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Is SEO Dead? A Fresh Look At The Age-Old Search Industry Question

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Is SEO Dead? A Fresh Look At The Age-Old Search Industry Question

The march of time is inevitable. And every year, some new technology pounds the nail into the coffin on something older.

Whether the horse and buggy are replaced by the automobile or the slide rule is replaced by the calculator, everything eventually becomes obsolete.

And if you listen to the rumors, this time around, it’s search engine optimization. Rest in peace, SEO: 1997-2022.

There’s just one tiny little problem.

SEO is still alive and kicking. It’s just as relevant today as it has ever been. If anything, it may even be more important.

Today, 53% of all website traffic comes from organic search.

In fact, the first search result in Google averages 26.9% of click-throughs on mobile devices and 32% on desktops.

And what’s helping Google determine which results belong at the top of search engine results pages (SERPs)? SEO, of course.

Need more proof? We have more statistics to back it up.

Thanks to consistent updates to the Google search algorithm, the entire SEO field is undergoing rapid evolution.

Completely ignoring the many small changes the search engine’s algorithm has undergone, we’ve seen several major updates in the last decade. Some of the more important ones are:

  • Panda – First put into place in February 2011, Panda was focused on quality and user experience. It was designed to eliminate black hat SEO tactics and web spam.
  • Hummingbird – Unveiled in August 2013, Hummingbird made the search engine’s core algorithm faster and more precise in anticipation of the growth of mobile search.
  • RankBrain – Rolled out in spring 2015, this update was announced in October of that year. Integrating artificial intelligence (AI) into all queries, RankBrain uses machine learning to provide better answers to ambiguous queries.
  • BERT – Initially released in November 2018 and updated in December 2019, this update helps Google understand natural language better.
  • Vicinity – Put into place in December 2021, Vicinity was Google’s biggest local search update in five years. Using proximity targeting as a ranking factor, local businesses are weighted more heavily in query results.

Each of these updates changed the way Google works, so each required SEO professionals to rethink their approach and tweak their strategy to ensure they get the results needed. But the need for their services remained.

Now that it’s been established that SEO is not dead, it raises the question: Where did all this death talk come from in the first place?

Most of it is based on unfounded conjecture and wild speculation. The truth is that SEO is in a state of transition, which can be scary.

And that transition is driven by three things:

  1. Artificial intelligence and machine learning, particularly Google RankBrain.
  2. Shrinking organic space on SERPs.
  3. Digital personal assistants and voice search.

The Rise Of Machine Learning

You’ve probably already recognized the impact AI has had on the world.

This exciting new technology has started to appear everywhere, from voice assistants to predictive healthcare to self-driving automobiles.

And it has been a trending topic in SEO for quite a while.

Unfortunately, most of what’s out there is incomplete information gathered from reading patents, analyzing search engine behavior, and flat-out guessing.

And part of the reason it’s so difficult to get a handle on what’s happening in AI concerning search engines is its constant evolution.

However, we will examine two identifiable trends: machine learning and natural language.

Machine learning is just what it sounds like: machines that are learning.

For a more sophisticated definition, it can be described as “a method of data analysis that automates analytical model building… a branch of artificial intelligence based on the idea that systems can learn from data, identify patterns and make decisions with minimal human intervention.”

For SEO purposes, this means gathering and analyzing information on content, user behaviors, citations, and patterns, and then using that information to create new rankings factors that are more likely to answer user queries accurately.

You will want to read this article for a more in-depth explanation of how that will work.

One of the most important factors machine learning uses when determining how to rank websites is our other trend – natural language.

From their earliest days, computers have used unique languages. And because it was very unlike the language humans don’t use, there was always a disconnect between user intent and what search engines delivered.

However, as technology has grown increasingly more advanced, Google has made great strides in this field.

The most important one for SEO professionals is RankBrain, Google’s machine learning system built upon the rewrite of Google’s core algorithm that we mentioned earlier, Hummingbird.

Nearly a decade ago, Google had the foresight to recognize that mobile devices were the future wave. Anticipating what this would mean for search, Hummingbird focused on understanding conversational speech.

