One of the questions we are asked most often by our SEO and Digital Marketing clients is: "how long will this take to start working?". It's a tricky one to answer so we have addressed it in a podcast, explaining the different types of work and when you should expect to start seeing some results.
Basically, there are a number of different tactics you can use. Paid advertising will tend to get results relatively quickly, whereas optimising your own site for search engines can take a lot longer but can pay back well into the future. For a more detailed take on this question, listen to the podcast.
You can listen to it using the integrated player above, or on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google, Deezer or whatever platform you normally use for your podcasts, or stream it on YouTube. If you prefer reading, we've included a full transcript below.
Dave: Okay, so we're back at the digital marketing from the podcast coalface, and I'm-
Dave: Joined ... Digital Marketing From The Coalface.
Julie: Digital Marketing From The Coalface Podcast.
Dave: Is that not what I said?
Dave: What did I say?
Julie: Digital marketing from the podcast coalface.
Dave: Well, it kind of is a podcast coalface in here, isn't it?
Dave: I suppose we've got wires and flashing lights and all that kind of stuff.
Dave: So yeah.
Julie: So it's a digital marketing podcast from the coalface.
Dave: It is a digital marketing podcast ... One of my favourite songs is a song by Ace called How Long, featuring Paul Carrack. "Your friends with their fancy persuasion don't admit that it's part of a scheme, but I can't help but have my suspicions because I'm not quite as dumb as I seem." It sounds like it's a bit of a love song, but it isn't a love song, it's actually a song about a bass guitarist being poached by one band from another band.
Julie: Is it?
Dave: Yeah. But the title of the song is How Long, and the subject of the podcast today is how long does digital marketing take to start working? So we're going to kind of riff around on that subject, come up with some answers to questions that we get asked quite a lot and to the conversations that we have with clients and potential clients, et cetera. So it's really a podcast, I think, that'll be useful for people who are not yet maybe using digital marketing or they've maybe dabbled a bit with digital marketing and they're kind of wondering how long stuff should take and that kind of thing. Does that sound reasonable? And by the way-
Julie: Well, people who've-
Dave: Did I already say it's Julie and Alex? Did I say that bit?
Julie: No, you didn't.
Dave: Okay. So I'm joined by ... Julie rudely interrupted me just then. And Alex is over the wires using this fab Zencastr tool we use.
Julie: He can't interrupt because we can mute him.
Dave: So who wants to start us off?
Julie: Well, I mean, I think it's something that people ask us a lot. Like, you start working or you're talking about doing some work for them and, like, "Right, so how long is it going to take? When will I see results?"
Dave: And that's not unreasonable, is it?
Julie: No, it's not. But I think people have maybe unrealistic expectations-
Julie: Of how fast this stuff happens. And sometimes it's really difficult to explain that actually, it can take ages.
Dave: Yeah. And if we're talking about digital marketing and how long things take to happen, then there isn't a straight answer because different tactics-
Always Start With A Strategy
Dave: And remember, you should always have a strategy first, but your strategy will deploy tactics and different tactics produce results against different timescales.
Julie: Yes. And sometimes it depends what your objectives are and if it's short-term results you want or if you're trying to build a long-term brand. And so if you're building a long-term brand and doing sort of stuff that you want to last forever, then you would expect it to take longer.
Dave: Is this a fast talking competition? Because you're talking really fast. I know I talk fast.
Julie: I always talk fast. When I moved to London, I actually had to talk slower because nobody could understand me.
Julie: So I will-
Dave: Sorry, come again?
Julie: I will consciously try to speak slower.
"different tactics take different amounts of time"
Dave: Okay. Okay. All right, so different tactics take different amounts of time. Before we get into any specifics and while we're just at the introductory stage, Alex, got anything to add?
Alex: Just that, I guess, what you're saying about the kind of length of the engagement as well, like what you're trying to achieve, has a massive impact on it, right? So we're talking about deploying tactics that might have a very kind of short shelf life, you're going to get quick results, and tactics that are going to have a very long shelf life, they take a lot longer to show results. So I guess that's, I guess ...
Julie: Yeah. I think we're all in agreement about that. But also, sometimes you can get short-term results that as soon as you stop doing the thing that's bringing the results, the results stop, and you can do other things that bring in results over time and once you stop doing the thing, the results keep going. Does that-
Julie: Make any sense?
Alex: I think we're going to-
Julie: But that maybe-
"Once you stop paying for the adverts, you've got no way of getting that traffic or those leads in."
Alex: Have to dive in specifics, right? Because I think the thing with dancing around is that a lot of digital marketing tactics that you are paying for, things like paid search, social media advertising, that kind of thing, where you're putting a lot of money upfront, tend to pay off very quickly, they tend to stop working equally quickly, right?
Julie: Yeah, that's exactly what I'm meaning. Once you stop paying for the adverts, you've got no way of getting that traffic or those leads in. Whereas if you're doing something that's sort of more long-lasting, then the effects will carry on even when you stop putting the effort in.
Dave: Okay. So we've got tactics that will start working almost immediately. I take a little bit of issue with that, but yeah-
Julie: Almost immediately.
