Patience is an SEO Virtue
Posted by Kate Morris
We have all been there once or twice, maybe a few more than that even. You just launched a site or a project, and a few days pass, you login to analytics and webmaster tools to see how things are going. Nothing is there.
Scenarios start running through your mind, and you check to make sure everything is working right. How could this be?
It doesn’t even have to be a new project. I’ve realized things on clients’ sites that needed fixing: XML sitemaps, link building efforts, title tag duplication, or even 404 redirection. The right changes are made, and a week later, nothing has changed in rankings or in webmaster consoles across the board. You are left thinking "what did I do wrong?"
A few client sites, major sites mind you, have had issues recently like 404 redirection and toolbar PageRank drops. One even had to change a misplaced setting in Google Webmaster Tools pointing to the wrong version of their site (www vs non-www). We fixed it, and there was a drop in their homepage for their name.
That looks bad. Real bad. Especially to the higher ups. They want answers and the issue fixed now … yesterday really.
Most of these things are being measured for performance and some can even have a major impact on the bottom line. And it is so hard to tell them this, even harder to do, but the changes just take …
That homepage drop? They called on Friday, as of Saturday night things are back to normal. The drop happened for 2-3 days most likely, but this is a large site. Another client, smaller, had redesigned their entire site. We put all the correct 301 redirects for the old pages and launched the site. It took Google almost 4 weeks to completely remove the old pages from the index. There were edits to URLs that caused 404 errors, fixed within a day, took over a week to reflect in Google Webmaster Tools.
These are just a few examples where changes were made immediately, but the actions had no immediate return. We live in a society that thrives on the present, immediate return. As search marketers, we make c-level executives happy with our ability to show immediate returns on our campaigns. But like the returns on SEO, the reflection of changes in SEO take time.
The recent Mayday and Caffeine updates are sending many sites to the bottom of rankings because of the lack of original content. Many of them are doing everything "right" in terms of onsite SEO, but now that isn’t enough. The can change their site all they want to, but until there is relevant and good content plus traffic, those rankings are not going to return for long tail terms.
There has also been a recent crack down on over optimized local search listings. I have seen a number of accounts suspended or just not ranking well because they are in effect trying too hard. There is a such thing as over optimizing a site, and too many changes at once can raise a flag with the search engines.
One Month Rule
Here is my rule: Make a change, leave it, go do social media/link building, and come back to the issue a month later. It may not take a month, but for smaller sites, 2 weeks is a good time to check on the status of a few things. A month is when things should start returning to normal if there have been no other large changes to the site.
We say this all the time with PPC accounts. It’s like in statistical analysis, you have to have enough data to work with to see results. And when you are waiting for a massive search engine to make some changes, once they do take effect in the system, you then have to give it time to work.
So remember the next time something seems to be not working in Webmaster Tools or SERPs:
- If you must, double check the code (although you’ve probably already done this 15 times) to ensure it’s set up correctly. But then,
- Stop. Breathe. There is always a logical explanation. (And yes, Google being slow is a logical one)
- When did you last change something to do with the issue?
- If it’s less than 2 weeks ago, give it some more time.
- Major changes, give it a month. (Think major site redesigns and URL restructuring)