You’ve hired an SEO professional, but now what? “Are we there yet?” is, as parents know, one of the most annoying questions to be asked. However, many clients don’t understand when the SEO they paid for will start “working” for their business. Many times clients pay very handsomely for search engine optimization (SEO) and they want to see immediate, quantifiable results. Unfortunately, their understanding of SEO might be minimal or steeped in “facts” that are no longer relevant. They may also ask, “How long until I’m ranked number one?” and that’s a question that nobody can answer (and the real answer may very well be “never”).
Welcome to the new era of SEO. It is not like “old SEO” where the strategy was figuring out keywords relevant to a client, driving up traffic, and succeeding in a landscape that wasn’t that competitive. Years ago, SEO experts could find about eight keywords that were “yours” and they would be in charge of traffic. Today, a lot of people have figured out what “their” keywords are and want an SEO agency to somehow get their website ranked number one for those keywords—but “those keywords” might be highly competitive. Due to (limited) supply and (a lot of) demand, the entire keyword strategy approach is no longer viable.
Today’s best practice is long tail searches, not single keywords or couplets. Clients who cling to a single keyword, such as “books,” will never rank number one for such a broad and popular keyword. They can, however, enjoy great results with long tail searches such as “first edition books Austin.”
Talking the Talk
More and more, today’s SEO is backed by what the experts call “natural language search.” People aren’t Googling “books”—they’re Googling in a way they would ask a normal question or come up with a normal phrase. This usually means at least three keywords, and likely more. Part of the reason for this shift is because people are also using speech searches and typing less. People have also figured out that in order to get the exact results they want, they need to provide more information to the search engines.
This is great news for website owners, because long tail searches are much less competitive. In turn, you can enjoy more traffic conversions with long tail searches. The goal shouldn’t be to focus on ranking for a sprinkling of keywords that are static, but pinpoint more natural language searches that evolve constantly.
Redefine Your Goals
There is also the issue of suffering ranking blindness. While rankings matter, they are not the only metric. By wanting to know when you’ll enjoy top rankings for keywords or long tail searches, you may be asking for validation or comforting “proof” that your SEO investment is worthwhile. Some SEO agencies with less than great intentions know this and will even make false promises in order to lure in clients. However, remember that rankings without leads (and conversions/sales) are pointless. Instead, ask your SEO expert, “How long until my SEO generates sales or leads?”