"longer term tactics will help us build traffic, build interest in the brand"
Dave: I know. I know. I know. So we've got those kind of tactics, then we've got longer term tactics that will help us build traffic, build interest in our brand. Our client will build their business more slowly, but maybe those tactics will bring longer term benefits.
Julie: Yeah, I think that's fair, that their-
Dave: So used together, short-term tactics while the long-term tactics are delivering nothing means if you're clever about it, you can use paid search, for example, Google Ads, at the start of a long engagement before the other stuff starts kicking in.
Julie: Yeah, exactly.
Alex: In an ideal scenario-
Even The Fast Tactics Take Time
Alex: Right? But I think it's important to caveat that by pointing out that even things like Google Ads or LinkedIn advertising, where you're going to go to a platform, you're going to pay for adverts, it's not like you can just kind of roll up on day one and say, "Oh, okay, we're going to pay £100 today and we're going to get 100 clicks," or whatever. There's still a lot of kind of legwork to be done in gearing up for those things, right? I mean, we've been doing some work for a client recently, for example, where they want to switch their paid ads back on and we had to build a new landing page for them, we had to write some new content for that. So it's not like any of these tactics are really kind of immediate. You can't just kind of ring somebody up and say, "Turn my marketing on."
Dave: Yeah. I mean, I suppose if you're selling a product, say you're saying a low-cost product, and you just want to get it out in front of an audience very quickly, then something like a Facebook advert, you could have that up and running in pretty much no time, highly target the ads at the right people, the people who will buy that product and boom, you're going to potentially make sales if the product's any good or if the message is any good.
Dave: So one thing I would say, because I agree entirely with what you said, Alex, some of the shorter term tactics still have a lead and what I would call a lead and a learn time.
"a lead and a learn"
So with paid search, for example, if you say month one is you're learning, month two, we might see some inquiries come in, maybe, maybe not. By the end of month two, moving into month three, we should be then getting the thing fairly well-optimised so that if there is a market for whatever we're advertising, we should then be starting to get enquiries. Is that fair, or is that timescale too short, too long? What do you think?
Alex: Yeah, no, I think that is fair and I think it's a really interesting way of looking at it, actually. Like, you call it a learn time. I think that's maybe the piece that's missing a lot of the time, isn't it? People kind of think of marketing in a very transactional way. It's like, oh, I'm going to pay for some adverts, I'm going to get some traffic, I'm going to sell them something. And it's nice to kind of break it down and distill it to that level, but in reality, there's always that kind of learning experience. We're always learning, right?
Review And Learn
Julie: There's a really interesting example of a client we had a few years back, who was doing home extensions. So, yeah, exactly that.
Dave: Did he have a cat?
Julie: Have I miss ... Why?
Dave: No. Sorry. Different client, obviously.
Julie: A cat? I know who you mean. Yeah. Anyway, we'd set up some Google Ads, home extensions as the keyword that you're targeting and had it all set up, ready to go and we were getting clicks and spending some money. This was all good. And then we sort of started looking, as you said, learning and sort of seeing if there's anything we can do to make it work better. And you look at what people had actually typed into Google when they were clicking on home extensions and it was home hair extensions and home-
Julie: Eyelash extensions.
Julie: We're like, "That's not exactly what we want."
Julie: So, yeah, you're getting the clicks, but actually it's not right at all. But there's no way we had kind of realised that that's the sort of traffic we would get from that keyword. So we obviously had to adjust and add some negative keywords, which is a-
Dave: That's right. Yeah.
Julie: Kind of technical thing.
Dave: And just as a quick jargon-buster, Alex, explain what negative keywords are.
Alex: A negative keyword is kind of the opposite of a normal keyword, I guess. So you're telling Google Ads or whatever platform you're using that you don't want your ad to appear for this keyword. So in the example Julie just gave, for example, you could put hair as a negative keyword and then somebody typing home hair extensions wouldn't trigger your ad for home extensions.
Julie: Exactly, yeah.
Julie: So, yeah. So that's part of the learning, that you can be very lucky and you can set ads running and get a great inquiry through straight away, but that's more by chance. It usually takes a little while just to refine it to exactly ... Once you understand who's doing what and how it's working, then you can make adjustments to make it work a lot better, either to save money or sort of target it slightly differently, to spend the money in more appropriate places.
Dave: Okay. So broadly speaking, using tactics where we pay for the exposure, it's an advertising platform, like Google Ads, Facebook ads, et cetera, using those platforms, we can expect to get results reasonably quickly. Certainly within two or three months, sometimes within two or three weeks, in exceptional circumstances, straight away.
Julie: That's fair. Yeah.
Need Leads Now?
Dave: Okay. So that's, I guess, one end of the scale. And so if you're a company who is in a situation where you really need the phone to ring right now, then there are platforms in the digital marketing space that can potentially help you.
Julie: Yeah. Yes.
Dave: I mean, I say that because quite often I'll say to people that digital marketing isn't a distress purchase situation because it doesn't suit itself very well to distress purchase. Like, the phone isn't ringing, there's no money in the bank, we better do something quickly to get business in. Digital marketing isn't always the best, but-
Julie: It's not the best thing.
