Understanding A Realistic SEO Timeline

How long should it take to see SEO results? Columnist Stephan Spencer says there's no simple answer to this question, but explains some of the factors which may impact an SEO timeline.

A lot of the technical side of SEO is troubleshooting. The fact is, it isn’t always evident why your rankings are fluctuating. For example, is it possible that an SEO tactic used in the past is now being recognized as spam, meaning that its value has been discounted within Google’s ranking algorithm. That could lead to a huge drop in rankings, and an SEO consultant’s efforts that have been making slow, positive progress might be obscured or blamed for this.

It’s important to understand that there are many variables going on with your SEO. The consultant or in-house SEO is working with all the SEO, design, code, etc., decisions made in the long past, the recent past, the present, and the future. That’s why it is incredibly important to start out an SEO relationship with an audit of the site. This is going to uncover those problems that wouldn’t normally show up on your radar screen and expose the damage that they may be doing to your site.

Once you have a solid foundation, develop an action plan to move forward in bolstering your site’s reputation and reach. Sometimes, when fixing a site from some major foul play, you’ll see worse results before you see eventual and steady improvement.

SEO Requires A Team Effort

There are a myriad of factors that impact SEO success — and many are dependent upon cooperation from other teams or departments.

With larger clients, we’re often looking at tens of thousands (or hundreds of thousands, or millions) of website pages and large, sometimes geographically distributed, teams to work with. There’s also the bureaucracy of getting changes approved and enacted. A lot of the time can be spent waiting in the wings on obtaining approval, deciding on preferred courses of action, or simply getting SEO work into the site development queue.

That’s why the cooperation of other teams — especially the IT department and the social media team — is crucial to SEO success. The SEO is managing not just a bunch of keywords, but an entire movement for the direction of your site. Don’t underestimate the amount of work this takes, especially when factoring in the time needed to get buy-in from these other departments or executives.

Timing Is Often A Game Of Chance

An effective SEO tactic used to be putting up 50 new blog content pieces and promoting the heck out of them in hopes that a small number would be seen by a lot of people, and perhaps earn social shares and link authority for the site.

The thing is, virality is incredibly hard to predict, even by the experts. It is often about placing content in the right place at the right time; however, that right moment can happen at any moment.

You can make an effort to predict what content your audience will want by using seasonality (basketball-related content during March Madness, etc.), leveraging a current event (this gets tricky, since if it is done too late, it is passé), or simply trying to put out awesome content and ideas that people want to share, and hoping it strikes a chord.

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