This is a question that gets asked all the time by business owners, and one that we get asked quite often. Managers want to see a reasonable return on investment, and the problem is that SEO is difficult to quantify or accurately predict. SEO is not a traditional service like most other business services. Unless you are offering a new service with no competition, it is impossible to guarantee a high result on a Google results page. However, that doesn’t stop many SEO firms from guaranteeing you exactly that.
Companies that offer immediate and predictable SEO results are bad for both the businesses that hire them, as well as the SEO community as a whole. It is actually possible to get a short term boost in SEO results. This typically involves using “Black-Hat SEO”. Black Hat SEO involves using underhanded techniques that manipulate the way Google scans sites and tricks the ranking algorithms into giving it a higher ranking on the search results page. Google actively checks for sites using techniques like this and if a site is caught using these techniques, they will be punished by getting a lower result ranking, or being removed from searches altogether. Often times, if a company is claiming that they can guarantee a #1 Google result within a short amount of time, they are employing Black-Hat tactics which can really hurt you in the long run.
Not only is this bad for your company, but it cheapens the SEO community in general. SEO is a fairly recent industry, which means that many managers are not too familiar with it. This has created a misconception for some managers that you should be able to predict results in SEO, and that if you cannot, you are amateur. People do not like to pay money for possibilities, they want to see results. Our modern American business environment favors fast and immediate results. This is why it is tempting to go for a company using Black Hat techniques.
Proper SEO should be viewed as a long-term ongoing investment. It can sometimes take months to see noticeable results. So going back to the question at the start, How long does it take to see results from SEO? As much as we may want an actual answer, the truth is that it depends. SEO is complicated and the time frame can depend on so many different factors. Let’s go through and look at what influences the SEO time frame.
Analyzing the competition
Learn what your competition is doing that works and improve on that. This not only gives you a good place to start when starting your SEO but it also lets you know what areas you can achieve the most success. Evaluating the competition does not mean that you are stealing secrets, but rather learn from their successes and mistakes.
It can be extremely difficult entering an SEO environment that is already well established. It could be likely that your competition has been working on their SEO rankings for years. Take the time to learn what they are doing so you can learn how to compete. Learn what the competition is for certain keywords so you know where to spend your effort. Overly saturated keywords are typically not a good place to start. Niche segments are often much better places to start.
Once you know what your competition is doing, you can start to build yourself up as a reputable name. This is the aspect that requires the most time. The SEO landscape has changed much over time, and now it favors sites that are more reputable. Building reputation takes time and effort.
Google looks at the quality of content and ranks your site accordingly. If you post low quality content and links, Google will not believe that you are an appropriate authority in your field. Good quality content takes time and effort to produce, but is well worth it.
Learn what links are leading to the top listed sites. There are tons of great tools out there to help with this such as Majestic SEO or Open Site Explorer. Create a database of all backlinks for the top sites for each of your keywords. This will allow you to learn what sites you can get backlinks from.
Once you compare with your competition, you will need to start building links from sites that none of your competitors are using. This can be difficult, especially if the target keyword is already saturated, but it is possible. Building quality backlinks can take a long time, but is essential for success.
SEO is a game of trial and error. There will be certain aspects that will work, and others that don’t. The important thing is that you keep applying effort. Remember that SEO is a long term investment; you need to keep updating content to remain on top.
Content like blogs are a great way to contribute quality content but you need to ensure that they are optimized. Pictures need to be named appropriately and keywords need to match content.
Google is also constantly changing what they search for in rankings. Several years ago, SEO strategies that would be considered Black-Hat today were considered normal and the appropriate way to do things.
All of these practices take time and are a large investment. Be careful when choosing your SEO strategy and don’t fall for companies offering you fast immediate results. True quality SEO requires effort and patience.