“How long will it take?” and “When will I rank?“ are undoubtedly the most asked questions in the SEO world. The answer, however, used to be a lot more simple than it is now. Natural language processing was nowhere to be seen and a bunch of algorithms that shape the modern search ecosystem (panda, hummingbird, penguin, etc.) didn’t even exist. At that time, nothing could’ve stopped you from stuffing core keywords and ranking on them within a month, while farming spammy backlinks to push that rank as high as you’d like.
But times have changed since then. Many of those strategies don’t work anymore, and almost all of them are never worth it in the long run. So, the answer to the most popular questions went from “a few weeks” to “it depends” – and rightfully so.
However, the situation isn’t all that bad (or slow, if you will). SEO results can still occur relatively fast, but they shouldn’t be confused with SEO success – a completely different thing that actually takes a lot of time.
SEO results and SEO success are not the same thing
SEO results are measurable KPI increases that show the impact SEO has made throughout a smaller time frame. They also serve as proof of concept for brands that are investing time and resources into it. SEO success, on the other hand, is a point where an end-goal of an SEO strategy is reached.
When to expect the results
Presuming that the correct approach is applied, SEO results could take 4-12 months to show. Long-tailed keywords are higher in intent and less competitive than broad keywords, which means ranking on them could be possible in 4-6 months, depending on the market. Broad keywords on the other hand, need a more sophisticated approach and could take up to 12 months to actually show tangible results. This is why an SEO strategy needs to be carefully prepared, tailored, and deployed in order to allocate time and resources accordingly.
What do the results look like?
A healthy SEO result should represent a gradual increase in traffic, leads, and conversions. Bear in mind that 500 people in traffic doesn’t equate to 500 leads, nor do 500 leads necessarily equate to 500 conversions. Discrepancies, like in every other marketing strategy, are natural. However, it’s important to determine which exact KPI is the most relevant to reaching SEO success. If the strategy revolves mainly around building strong authority & brand awareness, then the obvious core KPI would be traffic itself. On the other hand, if the end goal is increasing sales annually, core KPIs are leads and conversions. Either way, any increase in the most relevant KPI, whether big or small, is what SEO results look like. There’s really nothing more to it.
When to expect SEO success?
Depending on the defined end goal and the market itself, SEO success can take from 12 to 24 months. Generally speaking, the larger the scope of the end goal, the more time it takes to actually achieve scalable results and eventually reach projected SEO success.
What does SEO success look like?
To put things in context, if the SEO strategy focuses on promoting a winning product for a specific brand, a typical end goal would be reaching an annual 10% increase in sales. If a specific brand chooses to focus on strong authority and brand awareness, a typical end goal would include a traffic milestone within a specific time period (e.g., 100k/month within a year). But that’s not all there is to it.
There are many factors that aren’t exactly in the spotlight but are essential to reaching SEO success. Some of them were beautifully portrayed by Small Business Sem in this very insightful infographic. This goes to prove that SEO isn’t only about high rankings and huge surges of traffic.
3 core factors that impact SEO results and success
Although SEO takes a significant amount of time to show results, let alone success, there are 3 key factors that could slightly speed up the process.
Competition is significantly lower on long-tailed keywords as they tend to have less volume, but more customer intent, regardless of the market size. Ranking on these won’t necessarily take as long as ranking on broader keywords would, plus it brings in SEO results relatively fast.
However, tackling broader keywords means larger market share, which is why they can’t be overlooked if the goal is to reach SEO success. But it also means competing against the strongest players in the market.
Usually, these players tend to have the deepest pockets so it’s not a surprise to see them grab larger market share while offering strong competitive deals to remain profitable. They do it by hiring the best SEO professionals in the industry which makes them even harder to compete against. However, that doesn’t mean that they can’t be outranked. Monitoring their past, present, and all future progress could point to a strong competitive advantage you can use to snatch your fair share of market share.
Backlinks, especially high-quality ones in high quantities, are strong signals to Google that a brand is being acknowledged as a prominent service provider in its market. It’s also a strong competitive advantage due to being very difficult to attain by competitors. However, most businesses find themselves in situations where their backlink profile is impressive, but not necessarily effective. This is mainly because their link-building efforts sacrifice quality for quantity. In most cases, these strategies include PBNs or other automated methods that don’t necessarily last as long as organic link-building does. PBN domains get penalized relatively quickly, and automated messages sent in bulk rarely convert on stronger backlink prospects.
Not only does this harm the overall backlink profile, but also increases link velocity – the rate at which your backlink profile grows. An unnatural link velocity can be considered as a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, which could eventually lead to severe penalties. To ensure that SEO results actually lead to SEO success, it’s important to invest time and resources into a sound link-building strategy that prioritizes relevant, high-quality backlinks over anything else.
Content that resonates with the audience and provides a simple and effective solution to their problem is a strong competitive advantage that makes a brand stand out in the SERPs. In most cases, you tend to see these pieces of content on position zero, otherwise known as the rich snippet. When it comes to length, website content needs to be long enough to solve the problem you’re providing a solution for. This means that there isn’t a specific word count that Google favors over the other.
Longer, high-quality content proved to be a strong backlink magnet, but that doesn’t mean that every piece of content should contain 5000 words. If the problem you’re trying to solve for your audience can fit in 300 words, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Even if your direct competitor has a 5k monster that explains it in more detail, your biggest competitive advantage would be explaining it better. Including colorful, easy-to-understand infographics is a sound way of solving the problem your audience has and becoming a strong backlink magnet at the same time. Bear in mind that website titles and descriptions play a massive role as well. Having quality content is definitely a strong signal sent out to Google, which will eventually increase your rankings. But to reach the top 5, you’ll need enticing titles that lead to clicks and a strong click-through rate.
Rankings aren’t everything
Although rankings provide a strong sense of success and emotional satisfaction, they aren’t exactly the main determinants for SEO success. In a nutshell, if a specific brand ranks high on keywords that aren’t backed up by customer search intent, the high ranking position (and most likely the traffic that it’s bringing) it has is practically worthless. To some extent, this does increase brand awareness and brand recognition. But if the end-goal of the strategy is to increase sales, the efforts placed into optimizing and link-building are simply a waste of time and resources.
Reaching SEO results is a strong proof of concept, but if it doesn’t align with the end goal of the SEO strategy, it’s practically worthless. This is why it’s important to have a strong SEO framework that focuses on short-term milestones and long-term goals while leveraging available competitive advantages to bring in quality results as soon as possible. One step at a time.
A sound SEO strategy is a synonym for strong market understanding, calculated allocation of time and resources, and delivering scalable solutions to brands. It takes time, effort and dedication, something greatly favored by Assist-o, and endlessly appreciated by its clients. If you feel that now is the time to take your SEO efforts to the next level, let’s talk about it.