Dave: We're saying it might, in some circumstances, be okay-
Dave: Depending on the lead time for the product or service.
Julie: Yeah. And digital marketing, you could say well, look, the best way to get quick sales is to reach out to people who already know you and have already bought from you, send an email with an offer to existing customers. Now, that's still digital marketing. You're sending an email out to existing customers and they might go, "Oh, yeah, I'd forgotten about you. Yes, I need a repeat purchase of whatever it is and I want some more." So that's another way of looking at it. And so that's an option if you're really, really in a panic and need something quickly.
Dave: Alex, have you got something to say on that?
Alex: Yeah. Well, I was just going to say that coming back to that point about distress purchases, right, it's like sometimes PPC, Facebook advertising, all of those things, can be used as a distress purchase. I think the important thing, and I say this because I work on PPC campaigns a lot, is that if you do it as a distress purchase, you're not going to get the results you would if you did it in a more considered fashion, right?
Alex: So it's not like a locksmith or a plumber who's kind of standing by to rush in in an emergency. Of course, we can get ads up for you tomorrow and get traffic, but it's never going to be as good as it could be if you took your time. And I think that's quite important because I do think a lot of people kind of treat these things as a very kind of ... "Well, it can be done tomorrow. What's the hurry?" And the reality of the situation is you're only going to get the results you want if you do kind of take your time with it a little bit.
Julie: Like anything, you need the strategy first if you're really going to make sure you're spending your money in the right way.
Dave: Yeah, that's right. I think in showbiz circles, people often talk about it took me 30 years to achieve my overnight success.
Julie: Absolutely. Yes.
Dave: It's that kind of idea that what is maybe perceived as what was something that was a quick solution, it rarely is the case. Maybe that's not the best example, but I think you can make the point. Okay. So I'm keen that people get as much value as they can, so some examples of digital marketing that can deliver quick results. We've mentioned Google Ads, we've mentioned Facebook ads. I guess LinkedIn ads fit into that as well. Twitter maybe.
Julie: Social media, if you've got a decent following already, but obviously you'll have had to have spent probably a few years building up a decent following who follows you and engages with you for it to have an effect. If you start a Facebook page and suddenly stick something out there, that's not going to work fast.
Dave: Yeah, unless you pay to boost it, that kind of thing.
Julie: Exactly. And then that's paid advertising.
Dave: Yeah, that's right. Yeah. Yeah. But that's what I mean. I mean, in the paid arena, they are the kind of platforms-
Dave: And remarketing and all that kind of stuff can be ... As long as you're prepared to pay, you can-
Julie: Remarketing, again, yes-
Dave: Get the message out quickly.
Julie: Quickly, but you'll had to have built the remarketing list already.
Julie: So a lot of these things can happen quickly and email can happen quickly if you've already built a decent email list. So you can do things fast if you've spent a lot of time preparing for them in advance.
Dave: So it's that 30 years to overnight success then.
Julie: Pretty much. I'm on the same page as you there.
Dave: Yeah. Okay. Alex?
Alex: Well, I was just going to say that one thing I have seen people do, an admittedly slightly underhand tactic, is just by email lists. Certainly for remarketing, that's something a lot of people do, isn't it? You just kind of buy up a big list of people's email addresses or Facebook accounts, plug them in and say, "Market to these people." I just think, again, with that, you're kind of risking an awful lot for very short-term gains, aren't you?
Julie: I'd be very interested to see how often that really works.
Dave: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Julie: I mean, in a past life, and I think we talked about this in a previous podcast, you can buy email lists, but those people have never heard of you and they haven't opted in to actually give you permission to email them. The chances are they're just going to delete it. It's very unlikely that they're actually going to want to purchase from you with an email out of the blue and they've never heard of you.
Alex: All those people that email us at Red Evolution offering us SEO services, we read every email, don't we?
Dave: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
"earned lists are always going to be more effective than bought lists"
Julie: Of course we do. But earned lists are always going to be more effective than bought lists. But it's not to say if you're absolutely desperate and-
Dave: Yeah. I mean, if you can buy a list-
Julie: You have to try something, well, there you go. But it's not an ideal situation to be in because you're not going to be thinking sort of long-term, strategically, and you'll do something and it might work or it might be a complete waste of money and you don't really know because you haven't planned it.
Dave: Yeah. That's right. Okay. So we may return to that, but we've got options with digital marketing, as long as we're prepared to pay for the people's attention that we can employ. So at the other end of the scale ... Julie, what have we got at the other end of the scale?
"it takes time to get found in the search engines"
Julie: Well, we've got your own owned media, if you like, your website predominately, where you spend time building up the content on your website so that people find what they're looking for when they're looking for it. And that takes time and it takes time to actually add the content to your website, it takes time to get found in the search engines or, as I was saying before, it takes time to build a social media following so you can put something out there to people who are interested. But once you've got that base, once you've got the website, the content, the audience, the sort of presence online, then that's a long-term way of getting leads-
The Long-term Way To Get Leads
Julie: But it takes time.
