How Long Should SEO Take | Episode 6

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In Episode 6 of the Trades Secret Podcast hosts Devon Hayes and Amanda Joyce discuss SEO (search engine optimization) and how long an effective plan should take. We also dive into some tips and tricks to maximize your time working on SEO, and some red flags to look out for when hiring a company to manage it on your behalf. 

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Transcription:

Amanda Joyce:

Hi, I’m Amanda Joyce.

Devon Hayes:

And I’m Devon Hayes. And today we are going to be answering the question, how long does SEO take? And here’s why you should care. Because understanding the nature of the SEO beast will set realistic expectations for this particular marketing service.

Devon Hayes:

Welcome to Trade Secrets, where we demystify digital marketing to help contractors get the most bang for their marketing bucks.

Amanda Joyce:

This is for you if you’re a contractor looking for actionable marketing insights.

Devon Hayes:

Learn from home services industry experts to elevate your business through simplified marketing strategies.

Amanda Joyce:

Let’s dive into today’s trade secret.

Okay, so this is a great topic. It’s a natural one. So before we get started today, Devon and I just figured we share with you guys why we even selected the topic to begin with. It’s probably a question you’ve asked. Even if you don’t currently invest in SEO, you probably have found yourself asking before. Should I decide to, how long is this going to take?

Devon Hayes:

Well, and we’ve been doing this for so long, and we’re subject matter experts, but we can’t even tell you for sure, it’s going to take nine months. For sure, it’s going to take 12 months. So today’s podcast, we’re just going to dive into why that is and what factors go into your ranking and help you understand why anyone who gives you a very specific answer is, if they tell you three months or something like that, I’d maybe run the other way.

Amanda Joyce:

Yeah, yeah, exactly. And over the last week we’ve been doing a lot of our annual reviews, and so this has also been something that’s come up with Devon and I even just looking back at some of the results that we’ve given for different clients and different markets. And it’s so funny that even within our own client roster, that answer is completely different. So from one city to one service to the next. So this is an ambiguous answer, but we’re excited to just dive into it and share with you guys what goes into it. And like Devon said, just to know if maybe someone makes you a promise that you might need to look at them a little skeptically.

Devon Hayes:

Yeah, definitely. Especially SEO combined with paid media, you’re going to get results a lot faster, and that has to do with turning on the faucet with that paid media or PPC campaigns. It’s going to help your organic campaign, but when you turn that ads faucet off and the dust settles, you’ll truly see where you are ranked organically. So it’s great if you have the resources to do those both at the same time to get faster results, but if you’re investing in a solid SEO firm, that’s not always possible with a more conservative budget. So anyways, with that, hooray, let’s dive in. All right.

Amanda Joyce:

Let’s do it.

Devon Hayes:

So quickly. We’ll cover what SEO is. In its most succinct form, SEO is just the art of getting to page one of a search engine. Most people think of Google, I think 96% of the world uses Google as their primary search engine, so.

Amanda Joyce:

It’s a good place to focus, Google. Yeah, at the end of the day, there’s some secondary ones, but if you’re focused on Google, you’re going to be good across the web, so.

Devon Hayes:

Yeah, nobody Yahoos something, you know what I mean? That’s not…

Amanda Joyce:

Exactly, or Bing. It is interesting. I’ve run ad campaigns forever and it is interesting that I worked with a bunch of clients up in the Seattle area and because it’s Microsoft world up there and everybody gets Microsoft computers and a lot of them work for Microsoft, their computers just automatically come with Bing. So we did have to treat that a little bit differently. Total side note, but it’s just interesting that outside of Seattle proper, it’s Google.

Devon Hayes:

Absolutely. So that’s what SEO is and I think that’s the easiest definition. So we’re just going to roll with that one. Maybe one day we’ll get a more technical podcast on here, breaking down the different areas of SEO, but that’s a little MBA.

Amanda Joyce:

That’s another day.

Devon Hayes:

We’re going 101.

Amanda Joyce:

Yeah.

Devon Hayes:

We’re going 101 today. All right, so all right, the question, how long does SEO take? If you’re a contractor and you’re like, all right, you sold me on this thing. You’ve told me no one can take away my organic positioning once I invest and I’m all in. Now, how long does this take? How long before I see some ROI on my SEO investment? Well, there’s no concise answer, but here’s some of the factors that go into your positioning and why it takes so long.