RankBrain builds upon this, moving Google away from a search engine that follows the links between concepts to seeing the concepts they represent.

It moved the search engine away from matching keywords in a query to more precisely identifying user intent and delivering results that more accurately matched the search.

This meant identifying which words were important to the search and disregarding those that were not.

It also developed an understanding of synonyms, so if a webpage matches a query, it may appear in the results, even if it doesn’t include the searched-for keyword.

The biggest impact of RankBrain and machine learning has been on long-tail keywords.

In the past, websites would often jam in specific but rarely search-for keywords into their content. This allowed them to show up in queries for those topics.

RankBrain changed how Google handled these, which meant primarily focusing on long-tail keywords was no longer a good strategy. It also helped eliminate content from spammers who sought rankings for these terms.

Honey, I Shrunk The Organic Search Space

Search engines are big business, no one can deny that.

And since 2016, Google has slowly encroached on organic search results in favor of paid advertising. That was when sponsored ads were removed from the sidebar and put at the top of SERPs.

As a result, organic results were pushed further down the page, or “below the fold,” to borrow an anachronistic idiom.

From Google’s business perspective, this makes sense. The internet has become a huge part of the global economy, which means an ever-increasing number of companies are willing to pay for ad placement.

As a result of this seeming de-prioritization, organic SEO professionals are forced to develop innovative new strategies for not only showing up on the first page but also competing with paid ads.

Changes to local search have also affected SERPs. In its never-ending quest to provide more relevant results to users, Google added a local pack to search results. This group of three nearby businesses appears to satisfy the query. They are listed at the top of the first page of results, along with a map showing their location.

This was good news for local businesses who compete with national brands. For SEO professionals, however, it threw a new wrinkle into their work.

In addition to creating competition for local search results, this also opened the door for, you guessed it, local paid search ads.

And these are not the only things pushing organic results down the page. Depending on the search, your link may also have to compete with:

  • Shopping ads.
  • Automated extensions.
  • Featured snippets.
  • Video or image carousels.
  • News stories.

Additionally, Google has begun directly answering questions (and suggested related questions and answers). This has given birth to a phenomenon known as “zero-click searches,” which are searches that end on the SERP without a click-through to another site.

In 2020, nearly 65% of all searches received no clicks, which is troubling for anyone who makes their living by generating them.

With this in mind, and as organic results sink lower and lower, it’s easy to see why some SEO professionals are becoming frustrated. But savvy web marketers see these as more than challenges – they see them as opportunities.

For example, if you can’t get your link at the top of a SERP, you can use structured data markup to grab a featured snippet. While this isn’t technically an SEO tactic, it is a way to generate clicks and traffic, which is the ultimate goal.

Use Your Voice

Not long ago, taking a note or making out your grocery list meant locating some paper and writing on it with a pen. Like a caveman.

Thankfully, those days are gone, or at least on their way out, having been replaced by technology.

Whether you’re using Siri to play your favorite song, asking Cortana how much the moon weighs, or having Alexa check the price of Apple stock, much of the internet is now available just by using your voice.

In 2020, 4.2 million digital personal assistant devices were being used worldwide. And that’s a number expected to double by 2024 as more and more people adopt the Amazon Echo, Sonos One, Google Nest Hub, and the like.

And users don’t even have their own one of these smart speakers to use the power of voice search. 90% of iPhone owners use Siri, and 75% of smartphone owners use Google Assistant.

With the advent of these virtual helpers, we’ve seen a big increase in voice searching. Here are some interesting facts about voice search:

Isn’t technology grand?

It depends on who you are. If you work in SEO (and because you’re reading this, we’re going to assume you do), this creates some problems.

After all, how do you generate clicks to your website if no clicks are involved?

The answer is quite obvious: You need to optimize for voice search.

Voice-controlled devices don’t operate like a manual search, so your SEO content needs to consider this.

The best way to do this again is to improve the quality of your information. Your content needs to be the best answer to a person’s question, ensuring it ranks at the very top and gets the verbal click-throughs (is that a term?) you need.

And because people have figured out that more specific queries generate more specific responses, it’s important that your content fills that niche.

In general, specificity seems to be a growing trend in SEO, so it’s no longer enough to just have a web copy that says, “t-shirts for sale.”

