What to expect during the first few months of SEO is a common question we get asked daily.
You’ve read our how to find the best seo agency ultimate guide, worked through its checklist and have chosen the best seo agency. You’ve established contact and worked with your SEO agency to identify the best plan of attack. You are excited and is prepared for the bombardment of phone calls and emails coming your way and then… nothing.
You wonder if you’ve done anything wrong or even if Google is broken? Rest assured, you haven’t done anything wrong and Google is definitely not broken. In this guide, we will explain what is normal and what you should expect within the first few months of using SEO.
Does SEO Work?
Firstly, let me say that one month of SEO without seeing tangible results is completely normal. Depending on the competitiveness of your keywords and industry, it can take one month to a couple of months before you start seeing results. If you have talked to your SEO agency thoroughly, chances are they would’ve told you the same thing.
SEO works but only if it’s done right. The best practices and SEO ranking factors are constantly evolving so what worked before may not be working now.
Below are the most important major Google algorithm updates so far and a brief overview. They are what constitutes to good SEO according to Google themselves.
Date: March, 2017
Overview: Thin content penalty update
Websites content are not ranked based on quantity but on quality. This updates means that websites that has a large number of affiliate products and ads (where the website receives a commission from traffic or sales generated from its referrals ) will be negatively affected. If your site do sell affiliate products, make sure to include plenty of high quality information on the pages as well.
Date: September, 2016
Overview: Localisation update
Emphasis on importance of local business optimisation which means the closer you are to a business, the most likely their results will come up in your search if all things equal. This means if you are only servicing local clients, always include your NAP (Name, Address, Location) on your relevant pages.
Date: October, 2015
Overview: Shallow content, poor user interface penalties update
RankBrain is part of the overall Hummingbird search algorithm that uses computer learning to better understand the meaning and intent behind each search.
While Google didn’t straight out say how to optimize RankBrain, many sources speculate it to be the importance of the overall user experience.
For content websites this means getting to know the true intent behind your users and write in a way that compels them to click, read and share that info. This means placing emphasis in topics rather than keywords to provide high engagement rates.
Emphasise on topics rather than keywords.
Date: April, 2015
Overview: Sites that are not mobile optimized are affected. Google ensures websites that are mobile friendly are ranked at the top of mobile search results. Mobile speed and usability are two factors you should focus on. Since mobile search had already overtaken desktop PC search, making sure your website is mobile friendly is a must.
Date: July, 2014
Overview: This algorithm updates places the importance of a user’s location and its connection to local search to the local algorithm and its core algorithm whereby traditional SEO ranking factors are now used to rank local results.
For businesses serving local clients, this means to optimize your website for local search. Including your websites on relevant local business directories and related publications can send a strong signal.
Date: August, 2013
Overview: Hummingbird is a major algorithm update that places emphasis on a user’s true intent as opposed to individual search terms. This means while keywords are still important, Google makes it possible for a page to rank on a query even if it doesn’t contain the exact keywords the user entered into the search engine.
This update further penalises websites that uses keywords stuffing rather than high quality content.
Date: April, 2012
Overview: Spammy and irrelevant inbound links are penalised. As also are anchor text over optimisation.
Link value are now based on quality and not quantity. You should link to industry related, relevant and highly authoritative websites. For inbound links pointing back to your website it is good practice to use optimized anchor text (or exact match) sparingly and mix it with your brand name and naked URL. If your use of anchor text is natural and helps your client to gain more insight or provide assistance, you don’t need to overthink about what to put.
Date: April, 2012
Overview: Keyword stuffing, low quality content, duplicate content websites are affected
Panda assigns a quality score to web pages that is used as a ranking factor. Avoiding duplicate content, low quality content and keyword stuffing on your website and you will not be affected or penalised.
Google updates their algorithm hundreds of times a year and most of them are kept secret from the public. Some of the most important updates over the years include introducing machine learning algorithms to detect relevance, usability, mobile-friendliness and website security.
How Do You Prevent Google From Penalising Existing SEO?
You can’t. Nobody can tell what plans Google has next to their algorithm but to lessen the chances of an upcoming penalty and a good general thumb of rule is that good SEO will always be focused on how you can help your target audience better.