Number one, your market. Are you in a big market, a small market? What’s your trade? We can tell you if you are, let’s see here, we just looked. If you pull up Google trends, it’s trends.google.com and it’s a great site to check out search trends in the US or Canada. You can search by country. And if you compare the amount of search volume for a roofer versus electrician versus plumber versus landscaper, I am going to try and share my screen here. For those of you just listening, I’ll try and explain it here. But what you see here is roofer search volume and landscaper search volume are, on average, we’ll say the middle of summer, you got a roofer an average of 10, electrician at 70, plumber at 64, and then a landscaper with an average volume of seven. And these numbers are skewed, take them for what they are, but that tells you-

Amanda Joyce:

Proportionately where the volume is.

Devon Hayes:

Yeah. So if you are a roofer versus an electrician, the search volume for your trade is a ranking factor in how quickly you can move up those search engine page results. So for those of you that can’t see on the graph way down below you have landscaper and roofer and then way up above you have electrician and plumber with just steady search volume throughout the year. And so when you look at just that factor alone of how many people are searching for your service, that alone is a factor in how quickly you’re going to be able to move the dial when you start to focus your SEO when you start to work on SEO, right?

Amanda Joyce:

Exactly.

Devon Hayes:

So anyway, your trade for one and the search volume for what you do, your location if you’re in a small town versus a big city.

Amanda Joyce:

A big old city. And also depending on how in close proximity you are to other people offering the same service. You could maybe be in a big city with a lot of volume, but maybe you’re lucky enough to be in a pocket where you don’t have a ton of people around you. So that can actually be a really benefit, big benefit benefit for you. You could be in a small town that’s just chock full of roofers and so there’s just another one of those factors that definitely impacts you, but it’s literally different from contractor to contractor.

Devon Hayes:

For sure. If you’re in a small town and you’re looking for pizza delivery, you might get two options versus if you’re in a big city, you’re going to get, I don’t know, 50, a hundred options for pizza delivery. So if you think about it in those terms, it makes sense. So that’s a maybe easier way to think of it. I don’t know, maybe it’s just an analogy I didn’t need to make. Time will tell. So your location, how many competitors, search volume for the phrases that you offer. We touched on that. Your website performance.

Amanda Joyce:

Big one.

Devon Hayes:

Yeah. This is more and more important. It’s measured in what’s called core vitals through Google, and if you have a slow website, you are going to get pushed further down on those search engine result pages. So your website performance plays a big role in that. Are you mobile friendly? That plays another role in it. So the technical aspect of your website is important. Let’s see, keyword targeting. If you are going for the most competitive keyword with the highest difficult for ranking, and you… Man, I’m trying not to get too into the weeds and start talking about domain authority, but if you’re going for a highly competitive keyword phrase and you’re new to the SEO game and you have a newer website and a newer domain, it’s going to take even longer for you to rank on top of all these other factors.

And then it goes down to you’re looking at your local performance. Where is your business physically located and in reference to where you want to surf, that’s a factor. How often do you get reviews? What are those reviews? Are you applying to those reviews? Are you posting on your Google business profile? That’s a whole other chunk of your local positioning. Amanda, content marketing. It’s another factor, right?

Amanda Joyce:

Yeah, exactly. Exactly. How often you’re posting, the quality of what you’re posting, the length of the content you’re posting. If you’re posting videos, if you’re getting engagement on your social posts, all of those things play a role as well. Content marketing is a huge chunk of that SEO piece and it can’t just sit there stagnant. It really does have to be providing value and be garnering that engagement to really help you make those gains in the search rankings. And then schema markup.

Devon Hayes:

Absolutely. Oh my gosh, so schema, this is again going into the weeds on the more technical side, but basically if you’re a crawler, you read schema data and then you start reading what’s on a website. So schema is something that we as users don’t see, but if you picture it as a simplified menu for the crawler and you just say, Hey, crawler, my website is about landscaping. I’m a landscaper in Denver, Colorado. This is my phone number, this is my address, these are the areas I served in. It goes down like that versus the crawler going, reading your logo, maybe finding the word landscaper on your logo and then having to scroll down further down your page until it finally sees landscaper in Denver.

The longer it takes for a search engine to crawl your site to figure out what you do, the longer it takes to provide those results to a user and users, they really, Google has a certain amount of time that it wants to deliver results to all of us. So if it takes too long for it to figure out what the hell it is you do and where you serve, you’re going to get pushed down, so.

