The Most Important Question You Should Ask About SEO


Written by Prabhjot Jolly

As specialists in digital marketing, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is one of the many tools we offer our clients as part of our digital marketing toolkit. And often, one of the first questions that we’re asked is, “How much time will it take for SEO to show results?”

The answer to this question isn’t straightforward as the SEO game is in a perpetual state of flux and is continually changing. 

SEO today is increasingly driven by what is called ‘phrase’ or ‘instruction’ search, as people now use questions, phrases, or instructions rather than two to three keywords. One of the primary reasons for this change is down to people using tools like ‘Siri’ and Google ‘voice search’ to speak their searches, rather than typing them in. In addition, people have also begun including more details in their typed searches as they want to find what they’re looking for faster. 

These keywords are much easier to rank for as they’re not as competitive and are much more relevant because they include more detail. As a result, traffic from these keywords converts at a higher rate. In aggregate, the number of searches in the long tail often adds up to many more searches than you would get from your “golden keywords.” Therefore, the objective, when it comes to search rankings, is not to rank for a few top keywords that remain the same over time but to focus on a much larger number of phrase or instructional searches that are growing and changing rapidly.

How long does it take for SEO to start working? Don’t stop too soon!

Earlier, the strategy was to identify those keywords that were the most relevant to a business, got the most traffic, and weren’t very competitive. We used to figure out ten to fifteen keywords that were called the “golden keywords” and would bring in the majority of the traffic. That keyword strategy is now evolving, because with rarer and rarer exceptions, there is no one keyword, and no small group of keywords, that is going to drive a lot of traffic to a website. Instead, a long tail of search is the new mantra for SEO. 

Do search rankings really matter? Output v/s Outcomes!

Search rankings matter, but they’re not the metric you should be focusing on. If, by asking “How long does SEO take to show results?” you mean “How long will it be before I get top rankings?” then you’re mistaking outputs for outcomes. Getting rankings is an output SEO firms can easily sell because they’re emotionally satisfying, but they’re worthless unless they generate the outcome you want - Leads / Activations / Sales / Service Requests, etc. That’s why you should only hire SEO firms or SEO professionals who focus on outcomes, rather than outputs.

The question you should be asking about SEO!

Now that you know how SEO has changed and that you want leads and sales from your SEO firm rather than just rankings, the question you should be asking is “How long will it take for SEO to start generating leads and sales?”

Now that we’re ready to answer the right question, the answer is - SEO success depends on a few factors. Factors such as how long has your website been around, how much SEO has been done on it previously, what shape the website is in, how much content is on it, its link profile, and others, all contribute to answering the question you’ve asked. 

Professional SEO firms or individuals will tell you that it usually takes four to six months to start seeing results. That’s usually an accurate assessment, but keep in mind that this is when the results will start coming in, and SEO results grow over a period of time. Whatever results you’re getting at six months should be considerably less than what you’re getting at twelve months. At some point, you may see your results slow down a bit, and then it may be a matter of maintaining results rather than growing them.

Many companies underestimate how much time and money it takes to be successful with SEO. SEO success by any standard rarely comes within the first three months, even with a healthy, substantial budget. 

We’ve experienced companies getting started the right way, but quit after two to three months saying, “We just weren’t getting the ROI we needed to justify the spend.” This experience highlights that these companies went into the SEO exercise with unrealistic expectations, mainly fuelled by knowledge gained from unprofessional and unreliable sources (and there are plenty of them in the market these days).

If you can’t budget for six to twelve months of SEO, you might be better off putting that budget somewhere else as paying for just a couple of months of SEO activity is no better than throwing your money away. SEO is a long-term marketing tactic, and shouldn’t be seen as a way to generate sales quickly. If companies make the proper investment and plan it for a long time, then SEO will get them the best ROI on their spend.

If you’d like to take your SEO to the next level, reach out to the digital marketing experts at We specialize in optimizing websites and content for improved search engine results and provide small businesses with the right tools and supporting services to nurture and manage their online presence. 

Our head office is located in Toronto, and we serve clients across Canada and North America.

To learn more about our services and complete digital marketing tool kit, please click here. If you have any questions about how we can help with your digital marketing needs, we’d love to hear from you. Please contact our experts here

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