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.

What Your Executive Team Needs to Know About Your SEO Project

What Your Executive Team Needs to Know About Your SEO Project

Being the only marketer in your company puts a lot on your plate. Your executive team has given you the go for your new SEO project and you may be asking a lot of questions.

You know SEO is important and you know it’s a critical component to your online success. However, it can be extremely difficult to truncate the information for your executives in a way that makes sense. They are going to expect you to have a handle on major aspects of this project at any point in time. Here are some ideas to keep in mind when getting started with your new SEO initiative.

SEO Projects Are Not Short Term Solutions for Long Term Problems

Your boss might be wondering how your SEO project is going to directly impact leads or sales in the short term. The answer is that SEO is not a short term solution. SEO needs a lot of time and attention in order to be effective in the long run. It takes time to research keywords, write content, and optimize all your on page components [title tags, header tags, body copy, etc.]. However, if done properly your SEO work will pay you back in spades down the road. This is especially true if you back up your on page efforts with off page efforts – like paid content marketing and pay-per-click advertising.

Out-sourcing Costs Less than In-sourcing

Unless you have a quarter millions dollars to solely devote to SEO – you’re going to want to hire a firm to take care of the SEO work for you. If you were to choose to keep everything in house then you’re talking about hiring a team full time to take it on. There are many components of your digital marketing initiatives that will tie directly into your SEO project including pay-per-click and social. Relying on a less experienced marketer to produced desirable results in all these facets of digital marketing is a risky move. If you’re going with the option to out-source then there are ways to make sure you select a firm that’s best for you.

Each Business’ Website Strategy Is Going to Be Different

A website that sells car parts online is going to have a different marketing strategy than a project management firm looking for clients. Different types of organizations have different goals for their marketing teams. Showing ROI for an e-commerce site’s performance is different than a company that is investing their marketing dollars in quality, paid content and investing in other digital strategies. How do you assign monetary value to a view of a blog page or product page? It depends on how much these actions are worth to your business and assigning attribution value to each touch point there is with a visitor. Some businesses may want their website’s primary purpose to be for lead generation while other organizations in the same industry may be focused on producing content for that industry. Both strategies work, but they yield results in different ways.

Depending on where you’re trying to make an impact will determine what needs to be measured, why you need to track it, and how you’re going to use that data to make beneficial changes to your content and campaigns.

Think Long Tail for Keyword Solutions

Broad match terms with high search volumes are going to be much harder to rank for than long tail searches with lower search volume and less competition. Here’s an example:

“patio furniture” is a term with over 201,000 searches a month on Google. It’s a monster term. A term with that much search volume is likely to be competitive. However, that particular term doesn’t show nearly as much intent as “buy used patio furniture”, or “purchase used blue patio chairs” which are terms that demonstrate more intent. The searcher is most likely in the purchasing phase of the buying cycle and has already done their research about which patio furniture to buy. The searcher knows they want to “buy used” and therefore Google wants to serve up the best result to fit your query. The way to go about your long tail strategy is to think creatively and find terms that you can utilize in your content and PPC strategy.

Just because a search query may have a lower search volume doesn’t mean the term is weak. In fact, they should be considered the opposite – an opportunity.

Ask the Right Questions

Keeping all of these things in mind will help you ask the right questions when you begin your SEO project. What’s most important is having all the vital components of your website working properly so you have a foundation to build on. This means making sure all your analytics platforms are set up correctly and that Google Webmaster tools is installed properly. Without solid SEO you’re going to run into problems with inbound marketing programs and wonder where you’re falling behind. Make sure you’re collecting all the data you can and start writing quality content. The more content you produce the more likely your site is to get crawled, and in turn, deliver qualified traffic with directed intent to research or purchase.

Top Ten SEO Tips – Post Panda Update

The new Google Panda updates are offering up new challenges for SEO professionals and for business owners. One of the old rules of SEO was supporting all on-page SEO with excellent link building. As usual, many Internet marketing companies and SEO pros abused links to game the algorithms of Google, BING, and Yahoo. Google rightfully so, decided enough was enough. Links are not the way to achieve top search results any more.

