Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is on every tongue across the world wide web. Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation and vagueness surrounding SEO. If you’ve been wondering about SEO and asking yourself, how long it takes to work... Look no further! We’ll go into detail about what SEO is, how long it takes, and how you can set your website up for SEO success. Let’s go!
What Is SEO?
A solid SEO strategy should increase the amount of organic traffic (meaning not direct, and not paid placement) to your site. But if you’re wondering how much time it takes to start succeeding with SEO, it’s important to first delve into what it is.
To put it simply, SEO is the process of ensuring your website has a good ranking on search engines such as Google and Bing. It also applies to all manner of searches, whether that’s video, news, images, scholastic, mobile, desktop, or industry-based searches.
Practically, SEO involves looking at how search engines work, what algorithms they use to come up with their results, what keywords are most popular and creating content based on that information.
To help rank pages, search engines send what are called “crawlers” through websites to determine viability based on certain criteria. These algorithms typically determine your site’s relevancy, and how far up the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) to place you.
At first glance, this may seem sound be a long and research-heavy process, but the effort to create SEO content is often worth it. After all, having a quality SEO strategy can lead to an increase in traffic to your site, as well as a spike in your conversion rates.
When Does SEO Pay Off?
Now that we’ve discussed what SEO is, we can get back to discussing how long it takes before SEO starts to work. And, well, it’s complicated.
The easy answer? Well, the more effort that you put into your SEO strategy, the faster it is likely to work for you. Still, the complex answer is that the more competitive your subject matter, the longer it may take to yield results, from months to even a year or more.
To understand how quickly SEO will work, let’s take a closer look at the most popular search engine, Google. Now, Google updates its algorithms pretty frequently, which means what qualifies as “good SEO” changes. Fortunately, they have a handy SEO guide to help us determine what they’re looking for.
In the guide, they first take us through how to help Google find our content. Then, they detail how to ensure select pages aren’t crawled, how to manage our site hierarchy, how to manage the appearance of our results, and the best ways to optimize images. Most importantly, this guide shows how to create content that Google wants.
Let’s take a moment to focus on that. The content you produce will have a direct impact on how long it takes for SEO to pay off. Tailor your content for Google (or whatever search engine you want), and SEO will work much more effectively.
The most important aspect of SEO according to Google? Genuinely interesting and useful content. If you’re coming up with high-quality stuff, visitors and Google will be better pleased with your website as a whole.
That being said, there are other steps you can take to better ensure that your SEO strategy works quickly and effectively. In particular, that includes doing a website audit, using smart keywords, and linking.
Do An SEO Audit
Many of us hear the word “audit” and may automatically panic. It just sounds painful, but it doesn’t need to be. Indeed, doing an SEO audit of your website can be done quickly, and is a smart place to start upping your SEO game.
Again, if you’re wondering how quickly SEO works, this is a good indicator of how far you have to go. This audit is just a process of determining where your current SEO efforts stand.
A popular place to begin is with crawling software designed to do the audit for you. These include audit tools like Ahrefs, SEMrush, Google Search Console, Moz Pro, and many more. Unfortunately, while they will do the bulk of the work for you, there is usually a fee attached.
If you do this manually, you’ll have to go through every single page of your website to look for content that’s poor quality, has a low word count, a lack of links, or too many redirects. These all factor into a potential lowered ranking on search engines and may need to be addressed.
Next, you may want to check and see which of your web pages are getting the most clicks on your search engine of choice. For example, consider looking up your full URL to see which pages are the highest up on the list.
These pages are your most successful and could show you what you’re doing right. You can then use this information to optimize your lesser-ranked pages accordingly to improve your SEO strategy.
After this, it’s a good idea to see how navigable your site is on the whole. Is it easy for guests to get to where they want to go? How well laid out is your Information Architecture (IA)? Does your site have duplicate or overlapping content?
One of the last steps you may take for a basic audit is organizing your meta tags. These are the bits of information that you provide to SERPs about your website, including page title, URL, and the subsequent description.
To maximize the impact of your meta tags and help your SEO get to work, use keywords where appropriate within the title and description without stuffing them in everywhere. Remember, you’ll only have 50-60 characters displayed, so keep your titles short and sweet. The same goes for your description, though you’ll have 155-160 characters.
With all that in mind, you might have to do an audit periodically, potentially at least twice a year. Remember, SEO standards are constantly changing, so an audit could make sure that you’re not employing outdated techniques, like keyword stuffing, or using micro sites to boost your traffic.
Use The Right Keywords And Long Tail Phrases
Once you’ve completed your audit, it’s time to take a closer look at keywords. Once upon a time, you just needed a handful of individual keywords to hit SEO gold.