Instead, you need to drill down to exactly what your target is searching for, e.g., “medium Garfield t-shirts + yellow + long-sleeve.”

What Does All This Mean For SEO?

Now that we’ve looked at the major reasons why pessimists and cynics are falsely proclaiming the demise of SEO, let’s review what we’ve learned along the way:

  1. Google will never be satisfied with its algorithms. It will always feel there is room to grow and improve its ability to precisely answer a search query. And far from being the death knell for SEO, this ensures its importance moving forward.
  2. Machine learning, especially regarding natural language, allows Google to better understand the intent behind a search and as a result, present more relevant options. Your content should focus on answering queries instead of just including keywords.
  3. Long-tail keywords are important for answering specific questions, particularly in featured answer sections, but focusing solely on them is an outdated and ineffective strategy.
  4. Organic search results lose real estate to paid ads and other features. However, this presents opportunities for clever SEO professionals to shoot to the top via things like local search.
  5. Zero-click searches constitute nearly two-thirds of all searches, which hurts SEO numbers but allows you to claim a spot of prominence as a featured snippet using structured data.
  6. The use of voice search and personal digital assistants is on the rise. This calls for rethinking SEO strategies and optimizing content to be found and used by voice search.

Have you noticed a theme running through this entire piece? It’s evolution, survival of the fittest.

To ensure you don’t lose out on important web traffic, you must constantly monitor the SEO situation and adapt to changes, just like you always have.

Your strategy needs to become more sophisticated as new opportunities present themselves. It needs to be ready to pivot quickly.

And above all, you need to remember that your content is still the most important thing.

If you can best answer a query, your site will get the traffic you seek. If it can’t, you need to rework it until it does.

Just remember, like rock and roll, SEO will never die.

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What Is User Experience? How Design Matters To SEO

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What Is User Experience? How Design Matters To SEO

User experience is the foundation of a site’s usability, and it’s an aspect of on-page SEO that many people overlook.

If your site lacks the positive user experience and ease of use that end users require to navigate your site, you’ll push visitors to your competitors.

In this guide, you’ll learn what user experience (UX) entails, the types of experiences, the difference between UI and UX, and why it matters to SEO.

What Is User Experience (UX)?

UX is how people interact with your website.

You’ll also find this term used for products, but we’re focusing strictly on websites at the moment.

If you have a, intuitive user interface design, users will have an easier time navigating your site and finding the information they want.

If you do have a digital product, such as a SaaS solution, this interaction will also occur on your digital product.

User experience elicits a couple of things:

In short, user experience can provide a positive experience with your website – or it can lead to frustration among users.

Note: Usability is not UX design. It’s a component of UX that works with design to create the experience your users desire.

What Are The Types Of User Experience?

User experience evaluation must look at the three types of UX design to best understand the needs of the end user.

The three types of UX include:

  • Information: One aspect of a content strategy that goes overlooked is information architecture. Time must be spent on how information on a site is organized and presented. User flows and navigation must be considered for all forms of information you present.
  • Interaction: Your site has an interaction design pattern – or a certain way that users interact with the site. Components of a site that fall under the interaction UX type include buttons, interfaces, and menus.
  • Visual design: Look and feel matter for the end user. You want your website to have cohesion between its color, typography, and images. User interface (UI) will fall under this type of UX, but it’s important to note that UI is not interchangeable with UX.

What Is The Difference Between UI & UX?

Speaking of UX and UI, it’s important to have a firm understanding of the difference between the two to better understand user experience.

User Interface

UI design is your site’s visual elements, including:

Visual elements on your site are part of the user interface.

UI definitely overlaps with UX to an extent, but they’re not the same.

Steve Krug also has a great book on usability, titled “Don’t Make Me Think, Revisited: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability.” It was first published in 2000, and the book is a #1 bestseller today.

Steve’s insight from over 20 years ago (although we’re now on the 3rd edition of the book) provides guidelines on usability that include:

  • Desktop.
  • Mobile.
  • Ease of use.
  • Layouts.
  • Everything UX.

