In the old days of the Internet, when content marketing was still in its infancy, keywords rule the digital world. The math was simple: all you had to do if you wanted to rank high in search engine results was to pick a few keywords and repeat them a bunch of times throughout your content.
It was simple, it was effective, and it was turning the Internet into a chaotic place.
Nowadays, things have changed dramatically. Sure, choosing the right keywords for your website is still an important part of SEO, but an effective strategy focuses on other components too. Since the Hummingbird algorithm update and the rise of Google RankBrain, the search engine has become better at interpreting content than ever before. As a result, it doesn’t need keywords as much as it used to understand the content of a page. Instead, it uses latent semantic analysis to determine the relationship between terms and concepts.
But, that’s a discussion for another article.
Here’s the thing: yes, keywords have lost their crown and SEO is becoming increasingly difficult by the day. But, your business can’t live without it in this overly connected world. So, if you’re a small business just embarking on this journey, you’re probably wondering how long it takes to figure out if our strategy is effective or not.
Here are the primary factors that influence your site’s ranking and an estimated timeline.
Your Website’s Age
Google can tell a lot about your business just by looking at your domain name. Don’t make the mistake of believing that if you include keywords in your domain name, then your ranking will automatically skyrocket. Sure, it helps, but that’s not a silver bullet strategy.
Instead, Google looks at how old your domain name is. You see, just as in real life, relationships between Internet users and websites revolve around trust. A website with domain authority – meaning that you have other high authority sites pointing to your site and a growing audience that reads and shares your content – is perceived by Google as a trustworthy entity.
If you’ve just launched your site, focus on creating quality content that is relevant and valuable. You can also try to build relationships with influencers in your niche and pitch them a guest post. That way, you can get quality backlinks pointing to your site.
We’ve talked about how keywords are losing their importance, but here’s the thing: search engines still need them. Just think about the last time you searched for something on Google. You probably typed something like “falafel recipe” in the search bar. Well, that’s a keyword.
The trick, however, is to focus on creating quality content rather than pushing your keywords throughout your article. Use them in the headline, once in the first paragraph, and a couple of times in the body. Make sure to optimize your meta and title description as well as your ALT tags. Also don’t focus too much on specific keywords since users usually use long tail search terms.
The Quality of Your Content
We’ve talked about the importance of quality content so much throughout this article, that you’ve probably got the idea by now: content is the king.
At the end of 2015, Google released its Search Quality Rater’s Guidelines in full. It contained 160 pages of pure SEO gold.
In addition to mobile, much of the focus was on trust and reputation, making it clear that the highest ranking websites are those that deliver trustworthy information to users. That wasn’t a surprise for most SEO professionals: Google has been saying this for years. Quality content is the way to your audience’s heart.
So, take a look at your content and ask yourself: is it truly helping my readers in any way? Am I just rehashing what others have said numerous times before me or am I adding any real value? Is my content helping my audience solve a problem or fulfill a need?
It can be hard to be 100% objective, so it wouldn’t be a bad idea to get some specialized help.
What to Expect in the First Months?
Now that you have a list of the most important factors that can impact your SEO strategy, it’s time to get to work. In the first couple of months, you will probably focus on refreshing your content or creating new articles that are optimized for SEO.
Don’t expect to see any changes in your lead generation or sales rates. Remember, this is just the beginning of the process when you’re oiling the machine before you can turn it into a conversion beast.
Three or Four Months down the Line
You should see noticeable improvements after the first three or four months. Your traffic numbers have probably gotten up, you’re starting to generate more qualified leads, and the sales needle is moving as well.
Don’t expect massive changes overnight, though. At this stage of the process, the improvements aren’t very impressive. Don’t get disappointed; stay focused and keep on working. Monitor your results and adapt your strategy accordingly. One year down the line, you should probably see a significant improvement.
As we’ve said it before, SEO is a long and complex process that takes time to see results. You need to be patient, focused and committed.
When to Start Worrying
The problem with SEO is that it’s constantly changing. Just when you were getting used with an algorithm update, a new one comes, damaging most of your progress. At times, SEO can feel like a Sisyphean task: you roll a massive boulder up a hill only to see it come back and hit you as Google tweaks and changes its algorithm.
But, if after six months you don’t see any noticeable improvement, then it’s time to change your strategy. Keep in mind that what worked for others won’t necessarily work for you too, so don’t just mimic what your competitors are doing. Try to identify the factors that are unique to your company and find the best ways to address them in your strategy.
SEO is a long-term strategy and one that is difficult to predict, nonetheless. Although Google has offered a few glimpses inside its algorithm, it’s very secretive about how it decides which sites to rank high. All that’s left to do is: optimize, keep your eyes open, tweak, and optimize again.