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When you work inside the world of Seach engine optimization day in and day out, it’s easy to forget that your clients (and potential clients) really don’t know what to expect.  For SEO people, we know the general times required to make things happen – and it’s not nearly as fast as business clients usually come to the table expecting.

Starting Out

When you contact any company about improving your website rankings, usually the first thing that they will do is to examine your on-page elements. Most of the time, there are issues there that can be improved.  Sometimes, there are epic fails on your site.  We often see pages that fail to actually even mention the terms for which the company would like to be ranked for.  This is particularly common when we see sites that “we did it ourselves” is the uttered phrase.  We also see it often from web design companies that really don’t do or understand SEO.  There’s a difference between pretty pictures and getting traffic to your site.  Way too often, clients are wowed by some awesome graphics and cool looking page elements. UNFORTUNATELY, a lot of the time, those really way cool graphics are the focus of the page.  Sadly, way cool graphics aren’t what drive traffic TO a site.  They’re super once you GET a client ON the site, but they are much harder to get properly recognized and translate to Google rankings (or Bing/Yahoo rankings).

That said, the first part of any serious campaign will be about getting proper keywords found and put in place on your website.  One of the more common things we DO see, particularly on the “we did it ourselves” sites – besides NOT including the target keywords – is including a bunch of what we’ll call “industry-specific terms”.  It’s probably similar to talking to an SEO come to think about it.  Each industry has its own phrases – usually of a technical nature – that they use between themselves when discussing certain things – but no one outside of the industry has ANY clue what it means. And they surely will NOT be searching for it.  They’ll be searching for more “human” terms.  If in doubt, ask your neighbor how they would go about finding a particular service or product. Ask your family. Ask your friends.  You’ll probably have an eye-opening experience.  SEOs will often go to keyword tools like Google Keyword tools.  Tools like that can indicate general search volume for any term and is a fairly reliable source of information to base any campaign on.

This step can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days (and even more) depending on site size, complexity and format of your website.  Your search engine company also has other clients – so keep in mind, unless you’re paying absolute top dollar, they DO have other responsibilities to their existing clients.  During this time, if your site was really lacking, you may start to see some performance and rankings increase. Having optimized title tags is one of the most important things for your onsite optimization. This phase can also include modifying your site structure and URL paths.  That can get more complex and most SEOs won’t go that direction unless there is a REALLY pressing reason.  If your site only includes a dozen pages, it’s not a killer, but anything larger than that can be a time-consuming process.

The Disconnect – and why it takes so long…

Here’s where the disconnect starts to happen with customers.  At this point, your SEO company may have been on the project for a week or a month depending on your particular level of service and the optimizations that are being done.  “Why am I not ranking #1 for xyz term???  You’ve been working on this for a month!”  After making a change, your company first needs to make the search engines aware of that change.  If you’re using a plugin like All-in-one-SEO for WordPress or one of the other common ones, MOST have a feature that will generate your specific XML sitemap that can be sent to the search engines to give them a heads up.  What is that? To keep the size of this post down, we’ll post that in a different article. In short, it lists all pages and posts on your site for easy digestion (or indigestion) by the search engines.  This will serve as notice TO the search engines that changes have been made and it’s time to come back to see what has been done.

If your site is fairly active with changes being made, posts being added, etc, spiders/search engines tend to come back far more quickly. We like to include traffic plugins so we can see what is hitting our sites and when.  If you don’t see a Googlebot hit your site in a reasonable time, you can always pop out a tweet with your new URL or changed URL or similar.  That will usually put a flurry of bots on your site – including Googlebots.

Now the bots have seen your site. They’ve digested the content, at least the changed content at the URL that you have submitted, and now it’s a waiting game.  We have actually seen things appear in as few as a few hours – but that is NOT the norm.  It’s often a few days before you will see things reflected in the Google SERP results.  So if you’re getting Raleigh SEO done and the titles are changed from “My Service” to something like “Raleigh ‘My Service’ | Focused term | Similar term | Company name”, it will usually be a few days before Google starts reflecting that.

While one may ask why it takes so long and why it’s not immediate in most cases, there are currently 955,676,295 existing websites on the public web right now.  That’s JUST shy of a billion. And you best believe that Google is doing everything it can to index them all.  Once it sees the content, the data goes into a ranking algorithm and is given an internal ranking of sorts.  You’ll see all sorts of different measures of quality, strength and more from different companies. Google does NOT share exactly what it uses to rank your site – so it’s always a bit of an unknown but there are certain things that we, as SEOs, know that WILL increase your rankings. You’ll see terms like PageRank, MozRank, Domain Authority, Page Authority, Trust, and more thrown around.

