Due to its nature, digital marketing is often associated with providing immediate results; you can expect to start seeing results from Facebook adverts, for instance, within a couple of hours of them going live – particularly if they’re set up well.
And, honestly, for a lot of businesses this immediate nature is part of the appeal of digital marketing; giving you an insight into how well your marketing efforts are doing, almost straight away.
Thanks to the advent of digital marketing, almost entirely gone are the days when a business would submit an advert for publication in a traditional magazine, and spend the next month waiting for the phone to ring.
However, sometimes, even in the ever-changing and evolving realm of digital marketing, the most effective solutions take time to embed. And the effective solution we’re talking about here? That’s Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).
Often, we get asked questions like this. Followed by: “how long until we’re ranked #1 on Google?” or “we need to be found for this keyword…”. But, realistically, every single one of these questions is more complex than you would think – varying from business to business.
Unlike many of its digital cousins, SEO can take months to start working and, actually, gone are the days when you could pick a couple of keywords relevant to your business and appear at the top of Google’s search results within 3 months.
Frustrating as it may feel, the answer to the question ‘how long does SEO take to work?’ is: it depends on many different factors.
As technology advances, users’ search trends change, and search engines have to learn from this; we all feel the pressure of having to keep up with the times, and search engines are no different.
It wasn’t that long ago, for example, that Google started taking Social Media pages and profiles into account when ranking on Search Engine Page Results (SERPs), and it was only as recently as 2015 that Google changed its rules around responsive websites to better accommodate the ever increasing number of users accessing websites on mobile devices (which now make over 80% of searches).
Another great example of this is the evolution of AI and voice search. Now, it’s incredibly unusual for mobile phones and search engines to not have a voice function; allowing the user to speak into their phone, rather than type in a specific term, to find what they’re looking for. If we haven’t all spent hours of our free time goading Siri to sing to us or asking Cortana to find us the nearest Chinese takeaway, are we really living in the 21st Century!?
But all of this has led to a complete overhaul of SEO methods…
The shift in search trends has put a huge emphasis on using terms that users would say rather than type, which vary dramatically.
Where someone might type into a search engine: “Chinese takeaway Hampshire” they’d probably ask: “where’s my nearest Chinese takeaway?” when using a voice search; this is known as a long tail keyword.
What we can refer to here as ‘new SEO’ includes more than just keywords. It encompasses:
The design of your website: from the size of your call to action buttons to the typography you use, Google’s analysing it all, and assessing how user-friendly and useful your website is to those visiting it.
Link building: link building incorporates 2 things: internal links and external links. In a nutshell, external linking is all about getting other, relevant, websites to put a link to your site in order to show search engines like Google that you’re really relevant in your field, and that your website has incredibly useful information on it; more useful than your competitors’ websites. Similarly, internal linking shows search engines that you have useful pages of information within your own website that are relevant to what the user is looking for.
Photography: things like alt tags on images are incredibly important when it comes to SEO; they are another way of showing search engines that your pages are relevant, and images should always be named with words associated with the page they’re being used on. The more consistent information you can give a search engine, the better.
Content: content is a big one, with lots of different strings to its bow; but, to give you a brief idea, search engines don’t only look for keywords and phrases in your content, they now look for how many times those keywords have been used and where on the page; how often your content is updated; how long it is, how easy it is to read…
All this means it’s become a lot harder and more complicated for SEO activity to take effect, which does mean a long lead-time, but also leads to more accurate results.
If you’re looking for quick fixes or cheap wins, SEO is not the answer; you simply can’t put a couple of keywords into all of your web pages and expect search engines like Google to pick it up overnight, and shoot you up to #1 the very next day.
In order to get SEO right, you need to invest in:
And even if you have a dedicated team of experts spending 37.5 hours a week of their time working on this, they’ll still take at least 6 months to get everything in place. And then another 3 months to observe and analyse whether it’s working, and for search engines to start picking your website up.
SEO comprises all sorts of complex areas that need to work together to achieve a common goal. Each needs consideration, thought, and constant management in order to get it right; the observation & research element being one of the most time consuming areas.
You need to wait between 9 and 12 months to see positive results from effective, detailed, and well-structured SEO work; creating it, implementing it, and then leaving it to work its magic whilst quietly observing it.
Although it’s a long term solution, and will take a lot of time, work, and patience, it’s an incredibly powerful, long term solution to a long term need.
SEO doesn’t fit in with month-long campaigns or urgent needs; it fits in with your long term goals, your overarching ethos, and your 3 – 5 year growth plan.
Get in touch now - it could be the start of something special.