Search engine optimization (SEO) is an important way to grow your site’s visitors, and, consequently, your clients or customers. In last week’s overview on SEO, we made the point that SEO is not something your site either has or does not have, and that there are varying degrees of how optimized your website will be at any given point.
Setting realistic expectations can help you stay focused on improving the ranking of your website.
If you’ve already started looking into optimizing your website for search, or perhaps been approached by firms offering their services in this field, then you might have come across some ambitious claims. Often these bold claims of dominating the search engine results and delivering massive amounts of traffic are made by less-than-scrupulous marketers.
So with that in mind, it’s important to know what kind of results you can obtain from SEO and how to set realistic expectations from the work you put in. Knowing what to expect can help you stay focused during the long process of improving your site’s rankings, and also help you avoid falling for any unrealistic marketing claims from SEO agencies.
How to Determine the Results You’re Likely to See from SEO
The type of results you can expect, and how quickly you will see them, will vary from project to project. The main questions to look at include:
- How optimized or search engine friendly your website is already
- How competitive your market is
- The type of optimization you are carrying out, or plan to carry out
What’s the Current State of Your Website?
If you are starting from a blank canvas in terms of SEO, and you’ve done little, if anything, to your website for the purpose of improving its rank in the search engines, then you can work to fix the low-hanging fruit, potentially yielding big results for very little effort.
However, if your site is already doing the on-site SEO basics (here are a few), then you’ll need to start putting more effort into SEO. This could include publishing high quality content on a regular schedule, and then reaching out to other websites in your field to secure promotion opportunities (for example, guest posting).
Is Your Industry Well Represented Online?
Battling your way to the top of the pile for the most competitive keywords—the ones everyone else wants to rank for—will take time. How much time will depend on how much effort other sites in the same industry have been putting into their SEO campaigns, and for how long.
To get an idea of this, take a look at the top results for the keyword or search term you would like to be ranked for—such as “New York architect”—and look at:
- When the sites were started
- How often they publish new content
- How active they are on social media
This can give you an idea of the amount of work you need to do.
There are of course many other SEO factors you won’t be able to see just by looking at the websites of your competitors, but this can give you a good idea of what level of effort they are putting into promoting and growing their sites, and therefore the amount of work you need to do in order to be listed alongside (or above) them.
What’s Your SEO Strategy?
The type of SEO campaign you’re implementing or plan to implement for your site will also have a big effect on how quickly you will see results from SEO.
In simple terms, the two main pillars of SEO are:
- Publishing content related to the keywords or search terms you wish to rank for
- Acquiring links from other websites which point back to your site (backlinks)
The success of your campaign depends on what ratio of the above two factors you employ, and how well you do each of them.
How to Spot Unrealistic Claims
While it’s hard to give general advice on what results are realistic, it’s not so difficult to say which ones are unrealistic.
Anyone offering instant results and guaranteed number-one rankings for your chosen keywords is probably best avoided. Now more than ever, SEO is a long game.
Anyone offering instant results and guaranteed number-one rankings for your chosen keywords is probably best avoided. Now more than ever, SEO is a long game, with results in a few months and real results over months and years. While results can sometimes be obtained more quickly, they are often unsustainable and the methods used can include the use of outlawed tactics such as automated link building. This can have long-term negative repercussions for your site once the initial benefit has worn off.
In general: If the claims made by SEO service providers sound too good to be true, then they probably are.
Unfortunately, it’s not easy to accurately predict what results you can expect from SEO. Whether you carry out the work yourself or hire someone to optimize your website and improve its rankings in the search engines, there is no guarantee that you will achieve your desired results in a particular time frame or for a particular budget.
However, if you regularly publish great content, stay engaged with your existing readers, customers, or clients, and find ways to introduce yourself to others in your industry, we do guarantee that your business will do better than it would have done otherwise. No matter what your specific SEO goals, this is the type of SEO strategy you should be undertaking.
SEO is a long-term and ongoing project that never ends.
By understanding that SEO is a long-term and ongoing project, and that you won’t experience results overnight, you should hopefully be able to maintain the motivation to continue doing what is necessary: creating great content for your target market and sharing it with your peers. In the long term, we guarantee you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the benefits.
Our next SEO article covers using keywords and search terms to increase the visitors to your website. Make sure you don’t miss it: sign up for our weekly email newsletter!