Unless your business is the only game in a small town, you have a website and you need it to be working for you.  If prospective customers can’t find you on search, it isn’t.  Worse, a “bad” website experience can drive your customers away and may actually work against you.  With Google’s increasing focus on mobile and local search, some big changes have taken place with search and a lot of businesses need new SEO.  So how long does it take for SEO to improve search rank?  Read on.

Google’s recommendation, get an expert and be patient. Google search team just released a “How to Hire an SEO” video.  It has some good tips for business owners in need of search engine optimization – both practices and people.

No Quick Fixes

For us, it confirms what we have known for a while but we are glad to see Google say it.  The main takeaway that improving your SEO is a commitment and doesn’t happen right away.  Despite claims from “Hi, I’m Julie and I can help your business list first on Google search,” there aren’t any quick fixes and though good practices work, they take time.  Most businesses find that it takes 4 to 12 months (a whole year) to identify issues, implement a plan for improvement and ultimately, see solid results from an SEO campaign.

With few exceptions, most business owners can’t do a lot when it comes to their website’s SEO.  Since running a business is a full-time job, learning website design and programming, Internet marketing, or content management probably hasn’t been on your “to do” list and understanding Google may not even be something you “want” to do.  Unless you are spending all of your free-time on the back-end of your website, you need an SEO expert to help you.

SEO Expert Wanted

There are a ton of choices when it comes to finding someone to do your SEO and there can be major differences with what they offer and how much it costs, depending on what you need.  At one end, you have the independent who only does SEO and at the other, you have full-service agencies that can do everything from start-to-finish, from website design and management, to help with your branding, social media and online marketing, search engine rank, and maintenance to make sure all the hard work doesn’t go to waste.

How long does SEO take and can you speed up the process?  

You can speed it up by hiring an SEO expert who can evaluate your website, identify areas for improvement, recommend actions and help you implement them.  Some SEO companies may talk about sure-fire solutions and shortcuts, and in the past, a lot of them worked but Google has changed over the past several years and has been clear about what will work, what won’t work and even what can harm you.

Good SEO can increase not just your Google rank – it should improve your customer experience.  From what a potential customer sees on an Internet search, through what happens when they get to your site and all the way to conversion, SEO should make your business look as good as it is.  The good news is that for the most part, SEO that helps your search rank will improve you customer experience.

This is Your guy/gal

How do you identify the right SEO?  These tips come right from Google.

  • You need knowledge and experience

    .  Find out what they know, how they know it, what they have done in the past and how well it worked.  If you can get a verbal reference, great but if you can’t then ask for specifics on clients, examples and reports.  Bonus if you can get an example of something that didn’t work and what they did about it.

  • You need a person you can work with

    .  SEO is not just a technical matter that can be done from afar. You need an individual that you can communicate with and who can communicate with your developers, marketing staff or anyone else who is involved with the online part of your business.

  • You need a two-way interview.

     An SEO expert who isn’t concerned about “who” you are and “what” your business represents isn’t an “expert.”  You are doing the hiring but they should be asking some questions about your target customers, marketing and social media activities, competitors, differentiation and what your website needs to do for your business.  If they don’t want to know, they can’t help you.

  • Get a site audit.

     SEO is a commitment for you and your team.  Before you hire someone, ask them for a website audit – both technical and search.  This is real work that takes real time so you should expect it to cost – whether you end up hiring them or not but the audit will tell you about your website and their expertise.  You should expect to see results on technical function of your website – how it looks and how it works – and on search including branded (searching for your name), non-branded (searching for any business like yours), and local search.

  • Get the plan and estimate

    .  You need to know more than “how much.”  The proposal should identify a list of problems, solutions for each and how long it will take.  It should address implementation time, evaluation and adjustments and when results might begin and mature.  They should also include information about what will be done if something isn’t working and how it will be addressed.  Likely, you will see both “now” and “longer” service.  When you get the numbers of time and money, remember Google said it takes 4 to 12 months for the real impact of SEO and when you get there, you have to stay there – which means ongoing SEO maintenance.

What’s the point?

Take heart, take a chill pill, and enjoy the irony.  Speed-obsessed Google just said that it takes a while for SEO to work – anywhere from 4 to 12 months to see solid improvement.  It is longer than most businesses expect but, unfortunately, drumming your fingers doesn’t help.

Even though they said…. it’s not a mystery (and we don’t think it is) and without saying so, they also said that their algorithm is so complicated that regular guys can’t keep up and you need an expert.

Make sure you know how to find the right expert because it takes a while to find out if you didn’t.

See the Google video at…where else? YouTube.

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