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Expectations vs. Reality: When to Expect Results from a Digital Marketing Campaign

Digital marketing is an exciting endeavor to embark on to grow your business. We’ve worked with companies of all sizes in all industries and one of the most common questions we are asked is “when can I start to expect results from my digital marketing campaign or my new website?”

This is a hard one to answer because there are many variables to consider, including:

  • Your budget
  • Your website
  • New trends and tools
  • Search engine landscape

It’s often the question I have the hardest time answering because my answer is typically never what my clients want to hear. I usually go on to explain the above and how there are many different factors and we can estimate to see XYZ results over the course of 3 – 4 months.

Clients often associate “digital” with “immediate results”. I assume this is because things happen so rapidly online, however, I thought this blog post might be a good place to summarize the kinds of realistic results you can expect when starting a digital marketing campaign.

I’ve broken down the common services we provide and an estimated timeline of when you can expect to see some movement in your website traffic, and most importantly, website conversions.

Search Engine Marketing (Google Ads and Microsoft Ads)

When clients want to grow their traffic and conversions immediately, we often recommend search engine marketing. Specifically, pay-per-click campaigns in the search networks.

PPC campaigns put your website in front of users searching for your product or service. Do you service AC units in Lehigh Acres? If so, we can setup a campaign that targets keywords like “AC service” and place those ads directly in Lehigh Acres. Depending on the area and the industry, it may be a little competitive, but chances are that you’re going to get clicks and get new traffic to your website quickly.

The other side of SEM includes display advertising. I explain to clients that display campaigns are more for brand awareness and users may not be searching for that specific service. Using display ads, you’re able to target people based on their demographics: age, gender, interests, parents/not parents, etc. Placing ads on a display network in either Google or Microsoft will be more brand awareness driven than anything, so you may not see significant results right away.

To summarize:

  • Pay-per-click ads in the search network are targeting users in a more direct way and are likely to perform better, faster.
  • Display ads are more for driving brand awareness and you can expect to see some results early, but it could take anywhere from 3-6 months.

Blogging and Ongoing SEO

Did you know that Google takes over 200 factors into account when deciding how to websites rank?

200+ factors are a lot to consider and tackle when it comes to helping your website rank organically for keywords.

Our first recommendation to help move that SEO needle is to do an SEO audit on the website. If a client approaches us with a website that we didn’t build, we’ll usually request to do an audit and find key areas that need to be improved upon.

SEO is more than just keywords these days; those 200+ factors include very technical items like:

  • Page speed
  • Mobile-friendliness
  • Security and accessibility
  • Domain age, URL, and authority
  • Links

We typically asses a website for the above and more and make recommendations based on what we find. Keywords are still important, but the above factors are just as important, too.

Once the website is in a better place from a technical perspective, it’s time to tackle content. Quality, keyword-driven content is still a big factor to consider and blogging is the easiest way to get content on your website quickly.

So, how long do you think you’ll need to wait before seeing results?

Most experts say that with a solid plan in place and actual movement on that plan, you can expect to see results in anywhere from 4 – 9 months. Whoa.

This pill is very hard to swallow for most companies. I recently watched a webinar about client retention and one of their biggest tips was to clearly set expectations. The company that put this webinar on said that they put a line item in their proposal that says, “if you’re not able to support 4 months of no results from your SEO campaign, don’t work with us.” (I think it was a little less direct than that, but you get the idea.)

To summarize, when you’re starting an SEO campaign for your website, you should expect to wait at least 4 – 9 months to see results from those efforts.

New Website Launch

We explain to clients that a new website will help them get more traffic and more leads. We build our websites to be “SEO-ready,” meaning we’ve included all those technical items above and optimized the content to the best of our abilities (i.e. budget – most clients don’t want to pay for content writing services).

The time comes to launch the new website and we go through our series of post-launch steps, including setting up Google Analytics, Webmaster Tools, optimizing page speed, etc. But then some time passes, and clients ask “Why hasn’t my traffic increased yet? You promised it would!”

