By Cara Whitehouse

By its very definition, there is an immediacy about the internet. If we want to find it / buy it / see it now, then the web enables us to do that. Which is possibly why people assume that Search Marketing will also provide instant results.

If this is what you need, then Pay-Per-Click Marketing (PPC) is for you. With the help of a Digital Marketing Agency, you can set a campaign up within a matter of hours, and it allows you to get straight onto that critical first page of Google.

But if you’re looking at the longer-term investment of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), then you’re going to have to be more patient. As the old cliché goes, SEO is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s a gradual, strategic process that simply can’t be rushed. And here’s why:

Literally millions of websites launch every single day. And at the same time, just as many are abandoned — which is why Search Engines often take their time when it comes to indexing a new site and adding it to their rankings. They want to be sure that your site is in it for the long haul, and that it’s worth them adding you to their database. So if your site it new, this is the first hurdle you’ll need to jump.

But the need for patience doesn’t end there. When it comes to indexing (and consequently ranking) pages, not all sites are equal. While the BBC’s main news page may be re-indexed several times an hour, a rarely changed ‘back-end’ page of a site may only be crawled and re-ranked every few weeks, or even months. So SEO changes made to your pages may take a while to be found — and consequently mean your rankings may take a while to change.

And I’m afraid that’s not it either. The likes of Google often ‘bounce’ pages around while they’re trying to figure out where their true rank should be — so a site may jump up the ranks for a keyword one month, only to fall back again the next. This is very normal — although your rankings should eventually settle (generally in a higher position than before).

Is your patience about to wear out? I’m afraid there are a couple more things you’ll need to bear in mind. Quality link building is one of the most important factors in boosting a site’s rankings — because links act like ‘votes’ for a site. But this is a process which can’t be rushed. The likes of Google will want to see links into a site building at a steady and credible rate that mimics the way word of mouth about a popular site would naturally grow. So link building can’t be rushed. In fact, if an SEO company were to employ ‘black hat’ techniques and throw hundreds and hundreds of links at a site one month, then very few the next month, the Search Engines would likely spot that ‘manipulation’ tactics were at play, and in the worst case scenario, your site could be ‘de-indexed’ from its results pages — putting you in a worse position than when you started.

Finally (phew!) the last reason SEO may take some time is that you can’t account for what your competitors might be doing. If everyone else is doing SEO on keywords similar to yours, then top rankings could take a while to achieve.

So — those are all the ‘caveats’…

In reality, most sites do start to see results within a matter of weeks. But anyone who is serious about SEO should view it as a long-term investment, not an overnight ‘quick fix’. And any SEO company that guarantees quick results should viewed with the utmost suspicion — because good quality SEO that will stand the test of time is not something that can (or should) be rushed.

Cara Whitehouse is Head of UK & Europe at Reload Digital, a leading UK Search Engine Optimisation, Search Engine Marketing and Online Strategy company. www.reloaddigital.co.uk.