August 6, 2017

Chances are, if you have started looking into search engine optimization for your website, you have probably already waited for the site to produce results that have not materialized. Your patience is wearing thin and you have already put a significant amount of money into the site. The last thing you want to hear is that it is going to take anywhere from 3 or 4 months to a year or more to show up on the first page of Google search results. Unfortunately, unless you are offering a very unique product or service and have little to no competition, it will indeed take time.

seo progress

Is the time and investment in SEO worth it?
When was the last time you Googled something and found it on the second page of results?

Why does SEO take such a long time?
Isn’t there something that just needs to be turned on or fixed?

There are plenty of sites and SEO experts who promise top search engine results in as little as 48 hours. To put it bluntly, they are full of crap. What is worse, is that not only have they tried to rip you off with false promises, they have also given you some unrealistic expectations.

Effective SEO takes time. Why?
Search engine optimization is not always terribly difficult if you know what to do, but it is very time consuming. The site and its content must be analyzed  and optimized, either by editing or rewriting – often both. Then Google takes some time to recognize these changes and adjust its ranking of the site. SEO usually includes making some effort to acquire links to the website from other relevant sites and social media. Negotiating the best links and establishing an effective web presence just doesn’t happen quickly – just like building a good reputation in the offline world. The only “fix” that can occasionally have overnight results would be the technical “on page” optimization that may not have been done when the site was created – the structure of the site, title tags, meta descriptions, internal links, and content optimization and so on. Or maybe a developer forgot to change the robots.txt file to stop blocking the search engines from crawling the site. In some cases, these adjustments can be taken care of quickly and if you don’t have a lot of competition, it just may be enough to get you where you want to be in the search results. But it is much more likely that you’ll need to do more, depending on how much competition there is for the search phrases you would like to show your site as number one.

Keepin’ it Real

Of the many ways Google decides which sites are the most relevant to a user’s search, inbound links or “backlinks” are among the most important. You’ll need links to your site to show Google and the other search engines that you are important or an authority in your field. You may be thinking “Great! I saw an ad for 10,000 backlinks for $50 – problem solved!” Whatever you do, do NOT try to get thousands, hundreds or even dozens of inbound backlinks all at once. Google has a lot of criteria for ranking a site, and hundreds of ways to keep you from gaming the system. If your site goes from just a few links to hundreds in a short period of time, they will assume that it is not because you have just launched an amazingly popular website that everyone found and linked to right away. Google likes to see “organic” links that occur naturally. If you get too many links immediately, Google may penalize your site by dropping you even lower in the ranks or knocking you completely out of the search results. Also, the links should be from good quality sites that are at least somewhat relevant to yours. How long will it take to find those sites and get them to link to your website?

Have you got competition that has been at this longer than you?

Chances are they’ve spent a lot of time creating content, getting links etc. It takes time to catch up. This can be one of the biggest obstacles to successful search engine marketing and it requires a big investment in time, research and experimentation.

Got Content?

Most SEO consultants agree that having lots of original, high quality content is essential. But what if the subject matter of your site just doesn’t need dozens of pages of information? You’ll need top notch on page SEO, better links and maybe a strong social media presence to make up for it; or someone will have to come up with more content.

Who keeps raising the bar?

Google, Bing and Yahoo are constantly evolving in an effort to provide a better service and more relevant search results. SEO strategies have to change accordingly. And the world changes, too. SEOs must be very aware of changes in language and culture. A few years ago, what is now called “branding” was referred to as “corporate identity”, for example. Keyword selection must also be adapted to fit the current trends in the words people use to describe things.

Agile Online Marketing

And once your website does start climbing to the top, your competitors will notice and start working on their own visibility. Your marketing plan may have to change some more. The overall search engine marketing strategy of any site must constantly evolve to survive and be effective.

Good search engine optimization is a craft that requires dedication, time and constant research and learning. A search engine optimizer has to be able to adapt to the changes, and have the ingenuity to take some of the error out of “trial and error”.