Like the above section, when you launch a new website, here’s what you can expect:

  • An initial drop in rankings – if you had an existing website and you redesign and relaunch, keep in mind that Google now has a whole new website with a brand-new architecture that is must scan through and index. So, at the beginning (say, the first 30 – 60 days), you can expect to see a drop in your rankings. (Counter-intuitive, we know.)
  • Months to see results – as I mentioned above if you are not running any paid advertising to your new website, you should expect to see organic results over the course of a few to several months.

It’s also important to note that just because you launch a website, it doesn’t mean everyone will come to it right away. It’s akin to building a new store but with no advertising. You can’t expect to build a physical store and receive immediate foot traffic; the same can be said for websites.

Also, SEO is not something that is a “one and done” kind of project. SEO is ever-evolving and it’s important to maintain your website to be in line with current standards. For example, mobile-friendly websites used to be a “nice to have.” But now, Google considers mobile-friendliness a vital ranking factor.

We can expect to see this landscape change over time. Google updates its algorithm multiple times per DAY; it’s important to be up to date on those changes and make sure your website is ready.

Important Considerations

Wow – the above was probably a lot to take in! The timelines I mention above are general estimates and in addition to what I include, you must also consider these variables when thinking about your digital marketing timeline.

Your budget

This is always the hardest thing to discuss with clients. Budget isn’t just related to ad budgets for Google, etc. but it also applies to the work you recruit your agency to do for you each month.

In general, we recommend a service level of around $800 – $3,500 per month. What’s included in each service level varies by client, but we’ve found that our most successful retainers are in the $2,000 – $3,000 range. It gives us enough time to draft quality content, do proper maintenance on paid ad accounts, complete ongoing technical SEO work, and more.

But if you approach an agency and you’re getting 1 blog per month with no additional services, you’ll have to understand that your results will be limited.

To summarize, when entering into a digital marketing campaign, if your budget is on the smaller end, most agencies will still work with you. But they should set your expectations and understand that a smaller budget isn’t going to have as strong of an impact.

Your website

If you have a website that is a little older, it’s still possible to market it and help improve it for SEO. However, if your new agency suggests a redesign, it’s important to consider it.

Website redesigns with SEO are not simply a way to get more money out of a new client (we’re often met with that feedback). Your website is vital when it comes to SEO and if it’s outdated and beyond salvaging, any new paid advertising or content creation will not help a whole lot.

We’ve had relationships in the past with clients where we should have been sterner about this. We’ve encountered a situation a client with an older website (built by Dex). It wasn’t very responsive/mobile-friendly, the content was below average, and the overall usability was not great. Since these factors are all a part of SEO and getting new traffic/conversions, the marketing we had running didn’t perform as well.

So, if your web company suggests a new website, understand they’re trying to guide you so that you don’t spends hundreds or thousands of dollars on advertising to a bad website.

Search engine landscape

As we stated, Google changes its algorithm multiple times per DAY. Most of these changes are subtle and not noticed in website traffic, but some of them are a little bigger.

For example, in June 2019 alone, Moz reported the following:

  1. Site Diversity Update – June 6, 2019
  2. Core Update – June 3, 2019

Your website is competing in a different environment now than it was even just 6 months ago. As I mentioned, most of these changes are smaller and go unnoticed, but the larger ones can have major impacts.

It’s up to you or the agency your working with to stay on top of those changes and make sure your website and any marketing you are doing is updated accordingly.

Conclusion: Be Patient

To summarize all of this, it’s important that as you begin a relationship with a new digital agency that you are patient in expecting results.

SEO and digital marketing, in general, are both art and science; it takes time to see results. As an agency, we have a lot to juggle and we do our best to educate clients and set expectations clearly to avoid any future fallout.

To learn more about our digital marketing services, click here or call (239) 362-1271.

Kristen Bachmeier
Kristen Bachmeier
Kristen Bachmeier is Atilus' Director of Operations and helps to oversee all client accounts and day-to-day operations. Additionally, Kristen has worked in digital marketing for 6+ years and has helped create digital marketing plans for most of our clients.

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