You can tell SEO is working if your organic traffic growth and click-through rate (CTR) are on the upswing. Read on to learn how experts hit these strides.
Here you’ll learn:
- How to tell if your SEO is working (and what to do about it)
- How long it takes for SEO to work
- 8 SEO tools to boost results
- When to bring in an SEO agency
As a digital marketer, you gotta love SEO. From quality content to backlinking strategy, good SEO will get your pages ranking and your click-through rate (CTR) skyrocketing.
But it’s certainly not easy. How do you know if your SEO is even working, or if it’s as good as it could be?
Strategic SEO can catapult your site to the very top of the search engine results page (SERP). Because of that, it’s a must for a well-rounded digital marketing strategy.
To help us break it all down, we spoke with expert (and HawkSEM SEO Manager) Hayden Pochop to get the skinny on what makes your SEO stand out.
There are a lot of metrics and data to sift through, but here’s a quick rundown of what to look for to see if your SEO is working:
- CTR, conversion rates, and bounce rates
- Dwell time
- Page indexation
- Keyword rankings
- Organic traffic growth
- Return on investment (ROI)
Let’s dig in.
How to tell if SEO is working: Signs to look for
If you’re not already a seasoned SEO pro, managing this digital marketing strategy can be pretty daunting. To put you at ease, let’s dive into all the key indicators and methods to help you assess whether or not your SEO is delivering results.
All the “rates”
Some key metrics to pay attention to include your CTR, conversion rates, and bounce rates. Keep in mind that these will look wildly different in month three than they might at month 12, but we’ll get into that later.
Google Search Console provides data on CTR for specific queries. An improvement in CTR suggests that your titles and meta descriptions are compelling and attracting coveted clicks.
Of course, the goal of SEO is not just to drive traffic, but to convert visitors into customers (or leads). Monitor your website’s conversion rate and check if it’s improving over time.
When users leave your site after viewing just one page, this affects your bounce rate. A high bounce rate can indicate that your content or landing pages aren’t meeting user expectations.
Technical SEO is one of the main pillars of search engine optimization, and those tedious technical pieces can make a big difference in results.
As Pochop explains, search engines prioritize websites that focus on providing the best user experience to their audience. “Focus on having a mobile-friendly website that’s fast, responsive, interactive, and stable,” he says.
One of the best things you can do for your technical SEO is to regularly conduct technical SEO audits. This will help identify and fix issues like broken links, duplicate content, and site speed problems.
Along with an audit, pay attention to things like dwell time, mobile-friendliness, and ensure that your pages are properly indexed.
Without your technical SEO on lock, search engines can’t properly crawl your site or understand its content. If Google can’t understand your content, it’s not going to show up where you’d like it to on the SERP.
Organic traffic growth is a biggie in the SEO world. You can monitor your site’s organic search traffic in tools like Google Analytics to look for sustained increases over time. While fluctuations are normal, a consistent upward trend is a great sign.
Don’t forget to E-E-A-T.
“The acronym E-E-A-T stands for Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness,” Pochop says. “As part of Google’s Search Quality Rater Guidelines, E-E-A-T essentially measures the expertise of all content creators, including your site. Using the E-E-A-T guidelines for your content will help ensure that your website is seen as a more reliable, respected source to users.”
Another thing to keep your eye on is keyword rankings. You can use tools like Google Search Console, Semrush, Ahrefs, or Moz to monitor the rankings of your target keywords (more on these tools later). Positive movement on the SERPs is a good sign.
This brings us to another pillar of SEO: content. It’s vital to assess how users interact with your content to understand how they might search for it. Look at metrics like time on page, social shares, and comments to gauge the quality and relevance of your content.
Bonus: If you have a physical presence or serve in a specific area, be sure to monitor your local SEO metrics, too. This includes things such as local search rankings and Google My Business performance.
Pro Tip: Quality content is a game-changer in SEO – and “quality” means far more than just what’s written on the page. Pochop posits that “the overall presentation of your website, including layout, navigation, and images, all play a role in what’s considered quality. Be sure to look at your website from a holistic perspective.”
Don’t forget the bottom line
Ultimately, your SEO efforts should contribute to your business’s bottom line. Calculate the ROI of your SEO campaigns by measuring the revenue generated from organic traffic compared to your investment.
Tracking these metrics regularly and setting benchmarks to measure progress will put you well on your way to SERP stardom. And, always keep in mind that SEO is a long-term strategy – results may not be immediate, but you’ll get there.
After all, as Pochop emphasizes, “SEO is a foundational part of digital marketing that takes time.. Website traffic fluctuates, and conversions ebb and flow. Be sure to celebrate upward trends in data (specifically conversions), and continually reassess your SEO goals so that those upward trends continue.”
How long does it take for SEO to work?
You’ll likely start to see some progress within the first three months, but true SEO success takes as much as nine to 12 months to show steady growth and long-term gains.
With that in mind, here’s a general timeline of how long it takes for your SEO efforts to really take off:
1-3 months: Initial changes
After you’ve made initial SEO optimizations, such as on-page SEO improvements, technical fixes, and content enhancements, it can take a few weeks to a couple of months to see the first signs of progress.
During this time, search engines like Google will be crawling and indexing your updated content (and making adjustments to their rankings).
3-6 months: Moderate improvement
In the following few months, you may start to see more noticeable improvements in your organic search traffic and rankings for certain keywords. This is still considered to be the early stages of SEO, since, say it with me, SEO is a long game.