If there’s one thing this book will teach you about usability, it’s to focus on intuitive navigation. Frustrating website users is the exact opposite of a good user experience.

User Experience

UX works on UI and how the user will:

  • Interact with your site.
  • Feel during the interaction.

Think of Google for a moment.

A simple landing page that is visually appealing, but Spartan in nature, is the face of the Internet. In terms of UX, Google is one of the best sites in the world, although it lacks a spectacular UI.

In fact, the UI needs to be functional and appealing, but the UX is what will stand out the most.

Imagine if you tried performing a search on Google and it displayed the wrong results or took one minute for a query to run. In this case, even the nicest UI would not compensate for the poor UX.

Peter Morville’s user experience honeycomb is one of the prime examples of how to move beyond simple usability and focus on UX in new, exciting ways.

The honeycomb includes multiple points that are all combined to maximize the user experience. These facets are:

  • Accessible.
  • Credible.
  • Desirable.
  • Findable.
  • Usable.
  • Useful.
  • Valuable.

When you focus on all of these elements, you’ll improve the user experience dramatically.

Why User Experience Matters To SEO

By this point, you understand that UX is very important to your site’s visitors and audience.

A lot of time, analysis, and refinement must go into UX design. However, there’s another reason to redirect your attention to user experience: SEO.

Google Page Experience Update

When Google’s Page Experience Update was fully rolled out, it had an impact on websites that offered a poor user experience.

The page experience update is now slowly rolling out for desktop. It will be complete by the end of March 2022. Learn more about the update: https://t.co/FQvMx3Ymaf

— Google Search Central (@googlesearchc) February 22, 2022

Multiple aspects of UX are part of the ranking factors of the update, including:

  • Intrusive adverts.
  • Core Web Vitals.
  • HTTPS Security.

You can run a Core Web Vitals report here and make corrections to meet these requirements. Additionally, you should know whether your site has intrusive ads that irritate users, and if your site lacks HTTPS.

Page performance works to improve your SEO. Google’s research shows that focusing on UX can:

  • Reduce site abandonment by as much as 24%.
  • Improve web conversions.
  • Increase the average page views per session by as much as 15%.
  • Boost advertising revenue by 18% or more.

When you spend time improving your site’s UX, you benefit from higher rankings, lower page abandonment, improved conversions, and even more revenue.

Plus, many of the practices to improve UX are also crucial components of a site’s on-page SEO, such as:

  • Proper header usage.
  • Adding lists to your content.
  • Making use of images.
  • Optimizing images for faster loading times.
  • Filling content gaps with useful information.
  • Reducing “content fluff.”
  • Using graphs.
  • Testing usability across devices.

When you improve UX, you create a positive experience for users, while also improving many of the on-page SEO foundations of your website.

Final Comments

Customer experience must go beyond simple responsive web design.

Hick’s law dictates that when you present more choices to users, it takes longer to reach a decision. You’ve likely seen this yourself when shopping online and finding hundreds of options.

When people land on your site, they’re looking for answers or knowledge – not confusion.

User research, usability testing, and revisiting user experience design often will help you inch closer to satisfying the SEO requirements of design while keeping your visitors (or customers) happier.

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How to Rank for Google’s Helpful Content Update

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How to Rank for Google’s Helpful Content Update

Zero Traffic from Google—that is what more than 50% of online content gets everyday. Ahrefs found this out last 2020.

And yet, countless websites continue to put them out regularly—a problem made even worse with all the AI-powered content tools out there. The result is an endless flood of low-quality blogs and posts that are, ultimately, not useful for anyone who reads them. 

So, what did Google do in response? They put out another addition to their algorithm, called the “Helpful Content Update.” Their goal with this one was to help make sure that valuable content that actually helps their users (a.k.a., people-first content) would be able to rank. 

Much like with every update, SEO professionals like you and I need to revisit our strategies to stay ahead of the game. In this article, I will show you some tactics I use to write content for people first, while maintaining good SEO practices. 

What We Know About Google’s Helpful Content Update

The Helpful Content Update algorithm update by Google was designed to improve user experience by putting high-quality content written for people higher up in the SERPs. 

