It’s easy to see why someone may be lured in by the promise of instant search engine success. Being told that you can increase your traffic 600% in a few days or start ranking on the (so-called) "front page of Google" instantly is appealing. We get that! After all, the end goal of most digital marketing is to generate new leads and conversions; who wouldn’t want to jump through all the busywork and get to those valuable conversions as quickly as possible?
Let’s make one thing clear: We’re certainly not here to knock SEO (search engine optimization); in fact, we believe that creating original content that gets you recognized and ranked by search engines is one of the most important things you can do to drive new customers to your website, as well as retain your existing audience base.
Search engines may always be changing, but there will always be strategies that really work, driven by quality content and a local, audience-focused approach. There will also always be blackhat tactics that may seem appealing – such as creating false reviews or generating phony backlinks via “content farms” – that will ultimately only do damage to your brand’s online reputation; this is all just part of the SEO game.
So we’re not saying that SEO doesn’t work – we know for a fact that it does. What we are saying is to generally be wary of any individual or firm that promises to generate instant results with nothing but SEO, as even the most effective SEO strategies take time and patience to get going.
SEO Takes Time
Understanding what works and what doesn’t when it comes to SEO can be tricky, as there are always numerous factors in play, various balls being juggled at once. Successful SEO strategies, for instance, consider the way that search engines like Google crawl through and rank websites and how audiences receive and interact with content, all at the same time.
By definition and intent, it takes time for search engines to understand and, by extension, rank all of these complicated factors. So let’s say you release a new website. While you may see an initial spike in traffic, due to the novelty of your site and interest from your existing users, it will always be an uphill climb to garner new traffic, as search engines consider not only the features of your site itself – i.e., whether your code is optimized for quick crawling, whether your site is responsive on mobile – but whether or not your site has value.
This evaluation largely comes from factors that may be somewhat outside your control, which we call off-page SEO. One big element of off-page SEO is backlinking, or the number of times that your site is linked to by other sites (the quality of the sites doing the linking is also now taken into consideration, largely to fight back against blackhat tactics). It takes time to generate the sorts of backlinks that signal real value, even if you’re working with influencers or taking control of your own referral traffic with social media.
In addition to backlinks, search engines also gauge whether or not your site has value by tracking the ways in which people interact with it. Are they instantly bouncing away from your site because it takes too long to load? Are they skipping your content and going to another search result because your meta-description fails to successfully entice?
Search engines, like the users who put them to work, are more sophisticated than ever – but it takes some time for them to understand and catalog your content and evaluate its credibility.
SEO Requires Patience
So now that we’ve talked a little about why and how it takes time for SEO to work, it’s also important to understand that the very strategic pillars behind SEO can take some time to really generate massive results.
Very broadly speaking, one of the factors motivating consistent content creation is building up your website, as it has been shown time and again that larger websites (i.e., those with more pages) are considered more credible, and thus ranked higher than smaller sites, such as the “one-pagers” that often come out of free website builders. As any weight lifter can tell you, bulking up takes time; you’re not going to be able to go from one high quality, search-optimized page to a hundred overnight!
And while you’re using SEO-focused content to flesh out your site (which helps you reach a broader audience), you can also use individual pieces of content to reach out to more selective or specific audiences (allowing you to reach users more likely to convert). We call this focus on more specific searches “long-tail” SEO, and it can really, really work; often, long-tail keywords are less competitive, allowing you to rank more quickly and, as we’ve already mentioned, get in front of the searchers who are most likely to be looking for your unique content.
But that specificity and uniqueness comes at a price – namely, patience. You won’t instantly be seeing gushing rivers of traffic from your long-tail searches, but rather a steady trickle of eager searchers whose targeted queries lead them to your targeted content. These are people more likely to convert… but a long-tail strategy is more concerned with consistency in the long-term, rather than an immediate turnaround in traffic.
Find an SEO Agency That Takes the Long View
There are plenty of digital marketing strategies that can lead to instantaneous spikes in traffic, and the Geek team employs a few of them, including pay-per-click Google Ads and targeted social media ads. These are remarkable tools in their own right, and can create lots of value for brands of all shapes and size, and they may even help to bolster your SEO efforts down the line – but they are distinct from SEO.
SEO takes time; it’s a game of incremental change and steady progress, one that ultimately leads to a more sustainable and healthy level of traffic – and business – for your brand, for a fraction of the cost of other marketing options. With that said, it’s not for everyone, and it’s important to recognize that – and to work with a firm that recognizes that – before you invest time and money in SEO.
If you’re considering getting started with SEO, be sure to work with an agency that is upfront about your capacity for making gains, and that is willing and able to be communicative and transparent about your progress, about what’s working and what’s not. Just as all brands are unique, so must every SEO strategy be looked at as a unique animal; it’s not a one-size fits all proposition, but a process that will require tailoring and troubleshooting as you learn and grow in your efforts.
If you want to talk SEO strategy – or to explore what sets our comprehensive approach to digital marketing apart – feel free to drop us a line! Our team is always here and ready to help set you down the right path.