The biggest lament of any business owner employing the services of an SEO agency or search engine optimization professional is the time it takes to see results. Those who have not been taken thoroughly through the process and had expectations managed by the agency will likely lose patience very soon, seeing their consultancy fees ongoing and tangible results slow to filter through.
If you’re doing your own SEO, it can be even more confusing. As you follow the ‘white hat’ rules but don’t see any discernible rankings change, you can be left wondering if you’ve followed the right advice, if you are implementing your understandings correctly, or if there is simply something inherently wrong with your website that means no amount of SEO will remedy.
Any website owner finding themselves stuck in this mindset is actually in a very vulnerable position with their white hat resolve being tested. It’s easy to lose faith and motivation or worse, fall prey to an unscrupulous ‘expert’ seeing a money-making opportunity.
SEO is not an exact science, but if you are doing more things right than wrong, you should see subtle differences. Treat these as small sign posts that your campaign is gathering speed and is being executed properly. Of course, it can be hard to see the forest for the trees, but if you can pinpoint one or two of the following, you can be assured you’re on the right path.
1. Visitor Numbers
The underlying goal of any SEO or online marketing campaign is to attract more of the right kinds of traffic to the website. Key to measuring this is software such as Google Analytics which will keep comprehensive tabs on traffic flow and visitor numbers to the site.
After weeks or months of toiling away, there should be at least a gentle increase in the number of visitors arriving at the site. Google Analytics allows you to compare two time periods so you can see in black and white whether or not more traffic is arriving on your site following optimization efforts.
Search engine optimization attempts to drive traffic to the site through a variety of methods and using a number of sources. If you can pinpoint an increase in visitor numbers, the mood should be positive. Remember to take into account seasonal variations when conducting this test – if you own www.christmastreelights.com, you’ll naturally expect to see a few more visitors in November and December anyway; likewise, you probably won’t see a massive traffic spike for this site in say July or August. Some increase in visitor numbers should be visible if SEO is being done correctly and takes into account your own unique quirks.
2. Google Presence
While it’s great to know that your rankings are improving, you can also check to see if your overall presence on Google has changed for the better. When you start to notice an increase in the number of keywords your website appears for, take that as a sign that your SEO campaign is starting to prove fruitful.
An increased visibility in other areas such as a news item being top in the Google News tab, videos appearing under the Video search, a top six Google Places listing or, images and products showing in Google Shopping are also very encouraging signs.
3. Social media
The social media sphere is hugely influential. There is a massive opportunity for business to tap into this by converting bloggers into brand advocates, engaging Facebook users with viral games and promotions, offering incentives for new clients, or actively seeking out customers to post reviews and brand feedback in discussion forums and review sites. If your company has developed a strong social networking presence or has even started to receive traffic from a Facebook page or company blog, the cause can usually be traced back to SEO efforts.
Social media has the potential to direct traffic to websites, convert browsers into buyers, and can lead to an increased presence in the search engine results pages so a tangible social media presence can only be a good thing.
4. The user experience
An improved user experience may not lead to better rankings, but it will almost certainly lead to increased sales. Throughout your optimization campaign you’ll hopefully have been making tweaks – both major and minor – to your website. The addition of new pages, more useful information, removal of outdated pages, better ALT tags, titles and body copy — plus the introduction of video or improved product images — should all be viewed as an accomplishment.
A better website is one that is more popular with visitors, helps to convert sales leads easier and will attract more links back to itself. These signs of improvement should all be enthusiastically received even if the site’s rankings themselves have been slower to follow.