6-12 months: Steady growth
By the six-month mark, if you’ve been consistently implementing effective SEO strategies, you should see more consistent and significant growth in organic traffic and website ranks. This growth can vary widely depending on your niche and the level of competition.
12+ months: Long-term success
SEO is a long-term strategy, and substantial success often takes a year or more to achieve, especially for competitive industries. Over time, your website’s authority and trust with search engines will increase, resulting in improved rankings and traffic.
How often should I update my SEO?
As you probably know, SEO is not a one-time task. In our experience, the best SEO plans are constantly being acted on and improved. (Sound like a big undertaking? That’s where partnering with an agency comes in handy.)
Proactive SEO monitoring is key to online success, and your timeline for seeing results can be affected by the following factors:
- Keyword competition: Highly competitive keywords may take longer to rank for than less competitive ones. Generic keywords are often oversaturated on SERPs. Pochop recommends targeting long-tail keywords to give you an opportunity to reach more qualified users, since they’re searching for a more specific topic, adding, “There have also been cases where targeting long-tail keywords has resulted in a rapid increase in search engine rankings.”
- Content quality: High-quality, valuable content tends to perform better in search results, but it may take time to create and optimize.
- Backlink building: Building authoritative backlinks to your site is essential for SEO success. Acquiring these links can be a gradual process.
- Technical issues: If your website has significant technical issues or penalties from search engines, it may take longer to recover and see improvements.
Is your SEO working? Here are 8 SEO tools to help
Because SEO takes a while to kick in and start producing results, you’ll want to have some monitoring tools in your corner to help along the way. There are tons of options out there when it comes to SEO tools, but here are some of our favorites:
Google Analytics provides in-depth insights into your website’s traffic, user behavior, and conversions. You can track organic search traffic, monitor bounce rates, and assess the performance of specific landing pages.
Google Search Console
This is a great tool if you prioritize Google as a search engine of choice, as it helps you track your website’s performance in Google’s search results. You can glean data on the right keywords, indexing issues, and click-through rates (CTR) for specific queries.
Ahrefs is a comprehensive SEO tool that offers features like backlink analysis, keyword research, site audit, and rank tracking. It helps you assess your website’s authority and visibility.
Semrush is another all-in-one SEO tool that provides keyword tracking, competitive analysis, site auditing, and more. This one is especially useful for monitoring your site’s performance and identifying areas for improvement.
Moz offers tools like Moz Pro and Moz Local to help with your SEO efforts. You can track keyword rankings, crawl your site for technical issues, and perform competitive research.
This is a desktop-based tool that crawls your website and identifies technical SEO issues. (Think: broken links, duplicate content, and missing meta tags.) Remember, a healthy site structure makes for healthy SEO.
SpyFu focuses on competitive research, allowing you to see which keywords your competitors are ranking for and how much they’re spending on advertising. This is awesome information to have, as it can help you refine your SEO strategy.
Rank Ranger provides rank tracking, on-page SEO analysis, and comprehensive reporting. It allows you to track your keyword rankings over time and measure the impact of your SEO efforts.
It’s important to note here that no single tool can provide all the answers. Using a combination of these platforms can give you a more accurate picture of your SEO performance, and let you know where you might improve. Regularly monitoring your website’s metrics and making adjustments based on the data is key to achieving long-term SEO success.
When is it time to bring in an SEO agency?
From monitoring key metrics to writing web pages and metadata, there are a lot of moving parts. But when is it time to bring in some outside help?
Deciding when to bring in an SEO agency depends on your specific circumstances and needs. Here are some situations in which it may be a good time to consider hiring an SEO agency:
Limited in-house expertise
Without in-house SEO expertise, it can be challenging to effectively implement and manage SEO strategies. An agency can help fill that gap.
If you and your team are already stretched thin with other responsibilities, bringing in an agency can free up time to focus on core business activities while experts handle your SEO efforts.
Complexity of the project
For larger websites and more complex SEO projects (such as ecommerce sites with thousands of product pages), an agency offers resources and tools to navigate complexities more effectively.
Stagnating (or declining) traffic
Is your organic traffic stagnant or declining despite your best efforts? It may be time to bring in experts who can identify and address underlying issues.
Local SEO needs
If your business relies heavily on local customers, a specialized local SEO agency can help optimize your online presence for local search.
In the event that your website has been penalized by search engines due to guideline violations, an agency can assist with recovery – including identifying and rectifying any issues that led to the penalty.
In highly competitive industries, SEO requires constant attention and optimization. Agencies often have the tools and resources to compete effectively in challenging niches.
If you’re expanding your business internationally or targeting multiple regions, an agency can help you with international SEO strategies and localization efforts.
If content marketing is a significant component of your SEO strategy and you need help with new content creation, optimization, and promotion, an SEO company can provide valuable support.
Agencies can tailor SEO strategies to your specific goals and needs, ensuring that you get a personalized approach rather than a one-size-fits-all solution. At HawSEM, we provide SEO services (and more) with the help of our proprietary marketing technology, ConversionIQ.
Google algorithm changes
Be aware of major Google algorithm updates that may impact your rankings. Sudden drops in rankings or traffic could be a sign of algorithmic changes.
Ultimately, the decision to hire an SEO agency should be based on your business’s specific needs and resources. If you believe that expert help is required to achieve your SEO goals and improve your online visibility, it may be the right time to bring in an agency.
When done right, your SEO efforts can rocket you to the first page (or even the first spot) of search engine results. While it’s a lot to take on, there’s always help out there, should you need it.
Thinking of partnering with an SEO agency? Send us a message (or just say hi!) and we’ll get your SEO in tip-top shape.