher the value of your posts, the greater the probability of ranking highly…but this takes time.


Your Competition is Also Pushing for SEO!

We live in a highly competitive world, so chances are that you are not the only one among your competitors trying to increase their SERPs, engagement, and conversion.

The days of old, when SEO was not widely known, are long gone. Today, companies and content creators are well aware of the importance of optimizing their site and content for search engines, and therefore competition has reached its highest peak.

Take some time to see what your competition is doing.

  • How many pieces of content are they posting during the week?
  • Are these posts well optimized?
  • Are these posts value driven, focusing on audience intent?
  • Are there any issues they have not covered fully?
  • Are there gaps in their strategy you can take advantage of?


Making Changes Early and Often

If you create a really good piece of content, it is wise not to just leave it (even if it is evergreen.) Google values content that is looked after, maintained, and updated. These changes can include something as simple as updating a link in your post to changing entire paragraphs, images, or videos in your post.

While such “updates” might seem trivial, they often play a major role in an SEO campaign, and the sooner they are implemented, the better it will look in the eye of Google.

Something to keep in mind: Even the smallest of changes can take up to a few days for search engines to even register. It is therefore important to find what changes are needed (either by yourself or an agency you might have hired) and implement them as soon as you can. This does take time, but it is worth it in the long run.


Your Budget

While traffic generated from SEO is free (organic,) the actual implementation of SEO often is not. The expenditures can include more employees from your own company working on SEO or outsourcing your SEO to an agency. If you are a solopreneur on the other hand, the expense here can simply be time allocated to SEO related activities and reduced from other campaigns or business operations.

It should be noted that a greater budget translates to greater efficiency; it affects the speed of your campaign, not the time it will take for the changes to be registered and indexed by Google. So while you might have an extremely quick SEO team build on your end, you will still need to give Google time to determine the quality of your content and rank you accordingly.

Note: Another thing to look at here is value. The amount of money allocated to SEO activities should reflect the result you're after. The greater the goal, the more money/time should be invested. Spending massive amounts on increasing the traffic and conversion to a handful of posts is not a wise investment, it is however if you want to rank 1 on Google for a given keyword.


Final Remarks

Yes, SEO takes time, and while there are factors that contribute to the time it takes to reap any benefit (such as those covered above,) there is still one more reason why it takes time.

The short answer is because it should. SEO does have a beginning, but it does not have an end. It is an everlasting, ever-evolving process both for your content and for the industry as a whole. There will constantly be work to be done to increase, or even maintain your current ranking.

If a campaign works today and gets you to page 1 of Google, there is no guarantee it will work tomorrow. So any results you see are subject to change. Remember what we said earlier, SEO has changed, companies had a perfect strategy a few years ago, but that became obsolete as audiences changed the way they searched for content.

In conclusion, be patient, be vigilant, and know that SEO is not a one and done process, it is continuous, and if you want to see results you will need to continuously focus on improving your website and content.

Do you have any questions? Is there anything you want us to touch upon with more detail? Let us know. And as always, be sure to join our Facebook Group for marketing insight and updates.


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