Written by Caroline Cox on Mar 2 , 2022

Search engine optimization is a key part of a well-rounded digital marketing program — but most of the time, SEO takes time to show significant results.

Here, you’ll find:

  • Why proper SEO is a long game
  • Ways to manage expectations when it comes to SEO
  • Why SEO is still key for a well-rounded marketing strategy
  • The “quick wins” that may boost your SEO faster

Instagram, Instacart, Instant Pot – we all want things to happen ASAP.

But, as it turns out, “I see it, I like it, I want it, I got it” isn’t exactly a realistic expectation — particularly for search engine optimization (SEO). 

When done right, SEO takes time to build. And any team or agency that tells you differently is probably setting you up for disappointment. 

Here, our Client Success Manager Taylor Wills and Lead Strategist Charlotte Soto break down why, even though proper SEO takes time and often doesn’t bring instant results, it’s still well worth the investment.

People renovating the house concept

Proper SEO is like proper home construction — you need a strong foundation to build on. (Image: Rawpixel)

Starting to invest in SEO

If you’re at the beginning of your journey investing in SEO, chances are your site’s UX and SEO functionalities need to be built. 

Think of it the way a new home is constructed: before the bells and whistles can be added (like doors and a roof), the home’s foundation needs to be sturdy. 

Creating a sturdy foundation is often a multi-step process that includes:

  • Disavowing toxic links
  • Assessing Core Web Vitals and site speed
  • Laying out an SEO strategy
  • Trying to build trust in the eyes of Google

Even if you’ve worked with an SEO agency in the past, it’s still a good idea to have an in-depth competitor insight audit conducted. Before a new agency or team can tackle technical items or content audits, they first have to look “under the hood,” so to speak, to make informed decisions. 

Before things like revamping meta descriptions and title tags, creating content, links, and other tasks, they’ll likely want to see what’s trending for your industry, what competitors are showing for, and understand the alignment of your brand’s target persona. 

All these elements work together to create slow but steady growth. Especially when organic search gets the lion’s share of clicks, the approach has to be well-thought out and represent the brand accurately. 

SEO vs. PPC timelines

When it comes to pay-per-click (also called PPC or paid search) marketing, you can more easily convince Google to surface your ad for certain keywords. You can do this through your ad copy, bidding strategy, and keyword choice. 

With SEO, it’s more of a waiting game — with constantly changing rules. Essentially, with SEO you have to wait for Google to notice that your content is relevant to a certain keyword. With PPC, you can pay to be relevant.

Think of it like a school dance: two people have equal dancing skills. PPC is cutting a rug out on the floor to prove they’ve got talent, while SEO is sitting on the bleachers, waiting to be chosen. 

Pro tip: SEO isn’t just about the elements of your actual website — off-site SEO matters too.

How to manage SEO timetable expectations

Once your agency or in-house team has decided to start an SEO project, it’s key to manage expectations. Experience tells us that it usually takes at least two-to-three months to see any significant progress with SEO. 

The good news: Once you have a strong SEO presence, it’s easier to maintain. Not only that, but it can benefit your overall digital marketing efforts in a huge way. 

These benefits include:

Another way to manage expectations is by having your marketing team assess competitor profiles to see what’s achievable. This process can answer questions like:

  • How much are other companies investing in backlink profiles? 
  • What are their average monthly content outputs? 
  • What’s the history of the domain? 
  • What’s the keyword difficulty of desired terms? 
  • Is your monthly budget realistic to meet your goals?

Need more help improving your SEO? You’ve come to the right place.

African american female empowering other colleagues in workplace

Even if you’re outsourcing the content on your site, it’s important to work with your marketing team to keep the lines of communication open. (Image: Rawpixel)

SEO “quick wins”

There’s no secret trick to skyrocket your content to the first page of Google results. However, there is certain low-hanging fruit that SEO pros can go after right off the bat. 

Things like improving site speed, website experience, and gaining rankings for keywords just out of reach are all examples of immediate short-term gains. It’s possible to see these results within a few months.

It’s also wise to go after local SEO wins. If you’ve got a physical business location, make sure you’ve claimed your Google Business Profile and publish posts on your profile when you can. Google tends to reward companies that use their platforms. 

It can also help to tackle low-competition keywords first before going after those highly sought-after industry terms. This way, Google can start understanding that you’re an authority in your respective space. 

And don’t forget to share your content on social media platforms. There’s a strong correlation between social engagement and organic rankings

Pro tip: Don’t have Schema markup on your site? Implementing it could result in a few fast wins.

Collaboration aids in SEO

Content is collaborative. Even if you’re outsourcing the content on your site, it’s important to work with your marketing team to keep the lines of communication open. 

You know your business best, and marketers know what it takes to get content to perform on the SERP. By working together, you can publish content that speaks to your audience, is high-quality, and that’s primed for maximum search engine success.

The takeaway

No matter how you slice it, SEO takes time to build. It’s a marathon, not a sprint and, as the saying goes, slow and steady wins the race. (The race to the top of the SERP, that is.) 

Create a strong foundation, have realistic expectations, and set up a well-rounded SEO strategy that takes onsite and off-site factors into account. From there, you’ll be ready to see long-term SEO success for months and years to come.

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of reading, yoga, quick vegetarian recipes, and making lists.

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