Dave: And that's one of the most difficult conversations for agencies like us to have with customers, when it's around the non-paid medium-
Dave: Media. Using search engine optimisation, making sure that you've got a website that gets found in Google, that's the thing that's probably the most vexatious, if that's the word. It's like people just kind of generally don't get why that should take so long. Why can't you-
Julie: But also-
Dave: Just wave a wand and it happens?
Julie: There's not an answer.
Dave: There isn't.
Julie: There's not an answer to how long it's going to take. It might be quite quick, it might not be. And we can't answer that accurately because we really don't know exactly how long that's going to take. I think Alex has got a need to say something.
Alex: Yeah. Well, I was just going to say with SEO especially, I think it's one of those things, isn't it? Because I hear all the time, people say this, like, three to six months or six to nine months or they like to give these kind of really precise ranges of how long it'll take for your SEO to kind of kick in. I think Julie's point is a really good one, though. We sometimes see clients where they're making obvious mistakes, they don't have proper meta titles on their page-
Alex: Ooh. I did it. How long did it take me? It took me 17 minutes that-
Julie: That's not bad. Not bad.
Alex: To trip myself up. It's getting better. So, yeah, when you kind of put a page up on the internet, you have the opportunity to provide what is called meta information, which is information about your information, I guess-
Alex: Where you kind of-
Julie: Yeah. That's exactly what it is, isn't it?
Dave: Yeah. Is he still talking?
Julie: Yeah, he appears to be. I think we pressed mute a while ago, didn't we? No idea. What's he saying?
Julie: Yeah. You tell Google what your page is about and if that's not been done properly ... And you can do it properly, you can get some quite quick wins.
Dave: Alex makes a great point. I mean, the point about sometimes customers come to us and they've got what is actually a decent website that's badly set up, let's say, and that might-
Alex: You avoided the word optimised
Dave: I did. And that might mean that things could happen quicker, for example. Is that kind of where you were going with that dreadfully long-
Dave: Boring dribble?
Julie: What a shame. I think you're being a little bit mean.
Dave: I am. I do apologize.
Alex: What a rare occurrence.
Julie: I think there are times when you can look at someone's site and say, "Well, look, there are things that are really obvious things we can do to make it better," and that could work very quickly, it could work a little bit very quickly, it could work very slowly. Sometimes it depends on how many competitors there are out there trying to do the same thing, sometimes it can just be because Google makes its mind up-
Julie: To do something fast or slow.
How Quickly Will My Website Get Found In Google?
Dave: Let's distill that down then, because one ... I think a thing that people might be interested in ... And I'll bring you back straight after I've stopped talking, Alex, in about four or five hours. One of the things that I think people are interested in is what are the factors that decide how quickly my website will get found in Google? Because they don't want to spend money on paid search, they don't want to spend money on Google Ads, on LinkedIn, Facebook, et cetera, because they know that clicks from normal search, organic search ... And a lot of people don't click the adverts, as we hear. I mean, obviously, plenty do. But that is a question that people would really like an answer to, so maybe we should unpick that a bit.
Julie: Well, I think it-
Julie: Comes down to lots of different things. I mean, part of it is how your website's set up, part of it's what's on your website, and part of it's what everyone else is doing. Have I missed anything?
Alex: Yeah. So I was going to pick up on the point you were just making about competitiveness, right, because I think this is one of the things that's probably most overlooked when it comes to how long is my SEO going to take, for example. Because it doesn't really matter how well you set your site up, if you're in an incredibly competitive industry where you're going toe-to-toe with the likes of, I don't know, Amazon or Waterstones or ... Do you know what I mean?
Alex: Big brands that everyone-
Alex: Knows versus a smaller market, like organic dog food, where you might be able to just kind of put up a few pages and start ranking them within a few weeks.
Julie: Have you got any idea how much organic dog food's out there?
Dave: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
"you have to look at SEO as you're competing with other people for attention"
Alex: Well, evidently not. But yeah, I mean, I guess this is the thing, isn't it? Fundamentally, you have to look at SEO as kind of you're competing with other people for attention, for a share of traffic, so it's all going to depend on how good they are and how sophisticated their SEO is as to how long it takes yours to kind of-
Dave: Just as you're talking about dog food-
Julie: Is that dog going-
Dave: The dog starts barking in the background.
Julie: "Mm, is it dinnertime? My organic dog food has been mentioned."
Dave: Love it. Couldn't have timed that better, Alex.
Alex: But yeah. No. So I just think that's a ...
Julie: Where were you?
Alex: An often overlooked-
Alex: I think I've lost my train-
Julie: You can do everything right, but if someone else is also doing everything right and has been doing it for longer or is doing more of it, then you're never going to be able to kind of get above them in the search results.
Dave: Well, here's an example. We were with a real life, face-to-face meeting in Aberdeen today-
Julie: We were.
Dave: Julie and I, and we were looking over some data with a customer, with a client, and we identified a search term that they would like to be found for. They would like to be on page one of Google so that people find them when they carry out this specific search. And when we looked at the search term, it's mentioned on their website once-
Dave: On one page.
Julie: Twice, I thought-
Dave: No. Originally, it was only-
Julie: Was one-
Dave: Once on one page. Now there have been some changes-
Julie: Oh, yeah.
