Why Does SEO Take So Long To Impact My Website?

Ugh, why is my SEO taking so long?

Over the years, I have been asked this too many times to count. Search engine optimization takes a long time. I’ve been working in the digital space for around 14 years. Several years ago, SEO took less time to take hold and improve rankings. Now…SEO can take several months to a year plus. With this in mind, there are a few questions that may come to mind:

  1. Is search engine optimization worth the effort?
  2. How long is SEO going to take to improve my rankings?
  3. What are the factors that impact search engine results?

These are all very heavy and difficult questions to answer. Stay with me and I will provide you with the insight you need to make the right decision for your business and website.

Is Search Engine Optimization Worth The Effort?

In short, yes. SEO leads tend to close at a much higher rate than paid, email, and [certainly] social media. In fact, according to Outbrain, natural search pounded social media by 300%. Google leads all search engines by a whopping 80% market share. A number one keyword position can be worth up to 33% of the initial keyword search volume. Thus, a keyword producing 1,000 searches per month could bring 330 new visitors per month. With high conversion rates, this can bring massive ROI for your SEO investment.

What are the factors that impact search engine optimization?

The most important components of SEO can be broken down into 4 categories and 5 very important variables.

SEO Ranking Factors

  1. Content and quality content. Your minimum goal for each webpage should be 250 [high quality words]. There are some professionals who believe that website pages should contain over 1,000 for high quality blogs. I agree on both. High quality content will help with SEO rankings.
  2. Inbound links and high quality links. I think this is a little debatable, however,  it has long been known that websites with high quality links are certain to rank higher than websites without quality links.
  3. Functionality and usability. If your website does not function properly, it will not be found. If your site has broken links or pages, it will hurt your chances to rank higher in the SERPS [search engine results pages].

SEO Variables

  1. Findability – Have you created website content and addressed all of the KNOWN SEO factors? For example; have you added your meta tags, created high quality H1 and H2 tags, added sitemaps, etc.?
  2. Shareability – Is your content worth the share? Is it informative? Funny? Logical? Serving a purpose? Speaking to your audience?
  3. Returnability – You need to give your audience and visitors a REALLY REALLY good reason to come back. That always falls on your content, videos, and images.
  4. Linkability – If you have poor quality content, the likelihood of getting links from blogs, websites, social mentions, and other referral traffic is greatly diminished.
  5. Functional – Website structure and functionality are critical for success. If you have a poorly designed website that is hard to navigate or has other issues, variables 1 – 4 won’t matter. It takes users around 2.3 seconds to make the decision to STAY ON YOUR WEBSITE or to LEAVE.

How long is SEO going to take to improve my rankings?

To quote Shakespeare’s Hamlet:

“To be, or not to be- that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them.”

It seems, in word, Hamlet never really answers the question. He certainly does in deed, but it does not end well. For us, it is better ‘to be’ than not. Taking on the SEO challenge is well worth it but the time it takes may make you impatient and may lead you to walk away before you get too far down the righteous path. If done correctly, SEO can take 6 months to over a year. However, measurable success should not be viewed only through keyword rank…but more so…visitor experience and conversion metrics.

Search engine optimization takes a long time for many reasons and there are more factors than I wish to share in this post. Briefly, time your site has been active, quality, usability, links, domain, domain type, hosting, competition, keyword selection, and issues impact how long it will take. I will post more on quality content and the aforementioned at a future date.

There are no short cuts that you can take. There are no silver bullets you can fire. There is no magic wand to wave. SEO takes time, patience, persistence, and high quality work in order for it to be effective. If you want faster results, I recommend you work with pay per click advertising

. Top results will cost you either way. And both are well worth it.

For those of you who made it to the end…it is Yorick captioned above. I’m certain you knew that already.

The Danger of Aggregate Data

The question I hear most often from clients and employers is “What does this data mean?” This is most frequently asked in reference to Google analytics aggregate data.  The short answer to this is aggregate data does not mean all that much.  Aggregate data summarizes or combines other data for analytical and research purposes.  It is the analytical equivalent of cliffs notes.   Data is very powerful and can help make informed decisions about content, direction, conversion and a host of other topics.  But looked at improperly it is as accurate as if you wrote down answers on scraps of paper and randomly pulled them out of a hat.  

The data you collect tells the story of your site.  The problem is that for the most part the aggregate data only tells part of the story.  Take for example the information you can see in the Google Analytics Dashboard.  When you first log into Google Analytics you see a snapshot of your site: Total visitors, unique visitors, traffic sources, etc…  This information is a good place to start but basing decisions solely off of this view will do you a disservice.  

Say for example you go to your dashboard and see that your bounce rate is 70%.  This means that 70% of all visitors came to your site saw the home page and left immediately, deciding that your site was not even worth a second click.  You would naturally assume based on this aggregate data that there was something horribly wrong with your landing page.  You decide to spend money on a costly redesign to make your home page more inviting.   After investing thousands of dollars you re-launch your landing page and sit back confident that you will now see a dramatic decrease in you bounce rate and consequently a just as dramatic an increase in conversions.  But nothing changes so you conclude that you must not have gotten the design right. Still believing that your high bounce rate is a function of the landing page design you decide that you will rotate a few different designs and see which one works best and has the lowest bounce rate and highest conversion rate.   This time you see a positive change but it is not statistically relevant.  You are at a loss, you were sure that one of these designs would surely make the impact you were looking for but all you got for your trouble is a bunch of invoices from a designer. 

Now let’s take the same situation and instead of looking at the aggregate data we segment that data.  You find that you have 3 top traffic sources: a mystery referral URL, organic search, and paid search.  The mystery URL is sending a bulk of your traffic.  You have noticed this URL before and though you were unfamiliar with it you figured any traffic is good traffic and you are happy to have it.  You start to get curious about this traffic and you drill down to the bounce rates for your top sources.   You see that organic search has a bounce rate below 40% and so does paid search but the mystery referral URL has a bounce rate close to 90%.  Not only does it have a high bounce rate the average time on site is less than 20 seconds.  What in the world is going on? How can this be?  WTF? Are all questions that you should immediately ask yourself if you see this situation. Digging deeper you find that this mystery URL is associated with a pyramid scheme paying people to surf to several web sites a day. This is all unqualified garbage traffic and all it is doing is skewing your aggregate data.  Since you took the time to segment you data you see that, while you have some more work to do driving good targeted traffic to your site the good traffic you are seeing is sticking around and checking out what you have to offer.  Your time will be best spent cleaning up your analytics as best you can and getting the story straight before you spend money or resources on redesigns or other costly fixes for problems that may not exist.