If you’ve just started a new digital marketing strategy and you’re ready to see results now, I understand exactly how you feel. I just embarked on a weight-loss and fitness plan earlier this month, and I’m ready to be 30 pounds lighter tomorrow — not six months from now.
The truth is, though, that I didn’t get out of shape in a week or a month, and your digital marketing campaigns didn’t either. The farther you’ve gotten off track, the longer it’s going to take to reach your destination — and commitment, along with the strength of your plan, will be the most important factor that decides whether you get there.
Dieting and digital marketing are actually a lot alike. Both take time to show results, which means they require sustained effort. Unfortunately, the lack of immediate gratification is also one of the biggest obstacles that prevents people from following through. After all, no one enjoys cutting calories or spending money with nothing to show for it but hope for the future.
If you’re waiting for the big reveal where I show you the quick-fix workaround, you’re about to be disappointed. There are plenty of other blog articles promising a “magic bullet” for digital marketing success — just check the nearest bank of sketchy display ads (right next to the “1-Day Diet Cleanse!” with the Chinese label).
What I can give you, is an idea of how long it takes to see tangible results in the various areas of your digital marketing strategy. After all, the needle has to start moving in the right direction at some point, and if it doesn’t, it might be time to revisit your plan.
Several studies have shown that you need to stick with a content marketing strategy for about six months before you see significant results. That assumes frequent posting of high-quality blog content that you’re effectively distributing and promoting.
Of course, that’s only a rough estimate, and your odds for beating that timetable or taking longer depend on numerous factors — the competitiveness of your field and the search terms you’re trying to rank for, the quality and quantity of your content, how effectively you distribute and promote that content, and more.
When it comes to blog content marketing, your definition of “frequent” posting and an expert digital marketer’s definition are probably different. While most companies feel they’re exceeding expectations if they consistently post two or three articles a month, research shows that businesses that blog at least 20 times per month get five times the traffic of those who blog once a week or less.
Additionally, 2015 research from the marketing company HubSpot found that companies with 400-plus published blog posts get twice the amount of traffic compared to those with less than 400.
20 blog articles per month and 400 articles total might seem like insane figures if you’re running a cash-strapped and understaffed small business, but keep in mind that many of your larger competitors may be blogging this much or more. If you want to achieve success in search rankings despite the incredible volume of content you’re up against, you’ll need to get creative with your blogging strategy (for example, by targeting long-tail keywords your competitors may not have thought of yet).
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
If you know that SEO and content marketing are closely related (publishing original, relevant content is the most reliable and sustainable road toward ranking highly in organic search results), you probably know that the timetable for achieving SEO success overlaps quite a bit with that of content marketing. In 2014, Search Engine Journal published a case study about SEO and concluded that it should take approximately four to six months of sustained effort to see 100 or more organic search results per day on a new website. It’s important to note, though, that the “sustained effort” in this case study consisted of several blog articles being published on the sites per day, not per month.
This lines up closely with what we learned about posting frequency and content marketing success in the previous section. However, it’s important to note that there’s more to SEO than just publishing lots of new content. You also need to make sure that the back-end of your website, including its information hierarchy and internal link structure, is optimized for SEO success. In addition, you need to engage in linkbuilding efforts to try to get popular, authoritative websites to link to your site and its content.
While these other components of SEO can hold back a campaign from succeeding if they’re absent, this goes both ways: you might have underperforming content that would start getting traffic if you simply put these elements in place. If you go through your existing site structure and content to optimize them for SEO, you could begin to see a noteworthy increase in organic traffic in a matter of days or weeks.
Paid Search Advertising
If there’s one area of digital marketing that breaks the dieting analogy, it’s pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. Compared to the initial slow simmer of content marketing and organic search campaigns, PPC can feel like digital marketing on steroids (minus the acne, organ damage, and potential psychosis). If you research your PPC keywords carefully and bid on the right terms, you can see results from your PPC campaigns almost immediately.
Of course, clicks from PPC campaigns cost money (hence the name, “paid”), which means that receiving lots of traffic from them can actually hurt you if you’re not also getting conversions — usually via form fills. If you don’t support your campaigns with dedicated landing pages and continuously monitor the performance of your ads so you can switch out those that don’t generate leads, you can burn through a shocking amount of budget in short order.
