How Long Does SEO Take To Work – For Online Retailers?

itably this question comes up in every sales meeting: “How long will SEO take?”

The answer, of course, is “It depends.”  While some very fancy and technological sites will give us some very interesting data about domain age, link volume, trust flow, etc. there is no sure answer. However, one thing almost everybody agrees on is that 6 months is a good ballpark estimate for good SEO results in an optimal situation.

Does SEO take longer than 6 months?

Sometimes. I have had some clients who take only a couple months to get to page 1, but I’ve also seen clients who have barely budged after 6 months of effort. There’s no set SEO system that works for every type of site in every type of industry. It’s just not safe to say it will always take “X months” to get results.

In the case of online retailers, though, maybe there’s a better answer than “6 months” or “it depends.”

SEO for Online Retailers – A Case Study.

We had a chance to work with a local retailer who had only been working on a retail section of their website for a year. This retailer had put the time and effort into building over 3000 pages on their site, and had written custom descriptions for each item. They wanted to know if SEO would work for them, and, if so, how long it would take to work.

Our analysis showed that the immense effort they had already put into the site had started making a difference even before concerted SEO efforts began. They had a handful of keywords already ranking on page 1. They just needed a bit of a boost to get to the top 3.

We created a strategy that would help the in-house team optimize their work as they continued to add products and blog posts. We taught them how to set up their categories and product pages to more accurately target valuable search terms.  In the mean time, we began our extensive link building campaign, where we first amplified the overall link profile of the main page, strengthening its authority. We also targeted the low-hanging fruit – those keywords that were already ranking well – and gave them a push.

Rankings improved immediately. Within just 2 months the average position of the site’s hundreds of keywords had risen noticeably. But next was actual visitors to the site.

SEO Results vs Visitor Results.

Most SEO companies consider “Results” to be rankings. And rankings are great, but they don’t pay the bills.  Most important is visitors to the site.

In general, as ranking improve, site visits lag behind. Good rankings don’t generally generate much traffic until they reach the top 3 positions. So front page is good, but top 3 is the money maker.

In the case of our online retailer client, a few of their products began reaching the top 3 spots within 2 or 3 months, even beating amazon in some cases. Soon more and more keywords followed as the overall average position continued to rise.  Here’s a look at some of their analytics from just a day ago (see if you can tell when we started working with them):

SEO for online retailers

Paid search was a huge driver in this growth, but SEO generating more than paid was generating at the beginning of the year.  Revenue has nearly tripled over the previous year. And that’s a gorgeous trend-line.

So, how long does it take for SEO to work for online retailers? Let me ask you this: do you think this online retailer is wanting to stop? Do you think they consider their SEO to be complete? The answer is that for an online retailer, it’s a never-ending process that adds more and more as time goes by, like an avalanche.  Those first few keywords aren’t going to justify the cost of SEO, but the later rankings are more than going to make up for it if all goes well! 🙂

Are you looking to get your online retailing work going on its own without help from an SEO? You can get a lot of it done yourself if you follow best practices like those laid out in our DIY SEO Book.