How long does it take SEO work to, well, work?

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One of our search engine optimization clients (hi, Ann Marie! ?) recently asked me how long it took the core SEO implementation to show results. And I think this is a great question—unfortunately, it’s also one with a complex answer.How long does it take seo work to work?

Here’s what I told my client (edited for clarity and to remove identifiers):

Short answer: It depends.

We recommend a couple to three months of monitoring your analytics so that you can account for seasonal shifts. (For example, I get little traffic in August and I re-optimized my site in July; I know I don’t get much traffic in August, but I saw a shift in Sept, and even more so in Oct.)

Sometimes Google gets really excited and you have fast results. This actually happened with both Kath and my client Laura. Both, interestingly, had very subtle changes that we made but they squeezed into opportunities we saw and it was shockingly fast. With Kath in particular, she started seeing more appropriate traffic. Basically, she was now reaching the RIGHT people.

Laura’s was particularly interesting because we discovered that people were searching for “certified piano technicians,” which isn’t really a thing, but it is in people’s minds. So we optimized her site to use that language and the numbers show us that that was one of the changes that made a difference.

(Here’s a screenshot of that shift.)

SEO is a multifaceted effort, which is why we recommend a couple of things once you have that foundational SEO implementation done:

1) Make sure your Google My Business page is current and active. This is a resource I like. It really stinks that we have to play the game with Google, but it is what it is.

2) That darn blog! Seriously! Start working away at optimized blog posts that are useful and topical for your audience. This is the #1 thing you can do to build that scaffolding once you have the foundational search piece of the page optimizations etc. It works. When our clients do this, they see results over and over again.

To elaborate on what I told our client, search engine optimization is most effective and gets the most sustainable results when our clients continue the work we start with the initial optimization. That means creating very focused content that solves your ideal audience’s problems. The more narrow and niched you are in that content, the better off you are.

People hate finding content that **seems** like it’s going to answer their question, but it turns out that it’s vague and unhelpful. This erodes trust. I always say that search is the beginning of a relationship, and you want to build that relationship on a foundation of trust.

Here’s the deal. If you properly optimize your site, then build focused and intentional content, and you have clarity on your audience, and their pain points, you will have sustainable results. When I see people not make progress is when they take a set it and forget it approach to search (or marketing in general, to be honest—something more common than you’d imagine). Yes, you may see initial boosts (most people do) once undertaking a foundational search engine optimization effort, but that’s hard to sustain if you’re not committed to content marketing.

Something else that’s also important to think about is how you define, “work” or “results.” We have learned that this varies wildly from client to client and even over time for the same client. I personally define successful search optimization as improving the ratio of correct leads to incorrect leads. (Basically I want people to reach out who are a great fit for working with us. The more I see this ratio improve, the more I believe we’re getting good results.) Depending on your business or organization, your goals, and capacity, this could be defined very differently. This is something that’s important to think about—and revisit regularly, as success is a fluid notion that may change for you over time.

Have you checked out our SEO Audit Strategy Pack? Find out how you’re site’s doing and get a brainstorming session with me to get on the right path!

Disclosure: Please note that some links on this website are affiliate links, which generates a small amount of revenue to support the free content we provide.

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