Whenever somebody asks me how long search engine optimization takes, I counter by asking them, “How long does marketing take?” – AustinSEOguy.com
Here are some reasons why SEO takes time and requires an ongoing investment:
1. Starting and running an SEO campaign involves a lot of tasks
Many people think that ranking properly in the search engines involves some big secret that can be manipulated – if only we knew what it was. Unfortunately that is not the case and the secrets and tricks that we’ve used in the past are becoming rarer. To get started ranking in the search engines there are many, many things to do but they involve work, knowledge, experience, research and experimentation – not tricks. That work includes (but is not limited to) keyword research, setup of a sitemap, solving domain name and hosting concerns, website design and coding concerns, architectural/navigation concerns, content optimization and creation, analytics setup and integration, reporting, meetings, consultation, planning etc. (Just to name a few) Just the initial start of your SEO campaign can involve months of planning, research, setup, improvements and content creation just to get you ready to roll.
2. Search engine optimization must happen gradually and look natural
Google can be suspicious and easily spooked. For example, one of the most important parts of an effective SEO campaign is growing the number of high quality relevant links pointing to your site. Getting links to your site is important, but you can’t get them all at once. Manipulative link building is often temporary, while high quality links are hard to get and stand the test of time; Google knows this. If your site suddenly comes on the scene and immediately has hundreds or thousands of links, Google may sideline your site for an indefinite period of time. But, if your links grow organically and over time, your growth will look much more natural in the eyes of Google. Plus, to gain quality links it really does take time and a lot of effort. Link building is a very hard part of the SEO process to manipulate and Google likes it that way.
3. New sites don’t show up right away in the SERPs
Google and other alternative search engines can reward older websites with higher rankings in the SERPs. If you have a brand new site it’s rare that you will rank immediately. There may even be cases when your site will be placed in what has been called the “Google Sandbox“. This is a place in Googleland where sites go to await their birth on the scene. Google may do this to control the quality of their search results and to ensure that new sites are high quality before they show up in the results – although this is only a theory. Doing things that look unethical and unnatural can also get you banned to the Sandbox so there is no value in trying to do things that are not natural and organic to get a “jump” on the competition. The words “natural and organic” themselves describe a process that requires patience.
4. Older sites tend to rank higher in the search results
As mentioned previously, there might be times where – if all things are created equal – you simply can’t initially rank above the competition because their site was created in, say, 1998 and your site came on the scene in 2008. Not to mention that chances are good that they’ve spent more time creating content, getting links etc. and it just takes time to catch up. Overcoming this obstacle can be one of the toughest hurdles in search engine optimization and it requires a big investment in time, research and experimentation.
5. Local, national or global?
Depending on your target market, your SEO campaign goals might be much broader than another site; therefore taking more time to achieve results. Does your website target local customers or national? How about a possible world-wide audience? Do you have one niche product or hundreds of unrelated products or services? The answers to these questions will decide how much work is in involved, how much competition you’ll have, and ultimately, how difficult it’s going to be to rank. The more competition, the longer it’s going to take to overcome everyone in the rankings and rise to the top.
6. SEO Involves ongoing analysis
There are millions, possibly billions of total searches every day on the internet and Google has said that a majority of those searches are completely unique from day to day. That means that people are always finding completely unique ways to reword their searches and find what they’re looking for. Part of SEO involves analysis of how people arrive at your site. What words are they using? Are there ways that people are finding you that can be capitalized upon? Integrating analytics software into your site and constantly reviewing the results is essential to finding ways to improve your rankings. Taking the time to really digest what’s going on and then making the necessary changes or improvements takes time.
7. It takes time to develop content.
10 pages is not enough content to provide value and authority on any given subject and Google knows this all too well. So, by default, Google loves sites that are continually updated and improved. Many sites are basically online “brochures” that contain a certain number of pages and that’s only going to get you so far. This is one of the big reasons why blogs are so popular since they allow you to continually – and easily – add new content to your website. Developing new content takes creativity and skill and you can figure about 2 hours for every 500 word page that’s created on your site. Then, once the content is posted there is time involved with waiting for the engines to re-crawl your site and index the new content.
8. Do you want to rank for niche terms or broad terms?
Just like your target market, there are also concerns about your goals when ranking for broad terms or long tail niche terms. Let’s say that you sell exterior lighting and you ship your products world-wide. Everyone in the world is a potential customer, every lighting site is a competitor and the possible keyword combinations that you can rank for when targeting a broad category like this are endless. Now, lets say that another company sells Tiffany lamps instead of every type of lighting possible. You might still have a world-wide target market and many competitors, but now you’re operating in a specific niche that is much more targeted. A targeted niche campaign will yield faster results than a broad product or service campaign. It all depends on your goals. The bigger your goals, the longer it will take.
9. Competitors are always popping up and improving
I truly believe that SEO is a GREAT investment. As I’ve said before in my posts, you can equate PPC and SEO to renting vs owning a home. If you invest in improving your organic SEO rankings, you’ll be investing in a position in the search engines that will stand the test of time – you’ll own that position. That said, things are always changing on the internet. New and old competitors are always appearing and rising and falling and there is no guarantee that you’ll always keep your current rank. Over time, competitors will force you to raise the bar higher and keep improving. Just like we try to rise your site to the top of the rankings, other competitors are trying to do the same so we always need to keep working and improving.
10. The web is constantly evolving
The competitive landscape is always changing, but, the world of search engine algorithms and SEO is changing even faster. I personally spend many hours each week trying to keep up and keep learning. It’s a never ending process to keep up with the news, tactics, changes and theories that surround the science of SEO and why sites ranking better than others. What might work this month, might not work at all next month so the way we practice search engine optimization must evolve as well.