Now, let’s explore the five main variables that can influence how soon you see results from an SEO campaign.
1. Your competitive environment. Do you have a strong competitor or many competitors dominating the rankings for the keywords you were hoping to target? It’ll probably take you longer to see results. Are you in a highly specific niche with few or no direct competitors? It should go much faster. Generally, the more specifically targeted you are within your niche, the better. An SEO competition analysis can help you understand who your competitors are, what the strengths of their campaigns are, and what sort of investment it will take to top them.
2. Strategic choices. There are several strategic choices that will affect how quickly you see results–and how strong those results are. For example, will you start by targeting one pivotal keyword phrase, or hedge your bets among a number of different keywords? Will those keywords be high-traffic, high-competition, or low-traffic, low-competition? Proper keyword research at the very start of your campaign is absolutely crucial to its success.
3. Channels and angles. The individual tactics you choose to execute will also play a role in your development, sometimes in unforeseeable ways. For example, will you focus on long-form or short-form content? Will you seek publication on lots of small-time publication networks or a handful of major players? What types of social media outlets will you use, and how active will you be on them?
4. Total investment. The total amount of money and effort you put into your strategy will have a major bearing on the speed of your achieved results. Put simply, you get what you pay for. Investing more will help you see better results faster. It’s also worth noting that the amount your competitors are spending matters just as much. If you’re spending $10,000/month on SEO and not seeing results, it could be because your competitors are spending $20,000/month. SEO doesn’t happen in a vacuum; everything you do affects your competitors, and everything your competitors do affect you.
5. Learning curve and expertise. It’s also important to note that there’s a steep learning curve when it comes to SEO. If you’re just starting out, you’ll make mistakes, and it takes time to iron those errors out. The Internet is loaded with bad information from self-proclaimed “SEO experts” who tout products and services that will benefit no-one but themselves. Stay away from message boards and untrustworthy-feeling websites if you’re new to SEO. Instead, stick with the trustworthy names and brands in the SEO space. Here’s a list of marketing influencers who are trustworthy.
Excluding these variables–that is, assuming we have an “average” value for an “average” client across the board–there are some general expectations you can set about an SEO campaign. If you’re starting from scratch, you can’t expect significant change in the first month. If you’re lucky and all the stars proverbially align, you might start seeing some traffic increases–but probably nowhere near anything that will make up for all your expenses.
Instead, you can expect to start seeing measurable results between three and six months after you begin. Of course, your results will vary based on the variables I listed in the previous section. But in general, this is about the timeframe where I see clients start to see measurable progress.
According to this article by Josh Steimle at Forbes, “Many SEO firms will tell you that it takes 4 to 6 months to start seeing results. That’s generally accurate, but bear in mind this is when you start seeing results, and SEO results grow over time.”