What to Expect from SEO: a Realistic Performance Timeline
When you invest in search engine optimization (SEO), you want to see results. However, unrealistic expectations of what those results look like and when you may see them can lead you to prematurely pull the plug on your online marketing budget—to the detriment of your website and business.
In order to give your optimized website time to gain traction and give you peace of mind that your marketing dollars are well-spent, you need to have realistic expectations and timeline.
When to Expect SEO Results—The Short Answer
The answer to “When will I see results from my SEO efforts?” is very difficult to answer. There are many factors at play (including what you mean by “results,” which we’ll discuss below), but just to give you a ballpark figure: for a brand-new website or a website that is being completely reengineered, redesigned and rewritten (in other words, only the URL stays the same), SEO results will take at least six months, probably closer to one year.
If you had the misfortune of working with a previous SEO company that promised results faster, you may already have discovered the cost—being penalized by the search engines. If that’s the case, your SEO efforts may take even longer as recovery from penalty is a long, long road to the top of the search engine results pages (SERPs).
What Results You Should Expect
The “results” that most people want to see is top organic rankings…and that’s the type of performance that will take months to see. As we mentioned before, there are a lot of factors affecting organic search rankings. Here’s what takes time:
- Search engine indexing
When your new/reengineered site goes live, search engines have to index every element on every page. While the process begins immediately, it takes time…more time if your site is poorly interlinked and/or has no quality external links leading to it.
No search engine is forthcoming about with how and when exactly pages and sites are indexed. You simply have to keep checking your analytics for signs. Which leads us to the next point…
- Monitoring and analysis
Nothing about SEO is “set it and forget it.” You need to constantly monitor your site to look for:
- Spammy links – links that do not benefit your website
- User trends at the page level—e.g., time on page, bounce rate for each page, etc. (this can help identify topics and keywords that are more/less effective for your target audience)
- Global traffic trends—e.g., time of day/week/month/year when your site and pages get the most unique viewers
Of course, your website isn’t the only site you need to keep your eye on. You need to be aware of what your competition is doing, too.
- SEO adjustment
You need to do something with your analytics data—post new content, beta test different landing page layouts and images, tweak metadata, etc. Every time you make changes, search engines have to re-index the page, so there may be a delay before you see notable changes in traffic patterns and page performance.
These factors do not include the “red tape” that can often get in the way of SEO performance. When several members of your team must review and/or approve changes, or the main point of contact for your company’s website is notoriously hard to reach, results can be even slower because your SEO company (that’s us) cannot implement many types of changes without your expressed approval.
Short-Term Results and Timelines
Yes, it may be a (long) while before you see “www.MYCOMPANY.com” at the top of organic search results, but there are short-term results you can look for to reassure you that your website is making upward progress.
Depending on the state of your site before (re) launch, you may see immediate results like:
- Spam links removed from your site
- 404 (page not found) errors eliminated
- 301 (page redirects) correctly implemented
- Broken links fixed
- Page download times reduced
These punch list items do not cause major traffic spikes, but they are all ranking factors that together may significantly affect how search engines rank your site.