The question we get most often from prospective clients is ‘how long does it take to see some results?’ This is understandable as we all know that the sooner the return, the higher the ROI for that marketing activity. And, to be perfectly honest, ‘it depends’ is the only honest and correct answer.
You want your site ranking in the shortest amount of time possible. But in order for that to happen, the timeline to ranking is affected by authority, what your competition is doing and what the search engine algorithms are dictating at this exact moment in time.
In very competitive markets, you will need to be patient. Certain social posts that have gone viral and breaking news stories are the only things that happen in real time. Some changes can be seen in as little as a week; others take weeks or months to show up. Unfortunately, as search engine optimization experts, we can only put the right tools into play; we cannot control when those tools are taken off the bench.
For your reference, we have included below a typical timeline for a keyword that we would consider medium competition. The size of market also affects results; this example is from a medium-sized city.
Weeks 1 through 4
To start your online campaign, we begin by performing a discovery audit which includes market research and competition analysis. We will do a website audit, keyword preparation, plan the ongoing processes and implementation timetable, and schedule content creation. Since this time period is principally for planning and preparation for success, you will typically not see any changes.
Weeks 5 through 8
You should start to see some small indications that site rankings are improving or more traffic is being sent to your site. However, these movements are typically small at this stage and although expectations are typically high, not enough time has passed for anything significant to have occurred. New websites will see pages indexed in the search engine results pages. Existing websites may show slight ranking improvements. Local business websites will notice that we have built local citations to help boost the local authority of websites as well as more online presence for your brand. We make sure the new content that has been created for your website can be found in as many places on the web as possible to increase your internet presence. During this time, we make minor revisions to your site and your content to extract the most value out of your assets.
Weeks 8 through 12
Improvements in rankings usually begin to bear fruit at this stage with more emails, form submissions and phone calls being logged. These results come directly from improvements in organic rankings leading to more traffic from the work done during the previous two months. This is when clients typically get excited about the opportunities that lie ahead as they begin to see an ROI on their investment in our services.
Weeks 13 through 16
Our efforts to build site authority and trust in the eyes of the search engine algorithm continues as we find and build more links to your site. These efforts typically show up as more traffic from higher rankings and a boost in leads to your business. These results are proof positive that our SEO efforts on your behalf are working. This is typical for a medium competition niche in a middle-market. High competition terms and large market businesses will start to see noticeable improvements.
Weeks 17 through 20
This is the time period where we do further optimization in order to squeeze even more traffic from our efforts. Adding new keywords, and doing more of what is working on the website will accelerate traffic and leads even further. For terms that have reached the second and first pages of search results, you will see ranking improvements slow down as there is a lot more friction to overcome from the stronger sites that rank ahead of yours.
Weeks 21 through 24
Further refinement of optimization takes place during this time as well as the addition of other traffic sources such as promoting social media, press releases and ads. Other market opportunities related to your business (which have become apparent in the previous months) are included in your SEO campaign.
From this timeline, you can see that it takes a while to see the results that your investment has produced. You should budget a minimum of four to six months to see a return on your investment. We see so many companies that expect results in the first weeks, only to quit and lose the monies spent. SEO is an investment that pays dividends over a long period of time. The activities may not be as intense after six months, but the competition never sleeps, and to protect your SEO investment, you may need to maintain your results over time albeit at a lesser level of effort.
Your company, your niche and your competition are different from any other. Getting to the top of search results requires time, an investment and the skills of people who know what they are doing and what is working now.