How long does SEO take? When can I expect to see results? What results should I expect to see?
These are all reasonable questions that we field from lawyers every day.
And, like many legal answers, the answer is: It depends.
Yes, I know that’s not the answer you wanted. But it’s the most honest answer.
Recently, Doug Bradley at Everest Legal Marketing posted a case study to the Let’s Talk Legal Marketing Facebook group, which I’ll post here:
“If you’ve ever heard an SEO company say that you should have no expectations for the first few months of a campaign, they’re wrong.
SEO does take time, but a lot can be done in the first 90 days of a campaign. For 30 competitive search phrases, this client had an average position of 98.5 (Page 10) 90 days ago. Today it’s 24. That may not sound impressive, but 10 of those phrases are on page 1 of Google, 9 are on page 2, and the remainder are on pages 3 – 6. In this same time frame, Organic Traffic has quintupled.“
To which I commented:
“The key here is expectations.
Meaningless expectations? “
I agree with Doug that SEO companies should set expectations.
The issue is what expectations can be reasonably set?
Let’s take Doug’s example: Position 90 to position 24 in 90 days for 30 competitive search phrases. Organic traffic has quintupled.
First, was that the expectation that was set at outset of the campaign (I’ll let Doug chime in the comments)? Was quintupling of traffic in 90 days the expectation that was set?
Second, is the traffic qualified? Did it turn into open cases? Was that even tracked (it was indicated in the thread that the client was not doing call tracking)?
After all, you can’t pay your expenses with traffic.
Third, is the implication that traffic quintupled from organic clicks from pages 2, 3, and 6? If so, that’s an outlier. I’d be really interested to see these SERPs.
Fourth, was it profitable? In other words, how much did the firm have to pay to get these results and how much money did the firm make from these results?
Giving Doug the benefit of the doubt, let’s say he did set those expectations at the start and he did quintuple relevant organic traffic and that relevant organic traffic turned into an incremental increase in new fees for the firm from non-brand queries.
Then the question is how did Doug know he could deliver on that expectation?
This is where “it depends” comes in.
Here’s the most obvious example: The client had a major technical issue that Doug knew he could fix quickly and would have a massive impact on rankings.
My point is that expectation setting and forecasting in SEO is tricky. Let’s face it, we’re talking about predicting the future. Even the most sophisticated models require a lot of data and assumptions to have any degree of reliability.
Most lawyers should know this. Do you guarantee results to your clients? I sure hope not. Do you try to set reasonable expectations about possible outcomes based on your experience and the specific facts and circumstances surrounding each case? Of course, you do.
The same is true for SEO and marketing more generally.
Anyone telling you anything else is at best inexperienced and at worst unscrupulous.