Unfortunately, this tactic no longer works since search engines have drastically improved their comprehension of search phrases as a whole. While “Flights from Monaco to Texas” is quite different from “Flights from Texas to Monaco,” search engines used to not be able to distinguish the difference. Now they can!
So, to stay ahead for keywords, you’ll likely want to start considering keyphrases, or long-tail search phrases. Essentially, this just means instead of having a single keyword, you'd use a more complex and specific phrase.
In general, people use search engines to answer questions and incorporating these questions and other queries into your content will likely get better results than a single keyword.
The keywords and long-tail keyphrases you feature throughout your website and in your meta tags can have a significant impact on how quickly your SEO pays off. With that in mind, one easy way to make SEO work quickly and get some relevant keyphrases is by typing in a keyword into a search engine. Doing so will produce a list of suggested searches that you can then leverage for your website.
Of course, a keyword tool, like keywordtool.io or Google Keyword Planner, is a great resource to see what keywords and phrases are being widely utilized in your industry. They’ll analyze you, and tell you which ones are being used, and how popular certain phrases are.
However, it’s important not to forget that SEO means much more than finding the right keyphrases and putting them into our products a specific number of times. Instead, we need to remind ourselves that search queries are typically questions that seek an answer.
Your key phrases are just the start. Creating genuinely useful content is just as, if not more, important than unlocking the “correct” keyphrase.
Even so, your keyword research could guide the content that you create. Through it, you’ll get to see what people are asking and what they’re looking for in your industry. You can then take that on board to design content around those insights.
That means including key phrases where it’s applicable but making sure you’re addressing the search query itself at the same time.
This may seem counter intuitive. After all, the keywords used to be the lifeblood of SEO. Only just a little while ago, if you wanted your SEO efforts to take off, you’d spend time researching keywords, and then stuff in as many variations as you could into your content.
With updates like Google’s BERT, which is short for Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers (what a mouthful!), search engines are now very aware of when content is useful, and when it’s just a bunch of keywords made to look useful.
These algorithm updates, which we’ve discussed, were conceived to make searching, well, smarter. They understand prepositions now but also can tell what content on the web is good quality, and what isn’t.
Don’t just throw your keywords and phrases out the window just yet, though. Instead, ensure that these are incorporated into your text naturally. For example, if you’re in the shoe business, your key phrases are probably going to revolve around footwear.
You won’t stop using the word “shoe” for fear that Google will punish you. If you’re writing a blog post about the top ten best black sneakers of 2020, it’s still prudent to include that phrase in your content (and not just the title) somewhere.
Nevertheless, try to avoid stuffing in a handful of other key phrases at the same time in the hope of reaching a wider range of search queries. Ultimately, the more specific your content, frequently the more likely you are to outsmart your competition.
Specific, useful content and key phrases may then have a direct impact on how quickly your SEO efforts pay off!
Link, Link, Link
To link or not to link? That is the question!
The answer, of course, is to link. However, not all links are made equal, and some can be more helpful to your SEO efforts than others.
If you want your SEO to be valuable quickly, then you’ll need two things: quality backlinks, and (perhaps even more important) quality inbound links.
Let’s begin by looking at what inbound links are, and how they can boost where your site lands on SERPs. One algorithm that Google considers when ranking a website is how many reputable websites link back to your pages.
It’s important to notice the emphasis here on reputable websites. Let’s say you pay for 50 spam sites to link back to your pages to try and seem like you’re an expert in your field without putting in the actual work.
To be blunt, Google frowns on this rather sternly. If too many unreputable websites link to your content, your site may even be pushed further down the ranks and lost to obscurity.
Again, not to belabor the point, but Google and other search engines prioritize quality content that serves a purpose. If they notice a sudden and dramatic increase in inbound links, they might become suspicious and penalize you for artificially trying to inflate your numbers.
"But Harrison," you may ask, "how can I get others to link back to my content?"
Fortunately, there are a few techniques that you could pursue.
As a start, you can produce content that others want to link to. Above all, high-grade pieces will find natural, organic traffic as well as organic inbound links. This is a key aspect of building an online digital presence, after all.
However, this does take a while to happen. We all want success, and we want it yesterday. So, to speed up the process, what you can do is write pieces or collaborate with other websites. Often, this gives you an avenue to link back to your content, whether in your bio or the content you make itself.
Furthermore, you could create useful content that is bound to attract attention, but also shares and inbound links. This could be any number of things, including free content (think a good webinar on your specialty topic), resource lists for others, or free tools or templates for people to use.
