Business owners often ask this question when they really want to know what the return on their investment (ROI) will be. Will a long-term investment in SEO be worth the cost?
The simple answer is that SEO should be a part of your marketing strategy for as long as you want your website to appear on the first page of Google. This article will explain why you should regularly optimize your website or app to appear in organic search results.
What Is SEO?
Search engine optimization—or SEO—is the process of making your web pages or apps visible to search engines so they appear in unpaid– or “organic”–search results.
How Long Will SEO Take to Get You on the First Page?
This is a tough question without a direct answer. Google uses more than 200 ranking factors. Each company has thousands of online competitors, and each keyword you try to rank will have its own set of competitors.
So the answer is . . . it depends on the situation.
Ranking on the first page of Google could happen instantly or never happen at all. However, with a history of good SEO practices, a fair amount of competitors, a great website (great content, great user experience, and a fast load time), and a good amount of links, the average period is 3 to 6 months, but it can take a year or longer.
Why Should You Focus on SEO Long-Term?
Once you’ve ranked on the first page of Google, you may be tempted to put your money toward other marketing efforts. However, you should continue to optimize your site. Why? Note these important reasons for sticking with your SEO campaign.
“Build It and Leave It” Does Not Work with SEO
Think of SEO as you would any other form of marketing. You wouldn’t just create one marketing piece, let it run, and hope that it will always achieve the desired result. Marketing is a continual cycle of gathering data, strategizing, creating a campaign, measuring success, revising and fine-tuning, and running through the cycle again.
The same principles apply to SEO. After all, SEO is a segment of marketing.
Google’s Search Algorithm Changes Often
Google constantly updates and revises its search algorithm to display the most relevant search results to improve the user experience. Therefore, you want to make sure your SEO strategies are in line with current algorithm updates.
Follow Google Guidelines to prevent penalties to your website, web page, or app. If your site does receive a penalty, fix the issues as soon as possible. Some penalties take longer to fix than others.
It Is a Constant Battle to Stay Above the Competition
Once Google has discovered, crawled, and indexed your web pages or app, you have to fight to get high enough in the search results for people to see your link and then click on it. You want to rank above your competitors in organic search or steal a click away from your competitors in both organic and paid results by appearing more relevant.
You can accomplish this goal with a great page title and meta description. The page title is the blue link that appears in search results, and the meta description is the sentence or two that appears under the title. Schema markup can also improve the display of information in search results. The image below shows an optimized page title and meta description. The five-star rating system, date, and number of votes are the result of schema added to the HTML on the site.
You Always Have Competitors
It always amazes me when clients tell me they don’t have any competitors online. As long as there are search results, there are competitors.
Perhaps these clients think that if the other search results are not selling the same product or service, then they are not competitors. This is not true. You are competing for space on the same page, and if other search results appear ahead of your site, users may not see your link. Your link must be seen through the clutter and inspire a click.
To prove that you always have competitors, I did a Google search, “socks for chickens,” thinking there couldn’t possibly be socks for chickens. In fact, Google’s autocomplete finished the search for me, so I wasn’t the only one searching for this exact phrase. As you can see in the screenshot below, Google gave me 12,600,000 results—meaning there are 12,600,000 competitors for chicken socks.
None of the results were actually selling socks for chickens. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is that, if I were a company selling socks for chickens, I would have had to compete against 12,600,000 other search results to reach my potential buyers.
So When Should SEO Stop? Never
To recap, SEO is an ongoing process that should continue as long as the website or app is online. The internet is a vast and quickly expanding place. There’s competition lurking everywhere—even if you’re selling socks for chickens.
Think of SEO as part of your overall marketing campaign. It’s a long-term commitment with worthwhile results. Stay ahead of the competition. Keep up with Google algorithm updates. Continue with SEO.
This post was originally published in February 2016. It was last updated in February 2018.