Dave: Made, which we were discussing. So it was mentioned once on one page. And when we reviewed the webpage that ranked number one for that particular search term, it was mentioned 500 times on the website and on 18 different pages on that website. And that's only on the site that's number one for that search. Now it could be the site that's number two or number three for that search term mentions it only a handful of times. In which case, fine. But there are things that we can do, which digital marketing people can do to try and establish how competitive something is. So it isn't always easy to figure out how long something might take, how long it might take to improve a situation. So one of our clients or the client of an agency gets found quicker, but there are things that we can look at that give us a fairly good indication. Do you think that's fair?
Julie: Yeah. But how hard it's going to be to get where they want to be.
Dave: Yeah. Yeah, that's right. Exactly.
Julie: And if their site's already great, then finding improvements is going to be really difficult, but if their site's a bit iffy and hasn't been set up right and maybe doesn't have that many pages, then there's a lot that can be done that is definitely going to make a difference.
Dave: Well, we've landed some really interesting gigs recently, and one in particular, that customer's website is quite strong, they've got quite a lot of content, but it's almost like they've just kind of chucked it up. They've created content, some of which is quite nice, but they haven't really thought about how they've presented it on their website. So it's almost like, in that situation, and exactly what we're doing for them, we're unpicking it all from a position of relative strength. They haven't come to us saying, "We're trying to make an appearance in this market, our website's got three pages and no content and please help us," they're actually in a situation where they've been going crazy at it, but they've been doing it in a slightly wonky way-
Julie: Yeah. They're getting-
Dave: And we're going to fix that.
Julie: They're getting found, but not necessarily for exactly the things they want to be found for. So it's more us sort of tweaking and refocusing.
Dave: Can I say my joke?
Julie: Go on then.
Dave: They're playing all the right notes, but not necessarily in the right order.
Dave: Yes, finally got that into a podcast. Alex, any thoughts on this, what we're talking about just now?
Alex: No, I went to sleep.
Dave: I knew he was going to say that. Fair enough.
Alex: No. I think that's exactly it, isn't it? The thing that takes the time for SEO especially is kind of if you have to build content from scratch or you have to kind of help somebody position themselves and they've got nothing, no kind of pre-existing backlog of content or anything to optimise. I think when you're inheriting, like you say, something where somebody's gone at it and put a lot of energy and time and effort into it, it's then relatively easy to kind of tweak and redirect. I think the thing that takes the real time with SEO and the thing that frustrates a lot of small business owners, marketing managers, that kind of thing, is when you're kind of telling somebody, "Right, we've got to build you a backlog of content"-
Julie: Yeah, a back catalog.
Alex: that took 20 years to build.
Alex: And there's no quick or easy way of doing that, right? It's just you have to churn away at the coalface, if you like, until you've got these kind of 200 to 300 articles or whatever-
"you've put all the groundwork in now and you're in a position where you actually will start to see results"
Julie: We had a client who we've been working with for quite a few years now, but about nine months in, they emailed us and said, "It's not working. We've spent a lot of money. It's not working. We want to give it a rest. We're going to leave you." And we managed to persuade them that they were so close, we've put all this work in, just give it a little bit longer because you've put all the groundwork in now and you're in a position where you actually will start to see results, and they kind of said, "Okay." They weren't sure, they really weren't convinced that we were telling the truth or anything. They gave us the benefit of the doubt and they said, "Okay, we'll give you a little bit longer." And very quickly after that, they got some really, really good leads. They now have a website that brings them in clients from all over the world, whereas before they only really had clients in their own country. They now have an international business.
Dave: Well, previously, they used to go to trade shows to get clients.
Julie: They still do, but they say that-
Dave: Not as much. Yeah.
Julie: They can get more traffic, more leads from their website than they can from trade shows now.
Dave: They actually said, "Ooh la la, this is working now."
Julie: They did.
Alex: I wonder where they could be from. I was just going to say that it's funny because my actual answer to the question that kind of prefaced this podcast-
Julie: What was the question?
How Long Does It Take For Your Marketing To Work
Julie: Oh, that question.
Alex: Is always kind of a week longer than the client wants it to, right?
Alex: That's how I honestly feel it is. It's always just on the cusp of happening when people kind of turn up and say, "Oh, we've been doing this for six months and we've got nothing." I have a huge amount of sympathy for the fact that it is quite frustrating that it takes that long sometimes, but there is really no way of getting around the fact that it does actually take a long time to-
Julie: It does.
Alex: Build a brand.
"what I would advise people do is that they make sure they've got Google Search Console set up"
Dave: Yeah. So to that point, what I would advise people do is that they make sure they've got Google Search Console set up, because in the search console, as your site grows, even if you're still not getting clicks from search, the search console will show you which search terms you're appearing for. Let's use our blue widgets again that we haven't used for a few podcasts now. So you're trying to rank for blue widgets and you go into Google and you type in blue widgets and you're not on page one, you're not on page two and ... "This isn't working. This isn't working."
