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Why Does SEO Take More Time Than You Think?

A question that most business owners ask and digital marketers will have to answer at least once every month is; “How come SEO takes so long?”

Well.. The answer is not exactly simple.

For the most part, SEO just takes time to work. Based on how search algorithms and the internet functions, even the best work in SEO can’t deliver immediate results. To say that SEO is a marketing marathon, not a sprint can make most website owners feeling like this:

why seo takes time and is a marathon not a sprint

How long it takes to start seeing results driven by SEO can vary a lot, and can be influenced by many factors. Some of these you can change while others are simply realities of the market. However, evaluating these points is important to understanding why SEO takes months to years to reach its full potential.

Your Relevance

First off, your site and content needs to be the most relevant to the search phrase as possible.  Outside of inserting the correct SEO Meta Data (which doesn’t take much time once keywords have been finalized), the MOST Important piece is really the quality and length of the content.  You can get an A Grade on the Moz On-Page Grader BUT if you have thin content that is too short and not really useful to answering the question that a searcher is asking, then you will not be rewarded.

For Instance:  A page that is trying to rank for the search phrase “Dallas Home Care” needs to have a good frequency of that keyword throughout the content of the page.  A lot of the pros recommend going between 1-3% frequency but the better way of looking of this is how often you are mentioning that keyword in the content.  If you have 400 words of content on the page and 2% frequency versus 1000 words of content and 1%+ frequency you are much better off in the eyes of Google (and much less “spammy”).  Always remember that you must satisfy the searchers implicit and explicit query.  Other questions to ask would be are you building blog content with internal links to this page (making it more relevant)?  How does the rest of page 1 look in terms of number of words on page and how often?  These are all things we consider whenfac assessing onsite relevance.

Your Domain Authority

Domain authority is a numeric score (1-100) given by Moz that estimates how well your website will perform in search, as well as how reputable it’s domain is. If your website has had SEO work done in the past, this number can be representative of that head start. This score is influenced by a wide range of factors, from backlinks to image tags and keyword frequency, which can improve or lower this score over time. One way to think of it is like an SEO “credit score” in a way.  Although the MozScape is updated roughly every 30 days, this metric takes a LONG TIME to change.  Many feel like once a page is optimized and is linked to then there will be immediate effect, but remember the picture above.  A recently published case study shows that it takes 10 weeks, on average, to see 1 rank jump: after a link was created to a specific page:

Average keyword increase in rank after linking

While SEO is measured in many ways other than domain authority, this is a good “starting point” to see where your domain is at and where it can grow from. One figure of this worth thinking about is how old your domain is. If you’re putting SEO work into a newer website, it may take longer to start seeing results simply because Google prefers older or “more reputable” domains over newer ones.

Your Competitors

Is the target market or audience of your website untapped, a growing niche, or is it heavily saturated?

If you have several competitors all hitting similar keywords, it’s going to take longer and pose a greater challenge for SEO to start increasing your traffic. However, as you focus your campaign and specify the niche you wish to tackle, the reverse effect takes place and results will begin to show quicker. Because of this, it’s generally recommended to be as specific as possible and narrow down your target audience.

A great way of looking at what the first page currently looks like for your competitors.  What do their metrics like domain authority, page authority, trust flow and number of referring domains look like in comparison to yours?

Unfortunately, the real tough question that no one can answer is “How much are they investing in SEO?”  That is really an impossible question to answer and the reason why no one can realistically guarantee SEO results at a certain position in a certain amount of time.

Your Budget

While it’s no-brainer that the more money you put into your marketing campaign the more results you will likely see, this becomes especially true for SEO. For the most part, your budget will be a major bearing factor on how quickly you will see results and how promising those results will be. And like most things, you should get what you pay for with SEO.

Are you increasing your budget in order to compete with your competitors? Depending on what kind of results you are hoping to achieve and the saturation of your target niche, the budget of your competition can be just important as yours. SEO can not exist in a vacuum–while the SEO work on your site will work to increase its ranking over time, marketing done by others will work reversely to hurt it.  Ultimately you want to amplify your SEO efforts with other channels like re-targeting funnels, native advertising, email campaigns and social boosts or postings.  All of these work in conjunction with one another to build real awareness and love from your prospects.

Your Expectations

What kind of results do you expect from your SEO campaign, and how realistic are they?

If you plan to compete against Barnes & Noble for their spot in a search for “books,” you might be waiting for a couple of decades. While many SEO Agencies will tell you that you that results will begin appearing within 4 to 6 months, keep in mind that these should be just the start of those results. Since Search Engine Optimization is such a drawn out process, the real benefit of some SEO work could come nine months to a year later.  Here is what a quick snapshot of that looks like for most sites looking to get started on a campaign:

SEO Timeline Example in Months

Keep in mind that longer tail search phrases are less competitive and also signal higher levels of intent so that should always be part of your SEO Strategy (especially if you are just getting started).

On top of this, Google simply takes a lot of time to crawl your site and adjust the index.  In many cases it can take weeks to months to get a site indexed and see any movement.  So even when these changes are made to the site or links are built, the spiders need to crawl and index.

What it Comes Down to…

The bottom line is that SEO is an investment. Like a savings bond or a secure investment, it can take time to mature and develop so that we can see growth. Tracking your ROI is important, and should take this into account when properly evaluating your marketing campaign. The impact of SEO can be extremely powerful and long-lasting, even if the results can take months or longer to become evident.

If you are going to invest, you also need to commit. Commit to the financial investment as well as the time investment. Ultimately you don’t lose anything when you are building the house to own the real estate. But you must finish building the house if you want to live in it.  Simply being the best at what you do is the most important piece for a strong foundation.

Try to remain patient as this truly is a long term strategy no one out there has access to the ranking algorithms (which are moving targets). Stay the course and you’ll be glad you did!

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Brad Keys

As the Director of Sales at 180fusion, Brad Keys has led the charge as being one of the top digital strategists at one of the top digital marketing agencies. With a very strong digital marketing acumen that is ROI focused, Brad Keys continues to help businesses grow one title tag and meta description at a time.

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