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Talk with an Advisor

5 min read

How Long Does Great SEO Take?

For SEO professionals, when clients ask how long it will take for their site to get ranked and found in search it is a little like the question ‘how long is a piece of string’. Considerations such as budget have to be taken into account as well as if it’s a new site. There are further things that should be accounted for, but in general, it depends on numerous factors.

However, a client doesn’t want to hear about the nuts and bolts of what needs to be done, they just want to know when they can expect to start seeing results. A good SEO campaign should be up, running and working within around 4-6 months if starting from scratch. If a site has had issues in the past, and has had to recover from a penalty, then this can clearly have an impact, as does the age of the domain and its history and could take longer.

Good SEO does take time. It also improves with time. So your campaigns should show continual improvement, with significantly better rankings and traffic after 12 months than you would see 6 months into the campaign.

With this in mind, let’s have a look at the anatomy of a great SEO campaign and the steps that you should be taking in order to make it a success and satisfy the client.

Month One - Research

The first month is all about research and discovery. You should first carry out a full audit of the site, come up with your keyword strategy and begin to plan your  overall strategy. How long this stage takes will depend on the size of the site and scope of the project.

It should include:

  • Keyword research
  • Competitive analysis
  • Technical requirements
  • Content audit
  • PPC audit (where applicable)

If the client has previously used an SEO firm, then do ask them what they liked and disliked about how the work was carried out. We all know that clients often go for the cheapest on the market if they’re not experienced in web marketing verse, so do also ensure that no spam tactics have been used in campaigns too. If they have, you will need to discover the scope of any damage that may have been done and what needs to be done to remedy it.

Month Two – Technicalities

The second month should have all of the research covered and you should now have a clear direction. As with any strategy, it pays to ensure that it’s written up and documented so that it can be referred to by you and any other relevant staff, as well as the client themselves.

The amount of work necessary will depend on what’s been picked up in the site audit. It may be that it needs a complete overhaul, or it could just need a tidy up. Technical SEO is all about how easy it is for search engines to crawl the site and generally refers to anything non-content related.

You should check:

  • Site structure – which should be logical, clear and simple so that it gets indexed and ranked faster. An XML sitemap should also be created once the structure is in place and submitted via Webmaster Tools.
  • Site performance – a modern site should be fast and accessible to mobile users for best results. Check that all images are correctly sized and responsive and ensure that Gzip compression is used on the server. For a more in-depth look at how to improve site performance, check out this guide.
  • Internal links – internal links ensure that the site is even more crawlable for the search engine so if there are none, make some.
  • Crawl errors – for existing sites you should ensure that all crawl errors are removed by placing 301 redirects etc. where relevant.
  • Content – if the site has thin or duplicate content, then you should remove or rewrite it at this stage so that the site is clean going forward.

Month Three – Content

If the site has little in the way of content, now is the time to make a start on its creation. Again, strategy is important so you should have a clear plan going forward on how content is going to be created, what types of content and who will be writing it.

Whilst content creation can be expensive, it pays to concentrate on quality rather than quantity.

Types of content to consider:

  • Blogging – this should be your mainstay to ensure that regular content is added to the site – at least a blog each week is desirable.
  • Whitepapers – should be created once a quarter or so to offer downloadable, expert, content to site visitors. This will also help to cement the site as one that’s authoritative and build an email marketing list.
  • Case studies – these are an excellent way of showing off what the company can do and how it can help to solve a problem that a prospective customer may have.
  • Infographics – are an excellent way of attracting backlinks and perform well on social media.
  • Video – can no longer be ignored as a marketing medium and should make up a part of your overall strategy. Plan to use both YouTube and Facebook for video where possible to boost engagement.
  • Product information – consider writing up a FAQ section and providing downloadable data sheets with product information on it.
  • Cheat sheets/eBooks – consider also using these to add further downloadable content to the site to help grow the site’s email list.

Month Four – Outreach

You should continue to develop your own content in this month as this will help to attract backlinks if it’s of a high quality. If you’re working on a site that has had problems with toxic links or manuals penalties in the past, then now is the time to ensure that these have all been removed or disallowed.

Now should also be the time when you begin working on building a healthy link profile. With this in mind, start reaching out to other sites in the niche with offers of guest posts and infographics. Remember, you ideally want to gain links from other, authoritative sites and these should be a mixture of dofollow and nofollow links in order for it to appear natural.

Guest posting has become a little more difficult since it was banned for SEO. So don’t push for a link where none are offered and don’t attempt to sneak links into the body of any posts that you do prepare. If you do then it’s likely that your post will just be rejected outright.

Month Five – Get Social

You should have your social accounts already set up ideally, but if not then now is the time to do so. Make sure that branding remains consistent in terms of logos, colours used and tone of voice. You should have a document prepared already for tone and brand personality, which can be distributed amongst the content creators and social media managers to ensure continuity.

By this time, you should have enough content to feed your social accounts and you should use as many social platforms as you can – depending on the type of business and where your audience spends time.

Social really helps to amplify content and should make up a part of your overall digital marketing plan. Modern web marketing does require a more holistic approach these days, and it’s not a good idea to concentrate solely on SEO to get found anymore.

Month Six – Optimise

By now, you should be seeing some results and have traffic that’s measurable and bears analysis. Now is the time to begin tweaking your campaign to further boost traffic. Delve into your analytics and look at where your traffic is coming from, what content your audience is engaging with and how leads are coming in.

You can then fine-tune content to further boost traffic and pay further attention to what’s coming in from social and outreach activity. This will vary from site to site and will depend on your audience and the industry. You may find, for example, that a guest post on a certain site hasn’t given you a backlink, but has sent a nice amount of traffic your way. If this was the case, then going forward you would need to understand that specific audience and what they are doing when they arrive on the site.

Rinse and Repeat

SEO can be time consuming, when carried out correctly, but it’s not worth cutting corners. Spam tactics are now easily spotted by Google and as such, black hat (or even grey hat) SEO should always be avoided. As discussed, to a large extent now it’s necessary to look at SEO and other marketing activities holistically, as a whole, in order to get the best results.

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