Guest blog from B² Interactive
Creating and implementing an SEO plan that works for your business takes time, as does seeing the success of that plan. While businesses might hope for instant results—like being found in the top spot on the first search engine result page only days after launching a new website—the reality is that good SEO can take anywhere from a few months to a year to yield positive results (Learn more about SEO timelines and expectations from Google here).
Before you launch any online initiative, it’s important to set goals for future points, specifically the three-month, six-month, and one-year marks. Setting goals for these points provides you with wins to aim for as you execute throughout each term. That way, if you miss a targeted goal, you either reset expectations (if you overshot realistic results) or discover areas where you can make improvements.
Goals can also keep you from becoming impatient. After all, SEO is a long game marked by many small wins over a period of time, so knowing what to expect at Day 90 keeps you from expecting to have reached Day 180 goals before it’s realistic to hit that mark.
Fifteen minutes a day can go a long way. Pay attention, execute on your plan, and don’t let SEO overtake your business. Give it enough time to make sure you hit your goals, but SEO isn’t what your business is about. Staying focused on what your business does is just as helpful in gaining rank.
Being known as the best in your market through other people’s comments and recommendations can move you up in search engine rank as much as other efforts. Look at an SEO monitoring tool that you can understand and track your progress. Be sure to set up Google Search Console and pay attention to its messages about potential issues.
The Three-Month Mark
At the 90-day mark, you should expect that search engines will have had a chance to fully index your website. They’ve read your content and sized it up against your competition. From here, they have determined where your website should rightfully fall in search results for search queries important to your business.
Now, you should see some stability in your traffic where you can start to identify early trends that show when your website is most used, by who, and where they’re finding you. This is mostly anecdotal evidence of the results of your efforts, as typically your tactics haven’t had a chance to mature at this point. If you’re holding steady or seeing small increases in traffic, then your SEO plan is likely on track.
If your traffic is on a downward trend, now is the time to panic. First, the problem could be a small error in setup, so check that your Google Analytics tracking code was properly installed on your website. If Google Analytics is installed and tracking properly, make micro-adjustments to your strategy.
Rarely do we look at major shifts in strategy this early. Look at small things you can control right now to improve rank. Did you fill out metadata for every page? Are pages loading too slowly? Is your sitemap configured properly? Did you accidentally block search engine bots from visiting pages on your website? Are there broken links? Even the smallest SEO or web design issue can make a difference.
As you can see, there are many on-site SEO “levers” you can pull to impact rank. The majority of your opportunities fall on your website with technical and specific settings. There’s little you can do that is more important than adding great content relevant to your business. Talk about what makes you and your business great without exaggerating. If you embellish your story, both consumers and search engines will see through this. Be genuine and cover everything you can that you would tell a consumer if you had the chance to sit with them for an hour to explain why they should choose your business.
Whatever the reason, it’s important to remember when working to improve organic ranking that the times Google makes an error in ranking are so few and far between that you need to accept failures throughout as something you aren’t doing right. Or if you inherited an existing website, it might be something someone didn’t do properly before you began your work.
The Six-Month Mark
After 180 days, you should see measurable growth in traffic and overall search volume. Don’t expect your trend line to be at a 45-degree angle or more. Look for consistent growth and regular trends week over week, month over month. Account for seasonality that matches what you see with your customers already. If you’re much slower in April and May, and those months happen to be months five and six, then a decrease in traffic might be completely normal. Finding these trends can help your business in other ways, too, like knowing when you’ll be busy and slow so you staff properly.
If numbers are up and continuing to rise, then your SEO plan is likely paying off. Make sure to keep up with the day-to-day and month-to-month SEO work you determined in your plan. The more consistent you are with SEO best practices, the more chances you have of seeing continual success online.
If, however, there’s been a sharp decline in numbers or dramatic shifts, it could be time to adjust your SEO plan. It’s important to note that adjusting rarely means you should abandon the plan and start from scratch. It’s about identifying where you can make improvements to what’s already in place. To adjust, you need to evaluate your website and your local search citations to determine what’s holding you back.
With your website, look at both content and web design. Content issues like pages or posts with fewer than 250 words, keyword-stuffed text, lack of metadata, and poorly-structured header tags can affect your SEO. Web design issues can be anything from page load speeds to mobile responsiveness and user experience. With local search, go through your local citations to ensure they’re accurate and consistent across every online local business directory where you have listings.
The One-Year Mark
A year after launching your new website, your SEO plan should be entering a point of maturation. If you’ve made adjustments throughout the plan, you should be able to see whether those adjustments worked in your favor.
From here, there are two options. If you’ve been successful, it’s time to start the next phase of your plan. You could take your content in a new direction to see if you can drive more traffic to your site, become a thought leader or influencer, or even show up in Google’s knowledge graph. Or you could work on boosting local search efforts to beat out local competitors for more queries and conversions.
If you haven’t seen success with your plan, it’s time for a full-fledged audit. What’s missing from or broken on your website? Is your keyword targeting too weak or too strong? Are you being penalized for using SEO spam techniques? Review your analytics, and use online tools like SEMrush to discover where you need to make significant changes. Once you’ve made these changes, start the cycle over again and review data at three months, six months, and a year out from that point.
While we’ve talked a lot about all the things you can and should do, what you can’t forget is to look outward to determine next steps or how to adjust throughout the entire year. Set aside a few minutes to read about major changes in the world of SEO with a news app like Feedly. You can also check out our favorite SEO blog feeds (with instructions on how to set up RSS feeds in a news reader) here.
Getting an SEO plan right the first time isn’t easy, especially because search engines and SEO best practices change so frequently (There were some 600 some algorithm adjustments in the last year alone). SEO wins are found by following the steps Google tells you to take, staying within what Google tells you is acceptable SEO behavior, and providing great content that’s both authoritative and genuine.
SEO takes time. There’s almost never a lasting method that helps you get to the finish line faster than everyone else. Don’t take shortcuts. As tempting as shortcuts can be, refrain! We’ve had many new clients come to us who have harmed their sites (and therefore their businesses) so badly that the only solution they saw was changing the business and/or website name and starting over.
Maybe the most difficult part of being an SEO is being patient and letting things mature naturally.