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Starting from scratch…how long does SEO take?

So you have a brand new idea or an existing business you want to immerse into the world of “online”. You build a site, do your keyword research, set up your social networks, create your metatags, blog and long term strategy. You submit your site to the search engines…then what?

How long does it take to convert initial web presence to ROI and profit for your client?

SEO_person_blogMy recent experience working with a small business took approximately 1 month to get an initial influx of leads from the new site, then a lull led to some panic (natural!) linking and now, steady leads and conversions have settled at a profitable level – around 4 months after initial submission. Of course there are variations week on week however overall leads from the website remain steady. As a beginner to this type of project I naively expected a cascade of leads almost immediately; steps that I did not give appropriate consideration:

– after submission to search engines, a few weeks of many 404 directs to the old site which looked off-putting in the search results
– creation of accounts on various social media sites with a big fat “0” in followers and friends looked neither impressive, nor did I have the time or popularity myself to increase these numbers quickly
– an oh so empty blog and a lack of content to get it started looked bland and uninteresting
– lack of links to the site, both from social media, local business directory and other websites which take time to come through once submitted

I was so fixated on the site and getting it live I forgot some of the basics and the vital element of time. Other items I negated to consider included the level of competition for keywords in the industry and the nature and breadth of what the website was promoting – in this case financial services.

So is starting from scratch a positive or negative? Is it better to have a business base and website to work from that may contain limitations and errors or start from scratch with a free template and a multitude of ideas but no presence from which to build?

Unless you’re working for a big multinational, SEO in my experience takes time to yield its benefits. Working for small businesses and achieving local dominance is, I believe, entirely possible though – even without paying out thousands for one “amazing” link. Stressing this idea of time and patience to clients I would recommend, is important from the outset.

In your experience, how long have projects taken to yield results? Is there an industry for which SEO commonly works fast or is notoriously slow?

Please comment and add your views – any opinions or personal experiences would be really interesting to learn about!