Amanda Joyce:

They’re going to move on. Yeah, I think about cliff notes. I leaned on those a lot in college. I didn’t read all the books and if I didn’t have those cliff notes, but basically you’re just helping, you’re giving Google what it needs so it makes Google’s job easier and they’re going to reward you for that. And then off page profiles. Another one, you need to make sure that everywhere your company is listed around the web, you want to make sure that it’s consistent. That as Google’s finding you elsewhere, your phone number’s the same, all the information you’re sharing is the same. It’s again, just giving Google the warm fuzzy feelings that this is in fact, the company that I’m serving up in the search results, they’re clearly reputable, they’re very consistent around the web. Another big one that plays a huge role. You could be doing all the other things and any one of these things could hurt you if you’re skipping them. And then there’s reviews.

Devon Hayes:

And then there’s more, and we touched on this, but reviews. How many you have on them. What we tell our customers to focus on is Google Reviews. We’ve said this before and we’ll probably say it a hundred more times this year, but Google is a narcissist, so it’s going to look at its own products before it goes to a third party like Yelp to look at your Yelp reviews or Facebook recommendations. So focus on the Google beast when it comes to reviews, but how many you have, do you reply to them? Is it timely? Are you replying in an optimized way? Those all factor into your search engine positioning.

And then last of all, say even if you’re doing all of those things that we just listed and there was a lot, we know, even if you’re doing all of them perfectly, then there is the dreaded algorithm update that happens three or four times a year and it blows up whatever you’ve been working on. Sometimes a specific industry gets targeted more than others. There was a big EAT update a couple years ago and that really targeted those in the financial sector and healthcare services. And then most recently, Amanda, there was the my favorite, a EEAT update.

Amanda Joyce:

EAT. EAT.

Devon Hayes:

A EEAT. And that one was, so that one changed. It updated EAT to EEAT, which is what? It’s the ex…

Amanda Joyce:

Oh my gosh.

Devon Hayes:

Expertise. Experience, expertise, authoritativeness and trustworthiness.

Amanda Joyce:

Yes.

Devon Hayes:

You know what? Yes. Ah EEAT.

Amanda Joyce:

EATs.

Devon Hayes:

All right. That’s probably enough of that.

Amanda Joyce:

And one other thing I did want to… Oh, wait, sorry, go ahead.

Devon Hayes:

And I was just going to say sorry. So we got off track, but that’s an algorithm update and what those do is completely change how, I don’t know, it could be how a crawler trusts your site or what information the quality raiders are now looking for on Google in order to consider your content trustworthy. Back in June, we actually ran into a, hilarious for us, we had to change our content marketing plan, so the algorithm update in June, it was based on AI and basically their AI took the search term, install anything with the phrase install to mean that someone wanted to install a roof themselves. They wanted to install an EV charger themselves. So it started showing all these DIY results instead of service provider results, which was just-

Amanda Joyce:

For pretty good keywords too that were important to our clients and suddenly we’re losing ranking on them and we’re seeing it across reports. It was crazy, but it does seem like they, in true Google fashion, they seem to have already recognized that, and it seems to be leaning back the other way. There’s still plenty of DIY that we’re seeing out there, but it’s not as heavy as it was. So that’s the stuff that, like Devon said, they changed the rules on you all of a sudden and you just have to be prepared and keep your ears to the ground so when it happens, you’re just ready to make small tweaks. If we were to go back and refilm this video a year from now, there could be two new bullets in this that aren’t even on our radar right now that then we’re having to be really dialed in on. So that’s why you have us, we’ll be here to tell you.

Devon Hayes:

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Okay, so having said all of this, what we tell people, and I think realistically what the professionals and the good guys in the industry will tell you is about nine to 12 months is when you should start to see more leads coming in. More form, form fills more phone calls, but all along the way, there’s ways to measure your SEO company’s performance. There’s ways to measure if you’re improving or declining or how things are working so that you don’t feel like you’ve got the wool pulled over your eyes for 12 months while you trust an SEO person, because we understand that that’s really hard to do. These dollars are very valuable, very important. And so you want to work with someone that you trust. And so this next section here that we’re going to cover is what can you measure? How can you keep track of what work is being done and how you’re progressing.

Amanda Joyce:

Where the money’s going. Yeah, exactly. So one would be position movement. Again, you could start out at the bottom of what we now get to call page one, but you could be in position 60 for a word or a term that you’ve identified, and as long as you can see some incremental movement in the right direction, stuff’s being done works, it’s beginning to work it and that’s definitely a really good component to use and measure along the way.