Here’s how Google put it in their own words

“The system generates a site-wide signal that we consider among many other signals for ranking web pages. Our systems automatically identify content that seems to have little value, low-added value or is otherwise not particularly helpful to those doing searches.

Any content—not just unhelpful content—on sites determined to have relatively high amounts of unhelpful content overall is less likely to perform well in Search, assuming there is other content elsewhere from the web that’s better to display. For this reason, removing unhelpful content could help the rankings of your other content.”

While this update was first announced back in September 2022, it has now progressed into a global update, impacting all languages. Google also announced that the system will continue to publish new signals over the coming months, helping their site identify more content created primarily for search engines versus people.

What does this mean for your website? Well, there are a lot of changes that others have documented in the last few months, which I summarize for you here: 

  • Purely AI-generated content is considered spam, and Google will be using its machine learning algorithm to detect it.
  • Content made for clicks (i.e., ad monetization) won’t work anymore
  • There may be no manual penalties, but sites have experienced losing organic visibility
  • It seems to affect the overall site performance, rather than hitting specific pages—and Google won’t be telling you which pieces of your content it has deemed as not useful.

Google’s Danny Sullivan also talked about this update possibly working in connection with future updates:

Google’s Danny Sullivan talking about Google

So, like Hummingbird, this update may become fundamental to ranking algorithms—which means that its exact effects could be only observed over the next few years.

Even so, it already puts a stronger emphasis on your content. Writing with a “search engine first” approach should no longer be your angle. 

After all, Google is, primarily, a space for users to learn. So, it makes sense that they’re making no room for unhelpful content.

While this update will undoubtedly be more damaging for poor-quality sites, it also presents an opportunity for well-maintained sites to take a second look at their content strategy. 

How to Optimize Your Content—and Make it More “Helpful”

With this update, we have to start thinking about our content holistically, rather than just trying to gain as many clicks as possible (or maybe even a featured snippet).

To achieve this, you have two main action points to consider: improving your intent and processes, and providing high-quality content.

Let’s go over some tips I’ve come up with in the last two months to better tackle these points (and enhance your writing): 

Review Your Intent and Your Audience

Before you even start on your next blog post, you need to know who your audience is. 

Ask yourself, who are you writing for? What are their needs, and why are they asking these questions? What do they need help with?

These questions will help you tailor your content to help your target audience. Otherwise, it’s likely that whatever you write won’t be considered helpful by Google—and you won’t be able to reap the benefits from your work. 

If you’re having trouble understanding who your audience is, then take a look at your Google Analytics data, under your demographic details report. This is the best place to gain some insight into who is currently looking at your content, as well as other things they might be interested in. 

So, beyond inserting your keyword into your blog post, consider factoring both your intended audience and relevant adjacent content. 

Provide Real Expertise, Insights, and Experiences

When it comes to making helpful, valuable content, it’s a big plus if you have some first-hand expertise to add to your writing. 

Avoid writing on topics that are trending, but you know nothing about. I also highly recommend against simply regurgitating information you’ve seen in other posts. Instead, your insights and experiences with the topic should be the main focus of your writing.

Not an expert on the particular topic you’re currently drafting? That’s okay—not everyone can be one. You can still produce helpful content by doing your due diligence, diving deep into research, and sharing what you’ve learned. 

Remember, readers can see right through you if you’re faking being an expert, so avoid making false claims at all costs. 

Use AI Content Strategically

Though this update may be primarily aimed at reducing the amount of AI-generated content out there, that doesn’t mean your tools no longer have a place in your work. 

AI tools, such as the increasingly popular ChatGPT or our recently-reviewed Content Marketing Platform from SE Ranking, can still be used to improve your work and productivity. The key is to use them strategically. 

Use them to lighten your workload, and avoid depending solely on them. For example, you can use your tools to help you generate better titles or introductions—but always remember to add a human touch to whatever they make. And, make sure that the bulk of the ideas come from you! 

Try to Hit Related Queries (Such as the People Also Ask (PAAs))

I mentioned that we have to start approaching our writing holistically, and that means providing as much valuable information to our readers as possible. 

