A realistic search engine marketing results time frame

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Question: How long should it take a vendor to implement an SEM strategy and start seeing results?

Answer: A sound search engine marketing strategy will incorporate one or both of the following approaches: organic search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC). Each activity has a different time line for implementation and results.

Usually, b-to-b companies' most visible results from SEM will be an increase in qualified traffic. Leads and sales are a secondary result of the increase in the right type of traffic. Here's a breakdown of what to expect:

Organic SEO-To provide the maximum value from your SEO efforts, your vendor should have a short-term and long-term SEO strategy.

Short-term: Immediately, your SEO vendor should analyze your site to identify and implement a short-term strategy that addresses sitewide issues affecting search rankings, such as server settings, URL structures and the information architecture. These few adjustments will open your site to indexing and better results on the search engines. This process should take no longer than one month to strategize, execute and begin seeing increased traffic as a result.

Long-term: A long-term SEO strategy is a minimum standard for b-to-b companies, and you'll benefit for years to come with minimal maintenance. When creating a strategy, your vendor should identify on-page factors (such as title tags and Web content) and off-page factors (such as link strategy) that make your site search friendly for specific keyword phrases. Developing and implementing this long-term strategy can take between three and six months. Err on the high side if your site needs to be completely redesigned. If your site provides a solid foundation for visitors but needs to be optimized for the search engines, then plan on three months as a realistic implementation time frame. You can expect to start seeing results from a long-term SEO strategy as quickly as two weeks after implementation and definitely within two months.

Pay-per-click-Your PPC strategy is an activity that will send traffic to your site the moment you start spending money. In two weeks to one month, you can expect your vendor to have an initial PPC strategy developed and ready for implementation. You will see increased traffic almost immediately. Remember though, overall results and ROI will vary depending on the cost you pay every time a visitor clicks on your advertisement.

Aaron Kahlow is CEO of BusinessOnLine (, a provider of Internet marketing and search engine marketing services.

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