After some 12 years in the SEO game, we have been through the process so many times that we tend to see the same things over and over. The rules may change but the game is still generally the same. Quite often we forget that our clients don’t necessarily understand what we’re doing, why we’re doing it and how we do it. We’ve made great strides at accommodating their needs with some additional customer service and account managers and the like as well as welcome documentation and step-by-step instructions, but our clients are often busy folks and the last thing they want is to have to pore through our documentation.
So I’m going to take this opportunity to give a very brief overview of what you should actually expect from an ongoing SEO campaign. Let me preface this by suggesting that no campaign is alike and there is no one-size-fits-all methodology so keep that in mind.
Often in the first month we will have had a chance to outline and implement some changes to a client’s website and there may be some interesting data movement including rankings and traffic but it generally won’t look like this (sorry to disappoint):
While the above image does reflect a client’s data, it’s actually the result of us fixing the Google Analytics install rather than any SEO adjustments. A paid search campaign could yield similar results but you’re going to have to pay for it significantly.
So what can you expect following our initial adjustments? In general, for traffic I think it’s not unreasonable to expect growth. But what you should be looking for is slow and steady growth. The following are three examples of actual campaigns.
Here’s one that showed a fairly rapid rise. You’ll notice the dip in early August reflects a website adjustment (and a Google Analytics lag), more on-site tweaks throughout the month combined with some off-site activity with an official initial completion phase around Aug 24 where it starts to climb. This is actually quite typical, particularly for an existing website. We’re able to leverage some of the existing data, re-tune the website and watch things go.
The above is for a brand new website and over a longer period of time. Again, you will notice fairly gradual growth over time to a point where the saturation is more consistent.
The final example above is for a full website redesign and launch. From the start where 450 unique visits per day was the norm to 1 month later where 900 visits became their new reality. Even better for these guys is that conversions were significantly higher as well which is much more important as far as we’re concerned.
Goals – you should expect that we will identify some tangible goals or key performance indicators (KPI’s) to track. This will allow us to get to the heart of your campaign and determine actual hard and fast activity. For most it will require tracking activity from visitors filling out an online form. For others it may be direct sales. Whatever the actual event, we’ll make sure we’re keeping an eye on it.
Patience – can be a pretty tough thing with the Internet where we have come to expect instant results. When we search, we expect the right results straight away. When we get to a website, we expect to be able to find what we are looking for immediately and if not, easily. So it seems that a lot of clients expect instant results from their SEO campaign as well. As Abe Lincoln appropriately suggests “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” Quite often we will spend a good month reviewing and analyzing a campaign before we can even start to look towards results so setting that foundation is an essential part of the process.
Look for Signs – Waiting patiently for nothing to happen is not so beneficial so you should expect at the very least to see the appropriate signs or indicators along the way. Over the years we’ve seen some interesting activity for many campaigns but we also see patterns occurring. While these should not be a defining metric, search engine rankings have their place and generally even in the first month you should see some movement, and sometimes this movement will start down before it goes up and settles into a more positive position. Also keep an eye on your traffic. There are times when the numbers may actually take a brief dip as things start to take effect and start climbing, just make sure that it doesn’t last too long.
Overall, I think it’s important to stress that SEO is a long-term activity and from what we’ve seen over the years, provides a great foundation for any internet marketing campaign. Even if you may be paying every month, look at it over a year to determine its impact. If you’re paying $35K a year for SEO which then directly correlates to $150K in sales, depending on your company margins, this should be considered a win. Those with big-ticket items may only require 3 conversions all year to justify this kind of spend and unless you’re tracking phone calls, you may not even know where that lead begins so invest in some phone tracking tools or diligently ask where every call comes from.