Now that being helpful is the name of the game, it’s a great time to take a look at all the related queries users have for your intended topic. Here’s what comes up when I google ‘wedding catering:’

PAAs and related searches for the keyword "wedding catering"

Check the PAAs and related searches that pop up when you type in your keyword. These aren’t just generated questions Google thinks people might ask—they’re actually being searched up by real people! These will provide good subheadings to include in your next blog article.

Ask Yourself: Will Readers Be Satisfied After Reading Your Content?

Things like word count and keyword density are now a thing of the past with this update. The most important thing now is that your audience enjoys what they’re reading, or they learn something of value from your article. 

In short, they leave your site feeling satisfied

So, always gauge your writing by asking this question: will people be satisfied after reading this?

For example, if you’re writing an article on how to properly brew specialty coffee, will the reader come away from your article with more knowledge than before? Will they have all their questions answered? Will they know how to properly brew their new coffee beans?

If the answer is yes, then you’re doing great. But, if you’re unsure—or the answer is a resounding no—you must make some changes. 

That said, not every reader that comes across your work will be happy with what you’ve written. It is, after all, impossible to please everyone each time you publish something. However, as long as a majority of your audience is satisfied, then you’re doing something right! 

Revisit Your Old Posts

Lastly, because this update affects you sitewide, it’s a good idea to look at your previous work. 

If you’re like me, then you’ve been blogging for upwards of a decade—and that might mean some of your posts aren’t as valuable to readers today. The content might be outdated, or not up to snuff with newer guidelines, but either way, this bank of legacy content can bring your traffic down.

So, revisit your work and review its ability to provide your readers with the answers and experience they’re looking for. Take the time to check if you need to make some additions to make it useful once again, or redirect them to newer content. I highly recommend prioritizing evergreen content, which is something I covered in my Blog Writing 101 guide.

This is especially important if you’re in any industry that moves fast (think fashion or tech). Content here usually goes from helpful to obsolete in a matter of months! 

Key Takeaway

Google has always favored people-first content, and this recent update is just the latest in many of their attempts to make sure the right content gets to their users. 

The Helpful Content Update will continue to release tweaks to their signals over the coming months, so it’s prime time for us SEO specialists to take a second look at our content and writing strategies.

Luckily, this update could be a win for you—just keep these tips in mind, and you’re on the right track to getting the most value from your content efforts. 

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What Are the Benefits of SEO? (And How to Get Started)

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What Are the Benefits of SEO? (And How to Get Started)

If you are a business owner, you may have heard about how vital search engine optimization (SEO) is. But how can it help fast-track your business’s growth, get more customers, and make a difference to your bottom line?

In more simple terms: Why do SEO? 

1. It increases your organic share of voice

There are an estimated 3.5 billion searches on Google each day. To tap into this audience, you’ll need to do SEO. 

One of the key benefits of SEO is increasing your organic share of voice (SOV). More organic SOV means more traffic, leads, and revenue for your business.

It also means more market share in your industry. We can see from the graph below that there is a strong relationship between SOV and market share

Relationship between SOV and market share graph

At Ahrefs, we calculate organic SOV by dividing the traffic to the site by the total search traffic for all keywords.

In other words, if you only track one keyword and the top 10 positions are occupied by pages of your website, your SOV is 100%.

So how can you measure organic SOV?

We first need to create a new project in Ahrefs’ Rank Tracker and add our keywords for the website we want to track.

How to add keywords in Ahrefs' Rank Tracker, via Ahrefs' Rank Tracker

Once you have added a new project and added your keywords, you can go to the dashboard and check your SOV.

It should look something like this:

SOV screenshot, via Ahrefs' Rank Tracker

If you click through the SOV on the dashboard, you can look at your competitor’s SOV compared to your SOV.

SOV vs. competitors screenshot, via Ahrefs' Rank Tracker

If no competitors are showing in your dashboard, you can change that by: 

  • Going into Settings.
  • Clicking on the Competitors tab.
  • Clicking on + Add competitor.

Enter your competitors manually or press the + to add them from the list below that shows the keyword intersection.

Adding competitors via settings menu, via Ahrefs' Rank Tracker

Once you are happy, click the Save button and return to the dashboard. You should now be able to compare your competitor’s SOV against your website’s SOV. 

