"I've told you a million times never to exaggerate."
That's one of my favorite examples of hyperbole. If I had a nickel for every time I've used that phrase I'd have more than a few nickels.
If I earned nickels for every time I've been asked, "Why does search optimization take so long?" I'd be a millionaire.
It's true, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) doesn't instantly transform your visibility in search engines.
In the digital age, we are accustomed to a healthy dose of instant. Alerts happen in real time, information hits our phones in real time. We expect everything to happen immediately.
So, it's counter-intuitive that SEO -- one of the most fundamental forms of digital marketing -- takes such a long time.
But it does take a while. And that's OK.
If you're curious, though, here's why it takes so long.
Search Engine Optimization is a constantly changing, research-heavy form of marketing. These marketing conditions require a disciplined process for producing effective SEO work.
First, you have to understand what keywords you want your business to rank for.
Then you must understand how your competition performs in search engines relative to the keywords you desire. That means a bunch of keyword research and a lot of time examining your competition's websites so you can better understand where you can win. If you end up competing for the same keyword, it will be a long, hard slog to the top ten on a Google search engine results page (SERP).
After reviewing your competition online, reexamine your keyword list. You may have to make a few tweaks based on what keywords you want to rank for and which keywords are actually winnable for your business.
Next you need to understand what other websites exist that are quality websites that can link back to your website. This link-building strategy is a traditional strategy, but it is still one of the key factors Google's algorithm takes into account when deciding where your website should rank. Identifying the sites, establishing a relationship with the site operator, exchanging links, testing/ this takes time.
Now you need to know the core keywords you want to rank for, and the additional secondary terms that you'd like your pages to be ranked for. But you have to make strategic choices. It can't all happen at once unless you can afford to devote a lot of time or resources to your SEO effort. So, pick one or two keywords, and then start building content on your website that incorporates these keywords.
I am only offering a very, very high level outline of SEO here. Without going in to detail it should be obvious that not only does it take a lot of time to do the work behind creating an effective SEO strategy, but once everything is in place it takes a while for search engines to recognize the work and begin to elevate your website. Plus, if you have particularly savvy competition, they will recognize the new competition for keywords and make additional adjustments to their site like adding new pages, posting blog posts, etc.
Google also has some safeguards built into its algorithm to prevent any funny-business. When a bunch of adjustments are made at once, Google approaches this with caution. It needs to see a concerted and consistent keyword and SEO effort to allow a website to elevate.
So, after all of this, your business gets on the first page of Google, right?
Achieving first place on Google is not possible in a heavily competitive keyword market and a limited budget. Well, at least not right away.
That's why the research is vital -- especially for smaller businesses. Quality research yields an understanding of the keyword terms that you can compete for, win, and own. It is these keywords that are essential to creating and maintaining a quality and visible online presence, including getting your business on the first page of Google.
If anyone ever promises you first position on Google, run -- far and fast! They are selling snake oil, not marketing. Your business deserves thoughtful marketing.
And, SEO should be part of your strategy -- a steady build is vital to staying relevant online, considering that 90-plus percent of online shoppers begin their product search at Google. Just make sure your expectations are set, you have a great approach either within your company or through a partner, and that you are regularly measuring and reviewing what's happening with your SEO.
Despite the investment of time required for quality SEO, it is worth it.
Josh Gordon is an award-winning marketing communications professional and President of Full Spectrum Marketing, a full-service advertising agency with digital roots based in Kent, Ohio and Wooster, Ohio. You can reach Josh at firstname.lastname@example.org.