Dave: But if you look in the search console, which is a totally free tool, fantastic tool, you can see in there, oh, wait a minute, look, for blue widgets, we're actually now on page five. We were nowhere before. We're now on page five. And the following week, you're on page four. The week after that, you're on page three. And then you can see the charts, the graphs, you can see that you're starting to appear for more and more search terms, albeit you're still not getting the clicks, but you can see it's working. And I think if you do that, then you can take heart from it. I don't think you should ever be in a situation where nothing's happening until it happens, nothing's happening until the lead comes in. I mean, I know some people would say, "But it's only important once a lead comes in. I don't want to know I'm on page three." Well, you kind of do if you were nowhere and now-
Julie: You know it's working.
Dave: You're on page five and now you're on page four, now you're on page three. And then as you see it creep onto page ... The top of page two and then onto page one and then you start seeing an odd click come through, the penny drops and you can see that the work you did resulted in this stuff which is now. So you get these lead and lag indicators that show you that the work you're doing is making some sense and actually moving things forward, even if you're not getting the leads or making the sales.
Julie: It's the nice thing about digital marketing is that you've got a lot of data and you're not guessing.
Dave: Yeah. There's a lot of data that some agencies hide behind. "Oh, look, we've got this and we've got that, and we can show this and we can show that," and I would say to all customers, say, "Well, okay, that's fine, but show me the money. Where's the enquiries? Where's the sales?"
Show Me The Money
Julie: Well, yeah.
Dave: But you're dead right that you have got a lot of data, if you work with an agency who show you the right data, the stuff that really matters, or if you just go into the search console yourself, because it's not hard to use it. You can see clearly when things are working and when they're not.
Julie: You open it up and the first thing you see is a big graph, so you can-
Dave: That's right.
Julie: Roughly see what direction the graphs ... If they're going up and to the right, then you know there's something good happening.
Dave: I'm not always a huge fan of the tools that Google produces because to me, I mean, they constantly meddle with them so you get lost and-
Julie: New Google Analytics.
Dave: They make them ... Yeah. They make them ridiculously complicated to use, but I would say where the search console is concerned, that that's not the case. I think they've got that right.
Julie: It's really simple. Yeah.
Dave: It really is. Yeah.
Julie: But yeah, the new Google Analytics is ...
Julie: I'm not sure how that's supposed to be an improvement.
Dave: No. Well, I'm sure they could tell you, but ... Yeah.
Julie: Possibly not.
Alex: I was just going to pick up on what you were saying there, actually, because it's really interesting, isn't it? And I guess, in a way, maybe I've kind of-
Dave: Oh, you were awake, were you?
Alex: I was this time, yeah. I kept pinching myself.
Julie: Lucky the screen's kind of fuzzy where we're looking at you, Alex. We can't actually tell whether your eyes are open or not.
Alex: But no, it's interesting, isn't it, because I think ultimately these things ... The questions that people ask us quite frequently, how long does it take for my marketing to work, and why isn't my marketing working yet, they're all, I guess, kind of problems where people have just been kept in the dark too much. They don't realise that all of this stuff is kind of bubbling away under the surface, that the eventual inquiry is the tip of the iceberg. But to get to that point, lots and lots and lots of stuff was happening that they could've tuned into, had they known how, to kind of watch it grow and watch it happen. And maybe people would be a lot less frustrated if, like you say, more people were kind of upfront about how to monitor and track these things over time and it wasn't just a case of oh, you'll know it's working when you're making lots of money, because nothing in life is ever that simple.
Julie: Well, it's like if you're sitting on a train and the train stops and it stops and it doesn't go and it sits there for ages and you have no idea what's happening, you get quite angry and quite stressed and quite upset. But if they kind of come on and announce, "The train has stopped because there is a sheep on the line and we're trying to move the sheep, but all its friends have now come on the line and it's taking a little while," then you kind of go okay, that's fine. I understand. I can kind of have an idea of what's happening out there. And then they go, "Right, there's only three sheep left. They'll be going soon." You know what's happening, it's fine. You appreciate there's a problem, you appreciate that they're trying to sort it and you know where you are and the stress is less than if you just sat there having no idea. Why are you laughing at my example?
Alex: We do love an analogy here, don't we?
Julie: We do. I thought that was quite a good one.
Julie: I did used to work for the railways, so I like a railway analogy and a sheep analogy. I'm from Aberdeen.
"understand what a realistic timescale is based on the market that you're trying to get into, how strong the competition is etc"
Dave: Okay. So what I would encourage people to do where digital marketing is concerned is make sure that at the start, before you set off, you figure out, either with the agency you're working with, with your internal team or yourself, google it, figure it out, but try and understand what a realistic timescale is based on the market that you're trying to get into, how strong the competition is, et cetera, and put in place some metrics that are going to help you understand whether or not you are making progress. Primarily, I think, the search console can play a big part in that. If it's a paid search campaign, again, even if you're not getting clicks, you can still see if your advert's showing and what keywords are triggering your advert, so even that is useful data, even if, again, it's not creating actual sales or inquiries-
Dave: I would say.
Julie: Because you get a lot of data that way, about what people are typing into Google when they're looking for the things you do.
Dave: Yeah, that's right. So are we wrapping this up now? I mean, what else do we need to talk about around the subject of how long stuff takes? Alex, you want to say something.
