A common question we get asked is “How much content do we need to have optimized, and how long until we begin to see results?”
Our audience are busy businesses who, while they may already have lots of content, they don’t an SEO team of their own. While we can provide all the SEO guidance under the sun and “lead a horse to water” 🐴, it’s always up to the client to put in the effort to actually do the work.
It’s important to clearly set their expectations so that they will maintain a consistent publishing/optimizing schedule and not give up a few months into it when success could be right around the corner.
First Determine What SEO Success Looks Like
Both independent creators and large companies alike need to first determine what SEO success looks like to them.
Manage your expectations. It’s incredibly unlikely that you’ll write (or optimize) one or two articles and those two will take off and propel you to instant influencer status. In SEO, consistency is the name of the game.
Success, on the other hand, is always measurable.
I remember the pride I felt when, in the beginning days of our new site, an article I wrote drove its first reader from Google. It was exciting. Even better was the first time an article I wrote started a conversation between us and a prospective client.
Determine your unique goals based on what your needs and desires are. Keep your expectations in check based on how established your site is, and allow your definition of success to adapt as your site grows.
Note that If you’re an entirely brand new site, it will take longer for you to establish enough domain authority for Google to trust you.
Inversely, If you’re an established site, it will take less time for Google to consider your information reliable enough to rank, but you still need an SEO strategy to implement. If you’ve already got a good amount of domain authority, you’ll be more capable of ranking for more difficult terms but it still won’t be easy. It all depends on the competition in your niche. If you’re going up against The New York Times for a term… good luck.
In general, it’s wise to focus on low difficulty “long-tail” searces.
Ranking for many of these terms will snowball into a lot of traffic, and increase the likelihood that you will begin to build a solid foundation. Continue doing this progressively and eventually your authority will begin to increase as more and more searchers find you and link to you.
Once you’re established you might be able to challenge the current top 10 results on more difficult searches.
How Long Does SEO Take To Start Paying Off?
Challenging the top results is incredibly hard and requires a lot of time and effort. If you want to rank for particular keywords, you’ll need to be providing highly relevant content that answers your users’ questions and offers tremendous value without any spammy or manipulative techniques.
There’s no definitive answer, but the general consensus is that you should expect to see results within 6 months to a year of publishing 2-4 articles per month consistently. Some would say 6 months, some would say 1 year. Some begin to see results in 3 months. In general, the more aggressive your approach, the better off you will be.
SEO takes time to work. It’s not magic. It’s not instant gratification. It takes time to rank, and it takes time to get traffic from Google searches.
I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: You need to be patient with your SEO strategy.
Be patient when publishing content consistently takes you away from other things you could be working on.
Be patient when you see no results in the first few months of publishing or optimizing content consistently.
Be patient when you realize that you might very well make mistakes, and an article you thought would rank well for some reason never does.
We offer content optimization services as a our businesses bread and butter. We do it as well as anybody, but optimizing all your content is often just a single piece of the puzzle. You also have to strategize, choose the correct keywords to plan around, and internally link your articles in a logical topic cluster format if you want the best chances of success.
Case Study: 2 articles per month for 2 years. 5,000% increase in traffic and four new employees
We spoke with colleague Rebekah Edwards of clara.agency and asked, “Assuming they hired an SEO pro, what kind of results can a website with currently poor SEO performance expect?”
“My agency started working with a local medical practice site in late 2019. They only had a budget of $900/month, and we were still young and could offer them two optimized articles for a month at that price. They’ve been doing two articles each month ever since, and a huge portion of the content is in the hyper-competitive medical space.
Without a single ad or even a local search strategy, their practice has already hired 4 new practitioners, driven mostly by organic traffic leads. Compared to month one of working with us, their traffic has increased by nearly 5,000%. If you’ve got a zero-dollar budget, the best investment you can make is content creation.”
For reference, here’s a beautiful screenshot of the traffic during Month 1 vs. Month 21! (the orange line is 2019, blue is 2021) 👇
3 Pro Tips to Make the Most of Your SEO Campaigns
- Invest in the time it will take you to understand how to choose a few keywords, then use Google to figure out what content top-ranking sites produce that rank for those keywords.
- When you publish content, include a simple call-to-action for readers to follow (sign up for my email list; schedule an appointment; try out this product, etc.) that will help turn clicks into legitimate leads and/or revenue.
- Once you’ve developed a basic strategy and published content for several months, you may generate enough traffic to start outsourcing parts of the process!
The Factors That Determine How Long It Takes to See SEO Results
The biggest factor in determining how long it takes to see success from SEO is whether your website already has a lot of traffic. If you have a website that already has a lot of traffic, then you’re going to see results very quickly.
In many cases, you will have an immediate effect on your site’s rankings as soon as you implement your SEO strategy.If you have a website that doesn’t have much traffic, however, then it may take longer for your strategy to pay off. Many other factors can affect how long it takes for your SEO work to bear fruit. Here are the most important ones:
The level of competition for the keywords you are targeting
How much time and effort you are willing to put into SEO
The quality of your content
The technical quality of your website itself
It’s best if you code a clean, fast loading site on your own. If you can’t, please for the love of everything holy don’t use Wix or Squarespace. These are fine if you just need a site for your restaurant to show your menu and your address, but they’re notorious SEO killers (even if they say they’re not. Don’t trust them).
If you’re in the market for a custom SEO-optimized site hire us to build a WordPress site for you.
If you’re the only one creating content on your website, then it can take a long time until you see much of an SEO benefit. It depends on how much authority you have built up on your own site and how much search volume you have.If you have a lot of authority on your site, it can take a few months before you see a benefit from SEO.
If you don’t, it could take six months or more. This is why it’s always important to build up your online authority in other ways besides SEO (social media, ads, strong connections, etc).
The fact that SEO takes time makes it seem less valuable to people who want to see results fast. But I believe this is one of its most valuable features: it rewards those who are patient and willing to focus on the long-term. It’s not for everyone, but if you can stick with it, it becomes the gift that keeps on giving, sending you high volumes of ongoing, consistent searches month after month, year after year.