Recommendation

Check out Michal Pecánek’s article on SOV to get a detailed guide on how to measure SOV.

2. It’s less intrusive than other types of marketing

Intrusive marketing is annoying.

It may seem obvious. But when our lives are full of adverts, cold calls, and emails from random people trying to sell you their products all the time, it’s very advantageous to be an inbound marketing channel

Intrusive outreach example, via Linkedin.com
An intrusive marketing example sent to me from LinkedIn.

SEO targets people who are actively searching for your services or products. 

Because of this, it’s excellent at converting—all you need to do is focus on what they are searching for.

You can find what your customers are searching for using Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer.

Enter a relevant topic and go to the Matching terms report. Here, you’ll see many topics your customers are searching for, which you can target.

Matching terms report example, via Ahrefs' Keywords Explorer

You can search, discover, and analyze keywords using our very own Ahrefs’ Keywords Explorer.

SEO is not just for Christmas.

In all, 45.6% of SEOs say SEO takes about three to six months. It may seem like a long time for the channel to work, but SEO is a long-term marketing channel where growth typically compounds over time. In other words, if you put the time and effort into SEO, the results will likely be well worth it. 

Looking at Ahrefs’ organic traffic graph, most of our rapid growth occurred in the last year or so when our traffic started to compound. 

Ahrefs.com organic traffic performance

Google’s algorithm updates mean that your website’s traffic will fluctuate. But as you can see from the graph, it’s a positive trend in the long term.

Over time, you should be able to rely on SEO to bring in a constant stream of traffic to your site. 

When we asked ~4,300 SEOs how long SEO takes, they gave a variety of responses. But only 16.2% of SEOs said that SEO takes between one and three months.

Pie chart showing percentage breakdown of SEOs responses to how long SEO takes

I agree with the majority of SEOs here. But I would add a qualifier—that it depends on the type of website you are working on.

For example, if you set up a brand-new website, it will have little to no authority. This is because it will have no links pointing to it and will probably have minimal content on the site. 

These elements are just some indicators or ways in which Google judges your website’s authority and decides which top results should be on its SERPs.

Recommendation

If you are improving the SEO of a website that’s been around for a few years, then the SEO will likely take effect faster. This is based on my experience, but you may get different results with your website.

Unlike paying for PPC, organic search traffic is free. 

If Ahrefs used PPC to pay for its organic traffic, Ahrefs’ Site Explorer estimates it would cost an eye-watering $2.3 million per month or $27.6 million per year.

Monetary value of Ahrefs' organic traffic, via Ahrefs' Site Explorer

You can see from this example why improving SEO and increasing your organic traffic can be a highly valuable investment for your business.

Getting started with SEO doesn’t always mean you have to spend a lot, either. If you are willing to learn about SEO basics, you can do a lot of the work yourself to bring costs down.

Recommendation

When it comes to tools, you don’t have to spend a lot when you are starting out. You can use Ahrefs Webmaster Tools for auditing your site and our free SEO tools to optimize it further.

It’s always on—24/7

Unlike paid marketing, SEO is always on. It continues to work for you while you are asleep. 

You’ll get more overall value from SEO than other marketing channels. It doesn’t cost any extra to have it running all the time.

Another benefit is that once your website is established with good rankings, SEO will maintain them over time and drive consistent traffic to your website. 

The only thing that can stop this is if there is a serious technical issue with your site or you have fallen foul of Google’s search guidelines

Reduce your dependency on PPC 

It’s easy for a business to rely on pay-per-click (PPC) marketing, but it can be expensive to maintain this marketing strategy. 

SEO can help you change this.

Once you have some important keywords ranking number #1 on Google, you can consider turning off some of your PPC marketing, which could result in significant savings for your business.

5. It improves user experience

Many people have high expectations for websites these days. They expect them to be clear, intuitive, and lightning-fast. 

When websites don’t work as people expect, they get frustrated. And if they have a bad experience, this can create a negative perception of the brand. 

To do well in SEO, you’ll need to provide your visitors with the best possible user experience. 

But how can you optimize for user experience in SEO?