Try To Be Realistic
Alex: Well, yeah. I was just going to say the other thing I would say is try and be realistic about what you've kind of already got in place, right? So I think a lot of marketing, certainly brand-building, SEO, that kind of thing, requires that you have a lot of content pre-existing. So if you know you're in a situation where you have your About Us page and that's it, expect it to take a lot longer than if you're kind of sitting on a blog with 200 blog posts or something like that.
"you don't have to guess"
Dave: Yeah, I would agree. So the whole being realistic thing, again, with digital marketing, you don't have to guess, you don't have to guess about what everybody else is doing. Tools like SEMrush ... SEMrush.com. You can get a free trial of it. Tools like that will show you what your competitors are achieving. How much are they spending on paid search? How much traffic are they getting from organic search? What sort of keywords are they appearing for? And then you can do some very simple queries in Google and see how big their website is, how much content they've got. And any agency that you choose to work with and I'll say any credible in-house marketing team would undertake all of that research so that you then paint a very realistic picture of how long it's going to take to start seeing results. Again, just to reiterate, those results might not be inquiries or sales. Those results might be yay, we're now in the top 100 for this really competitive search term.
Julie: Yeah. Google now knows-
Dave: We're heading in the right direction.
Julie: Google knows that we do that thing.
Dave: Yeah. That's right.
Julie: And it's a start.
Dave: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Julie: But yeah, if you know the size of the task, then you can kind of see how long it might take to get there. But if you go in blind, then you have no idea.
Dave: Yeah. And I guess if you're going in blind to something, if you're working with a team or an agency who are not talking about the stuff that we've just been speaking about and they're just straight into tactics and the just trying stuff, then that's when it gets frustrating and that's when ... We've had people coming to us who are already really frustrated. They've just sacked the previous team and nothing happened, and often we can unpick things and say, "Well, actually, your previous team were doing a good job because look, look what was starting to happen." Back to the point you made of the customer who was saying to us, "We don't really think this is going to work and we're losing confidence," when they were just-
Julie: On the verge.
Dave: Just a stone's throw from actually starting to get enquiries. They stuck with it and, goodness me, I mean, their website has generated so much business for them.
Julie: It's very strong now. I mean, they're one of the top results in Google for all the things they do now.
"they're one of the top results in Google for all the things they do now"
Dave: Yeah, that's right. 100%.
Julie: And they were nowhere before.
Julie: Absolutely nowhere.
Dave: Going back to a point you made earlier, Alex, that was like, is it three to six months? Is it six to nine months? Is it 12 months? Whatever it is. For them, it was about nine months.
Julie: It was ... Yeah. It was-
Julie: It was less than a year, but it was close to a year.
Dave: Yeah, that's right.
Julie: So yeah, it did take longer, but-
Alex: So I guess-
Julie: It was worth it.
Julie: Totally worth it.
Alex: So I guess what we're saying in a roundabout way is that there are kind of no precise answers to this question, but that your agency should be kind of happy to work with you to find an answer and explain how they're getting there.
Dave: Okay, there's two things, isn't there? I think there are some fairly accurate answers to these questions, if I can say fairly accurate. No, let's just say it. There are accurate answers to these questions. I think it's more about whether the agency or the team, if it's an internal team, it's whether or not they try and sugarcoat it. So as soon as you try and sugarcoat it and say, "Well, yeah, it's quite a tough market, but we'll do our best," and then you get this kind of situation where people ... What they hear is, "Ooh, we're going to get results quickly." So you've got to be grown up about it.
You're Always Six to Nine Months Away
Dave: I mean, if you've totally neglected your online presence, you've never used paid search, you don't rank anywhere in organic search, your website's rubbish, et cetera, then just start now to make that situation go away, start putting one foot in front of another and get on with it. And I've said, I know it's a bit sort of almost supercilious, but I've said it to people before, like, you're always six to nine months away from seeing results. If you don't start and do something, you're still nine months away from it. Two months from now, as you're prevaricating or procrastinating, whichever it is, and you still haven't started doing anything, well, guess what, you're still nine months away-
Julie: Exactly. Yeah.
Dave: From seeing any results. And I know how that sounds, but it's just the same for us. I mean, we don't have a secret in with Google because we're in digital marketing, we work bloody hard at getting the rankings that we get.
Julie: Yeah. Yeah.
Dave: And we've seen some really good rankings that we've had evaporate over the years, despite our best efforts to keep them, because the market was so competitive, we just didn't have the resources and the time to keep maintaining that position in the rankings because it was being attacked by so many other people.
Julie: And partly, some results are just vanity anyway.
Julie: Yeah. It's like, oh, we show up for this. It doesn't bring any business in, but we just like showing up for that. So a part of it is being really clear about what you want to achieve, what your strategy is, what your objectives are, and going for the things that are most important rather than go for the things that are easy.
Alex: Yeah. No, I was just going to say it's a really interesting point and it kind of links back to something you were saying earlier, at the risk of prolonging this podcast, which is just that the length of time it takes for your campaign to work will also depend very much on how you are measuring it and that it is very important to make sure you're measuring the right thing, right? Because I think a lot of people go into these things being like, "When am I going to be in the number one spot for, I don't know, blue widgets?"