All of this is not meant to discourage you. SEO is complex, and is sometimes a confusing form of online marketing that is plagued with scammers and very real credibility questions. You want results and you want some idea of what you’ll get and when, but the most honest answers are often quite vague.  If your site is new or has never been optimized, you can expect to see some upward movement within as little as 2-3 weeks and hopefully a better understanding of how SEO works will help you be patient. A good SEO consultant will keep you up to date on what is going on if you aren’t noticing improvements over time.

Real, effective SEO takes time and an ongoing effort to be successful and yield results that last.

Is the time and investment in SEO worth it?
When was the last time you Googled something and found it on the second page of results?

  • Sire

    I almost didn’t leave a comment because there wasn’t a comment form, it was just lucky that I saw that link at the end.

    I normally don’t bother too much with SEO because it ruins my blogging experience but when I started my last niche blog which was aimed at generating an income I decided it was time to take SEO more seriously. I didn’t expect my site to hit the front page quickly, I always assumed it would take some time. Imagine my surprise when within a matter of weeks I got it to page 2. I thought wow, I’ll be on page one in no time.

    Nope, that’s just Google teasing you because presently I am nowhere to be found. Welcome to Google’s world.

    • I completely missed this comment way back when it was posted but there is still something that is worth a belated reply.
      “…ruins my blogging experience” – sounds like you, like many people, are assuming all SEO is nothing more than that nonsensical belief that you must repeat certain magic words x number of times, in bold, italic, backwards… The truth is that good SEO should actually enhance your blog by making it more user-friendly, easier to navigate, better organized, technically correct – all of which are great for your readers and seen as indicators of quality by Google. And your message being more easily found in those search results by people who are already interested is what search optimization is all about.
      It can be time consuming, though. So in that sense, yes I can see how it could take the fun out of blogging – until it really starts bringing in new visitors and the fun really begins.

  • Mark

    Sire – that’ll happen. It just takes time. We’ve been doing SEO for a couple years and it took about 6 months before we saw any results, but now we’re shooting up in the rankings and getting a ton more customers. Hopefully you’ve kept at is because it does take more than a few weeks!

  • Rod Rebellion Mayberry

    The time and cost is worth it and that’s a crazy questions to ask. I think people just fail to understand the full compass of SEO and it’s contributors.

  • Irene

    We all are know that SEO is a long term process. If we get benefit from it we have to given lot’s time for that. So when we get any SEO service we should mentally prepared for long term investment. Otherwise we can not succeed for getting our destiny.

    (SPAM LINK REMOVED as per comments policy: )

  • Yes, we must “succeed for getting our destiny”.
    I think it has gotten to the point where the only people left trying to use comment spam for link building can’t even do THAT right. Disqus links are nofollow, keywords as your name are spammy and look stupid, and that comment looks like it was poorly spun by software. SPAM-FAIL

  • Martin

    I hired an SEO company about 6 months ago to get rid of a penalty from Google. Rankings have not come back for my keywords but traffic has gone up. The SEO guy tells me my site won’t rank for those keywords until Google updates something. Is this true?

  • JJW

    Love the article, could you do a follow up on how to deal with clients who have fallen victim to failed SEO efforts in the past. I am constantly finding myself under the gun for results.
    I find that most clients are very impatient and simply have a hard time believing that SEO takes time. I’ve ran into some situations where no matter what I say, I don’t feel like I am being heard, especially in terms of “realistic time frames”. Sometimes I can’t even get to that subject matter, as they are so upset about past efforts their entire focus is on me doing what should have been done over a period of months, in a few weeks time. I find myself defending my own efforts (in terms of setting up the back end and plug ins) and content arrangement. I’d love to hear an article on that!

    • That is an excellent idea, but I am afraid I wouldn’t have any easy solutions. Old-school shady SEO’s may not have been very good at much, but they did a really good job of promising people some ridiculous things that they now expect us to deliver.
      Unteaching bad SEO practices is not easy. It can be what I would imagine it is like to deprogram a cult member, or help an addict stay clean.