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Why Does SEO Take So Long?

14 February 2018

Think of this – you’re driving on the freeway and you want to be ahead of someone that left an hour before you.

They’re already up to their maximum speed of 100km/h and are miles in front.

So, not only do you have to catch up to the speed that they’re doing, but also go a little bit faster.

Now wait, before you go pedal to the metal, remember that you can’t get caught by the Police!

*WOOP* *WOOP*

They’ll pull you up straight away if they catch you screaming down the freeway at 200km/h.

That’s basically your situation in Google when you’re trying to climb in Organic rankings.

Ranking in Google genuinely takes time.

It’s not just a line that all SEO companies use to try and bleed you out over time.

Even if you’re doing awesome work, there’s a few things that will prevent you from a meteoric rise to the top of the G-pile.

Quality Of SEO Work

Obviously, the quality of SEO work performed on your website is going to be a major factor between how quick and effective your SEO is going to be.

And for most business owners, being able to tell whether or not they’re getting quality SEO is a challenge.

Especially since most SEO agencies are pretty keen to keep their “formula” a secret. 

Explaining what quality SEO work is is another series of blog posts on its own.

But basically, you need to ensure that your provider is optimising and adding content on your website (on-page work), and building good quality links to your website (off-page work).

If you’re looking for more posts relating to quality SEO work, you can look at the following articles:

Yet, even with quality work, SEO can still genuinely take time.

Below are a few contributing factors that are often outside of all SEO’s control.

Domain Age

Ever had a new guy come into the workplace and act as if he’s been a part of the team for years almost immediately?

Yeah, no one likes that guy.

And neither does Google.

If your domain has only just been registered and you’ve whacked a website on there, don’t expect the same respect as the old timers who have some solid history behind them.

At least not straight away, anyway.

There is typically a sandbox period that Google gives websites that can last anywhere from a month to a few months.

Your Industry

There are some industries where the level of investment to SEO is so low that ranking a website within a month (with exception to the “sandbox” mentioned in Domain Age) is actually a real possibility.

Then there are industries like law, where firms are throwing money around to get to the top of the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) and ranking for major keywords can take a full year or more depending on how aggressive the competition is.

It took me just over a year to get WA Legal to rank ahead of some big names for the term “lawyers perth”.

Search results for "lawyers perth" on Google

Results Get Slower Over Time

Going back to our freeway analogy again, if we’re driving at 105km/h; we’re going to overtake the plebs travelling at 90km/h in the loser lane pretty quickly.

That means if your website is on page 10 when you start doing SEO then you’re likely to feel the NOS kick in as you scream up to page 4.

But you’re not going to keep passing cars at that pace because the cars that are ahead of the pack you just passed aren’t travelling at 90, those guys are cruising along at 100.

Provided you maintain your speed, you’ll get past them. It will just take longer to catch up and overtake.

Suddenly you’re on page 1…

Now you’re trying to overtake the cars that are doing 104km.

Slowly, but surely, you hit the middle of page 1.

Now here’s where things get tricky.

The cars in front are going the same speed as you are, fluctuating under and over by a km/h either side.

It will feel like you’re making no progress at all at point.

Then suddenly you’ll overtake someone, getting from position 4 to position 3.

Then you may see yourself slipping back down to position 4.

Then back up to position 3 again.

I think by now you get where I’m going with this. The higher you are, the tougher the competition is going to be and it will feel like the results are ‘tapering off’.

Using PWA Electrical Services as an example, you can see how within a month they’ve come from absolutely nowhere on some of their keywords to being on the first and second page for electrical keywords in their key service suburbs.

Rankings for PWA Electrical Services

These results will improve, but it will start moving slower now that we’ve had this massive jump from the easy wins in the initial rounds of optimisation.

Googlebot

Every time you search Google, you’re not actually doing a live search of the Internet.

You’re actually looking at Google’s library of website that it has discovered on its search.

And Google searches the web using Googlebot.

Googlebot is the little search engine spider that crawls the web, archiving everything, understanding everything and registering which sites are linking to other sites.

Despite Google being our all-powerful Lord who is everywhere at all times, it does actually take time before it can get to read everything.