Devon Hayes:

Yep, absolutely. And then the number of keyword that you rank for, and the important thing to note here is here’s a pro tip. If it’s your brand name, like your company name, that’s what we call it, a brand term, you should rank for that. So your SEO company shouldn’t be taking credit for getting you on page one for your own company name. But your valuable keywords that should be done upfront, the ones that have your service term plus your location, those are the meaty, really good keyword phrases that you want to focus on because there’s just a high buyer intent or sometimes called high commercial intent. They want to make a purchase. So it’s a transactional search versus someone who’s just looking for.

Amanda Joyce:

Roofing trends. Yeah, exactly.

Devon Hayes:

Yeah, absolutely.

Amanda Joyce:

Exactly. Yeah, and I was going to say, one of the things we run into sometimes when we’re talking to new and potential clients is they’ve been with an agency that’ll really want to tout that number of keywords they’re ranking for, and then we go look at them and we’re like, yeah, you’re ranking for a lot of terms, but they don’t have that buyer intent, so it’s just really, it’s much more important. It’s quality over quantity. You could be really moving up the search for really high quality keywords and maybe there’s just a small bucket of them versus suddenly you’re ranking for 90 keywords, but it’s irrelevant to your business or it’s not going to drive those contacts that you need to justify the spend on SEO.

Devon Hayes:

Yeah, and again, to go back to my pizza analogy, because I love it so much, Googling pizza versus pizza delivery, that shows two different intents. Maybe somebody is looking up, they’ve never heard of pizza, they’re unlucky that way, but if they’re looking up pizza delivery, that’s transactional, they’re ready to buy, they want some pizza delivered to their door, they’re going to make a purchase. So think of it that way when you’re weeding through those keywords and don’t be impressed by quantity. Really, really look at the quality of those keywords.

Amanda Joyce:

Absolutely.

Devon Hayes:

All right, what else do we have here? We have organic traffic website.

Amanda Joyce:

Yes. So that should be continuously improving. It’s, again, not going to happen overnight, but if you’re seeing those incremental improvements in your organic traffic, clearly things are moving in the right direction.

Devon Hayes:

Because, and this is where, here’s another pro tip. So, and gosh, when we have to switch to Google Analytics four in July, I don’t know if they the platform yet, but right now in Google Analytics, you can look at all of your acquisition channels. So that means all of the different ways that users got to your website, they’re broken down. So there is direct traffic, and that’s somebody who specifically typed your company name and found you and got through to your website. Then there’s organic traffic, and that’s people looking for your services and then they pulled through as traffic. Then there’s social referral traffic, paid media traffic, email marketing traffic.

But it’s nice that you can look at the ways people got to your site. If you’re getting a report that says, we got 10,000 new users to your website, but it’s not segmented by which channel’s the organic traffic channel. What you really want to know is, okay, great, I got 10,000 users to the website. Was that from my ads that I’m running? Was that from my social campaigns? Was that from the email campaign that I ran? Or was it from organic traffic? And can be correlated to the work that your SEO company is doing? So that’s why we don’t just say increased traffic to your website and we say increased organic traffic.

Amanda Joyce:

Increased organic website. Exactly. Exactly. Good pro tip.

Devon Hayes:

I was going to say the Annie’s, the Annie’s zip traffic. Do you know that Annie’s organic brand? Is that a thing? We call it the Annie’s traffic. That’s ridiculous.

Amanda Joyce:

I like it. I like it. It’s a thing now.

Devon Hayes:

Okay, another KPI increased citations or and or back links. They can be interchangeable. Well, they’re not interchangeable. A citation is one thing and a back link is another thing, but they both perform the same function in that they are another website that has your website’s URL on it and it points traffic to your site from a third party. Did I say that succinctly?

Amanda Joyce:

You want more of those simply.

Devon Hayes:

Sometimes I just…

Amanda Joyce:

Yeah. No, you did a great job. You did. But it is a rabbit hole.

Devon Hayes:

A citation is just a listing on a directory. So a angieslist.com that she… Don’t get started on Angie’s List, but you can have a citation on there, on yellowpages.com, locally, all of those are citations, but a back link could be from a blog from another website or listed on a government, a.gov. Maybe you’re a referral or not a referral source, but they’re referencing your material for some reason. Anyways, so I should make that distinction because I think I lumped them together.

Amanda Joyce:

Another thing is lead form fills. Again, that takes time for you to really start seeing that traffic come in enough that you’re really going to see an uptick in those leads. But as you get towards the end of that nine month period, six to nine months, you should start to be seeing some more, a recognizable lift in those contacts that will only continue as you keep investing in SEO and keep expanding your content marketing strategy. But that’s a good inclination that it’s working. And as a business owner, that’s probably the first of these metrics that you will get super excited about when you actually see those contacts and can start moving people through that sales funnel. And then also website phone calls.