Quality links are still needed but quality content is need even more. Ask yourself how many times you have clicked on a search result only to find that the contents of the site you land on are not what you were looking for in the first place. How did that happen? Links. Thousands of links point to websites with low quality content but have been rewarded for years based on how many links point to the site.

There is a reason why Google is the dominant player in the U.S. search market…they provide the best results and they intend to keep it that way. Below are the top 10 things you need to consider with your SEO efforts.

  1. Content is King [again] – Google, just like visitors, want useful and excellent content. Create great content and your website will be rewarded with “likes”, new links, and social mentions.
  2. Build Links – While Google has downgraded hundreds of website because of poor quality links…you still need to link build. As you proceed with your link building seek quality over quantity.
  3. Drive Quality Traffic – you can gain quality traffic with well written and informational content.
  4. Meta Data – make sure you use your meta data to alert the search engines about page content and provide visitors with a good reasons to visit your site. Meta data is one of the primary communication tools you have at your disposal to provide brief descriptions of the contents of your website.
  5. Get Tools For Sharing – Use social sharing tools like “Share This” to allow visitors to spread your site, content, and message around the Internet.
  6. Keep up Engagement – make sure to continually create unique content which will keep your visitors coming back again and again. If you don’t have a blog associated with your site…get one. If you do have a blog…use it.
  7. Convert Visitors – You may have a ton of traffic but the visitors may not do what you want them to do. If you want new leads or sales provide the types of incentives to get these visitors to convert. Calls to action, discounts, white papers, and unique offerings can dramatically improve conversion rates.
  8. Speak Their Language – The words and content you have developed may be the same language but if you are not speaking in terms your visitors are searching for they will not find you. Make sure you run keyword research [a few times] to find keywords that your target audience are using.
  9. Know Your Audience – Create visitor profiles for the visitors you want to find your website. The better you know you audience the better equipped you will be to speak with them with your on-site content.
  10. Internet Reputation – Pay attention to what others are saying about your company and brand online. As social media continues to dominate the online marketing landscape…user generated content [U.G.C.] will become a major aspect of how your website is ranked and how it gains authority.

SEO is only part of a digital strategy

I was recently asked by a client how to increase web sales.  This in and of itself is not a strange question for a client to ask. It is after all one of the most fundamental questions and concerns for any e-commerce business.  However, I was still shocked by the question as it was born out of a lack of understanding of digital strategy. 

When I started working with this client I was focusing primarily on SEO.  I made sure that they were submitted to the free directory services, I worked on their keywords, I had fresh and unique content created for their site, validated their code,  got their products listed on price comparison sites, posted answers to relevant forums and blogs linking back to their site.  In short I did whatever I could for free or little cost to help them with SEO.  And it worked, their traffic increased by over 100% their sales increased by 600% and things were looking pretty good for them.  So good in fact that they made the decision for me to switch my focus to other areas as they were sure that this trend would continue.   When they came to me with this plan I cautioned them that the work was not done and there was a high possibility that these trends would not continue without full time attention and an evolving digital strategy. No amount of data or anecdotal evidence would sway them, their mind was made up.  But I had said my piece and prepared them for the back slide that their sales would take.  In effect their fate was in their hands. 

Flash forward, and two months after they switched my focus they asked the question that sparked me to write this post.  Their sales had leveled off and had started taking a nose dive.  My answer to them was simple.   You have to be prepared to allocate a budget and spend money on a diversified digital strategy if you hope to increase your sales.  In short you have to spend money to make money.

Now don’t get me wrong there is an awful lot SEO can do with minimal or no monetary investment as illustrated by the dramatic upswing this client initially saw.   However, in the long run you are going to have to do things that cost money.  If you want to sell things you have to advertise what you sell.  Ask any major e-commerce player and they will tell you the same thing.  SEO alone will only take you so far.  You have to incorporate paid search advertising, display advertising, email marketing, listings on PPC price comparison sites, content network advertising, affiliate programs, and social media.   Advertising will not only help you catch buyers at the right time in the buying process it will help build brand awareness, and help increase your site popularity. These strategies will in turn help your ongoing SEO efforts.  The common factor in all these digital strategies is that they are not free to implement.  