So that means if you’ve built a backlink on a directory, for example, it could take a couple of days, weeks or even months before Google eventually finds that link to your site.

And even when it finds the link, it doesn’t necessarily mean that Google has started using that link to contribute to your overall score.

This is why there are cases of businesses leaving their SEO provider to find that their rankings are still increasing anyway.

It’s not that the SEO provider wasn’t doing anything and that your website magically rises on its own – it’s just the work that was done ‘however long ago’ getting noticed and rewarded by Google.

When Lavish Limousines’ previous domain was burnt and we had to create a brand-new domain with no redirects in place.

So that we didn’t carry over the bad link profile that got them penalised in the first place over to the new site (which is what would happen if we did a 301 redirect from the old site to the new site).

I had to go and update every single one of their directories and profiles with the new URL.

And it took Google MONTHS before it re-crawled some of those pages.

I knew this because you can see the latest version of a webpage that has been cached by Google.

Cached view of directory listing

Clicking the down arrow next to the backlink page’s URL on Google’s search results page will reveal the current version of the page Google has stored.

Frustrating, I know, but it’s beyond the control of any SEO.

Trial And Error

Copywriting with the aim to please Google can be painful sometimes.

And this issue is down, again, to Googlebot.

Even when you make a small change to a meta title, submit the change to Google and wait to see what that does to your rankings…and then wait a bit more to see how things stabilize…it takes time.

Google doesn’t like being fooled and it will often not immediately reward sites that hit the right buttons.

So again, even if you’re are intensely trying new variations of copy, meta titles and headlines you have to sit and wait to see what results those changes have actually made before revising what was done and trying again with other variations/improvements.

No One Actually Knows How Google’s Algorithm Works

That’s not to say that SEO’s don’t know what they’re doing.

Most experienced SEOs know a range of different strategies that helps increase websites’ rankings in Google.

But nobody actually knows Google’s exact formula and everything that Google looks for in a #1 website.

That even includes Google themselves.

So, there is always trial and error going on with each and every website to try and squeeze those extra few positions up the SERPs.

Real World Activity

If a business is getting mentioned in news sites for achievements, partnerships or anything else and getting links back from those sites, it is going to be a hell of a lot easier to rank compared to a business that’s getting zero love from the press.

I’ve come across businesses sitting on a Gold mine of a backlink profile and they never even knew it.

They had links from major local news websites, industry publications, .gov.wa.au domains – the jackpot!

All I had to do was tweak their meta titles and heading tags and boom!

1st position overnight and their competition don’t have any hope of catching up for a very long time.

And even if there isn’t a flurry of high value backlinks heading to the website – a well branded and known business will always attract higher Click Through Rates in the SERPs and will likely engage users on site for longer due to the higher trust factors.

If you’re one of these businesses, lucky you.

But if you’re against a business like this…well…best of luck!

The Naughty Ones

This is probably the most frustrating thing about SEO.

There are certain ways of optimising a website that are not recommended.

In fact, they will get you penalised by Google…

…in theory.

Somehow though there are countless website that are enjoying being at the summit of Google’s SERPs despite having a dangerous amount of spammy links pointing towards their website.

This is where any reasonable person would question their SEO provider as to why they can’t replicate the same results and if they’re talking nonsense about this whole Google penalising spam stuff.

Jumping back into our car analogy – we all know that one guy who is always speeding down every road yet somehow never gets caught.

Yet that one time when you start venturing over the speed limit, without meaning to…

FLASH!

“****!”

And that’s pretty much how Google works and why some websites just seem to get away with murder.

Don’t be tempted to go down that road.

Wait things out because Google is getting smarter every single time they update their algorithm which is happening more and more frequently.

Algorithm Updates

They way Google crawls website, finds links, brings all the information together and credits website isn’t perfect and Google knows that.

Google are always trying to improve their algorithm to reward the good websites and punish those who are trying to take advantage.

If your website is being optimised in the way that Google likes, you will be rewarded every time one of these algorithm updates rolls out.

But as with everything mentioned in this article; it all takes time.

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