Devon Hayes:

And the website phone calls. And Amanda, so we use what? CallRail to track-

Amanda Joyce:

CallRail.

Devon Hayes:

So that we can…

Amanda Joyce:

Exactly. So that’s a great tool to use.

Devon Hayes:

 and stuff.

Amanda Joyce:

Yeah, you can listen to them. So you know the customer experience the people are getting, it’s really insightful to just take the time to stop and put yourself in the shoes of someone calling into your company. And so it’s a pretty inexpensive tool. You can, for 50 bucks a month, you can have a few tracking numbers. I’m not going to go off on too much of a tangent here, but you can get these tracking numbers in place across your website and on your Google business profile. And then really have a good look into where calls are coming from and the quality, because sometimes you could count them all up and then you find out half of them are people calling to pay an invoice, and obviously that’s not a lead. So having that extra insight can really help you understand the impact it’s having on your business and how many calls you’re getting.

Devon Hayes:

Absolutely.

Amanda Joyce:

So…

Devon Hayes:

Oh, sorry.

Amanda Joyce:

No, no, it’s good. I was just going to say, we probably have to roll into our last section of this because we’re running longer than we normally are, which is great. I think this is a really meaty topic, so I’m glad that we’re really exploring it a little more.

Devon Hayes:

I know.

Amanda Joyce:

There’s so still much.

Devon Hayes:

There’s so much to it. So it’s hard to be overwhelming and I love anyone who’s stuck through this far, I love your commitment to really understanding SEO because you should understand it as a business owner because it’s usually, I just saw a new report that came out that says the cost of SEO per month is anywhere from 1500 to $7,500 per month. Now, if you’re paying $7,500 a month for SEO and you’re the business owner, you probably want to know what’s going on in there.

Amanda Joyce:

Exactly. And you just want to be educated enough to know what questions to ask to hold whoever you’re paying that money to accountable. We’re not expecting you to be able to get in and turn every cog, but it’s just really great to have this high level understanding. And then even if you’re interested in diving in and doing it yourself, starting here and understanding the 360 view and then in later podcasts, we’ll dive in on some really specific things.

Devon Hayes:

And actually, so we said, so as a rule of thumb, trying to summarize everything we’ve talked about. As a rule of thumb, good SEO will take about nine to 12 months for home services contractors with some variables in there. And so market saturation we talked about was a big one. And so just what are your competitors doing? We really dove into a lot there. So okay, rule of thumb. Home services, nine to 12 months is what it should take. Anyone who charges you less than a thousand bucks a month, don’t it, run. Another great. Okay. KPIs, there are ways to measure how your SEO company is performing, so take a look at those.

And then lastly, I was going to say, we actually just did a case study for a roofer in a highly saturated market, and it just took a look at what we were able to do in nine months. And in nine months, we have a bunch of keywords hovering on page 10. And when I say saturated market, I’m talking 490 roofers within a 25-mile radius. So check out that case study. And in those nine months we drove what 85 form fills, and I don’t remember how many phone calls were on that case.

Amanda Joyce:

But man, I wish I had it pulled up right now. But yeah, we really moved the needle a whole lot. So we will link to that case study in the description of this video. So definitely go check it out. We have other case studies on our website, but that’s a really good one that helps you understand what is doable in this time period. But again, there’s a lot of factors that go into it.

Devon Hayes:

Yeah. And then last year they didn’t really have, they had a couple minor storm events for those roofers out there that rely on, not rely, but have storm damage within whatever services, when there’s no storm, it’s a lot there… Work volume is a lot different than when there is a storm and there was just two minor storm events last year, so in nine months without storm events. So it’s a pretty clean case study. No outstanding events that moved the needle any faster for them.

Amanda Joyce:

And they really were getting little to no leads on the website too. So we went from the website being more of a glorified brochure for them to it actually working. So over the next few months, we’re going to be continuing to talk about all the things that we did that played into that. So keep listening.

Devon Hayes:

Yes. Thank you so much for listening. I know we got a little bit in the weeds with some technical terms and dove in really deep, but we hope you understand. Feel free to always reach out and ask us questions. We love answering them and we appreciate you. Thank you so much for listening.

Amanda Joyce:

Yeah, absolutely. Thanks guys. We’ll catch you next time.

That was today’s Trade Secret. Thanks for listening.

Devon Hayes:

Did you find this helpful? We’re just getting started.

Amanda Joyce:

Subscribe, and don’t miss our next reveal.

Devon Hayes:

Until next time.