Likewise, it can also be beneficial to establish relationships with others in your niche, or with those who might want your services. Doing so increases your chances of getting more inbound links by attracting traffic.
When you comment on other blogs or social media posts, you may find that engagement extended back to you in return. This is known as social selling and is one effective method of boosting both your traffic and your SERP placement.
Now, let’s take a look at backlinks. To put it concisely, they are links from one website to another.
Search engines typically like seeing backlinks, as long as, again, those links are to quality sources. Linking to spammy material will only make your website appear like spam itself.
Quality backlinking goes hand in hand with creating valuable content (which we’ll discuss next). Namely, when a search engine such as Google sees that your website links to high-quality websites, whether to back up a statistic or to link out to a review, Google recognizes that your site is creating reliable content.
When choosing your links, ask yourself if this website is reputable, if they are an industry expert or leader, and how it relates to your niche. If you can come up with positive answers for all of these, your backlink is likely going to boost your SEO efforts!
If your website is light both on backlinks and inbound links, your SEO may suffer. Your boost in traffic won’t be quick, or might not come at all. This step is worth the effort, and can simultaneously improve your social selling, as well as start the road to establishing yourself as an industry expert.
Create Valuable Content
Now, we’ve established all these tips and tricks to improving your SEO and seeing it pay off. Yet, the best thing you can do for your site’s standing is to produce high-quality content.
In the past, many of us thought that we had to churn out as much content as we could, as quickly as we could write it or hire it. We wouldn’t worry if it was necessarily good but were often more concerned with how fast we could get it out into the ether.
If we take those same old techniques and use them today, we can kiss our rankings goodbye. Google has repeatedly and emphatically stated that the best approach to improve our standing on SERPs is to create quality content that is optimized for accessibility.
With updates like BERT hitting many websites hard this year, you can stay ahead of the curve by making content that people are genuinely looking for and need.
BERT means that search queries are now processed as a whole, rather than just word-by-word. This is good for all of us, even if it means we need to produce new content.
In the past, if Sharon wanted an enchilada recipe that wasn’t too hot, Google might not have been able to understand that nuance. Instead, poor Sharon might have ended up with a recipe that scalded her poor tongue, and then blamed the recipe.
Now, when Sharon makes that search query, Google will know that they want a mild enchilada recipe, not Bob’s Extra Spicy, Burn-Your-Esophagus Enchiladas. While Bob may not get Sharon’s click, he also isn’t going to get a bad review that could negatively impact his SERP standing.
This is also an opportunity to create niche content. Most of us have to face competition here on the Internet. That’s the nature of the business, after all. However, this is just an opportunity to branch out your content.
For instance, if you run a dog grooming business, you might decide to start a blog about dog grooming. But your competition may have the same thing and write tips and tricks for grooming.
Your first step is to make content that blows theirs out of the water, whether that’s blog posts with video demonstrations or something of the like. The next step? Expanding what you write about. Instead of focusing solely on grooming tips, you could write about pet care in general, from different ways pet owners can remove even set-in stains, to different activities to do with your pooch in each season.
Beyond everything, the wider your net, the more fish you will catch. However, it’s still wise to try and ensure that each piece is top-notch, and that individual posts are sufficiently focused. Your keyword research can be a great guide as to what you could start writing about.
Many of these keyword tools will give you similar searches, and you can even specify your region (which may be important if you have a physical business). You can use these queries to see what your customer base might be searching for and branch out from there.
So, now that you have your excellent content, written, published, getting shared, you can sit back and relax, waiting for your SEO to pay off with an increase in traffic, right?
Nope! Once you have some good stuff written, you may then have to ensure that it stays up-to-date. If you have articles from three years prior that discuss how to optimize your site for search engines, then you have content that could benefit from an update.
If your site includes old or inaccurate information, even if it was good when it was published, you might be penalized, and receive a drop on SERPs.
It is a cycle. While you don’t need to update every article each week, it may need to happen regularly. That could mean checking content during your semi-annual website SEO audit or skimming through older articles once a month to ensure they have the most reliable information available.
Now, updating old content won’t necessarily mean you get a boost. When you publish an article, it’s more likely to receive a better rating than one that you’ve had on your site for years.
However, it might also mean that your website won’t be punished and penalized for having content that’s out of date. I think we can all agree that maintaining our rankings is a whole lot better than dropping.
Of course, having fresh content published, so long as that content is high-grade, actually can boost your SEO efforts.
SEO doesn’t need to be a challenge to overcome, but a tool we use to help our websites succeed. Remember, do your research, get the right keywords, use credible links, and create genuinely helpful content. With work and commitment, you may just see your conversions increase!
April 28, 2021
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