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Why It Can Take Time to See Results with Digital Marketing

Looking for a quick win with SEO or social media? Here’s why it can take time to see results with digital marketing tactics focused on long-term growth.

Everyone wants fast results. Whether it’s in business or anything else, it’s not fun to wait around to see your hard work start to pay off. Wouldn’t it be ideal to work hard in the morning and see the fruits of that labor by the afternoon?

Of course, that’s not how the world works, and it’s not typically the case with digital marketing either. In this article, we’ll talk about why digital marketing can take time to really pay off, and why you should be willing to invest that time (and money) to get meaningful results that really move your business forward. We’ll take a look at some digital marketing strategies that don’t take as much time, so you can hopefully give your business a bit of a short-term boost while also playing the long game.

Set Realistic Expectations When it Comes to Digital Marketing

Before we get into the more technical details of why it can take some time to see results with your digital marketing efforts, let’s first talk about the contradiction contained within this field. In the digital world, everything is fast. You can get in touch with people in an instant. You can make purchases, watch shows, play music, and on and on …and it all happens instantly.

As a result, we have become accustomed to getting immediate results when we do things online. It doesn’t really matter what it is that we are doing on the web, we know it will happen just as fast as we can imagine. So when something in this realm takes a little longer, it stands out and feels like a pain point. Digital marketing can actually lead to some pretty quick gains in addition to the longer-term benefits, but many businesses don’t stick around long enough to see it play out.

To find success in this space, you’ll need to set your preconceived notions of how the internet should work aside and get to know the digital marketing landscape a little better.

The Long Game vs. The Short Game


To say that digital marketing as a whole is “slow” isn’t really accurate. That’s because digital marketing is an umbrella term that captures many different kinds of promotional activities on the web. It would be more appropriate to say that some parts of digital marketing take a while to produce results, while others can generate results in a hurry. So if you are just getting started in this space, it will be helpful to understand the timelines that you can expect with different digital marketing strategies and specific tactics.


At the top of the list, we have SEO, or search engine optimization. It is the process of building a website that will rank as highly as possible in the organic search results for various targeted keywords. Organic search can be a great source of ongoing traffic, but only if your SEO is handled properly. Most likely, if you have been feeling like your digital marketing efforts are taking too long, it is SEO you are talking about. Without a doubt, it’s a long game with this strategy. You are unlikely to see overnight jumps in your search rankings after doing some SEO work – you’ll need to be in it for the long run if you want to win in this category.


But SEO is just one part of digital marketing. On the other side of the coin, we have pay-per-click ads, or PPC. In this case, the results can be almost immediate. Assuming you have the other assets in place that you need, like quality landing pages, you can start to bring in traffic via PPC ads just as soon as you turn on your campaign. Businesses that need a quick rush of traffic to feed something like a special promotion or product launch will often lean heavily on PPC to make that happen.

Social Media

Somewhere in the middle of these two timelines is where social media marketing falls. When you promote your business on social media, it will likely take some time to build an audience and gain a following, but perhaps not as long as it would take to get good results from SEO. Also, you always have the potential of striking gold on social media and having a post go viral (at least on a local level). You can’t guarantee great results in a hurry on social media, but the possibility does exist.

Foundational Tactics Take Time to Make an Impact

Let’s say for the sake of argument that you are a business that has been operating for some time and you already have a basic online presence. You have a simple website, a few social media accounts, and maybe have run a few ads. Digital marketing has never been your focus, but you have dabbled in it enough to know what it’s all about.


In an effort to take your business to the next level, you decide to work with a digital agency to invest in your business and see greater leads and results. Companies in this position often expect that growth will come quickly since they already had a website and some social accounts, but that might not be the case. A solid foundation of digital assets needs to be established before gains can be made, and that process can take a bit of time.

Here are some tasks that might need to be completed, or at least worked on for a while, to set the stage for greater digital marketing gains.

  • Website improvements. Just having a website live on the internet isn’t good enough – you need to have a site that performs well, impresses visitors, and functions properly. Depending on where you are starting from, your site could just need a few days of cleanup work, or it could need a huge overhaul. It is a waste of time and effort to work hard at digital marketing tactics like SEO or PPC if the traffic is just going to land on a lackluster website that doesn’t effectively turn visitors into customers.
  • Content creation. Having a large base of content on your website is one of the foundational pieces of successful SEO. There is certainly more to good SEO than just publishing a lot of content, but it’s hard to find your way to the top of too many search results if you don’t have that content in place. So, if you currently have a rather thin site with only a core collection of pages and little more, some time and effort will need to be spent on building out your page list and creating some content that aims at some of the valuable keywords in your space.
  • Landing pages. We mentioned earlier that running PPC ads is one way to get relatively quick results from digital marketing. That’s true – but only if you already have good landing pages that can catch that traffic after it clicks on an ad. If you have lackluster landing pages, or are just sending clicks to your home page, the results simply won’t be there. Building and testing new landing pages is another part of the ramp-up process that can take a little while before it starts to pay off. If you’re interested, here’s a guide to calculating your return on investment in content marketing.
  • Upgrading social efforts. It’s one thing to have social media accounts in place and to occasionally put out a post. It’s another thing entirely to do this type of work properly, and consistently, in order to see results. If your social media accounts have been largely neglected, it will take some time and consistency to grow those accounts and see them start to make an impact on the day-to-day operations of your business. There is typically great potential for businesses on social media platforms, but it can take a while to see that potential start to come to life.

These points are just some of the things that might need to be done to get your digital assets in a good place to build on. From there, it can take some time for the results to start to catch up with the work that has been done. There is no one timeline that is going to apply to every business, but bringing some patience to the table can only help you get where you want to go.

Test and Refine to Get Greater Results


Once all of the work has been done to put a good foundation in place for your digital marketing efforts, it might seem like all that’s left to do is sit back and wait. That’s far from the truth, however. In fact, the work is just getting started in some ways, as watching for feedback from your results and then adapting based on what you find is perhaps the most important piece of all in this puzzle.

Monitoring your results will tell you a lot about what is working and what isn’t within your system. For example, when you create a bunch of content for SEO purposes, you’ll probably create content in a few different categories. Then, once that content is released out to the world, traffic numbers will start to be collected – and you might find that one of the categories is by far your best. Knowing that you have hit the mark with your audience, it makes sense to invest further in that category to extract the maximum possible value.

By leaning into what is working, and making some tweaks with what isn’t to see if you can get it on track, it’s possible to gradually grow month after month long into the future.

Consider A/B Testing

Also, there will likely be a role in this process for some split testing. Split testing, or A/B testing, is the process of using two different versions of a digital asset so you can compare them to each other. For instance, you might write an email with two different subject lines and then send each to portions of your email list to see which works better. Consistent split testing over time can have a powerful effect on how well you communicate with your audience and give them what they want.

Invest in Steady Growth

Can digital marketing be slow at times? Sure, but how many truly rewarding, worthwhile things happen overnight? Plenty of hard work will need to go into building up your digital marketing efforts, just like plenty of hard work goes into the rest of your business operations strategy. Rather than running away from digital marketing and looking for another, faster method of promotion, dig in for the long run and get excited about the possibility of seeing slow and steady growth in the months and years to come.

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Morgan Staples
About Morgan Staples:

Morgan Staples leads written and verbal content efforts for digital marketing projects and campaigns, delivering highly effective copy that drives leads and sales. She has always loved reading, writing and research papers, and now she gets to put that to use every day.

Learn more about Morgan.

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