You want to make your visitors have the easier and best user experience possible and add rich-detailed content that helps your visitors make a decision or solve a problem, educate or entertain them so they will share your content. Write for your readers not search engines.
When will Google change their rankings algorithm no one knows but as long as you have your client’s best interest in mind, you won’t have to worry.
As long as you have your client’s best interest in mind, you won’t have to worry.
Bad SEO Can Actually Harm Your Rankings
If done incorrectly, SEO can actually harm your rankings.
Anything that provides no value to your customer but rather is artificially used to ‘beat the system’ or machines including:
- Keyword stuffing – over use of keywords in content
- Link farming – obtaining links from link farms
- Cloaking – hiding content in a webpage
- Re-directs – redirecting to unrelated webpage
- Scraped content – scraping and duplicating content from other websites
- Participating in affiliate programs without adding value – directly linking to affiliate sales pages without providing anything useful to visitors
- General black hat SEO
A more detailed list can be seen at the Google webmaster guidelines page.
Why Does SEO Take So Long?
Short answer: It doesn’t. Long answer: it depends on how competitive your keywords are. SEO doesn’t take long if you have a unique company name or product.
For example, if you specialise in selling ‘’purple running shoes with polka dots’’, chances will be high that you will rank higher and faster on Google for those terms than just normal ‘’running shoes”.
On average, the top 10 search results are websites that are 2-3 years old with good SEO. There is only a 22% chance that a website that was created within a year to be in the top 10 results. The hard fact is: the odds are stacked against you.
For anyone new to SEO, I would suggest they see an online presence as a reflection of a brick and mortar store..
Think how long an established business took to get there. Think how much effort it took them to get there. It should be said that SEO is a reflection of that but in the online world.
You will need to build your reputation as a provider of excellent content and service day in day out. That’s what SEO is. It’s not a set it and forget it strategy and there are no free passes.
SEO is not a set and forget marketing strategy and there are no free passes.
First Few Months of SEO Expectations
1st MONTH SEO Results Expectations
Depending if you have existing SEO, this month is about laying the fundamentals and establishing a marketing plan. Researching competitors, keywords and auditing your current website for quick technical fixes are some of the main activities.
If your website has bad SEO then this month will also be dedicated to correcting it.
On-page SEO optimisation is implemented here and also internal linking and creation of important core service and product pages.
Your website or business name should be on Search engines now for new companies however, gaining a ranking increase for key terms here is unlikely unless in a niche industry.
2nd Month SEO Results Expectations
This month will be focused on creating good, in-depth content. If your website is new then this entire month will be dedicated to creating a few highly detailed articles to pitch to industry related sites for backlinks, share with your existing email database, blogs, via social media or other paid channels.
Finally, some easy to reach link sources such as from previous customers, competitors, vendors, and local niche directories are obtained.
Gaining a rank increase this month is unlikely unless in a niche industry. If you’re in a not so competitive industry then you ‘may’ see some results from the technical optimisation done in the previous month.
3rd Month SEO Results Expectations
This month will be focused on link building from the research that was done in previous months. Inbound links is one of the main factors when determining website rank. Further content creation and promotion are completed as well.
You may start to see some results if you started some easy link building in the first two months.
4th – 6th Month SEO Results Expectations
This period is when you should start to see the fruits of your labour as link building results begin to show after 2-3 months.
Further optimisation is done after the first few months of SEO as well as maintenance and discovering new opportunities.
Once again it will depend on your keywords and your competitor’s existing SEO profile to see how high your website ranks. However, it often this period that clients will realise the potential of good SEO.
It is worth noting that while it takes 4-6 months to see some tangible results of SEO, that continual efforts are further rewarded.
If immediate results are what you’re after then SEO may not be the best platform for you. Try other platforms such as Google Ads Pay Per Click Advertising. However, when SEO works, it leaves PPC in the dust because of the amount of sustained opportunities and leads it generates for your business month in month out without having to pay a monthly fee.
During the first few months of SEO, you can expect to see a number of changes to your rankings and website.
SEO is essentially outranking your competitors so your results will vary greatly depending on your existing competition and industry.
There’s no magical button that you can push and no one can put a date on when you will be be ranked #1 for your website’s main keywords.
Think of SEO as going to the gym or losing weight. If you follow good guidelines, put in the effort day in day out you will see results gradually and that may or may not happen during the first few months of SEO.