SEOs typically divide user experience issues into three categories: 

  • Site speed
  • Core Web Vitals
  • On-site optimization

Let’s take a closer look.

Site speed

Site speed is one of the most critical factors for your visitors. If your website is slow to use, visitors will likely leave your site and probably not return.

A few years ago, Google tested 900,000 websites worldwide. It reported that 53% of people would leave a website if it took three seconds or more to load.

To test your site speed, you can use a tool like webpagespeedtest.org. Let’s take a look at Ahrefs speed metrics using this tool.

Ahrefs' speed performance

We can see above that the speed index is under three seconds for Ahrefs. If your website loads in more than three seconds, then you may want to consider speeding up your website. 

Core Web Vitals

Core Web Vitals are Google’s quality signals it introduced to quantify the user experience of your website. 

They are:

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) – For load performance.
  • First Input Delay (FID) – For visual stability.
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) – For interactivity.

Here’s what Google classifies as good and bad scores for these metrics.

Good Needs improvement Poor
LCP <=2.5s <=4s >4s
FID <=100ms <=300ms >300ms
CLS <=0.1 <=0.25 >0.25

Defining metrics for user experience is a benefit, as website owners can know exactly how their websites perform against Google’s expectations. 

Monitoring Core Web Vitals and site performance may sound technical, but you can keep an eye on them using Ahrefs’ Site Audit

For example, here’s a screenshot from the Performance dashboard highlighting two issues with CLS and LCP. 

Pages with poor CLS and poor LCP, via Ahrefs' Site Audit

As you can see from the above, Site Audit automatically identifies all low-performing pages for you.

On-page optimization

On-page optimization is another area of SEO that can help benefit your website. With on-page optimization, SEOs critically examine your website and audit it for any issues that may impact the user experience.

A good example of on-page optimization is adding subheadings, or heading tags, to your articles. Adding subheadings makes your content easier to read by establishing a visual hierarchy.

Subheadings improve readability by creating visual hierarchy

On-page optimization is less quantifiable than Core Web Vitals, but spending time on it will pay dividends for your website in the long run.

Ahrefs’ Site Audit can monitor headings, image alt text, internal linking, and other on-page optimization factors.

Here’s an example of a scheduled report you can get for heading optimization opportunities.

Heading optimization opportunities, via Ahrefs' Site Audit

You can use this report to identify many improvement opportunities for your website.

6. It puts your store online

If your business has a physical store, you can add it to a Google Business Profile for free.

Google My Business local listing example for Google San Francisco

Adding your business to Google’s business listings means you will appear on Google Maps when someone searches for your business or related keywords.

It’s a great way to highlight your business locally. For some businesses focused on local trade, this listing can be one of their most crucial organic search assets.

It also gives you a helpful way to communicate your business hours and opening times to your customers—something they will appreciate.

By having a solid organic presence and utilizing tools such as Google Business Profile, you can be sure that your online business will pick up sales even when you can’t open your physical store. 

So how do you set up your own Google Business Profile listing?

Setting up a Google Business Profile is straightforward and a three-step process.

  1. Claim your business profile 
  2. Add your business hours and details 
  3. Manage your profile, share any business updates, and respond to customer reviews

Once you have done this, you can monitor your business profile’s performance with the built-in analytics.

GMB analytics, via Google My Business

Using a Google Business Profile allows you to discover how people are searching for your website and helps you to understand how your business connects with customers online.

Building trust with customers is just as important online as it is offline. You wouldn’t buy something from a physical shop if the shop was run-down and the service was poor. 

The same applies to websites.

Your website should be fully operational and perform well in search engines. It should be secure and provide a great user experience to your customers. 

Having good SEO on your website shows you’re an authority in your industry. It shows you have the information and expertise customers are looking for.

It also means searchers will click on your website in the results because it is more prominent than your competitors—you will get the customers, and they won’t. 

The bottom line here is that by improving your website’s SEO, more visitors will trust your brand, which will drive more traffic and sales.

Learn more

Now you know the key benefits of SEO, you may want to start learning about it in more detail.

I’ve collected some helpful resources below to help you get started, so you can learn about SEO and start to reap the benefits:

Got more questions? Ping me on Twitter. 🙂



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