Search engine optimization (SEO) is known for being one of the most cost-efficient online marketing strategies available, but with one important caveat: it must be treated as a long-term marketing campaign. Most SEO agencies require their clients sign a contract for a minimum term of 6 months to a year or more for this purpose; no matter how much work you do, it's nearly impossible to see meaningful results after just a week or two of effort.

So let's zoom out for a moment. Assuming it takes anywhere from several months to a year to see results from your SEO campaign, what kind of results can you expect after a full year of effort?

The High-Level Overview

It should be no problem to create a full SEO strategy within the first few weeks, highlighting your target keywords and determining your path of execution. After that, you can probably knock out most of your onsite optimization-related tasks in the span of another few weeks.

Beyond that, most of your efforts will be focused on recurring additions, including blog posts and link building; the more time you spend on these, the more your authority and results will grow, but you'll need at least a couple of months before you start to see results.

According to Josh Steimle, you can start seeing actual results (i.e., increases in your traffic) around 4 to 6 months into a campaign. Depending on how much you're investing, you could start seeing hundreds to thousands of visitors by this point, but it's just the beginning.

According to Higher Visibility, it's possible to see a 44.27 percent increase in traffic after 12 months of effort--though this figure is based on starting with an existing stream of organic traffic. John Doherty validates these projections, stating that it takes about 12 months to see what your SEO campaign is truly capable of. At that point, progress will probably taper off unless you invest in bigger, better strategies to handle it.

Ultimately, if you put in a fair amount of effort, you can probably build your organic traffic figures into the thousands (if you're starting from scratch) or increase them by upwards of 50 percent if you're starting with a baseline.

The Variables

Of course, there are dozens of variables that could influence the type of results you see after a year of investing, including:

  • Your industry. Some industries are simply more competitive and harder to rank for than others. It may take far longer to build authority in a high-demand retail space than in a heavily offline industry like manufacturing.
  • Your competition. If you have a close competitor who is already dominating the SERPs, it's going to be harder to carve a spot for yourself. An open field, however, means you should see a spike in your rankings and results early on.
  • Your target keywords and overarching strategy. Your keyword targets should lean to focus on high-traffic, low-competition opportunities. If you choose the wrong keywords, the rest of your strategy could collapse.
  • Your content contributions. A year's worth of content for one organization might be 52 articles--one post a week. For another, it might be closer to 365--a post every day. Your content contributions play a heavy role in your ultimate results.
  • Your link building approach. Your authority is strongly dependent on the quality and quantity of links you build. Similar to content, your investment here can vary--and have a tremendous impact on your eventual results.

How to Tell If Your Campaign Is Floundering

The real question on your mind is probably, "how can I tell if my campaign is failing after a year?" You want to know if, after a year, you're seeing worse-than-average results. So how can you tell that for sure, considering the complexity of the variables involved?

  • Your growth has been stagnant or unpredictable. If you haven't been growing for the last several months of your campaign, or if you seem to grow and shrink in unpredictable chunks, it's a sign that something is wrong.
  • You aren't sure what's working and what isn't. Which of your tactics are working, and which ones aren't? Regardless of your results, if you don't know the answer, you need to readdress your campaign strategy.
  • Your ROI is suffering. Calculate your return on investment (ROI). Are you earning more revenue than you're spending on upkeep costs?

If you've spent a year on your SEO campaign and you still aren't seeing the results you want, it's time to change things up. Start researching new keywords targets, and consider changing your agency, contractors, or employees to get some fresh eyes on your campaign.

You don't want to spend another year leading a stagnant campaign when there's so much to gain from a more worthwhile investment.

Jayson DeMers is the founder & CEO of AudienceBloom, a Seattle-based content marketing & social media agency. You can contact him on LinkedIn, Google+, or Twitter.


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Search Engine Guide > Jayson DeMers > How Much Progress Should You See After a Year of SEO?