“Good things come to those who wait.”

You probably didn’t like that adage shouted to you on those long road trips you took as a kid. As an adult trying to grow a business, you probably like it even less. You’ve invested time and money in your business and can’t wait forever to get a return.

If you’re considering SEO, you should mentally commit to giving the process at least a year. But the good news is that, like mom said, the long trip will be worth it in the end.

Why does good SEO take so long?

First, it’s not like a switch flips a year later and suddenly it’s raining money. You’ll see progress long before the year mark, but it’s likely you won’t monetize it until then. For example, you may see your website jump from page 10 to page four on Google. Congratulations — your website just leapfrogged 60 other websites. Unfortunately, most searchers don’t go past page two. That’s why you’ll see progress but won’t monetize SEO until you hit page one.

Like a good recipe, there are steps to follow, and cutting corners could result in a less-than-rewarding outcome. These steps include:

  • Website Audit: A website audit will show you what’s working well for SEO and what isn’t. This on-page SEO audit should break down your site’s page speed, mobile-friendliness and readability.
  • Competitive Analysis: Dive into the strategies your competitors are using (a good SEO company can also help with this). What’s working for them? How can you do it better? It’s critical to find your competitors’ weaknesses and capitalize on them.
  • Keyword Research: There’s a science to identifying the right keywords. You don’t want to show up on page one for words that no one searches for. You also don’t want to attract bad leads by targeting too broad of phrases. Then, your SEO should advise how easy or difficult it will be to rank for these keywords. You don’t necessarily want to go after the most competitive targets, nor the easiest. There’s a sweet spot between high search volume and low competition. After all, it’s better to have 10 people convert out of 100 targeted visitors versus zero conversions out of 10,000 untargeted visitors.
  • Content Strategy: Keywords mean nothing unless you know how to support them with content. This could include blogs, graphics, videos, guest contributions, SEO press releases, etc. A good SEO provider will create a very specific road map to align your content with your audience’s buyer intent and to avoid random SEO content shotgunning.
  • Content Creation/Distribution: Generating all of this content takes time, and so does distributing it. Once it is distributed, Google has to find it and decide what to do with it. SEO is no longer the keyword-stuffing game that it used to be. It’s about Google recognizing you as an authority and a long-haul contributor in your field and rewarding you accordingly. Quality over quantity.

Can’t I just try it for a few months and pull out if it’s not working?

Sure, but it will leave you with almost nothing to show for what you’ve done so far. The value of SEO is in consistency. When you are consistently adding well-optimized content to your website, Google notices, and its spiders will begin to crawl your site more frequently.

Likewise, this consistent content will encourage users to come to your site more frequently, which will signal Google that your users are having a positive experience. Google will reward this with higher rankings. Consistency is the secret sauce to SEO, with each piece of content and each bit of user engagement building on the last.

Could I start seeing results in less than a year?

Absolutely! While I always prepare my clients to commit to at least a year, that’s mostly for transparency and honesty. But I’ve seen many quick wins. Here are a few examples:

Client 1 – Online Retail: With only $22,500 invested in SEO over nine months, this client’s SEO drove an additional $245,000 in sales, up $164,000 over the same time last year. Not a bad return on investment.

Client 2 – Dog Groomer: This client said they weren’t doing anything different on their end to market the business, but new leads were pouring in. As part of our optimization strategy, we had migrated their website off of Wix and over to WordPress to give it a little extra “umph” with page speed improvements and improved calls to action. In just three months, we had already taken 17 of their keywords to #1 rankings. Many of the words had jumped up 6, 7 and 8 pages to get to that top spot.

Client 3 – Personal Injury Attorney: This law firm experienced a meteoric rise just months into their campaign after making some big SEO moves. It was perfect timing because Google had one of its major algorithm updates aimed at weeding out low-quality websites and imposters. Because we had neither cut corners nor ventured into gray areas of online marketing, this client came out on top with 130 keyword ranking increases in one week. This update crushed some of their competitors, but it turned them into a juggernaut.

It’s not just large businesses. Even the little guys have big wins. We’ve seen some mom-and-pops grow from 150 website visitors per day to 800 to 1,000 per day in a few short months, turning their family-owned business into a major employer in their local city.

If you’re tired of having ad accounts shut down or paid ads bleeding you dry, SEO is the way to go. It produces one of the best returns on investment out there, and best of all, it’s sustainable. You’re building your website — an asset you own — and not lining the pockets of major tech companies. If you’re willing to invest a little patience, your SEO will build on itself until you become an unstoppable online presence.