Today I look at how long white hat SEO will take to improve your rankings and why slow and steady wins the SEO race.
In the 21st century, we don’t like waiting. We’re used to superfast broadband, instant frappuccinos and TV on demand.
So when I tell a new SEO client that it is likely to be 3-4 months before they start to see meaningful gains in organic search engine traffic, they normally respond with at least one raised eyebrow and possibly even a middle finger to accompany it.
But here’s the thing; good white hat SEO, the kind that will see your rankings improve and your traffic build month by month, year on year takes time.
Before We Start Building Content/Links
The first month of any new SEO campaign will generally be focused on internal housekeeping, keyword research and competitive analysis. I’ll come onto the housekeeping aspect in a moment, but for the research/analysis side, we’re looking to answer several questions: –
1) What are our money keywords?
2) Where is our client ranking currently for these phrases?
3) Where are their competitors ranking?
4) How are they ranking?
5) How difficult is it going to be to rank the client for the phrases?
Point 4 will involve a thorough analysis of our competitor’s link profiles, lots of spreadsheets, numerous cups of tea and many hours spent identifying hubs (sites linking to multiple competitors) and other potential linking opportunities.
There are of course exceptions, but in most cases there will be numerous changes which can be quickly made to improve on site SEO (for existing pages/content). I’m talking about the usual stuff here, i.e.
- Correct use of title tags
- Meta descriptions
- Good internal linking
- Actually using the key phrases on the relevant pages (difficult to rank for a phrase if it doesn’t appear on the site anywhere!)
- Cleaning up any bloated html code
In some cases this can lead to some short term gains in traffic, but (unless the site was a disaster before – and some are) generally we are talking a marginal improvement. It is however critical to get on site SEO right first before we start the next phase of the campaign.
The Tortoise And The Hare
Apologies for using this much overused analogy, but it is has prevailed for two and a half thousand years for good reason.
So, we’re 4/5 weeks in and to recap: –
- We know the keywords we are targeting
- We know who our competitors are
- We know how they are ranking
- We have a list of potential link opportunities
- We have sorted out any on site SEO issues
What we need now is content and links. Let’s get 100 new pages up and 2,000 links… let’s send out a template email to all those link opportunities… go go go right!?
Nope. The hare that blasts out of the blocks and gets a load of cheap links to the client’s site might (and I stress might) see some short term results, but just like that foolish lepus, our SEO campaign will be doomed to failure, while the SEO tortoise will soon be dining at google’s top table (even if it takes him a little while to get there).
Google likes to see consistency and a steady rate of links coming into the site will trump a burst of activity, which looks like obvious manipulation. The exception is of course if you are lucky enough to have a post go viral and a piece of content attracts a lot of editorial links all at once. If this happens, google and your client will love you!
A solid on site content strategy is a key factor for long term SEO success.
While content can (if preferred) be prepared in a batch, it should be published on the site at a steady rate. This could be one article a day, one a week or whatever is appropriate for the site.
There are several reasons why fresh content is so important for any SEO campaign: –
1) Google is still a text based search engine, so the more text on the site the more chance it has of picking up traffic from long tail keywords
2) Google likes sites that are active (hence the reason for a content schedule). Fresh content generally receives a short term rankings boost too.
3) Good content can/will attract editorial links
Link Building Is All About Quality
I’ve said it before, but it’s so important that I’ll keep repeating it! Link building in 2013 is all about quality.
Just because a competitor’s site has 1,000 links pointing at it, it doesn’t necessarily follow that we will require 1,001 links to outrank them. In fact, depending on the quality of their links we might be able to outrank them with just one link!
The thing is, these high quality links take time to acquire. If we are using outreach to target links we identified in our initial analysis we might have to exchange 10 emails before we get an agreement from a webmaster to link to our client’s site. In fact, we might exchange 10 emails and still ultimately get a no.
The key is however that those 9 nos are worth it for 1 yes from an authority site.
So building good quality links takes time!
An SEOs Work Is Never Done!
So, after a 3-4 month period of hard work, we have:-
- Sorted out on site SEO
- Added good quality, fresh content to the site
- Obtained some high quality links to the site
We should now have some good things to show our client in their google analytics account. Here are some signs that our work is starting to pay off: –
- An increase in long tail organic search traffic
- Movement in the search rankings of our key phrases (even if it is from position 200 to position 50)
- An increase in the number of keywords used to find the site
And now that things are starting to move, it’s important that the work continues! Just as before, steady content, steady link building and over the next 3 month period we will start to see a snowball of organic traffic and a satisfying upwardly trending graph.
After reading the above hopefully you will realise that you should beware of SEO companies which claim to be able to rank you at page one in 3 weeks, 4 weeks etc. It’s a sure thing that they are doing things the old fashioned way and your site will eventually be penalised and lose it’s rankings.
If your competitors have spent years in building their rankings why should you be able to blast your way past them in a month. The answer is you shouldn’t and if you are then there is something not right.
So, slow and steady wins the SEO race! If you’d like to read more, here are some good articles from a couple of the top SEO sites and one from google itself!
Do you agree with this article? How long do you find it takes to rank a website?
If you have a website and would like help in improving its search engine rankings then check out my SEO consultancy services.