Check out the Cache date on your site

Check out the Cache date on your site

Once the current value on many factors has been calculated, the site meta information makes it to their indexing ready for public consumption.  A quick way to see what version of your website is currently being used in the Google caches.  Do a search for your service (or some phrase that should bring up your specific page/site) and click on the little green down arrow next to the target URL. Click the “Cached” link. That will bring up the content that Google has in the cache on your target site along with a date.

Based on that, hopefully, at this point, you can start to see why it’s not an immediate thing.  There are a lot of moving parts to search engine rankings and it is pretty amazing that a change that we make right now can find its way into that index even within a few days.  While we may be changing your content and optimizing, your competitors are ALSO likely changing their content and optimizing. What was good a few days ago, based on what your competitors are doing, might fall short today and your site loses rank.  What wasn’t liked by Google last week, well the converse can also be true.  Google changes algorithms, sometimes even for certain locations, services or other target groups, which can have a huge impact on any website.  Additionally, your competitors can foul up – maybe making changes to their site that actually DECREASE their rankings – which will automatically INCREASE yours 🙂  We LOVE when that happens.  It is like a sand dune though – ever-changing. The web is definitely a living thing and only so many things can be pinned down  – the rest ARE beyond anyone’s control.

Now add in Offsite SEO work

All of the above just applies to YOUR website – the portions of things that you CAN control.  Now we move on to the things that can’t be controlled and those items are referred to collectively as offsite SEO. As any SEO should be able to tell you – a lot of your ranking is going to come from the sites that link to you.  Lots of links often equate to increased rankings. Yet there are a lot of factors that are calculated into the particular boost – or even demerit – that will come to your site. If your site has links coming into it from other quality sites, the site should have a net positive boost. Should those links be coming in from poor quality sites – like adult or obvious spam sites – your site can also reflect those links but in usually a negative way.  Links coming in from several, dozens or even hundreds of low-quality sites will not count NEARLY as much as one good link from a local or even national authority site.

Going back to all that we did for a client site, now when a link to your site is garnered from another site, the whole process starts up on THAT site.  The content has to be found, spidered, qualified, etc – just like the actual site that we’re working on. Additionally now, those factors mentioned earlier – PageRank, MozRank, Domain authority, etc – come into play deciding how much boost YOUR site will get from a link on another website.  You can get a lot of information about your site here at 99WebTools Is the site even related? Is it on a similar topic or is the surrounding content at least on a similar topic?  What kind of links does THAT site have? What anchor text is being used (the part that you see that you click on to TAKE you to YOUR site) – is it a keyword or keyword phrase? Is it branding/company name text?  Besides the onsite factors that we’ve described above, there are now a whole NEW set of factors that will have to be taken into account to determine the actual value of a link from these sources.

Just like the target site, the data from the link source site has to also be seen and cached up, link values calculated, etc before our target site will see any benefit.  IF that site is a high activity site, it may be indexed quickly. If it’s not a high activity site, it could be a couple of weeks or month before Google looks at it – unless prodded.  Until that site data is in Google, it’s not going to count for you.  So if we add a link to your site, we now have to wait before it’s published and made public – which could happen immediately or take days.  The search engines need to find it and assign values to it.  They must calculate the benefit of the link to your site – how much “Google juice” it’s going to pass – and then take that into account when ranking your site against your competitors.  Now repeat that a few (at least) times and you’ll start seeing some increase.

The takeaway for SEO Clients

The biggest thing to keep in mind when it comes to SEO work is that it is NOT immediate.  If you want immediate, or near immediate, we recommend Adwords. If you want long-lasting type benefits, then we recommend standard organic SEO work.  With organic SEO, it takes time to make the changes, time for the search engines to see those changes and rate them. Those results need then to be analyzed by your search engine company to see what the net effect was and ascertain how to progress.  Does the page content need to be changed, or would it be better to add another page/post for a specific topic?  That link that was gotten to the site – did it do anything? Is it even being reflected yet?  Was the proper anchor text used or should it be different? Is the format DoFollow or NoFollow? And just so many more questions.

Lizardwebs - SEO Campaigns Doing Well

There are a lot of points that a good company should be factored into the equations. Unfortunately, there is no “Here’s exactly how you do it” guide though there are a lot of goofballs that want to sell you one. Just because they managed to rank one site for some non-competitive term – or spent several years ranking a site and then “boil it down” to 5 easy steps, does NOT mean that it will work. Only from a very high-level view, is there a “one-size-fits-all” SEO plan. We’ll actually give that to you in an upcoming post.  There are a lot of variables in good SEO and each site is and should be treated as, unique.

Doing SEO right can and will take a few months to start seeing real results, and continuing to do it right is almost always an ongoing task. Doing it wrong can be done RIGHT NOW but have everlasting results that are much more difficult to change.

So, as a client, if you ever feel the desire to jump up and down and stamp your feet, ask yourself – do you want it done RIGHT, or do you want it done RIGHT NOW? 

Find out more about Search Engine Optimization. Or if you’re ready to get started now – see if we’re a good fit!