What I see quite frequently, particularly from small businesses, is that they budget for creating a website and not much else.  They are operating on what I like to call the Field of Dreams: If you build it they will come principle.  They pay a design firm to develop an “SEO friendly” website, get some server space, and then sit back and expect orders to start rolling in.  When that doesn’t happen they take what little money they have and hire an SEO professional to do some cleanup but don’t budget much beyond the SEO professionals fees. Leaving the SEO professional to do what he/she can with little to no budget.  This can help them out a bit but it will not get them to where they want to be or assumed they would be when the decided to build a website.  The assumption was likely having a website and optimizing it for the various search engines was all they would need to do to start seeing meaningful and profitable traffic.  What they failed to account for was that their site is only a handful of pages of the billions that the search engines index and that they need other strategies to differentiate themselves from the pack and raise their level of popularity.  I think that much of this thinking has to do with the very unrealistic expectation that someone will stumble on their site and be so impressed that they will tell two friends and they’ll tell two friends and so on and so on.  Creating a snow ball effect where their traffic and popularity will increase exponentially, driving more and more sales.  This is a very risky proposition.   There are very few if any e-commerce sites that are so unique and compelling that they will essentially go viral.  And even if this does happen the site will probably be replaced in the public consciousness by the next big site and be forgotten in a matter of weeks or days.  

Regardless of the assumptions that many people make about websites and e-commerce they need to be marketed just like any other business or product.  Money will need to be spent to promote them and any budget for a website has to include marketing dollars. There needs to be a comprehensive digital strategy to maintain brand awareness, drive qualified profitable traffic and support SEO.  Take a global brand like Coke for example. They are one of the most recognizable brands in the world and unless you do not posses any of your 5 senses you are probably aware of them.  Despite this level of awareness they still spend billions of dollars a year on advertising. And they are doing it in ways that are directly comparable to digital marketing.  They use radio and TV commercials to build and maintain brand awareness much like display adverting on the web.  They advertise in magazines which were just content networks before content networks were a real thing.  They pay stores to place their products on end caps and in desirable shelf locations so that they are visible when their consumers are making a buying decision, which is nothing more than paid search.  Oh yeah and they also do web marketing.  Why do they do this if they are so recognizable and popular? They do it because they are not the only game in town and they need to separate themselves from the pack.  They also realize that they have to spend money in order to do it. 

No matter if you are an SEO professional or a business owner looking for SEO services it is important to know that SEO should always be just one piece of a much broader online marketing strategy.   Business owners should be budgeting for additional marketing efforts while SEO professionals should be prepared to explain the importance of including other marketing strategies for the broadest most cost effective reach possible. 

There Is No Guarantee in SEO

I’ve been asked many times over, “Do you offer a guarantee for your SEO services?” The answer is no. I never have and I never will. My automatic response is my lack of ability to control the Google algorithms. Trying to reign in or directly control Google’s magnum opus is like trying to rebuild the pyramids of Egypt in my back yard. It just isn’t going to happen. All a professional SEO consultant or SEO firm can do is provide the best practices and do their best to deliver good content, links, and articles, etc.

In a recent post, SEO Guarantees Should Not Exist , by Nick Stamoulis backs me up on this issue. Not only with his own take on the SEO guarantee but with a post directly from the Google Webmaster Blog. I refer you to a Q&A session in which the following was asked [as linked in Nick’s post];

Question: Should I believe SEO agencies that promise to make my site rank
first in Google in a few months and with a precise number of links?

Google’s Answer: No
one can make that promise; therefore the short answer is no, you should

Now it should be officially settled. No one can guarantee top ranking for any keyword for any website. Google maintains about 70% of the overall search volume in the U.S. and everyone wants to be on top. This is totally understandable. However, not everyone can be on top. Keep this in mind; the number one goal of SEO is to increase your website performance for your visitors. In doing so, you should increase your website ranking for keywords. Your quality of content should be your number one goal and your site will be rewarded for it. Why? Google says so in the Webmaster Guidelines….”Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines.”