Even with a near-flawless strategy and obsessive monitoring, most PPC campaigns will cost more money than they generate in the early going. In one case study from the UK-based search marketing firm Vertical Leap, they were able to plan and implement PPC campaigns that increased a client’s overall site revenue by 152% in eight months. However, the campaigns posted a significant net loss over their first four months and didn’t break even until about the six-month mark.
Social media is probably the area of digital marketing where it’s most difficult to pin down a timeline for results. That’s partially because “results” from social media can be hard to define (much less track). Do likes, shares, and followers count as results, or should only leads that come from social channels matter? If so, do you have a dedicated “social-only” phone number or landing page that you can use to keep track of those leads?
How easy it is to create engagement on social media platforms also depends on your industry and how well-established your business and brand are. In general, B2C brands have it a little easier than B2B companies, and a soft drink or clothing brand might not have to work as hard for likes and shares as, say, a patent law office.
And, again, getting traction with social media requires you to have something original to share, which is why social media success depends on your long-term commitment to an aggressive content marketing strategy (which should include visual content like videos and infographics if you want to capture the typical social media user’s attention). In addition, you can get results from your social channels much faster if you’re willing to spend money to promote posts on a regular basis.
As a very, very rough estimate, the digital marketing company Converse Digital polled a number of marketing experts and asked them how long it usually takes to see tangible results from a new social media marketing campaign. Their answers averaged out to about (wait for it) six months — but that’s for an established business or brand, and it also assumes you’re following a lot of different best practices for social marketing.
Rather than putting a particular timetable on your social media efforts, we’d suggest simply aiming for slow and steady growth over time, especially if you’re a new business or are just starting up your social media campaigns in earnest. Make sure to implement tracking solutions that can tell you which leads come from social channels, though, or you’ll never know exactly what you’re getting for the effort and resources you put in.
Maintaining Digital Marketing Success: The Journey Is the Destination
Digital marketing is like dieting in one more important way, too. When you finally do see the success you’ve been hoping for, you can’t slide back into your old habits — or you can say hello to your old results again, too.
Instead, keeping the gains you’ve made requires a permanent commitment to the new holistic and healthy strategies you’ve honed. While that might sound exhausting, don’t stress too much about the distant future as you start rolling out a new digital marketing strategy; it’s the initial push that’s most challenging, and once you’ve got things in place and results start to roll in, it’s much easier to stay committed.
Just remember that the little voice that says you could probably cut back a few blog posts per month and save some money will always be there, especially during stressful times — just like the one that whispers another slice of pizza or cake wouldn’t be the end of the world. Staying steady and committed in the face of business fluctuations and personnel changes is what separates companies who achieve real digital marketing success from those who just dream about it.
Contact LaFleur Today to Jump-Start Your Digital Marketing Campaigns
All the above timelines depend on having a solid foundation in place — that is, a thoughtful and comprehensive digital marketing plan based on best practices and cutting-edge techniques.
If you’re not sure whether your current digital marketing efforts fit the bill, or even how to begin creating an aggressive and creative digital marketing plan, that’s okay. The digital marketing experts at LaFleur are ready to get you started. We’ve helped growing businesses across the country achieve tangible, measurable marketing success in a wide variety of industries, and we can start doing the same for your business today.
To learn more about how we can help get your digital marketing efforts on the road to long-term success, please give us a call today at 888-222-1512 or complete the brief contact form on the right side of this page. We can’t wait to hear from you!
Belew, B. (2014, March 6). Case study: How long does it take to see organic search results? Search Engine Journal. Retrieved from https://www.searchenginejournal.com/case-study-long-take-see-organic-search-results/
Huber, M. (2016, April 5). How long before my content marketing shows results? Vertical Measures. Retrieved from http://www.verticalmeasures.com/content-marketing-2/how-long-before-my-content-marketing-shows-results/
Martin, T. (n.d.). How long before a social media campaign shows results? Converse Digital. Retrieved from http://www.conversedigital.com/social-media-marketing-strategy/how-long-before-a-social-media-campaign-shows-results
Wood, C. (2015, January 26). PPC: How long does it really take to get results? Vertical Leap. Retrieved from http://www.vertical-leap.uk/blog/ppc-how-long-does-it-really-take-get-results/