Why does SEO take so long?

Unlike other forms of marketing such as paid advertising (Facebook Ads, Google Adwords etc) where the impact can be immediate, SEO is a little different. SEO is a long term form of marketing where the returns initially might be low but over time, can become incredibly profitable. The problem is, many business owners expect results quickly, which usually results in stop starting between numerous agencies, getting poor results, wasting time, losing money and becoming incredibly frustrated.

I often refer to SEO being much like the stock market. You make money by investing long term, being patient, and monitoring trends, not daily shifts.

Seeing it visually

The chart below represents a client who stuck it out, was patient and played the long game. He went from $3,500 pm in revenue to $72,000 pm over a 3 year period. In that time he invested approximately $100,000, but is now seeing a $800,000+ return each year (often more)

Do all campaigns take that long?

Time frames vary greatly between campaigns. Of course not all campaigns take this long, however this can be fairly typical. Some campaigns move quicker, some slower, it really depends on the industry you’re working in, how competitive it is and of course, whose performing the actual work. In most cases, the best performing campaigns can take anywhere between 180 hours to 500+ hours – (this is measured at 15 hours worth of work being performed each month)

This is why I refuse to work with people enquiring about SEO who intend on cancelling if they don’t “see results” in 3 months (which is actually only 45 hours)

Factors that influence time frames

Not all SEO campaigns are the same. Every campaign usually comes with its own challenges, which can influence how long it might take for you to see a return. Here are just a few of the most common ones –

  • How competitive your industry is – A highly competitive industry usually means that your campaign will take significantly longer. For eg, a mortgage broker competing with big brands such as Aussie Home Loans for instance is going to take much longer than a local florist selling flowers. Highly competitive industries will mean you may be competing with well established companies that have already spent years investing tens of thousands of dollars in SEO
  • The amount of quality content you’ve published – Poor content, or a complete lack of it will mean your campaign is likely to take much longer, as opposed to business owners that have been highly proactive in terms of creating quality content consistently over a longer period of time. Content is an essential part of a successful campaign, and having to start from scratch, or reposition your content marketing efforts is likely to mean, investing more time.
  • The current state of your website – A broken site, or a poorly optimised site will take longer as there’s more corrective work involved. This might mean having to restructure the website, improve the calls to action, redo content, or remove toxic links.
  • Damage performed by previous SEO agencies – This is definitely something I see a lot. Sites where business owners have “tried” cheap SEO only to realise its made things worse. When this is the case, time is wasted having to clean up toxic links, fix or remove rubbish content, restructure the site or start all over again from scratch.
What takes all the time?

What many business owners fail to understand is that SEO done right, takes time.

This is simply because of the amount of work involved. Unfortunately, a large number of business owners think that SEO is just a matter of changing some keywords on a page, and building some links, which couldn’t be further from the truth. There are a lot of tasks involved in SEO, and some of these tasks are quite time intensive.

To give you a some understanding of what’s involved (without covering absolutely everything) see below.

  • Keyword research – As you can imagine, analysing, researching, and identifying keywords can take a considerable amount of time. Especially when you may have hundreds, or even thousands of keywords to sort through. Sorting keywords includes having to take into account, suitability, as well as user intent, and categorisation (informational, commercial or transactional) Most campaigns mean having to dig through thousands of keywords using tools such as SEMrush which can be useful to reverse engineer competitors terms to find opportunities. Keyword research is usually always ongoing throughout a campaign, with research often taking hours at a time, each and every month.
  • Competitor research – A big part of what we do in the SEO field means reverse engineering your competitors. We do this because it makes sense to figure out what’s already working in your space. Reverse engineering helps eliminate guesswork, as well as help map out a tangible strategy which can help fast track the process. However reverse engineering takes time. Assessing your competitors site structure, keywords, the type of content they’re producing, and their link profile can often take hours, if not days to do right.
  • Content creation – Creating content takes a considerable amount of time and is without a doubt one of the most time intensive tasks when it comes to SEO. Creating a piece of content that consists of say, 1,500 words, with images, diagrams, photos, etc can often take hours, if not an entire day. However creating the content is only one part of content itself. There’s the keyword research that helps lead into creating the right type of content, researching the viability of creating the content, hosting the Q&A session, transcriptions, then rewriting that content into a traditional blog post. Following this, there’s the onpage optimisation (adding title tags, meta tags, header tags, formatting the content, and adding keyword rich filenames and so forth) Publishing content can take up to an hour in of itself. All of this work collectively takes a lot of time.

These are just 3 tasks amongst many, that are performed each month. None of this takes into account project management, admin, client meetings, co-ordinating staff, and constantly tracking, measuring and refining results. In addition to that, you have to wait for Google to crawl your site, and index its pages accordingly. This process in itself (depending upon numerous factors) can take anywhere between a few days to several days or longer.

As with any business, perception is a big thing. Every business looks easy from the outside, and whilst SEO certainly isn’t brain surgery, it definitely isn’t just a matter of pushing a few buttons and you’re done.

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