Target The Right Words
Julie: You get these emails-
Alex: In reality-
Julie: "Guaranteed number one in Google in two weeks." Well, yeah, you can be number one in Google in two weeks for something that nobody else has ever tried ranking for-
Julie: Ever. That's easy. It's getting to number one in Google for something that everyone else is trying to rank for. And yeah, it's being really clear about what-
Julie: What's important-
Alex: I mean, let's be right-
Julie: And what matters.
Alex: Well, yeah, I mean, let's be right about this. It's about getting to the number one spot in Google for a keyword that's actually going to grow your business-
Alex: Isn't it? And it's about that hard work to, A, uncover that keyword, B, start ranking for it and not to get kind of sidetracked with vanity metrics and trying to rank for things that you feel your business should rank for.
Dave: Well, at the danger of sounding like the Google Search Console's biggest fanboy-
Julie: You are.
Alex: We already know. He's got a T-shirt and everything.
Dave: Yeah, I know. I've got some Google cushions downstairs-
Julie: They are very nice.
Dave: They are lovely, yeah. Again, the search console gives you, well, four key pieces of information. It shows you how many clicks you got for a specific search term, it shows you the click through rate, that means the number of times you appeared for a search result and the number of clicks you got, so it's simple enough to understand that. It tells you your average position over a set period of time, and you can set three months, six months, two days if you want or something like that anyway. And it also shows you how many times you appeared. So it will say, "For this search term, you've had no clicks, but you appeared 5000 times." It just happened that you appeared at position 25 5000 times, so you never got any clicks because nobody ever saw you. But that is proof that the keyword you're chasing is being used by people.
Dave: And the flip side of that is exactly what Julie said, that some unscrupulous agencies might say, "Well, look, we got you to be number one for hairdressers in Clatt." Well, that's fine, but absolutely nobody searches for hairdressers in Clatt. Clatt's a place in Northeast Scotland-
Julie: Yeah. And you're not a hairdresser anyway. Yeah.
Dave: And you're not a hairdresser anyway. That's right.
Julie: You just happened to write a blog post about how your business helps hairdressers in Clatt and suddenly, you're ranking for hairdressers in Clatt, but that wasn't the point.
Dave: Well, the interesting thing there is you often hear people say, "We want to be number one in Google," which is ... It's kind of nonsensical, isn't it?
Julie: Yeah. Of course you can be number one in Google for something, but-
Dave: Needs to be qualified with for what?
Julie: Yeah. For something that is actually commercially important to you? That's the question.
Dave: Yeah, that's right. Did you want to say something, Alex?
Alex: No, I don't think I did, actually.
Dave: You don't want to say something? Wow. Okay.
Alex: Is that unusual?
Dave: Yeah. Okay, well, if-
Dave: If we're going to have a series of embarrassed silences, then maybe we've kind of-
Julie: Maybe we're done.
Dave: Done this to death. And I know Julie wants to take Oscar for a walk, so-
Julie: My dog is desperately waiting to go out for a walk, so if we could tie this up now, he would be really, really-
Dave: That's a bit rude.
Dave: That's a bit rude to the people who are still listening to us. I mean, if they've stuck it out this long ... It's like, what, 42 minutes plus and they've stuck it out till now and we're basically saying, "We're bored now. We're going."
Julie: I think they're probably bored now as well, so I think we're doing them a favour.
Alex: I do also think we did manage to answer the question.
Dave: I think we-
Dave: Did. Yeah.
Dave: And I think it's more or less how long's a piece of string?
Julie: Yeah. It depends. How long does it take to rank in Google? It depends.
"How long does it take to rank in Google? It depends"
Dave: Yeah, I think so. Just before we finish this podcast, if you do listen to these podcasts, then thanks very much. If there's any questions that you'd like us to discuss, if there's stuff about digital marketing that you're unsure about and maybe you feel embarrassed asking, because some ... I mean, to us, there's never a daft question, but-
Julie: We ask them all the time.
Dave: We do. We do. Internally, we do. So if there's anything you want to do, then just get in touch with Red Evolution and we'll ... Redevolution.com. We'll answer. If we can turn it into a full podcast, we'll turn it into a full podcast.
Julie: We'd love to. Yeah.
Dave: Or if you've just got any questions. I mean, the whole purpose of these podcasts is to help people because ultimately, I think that helps us as well. It's not a pitch, it's a genuine offer to help people.
Julie: And like and subscribe, please.
Dave: Oh. We've never said like-
Julie: I know.
Dave: And subscribe.
Julie: I've always wanted to say it. Like and subscribe.
Dave: Yeah. I guess it makes sense, I mean, to say stuff like that. But yeah, I mean, I always think it sounds really needy. I mean, you know, like and subscribe.
Julie: Well, you know, we can we needy once and again. Once in a while.
Dave: I suppose. Mm-hmm (affirmative). All right, well, that's great. We will be back soon with another fantastic podcast. In fact, the one after this might be another guest podcast. I'm not sure, it depends what order we put them out in. But do send your questions in.
Dave: Thanks for listening, and ta-ra.