Why Does SEO Take So Long?

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Why does SEO take so long?

It’s a question many frustrated business owners have asked again and again. It’s a completely valid question–yet one that rarely gets answered to anyone’s satisfaction.

Here then, is a nuts-and-bolts answer to the question of why search engine optimization takes so much time. As you’ll see, this frequently time-consuming process is all part of an assurance that your SEO dollars are well-spent.

Analyzing Your Competition Takes More Time than You May Think

Unless you’re selling a product or service that is less than a month or two old, you will have competitors who are already ranking well in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). Simply getting on equal ground with them is a task that can take time.

To tell the truth, even the best SEO analyst will need to take time to find out where and what that ground actually is. In most markets, your competitors have spent a decade or more building both their websites, and links to those websites. A thorough competitive analysis will take into account every link that leads to every competitor result that shows up on the first few pages of results that rank for your desired keywords. Link tools like Majestic SEO or Open Site Explorer can be helpful in developing an understanding of where the ground is.

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Search marketing competitive analysis tools can also be used to help you assess the level of competition in your domain. These tools are offered by a handful of companies like iSpionage and Spyfu. A new entrant in the web hosting space for instance might use iSpionage’s comparison functionality to assess the level of competition for industry keywords.

When you see large numbers of first page keywords and SEO traffic value in the millions, then you know that competition is going to be fierce. In many markets with entrenched competitors that have been competing for some time, a strategy of optimizing longer-tail terms that will be able to compete within specific industry niches and sub- niches is often the best approach to take.

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iSpionage Web Hosting SEO Traffic Value Comparison

Build Links from Sites with Authority

Once you or your SEO provider develops these insights, the next step is to find common sites that your competitors use for backlinks. There are often anywhere from 5-100 different sites that all of your major competitors will use for rank-boosting backlinks.

You will need to create a database of every link pointing at the top 50 pages that rank for each one of your keywords. You need to know how many of those links come from the same sites, and from which pages on those sites, and how often. From this, you may be able to see how to grab some of those links for your own site.

Then you need to find links from pages that none of your competition is using. At the very least, you should look for links that a very small percentage of your competition is using. These days, it’s difficult to find quality sites for backlinks, that aren’t already being used extensively. But it is possible. It is also crucial to your success.

As you can imagine, all of this takes time. And it’s only the beginning.

Getting On “Ground Zero” With Your Competitors Takes Time

compassAfter that, you or your provider must procure links in one of several ways: content creation, paid link placement, paid content creation, guest posts, site creation, subdomain creation, link bartering, content trading, etc.

Regardless of whether these links are paid for, traded, or otherwise acquired, dealing with site owners can take time. Blogs and Web 2.0 pages built on your behalf need to be written by good writers who understand SEO–and who probably already have a lot on their plates.

Then, you or your SEO agency should ensure that every image has an appropriate file name, title, and alternate text, specific to (usually) a single keyword, on each page where it appears. And your content should have images, typically, on every single page.

Since a good search engine campaign involves all types of content, your provider will need to make videos on your behalf–and make sure that each video has the right file name, and the right title (for both the video and the page), the right description, and even the right account name.

As you can see, each of the literally thousands–and usually tens of thousands–of links that your site needs in order to rank well, needs to be supported by an entire page that has been precision-engineered in at least a dozen different ways.

As you can see, effective link building takes time. But it is definitely worth the wait.

Google Rarely Trusts Speed

cheetahIn light of the above point, it’s also important to understand that Google is wary of links that gain too much popularity, too quickly.

At one time, you could create hundreds of links literally overnight and reap the benefits. The benefits usually didn’t last, but then you could do it again. And again and again, until you either gained the traction you wanted or got banned from Google’s search engine.

These days, all it takes is a slight portion of unnatural-looking links headed your way in a short period of time to put you on the penalty box with Google. Google may not remove your site from its index entirely, but it may apply such a heavy penalty that you won’t really know the difference.

That doesn’t mean that getting lots of links all at once will instantly sink your ship. In fact, getting hundreds of links from an article that goes viral on Facebook, Twitter, or another social media site, is a recipe for success.

But Google has gotten very good at detecting “link spam”. In fact, some would say it’s gotten a little too good. And while it’s just fine to share your content on Facebook and get as many links as possible in as short a period of time, too many links in too short a time can trigger a manual review. If you or your provider are using techniques that provide too many links too quickly, this review could sink your ship almost overnight.

So if your SEO provider doesn’t build links at quite the pace you’d like to see—rest easy. They’re actually doing you a favor.

Good SEO Takes Fine Tuning Along the Way

Once this work is thoughtfully undertaken, you or your provider will then have to deal with the fact that Google does not stay the same. And neither does Bing and Yahoo!

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The way search engines rank sites can change overnight. These changes have brought many profitable websites to their knees, knocking out six-, seven-, and even eight-figure businesses literally overnight. The most dramatic of these updates are known as Panda and Penguin, although there have been others.

At the end of the day, no one but the search engines have control over the SEO landscape. What you do have control over is how you respond to the changes. Good information from good systems and SEO know-how is often the difference between “sink” and “swim” when it comes to the business you conduct online.

Chris Sparks
Chris is an online marketing and content strategist at the search marketing competitive intelligence provider iSpionage.
Chris Sparks
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