May 31, 2021 5 min read
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If you’re like most modern businesses, you’ve at least flirted with the idea of starting a search engine optimization (SEO) campaign. Perhaps SEO has allowed you to capture a massive stream of inbound traffic and is currently the most successful element of your marketing strategy. Or maybe you’re somewhere in between.
The appeal of SEO is obvious. As you rank higher on search engines, you get more inbound traffic. More inbound traffic leads to more sales. And because SEO is relatively inexpensive, the return on investment (ROI) is often cheap even with just decent campaigns.
That said, there are some major downsides to SEO that you need to consider. In particular, it takes a long time for SEO to develop and show its true results.
So what should you do if you don’t see any results? Should you keep investing, waiting, and hoping for the best? Or do you retire and reduce your losses? And if you have to withdraw, when is the best time to do it?
The SEO Dilemma
This leads us to the central SEO dilemma. For SEO to work long-term, you need to invest in SEO for months – and sometimes years – even though you see little to no results early on. In other words, you need to have faith in the strategy and keep pushing for it to evolve. Given the near universal value of SEO, it’s worth pushing for it.
At the same time, there is no point in settling for a strategy that does not add value to your company. If you had invested in SEO for 10 years with no results, most people would consider this a bad financial move.
Where do you draw the line? When do you want to end it?
Adequate time frames for SEO
Before we can answer this question, we need to set expectations for the schedule of SEO. How long should it take for a “normal” SEO campaign to develop?
This question is difficult to answer because it depends on so many variables. Campaigns can last longer or shorter depending on your budget, industry, quality of the SEO campaign, and other factors. For our purposes, let’s look at a seasoned SEO campaign manager with a midsize company in a competitive (but not ridiculous) industry. In addition, the budget is neither restrictive nor lenient.
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Realistically, you should see some momentum within a few weeks of starting your campaign, and definitely within the first two months. You’ll find your domain authority ticking up (especially if you haven’t done any work on it). You will see a measurable increase in traffic and should crawl the search engine results pages (SERPs) for your target phrases. If you don’t see measurable progress after two months, that’s a bad sign.
After three to six months, you should see a lot more progress. Even in a competitive industry, you should consider yourself a great player. If you still see minimal progress after six months of work, something is wrong.
Alternatives to quitting
Another thing to note: Canceling the SEO campaign is not the only option available to you. If you’ve spent several months optimizing for search engines that don’t have much to show, you can make adjustments to your strategy instead. If you are targeting the wrong keyword phrases or competing on a national rather than local level, there are some strategic changes you can make to get a faster dynamic.
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If you are doing the work entirely in-house or if you are doing the work yourself, consider hiring an expert to handle the campaign. They can help you figure out what you’re doing wrong, fix the problems, and ultimately prepare you for better results.
Variables to consider
If you are wondering whether your SEO strategy is working or if you should stop, be careful not to make impulsive decisions. Instead, consider the variables that could affect this position, such as:
Standing penalties. Violating the Google Terms of Service can result in penalties that are in some cases difficult to resolve.
Quality of the content. Bad content or adherence to questionable practices can affect your dynamism.
Pace of work. Your budget and drive determine how much progress you make. If you only invest what you need, don’t expect quick results.
SEO is a long-term strategy, and for the most part, you shouldn’t let your impatience overwhelm you. The momentum builds up slowly and is often imperceptible at first and gradually reaches incredible heights. However, there are many ways a campaign can go wrong, and continuing a campaign that just doesn’t work is a bad idea. Keep an eye on your campaign and analyze it critically. If after a few months there are no results, you can change them or cut them loose.