It generally takes anywhere from 30 – 90 days to see the full results of an SEO effort. And most often, the results that take the longest tend to be the most powerful and stickiest. On the occasions that results do roll in early, let’s say in the first few weeks, it is usually low-hanging-fruit that is shaken loose giving the site owner the false impression that all rank improvements will come fast an easy. Most rank improvements arrive between month 3 and 6. After that, the strategy often shifts to maintaining the rank gains that were achieved and either going after a broader set of keywords, or going after the high search-volume keywords for that industry.
...most agencies are surprised how long a customer is willing to keep paying for a failing strategy.
Buying SEO services is not like buying a new car where different dealerships sell the same model car for dramatically different prices. In the case of a new car, the underlying product is the same and it’s up to the consumer to find the lowest price. The same is not true for SEO services. To the uninitiated, it may seem as though all SEO professionals do the same work behind the scenes – but nothing could be further from the truth. It is very easy for an SEO professional to sell cheap, ineffective tactics and collect checks for several months before the customer realizes rank hasn’t improved. It’s nearly impossible for the consumer to know which SEO agencies are legitimate and which are selling snake-oil. Look at an agency’s reviews; read through their website; and above all else, pick up the phone and call them.
Unfortunately, most potential customers move forward with the agencies willing to sell false promises...
It’s not recommended to cut-and-run within the first few months, but if you don’t see results start to roll in between 3 – 6 months, it’s ok to walk away (unless, of course, you are trapped in a contract). It isn’t always the case that your SEO agency was ripping you off, sometimes their strategy was simply not what Google was looking for. There’s nothing wrong with burning through multiple SEO agencies over several years until you find one that not only gets results, but that you have a good working relationship with. When threatened with a cancellation, all SEO agencies will claim results take time and to hold on a bit longer, but just know results don’t always come.
It’s a common mistake that a business owner goes after keywords that are too difficult and competitive. And there are SEO agencies happy to go after them, knowing full well they are impossible to achieve. For example, someone shifts careers and wants to start selling homes and asks to be on page 1 for “Manhattan real estate.” Not going to happen. The websites on page 1 for this search have probably been spending $20k+ per month for the last 10 years to achieve these positions. The better strategy is to go after niche or localized keywords to start driving traffic in the short-term, while also working towards longer-term goals in the background. Unfortunately, most potential customers move forward with the agencies willing to sell false promises making legitimate agencies reluctant to explain how things really work.
SEO agencies don’t like to admit this, but sometimes they can’t improve their customer’s rank no matter what they try. They will usually drag this out until the customer realizes it and fires them. They will tell their customer, and perhaps themselves, that results are just around the corner and a little more time is all that’s needed. The reality is every SEO agency has a slightly different theory on SEO and different strengths and weaknesses. They are not a good fit for every business that comes through the door. It is ok to fire your SEO agency, in fact, most agencies are surprised how long a customer is willing to keep paying for a failing strategy.