The most common question I get from new or prospective digital marketing clients is "when am I going to start seeing results?" Unrealistic expectations will kill your momentum before it ever has a chance to take off. In a world that is obsessed with "overnight success" stories and outrageous company valuations, it's easy to get distractioned by all the noise. Setting clear and realistic expectations is essential when executing a new digital marketing campaign.
I take at least one or two calls a week from other agency or business owners wanting to know what our "secret sauce" is for fast growth. While I hate to be the bearer of bad news, there is no secret sauce. If you want results, you need to do the work. That means you need to research, plan, test, fail, learn, and do the process over and over again. Growth, real sustainable growth, is the by-product of thousands of little actions that eventually add up.
The problem with this question is that there are so many variables at play. Things such as industry, competition, current marketing efforts, access to actionable data, your targeted personas and more all have an impact on your results. While I completely understand wanting to see a quick return, pushing for them can often lead to poor execution and wasted time. It's better to do the little things well and continue to build on your strategy than push everything out and hope something works.
The question we should be asking is, "what steps am I taking towards my overall goal?" This will help you stay focused on your end goal, but also allow you to break it down into actionable chunks that you can grow from. For example, say you want to grow your organic visibility by 20%. You realize you need more links to boost your site's domain rank. Your hypothesis is that more links and a higher domain rank will increase your search exposure by 20%.
You could go for the quick fix and buy a bunch of links off Fiverr. This could lead to a short-term increase in organic traffic, but in the long run, will end up hurting your website. Or, you can create a user-focused SEO strategy that is based around creating great site content that attracts quality links to your site. This will result in an increased search visibility over time.
Many people are drawn to the first solution because it will deliver results now. But they fail to recognize that "strategy 1" will actually lead to long-term pain. While “strategy 2” may take a little longer to get off the ground, the payoff, in the long run, will be will worth it. Below is a graph of my organic traffic over time. As you can see, we started slow, but growth has continued to increase over time.
I share this to show that growth takes time. Early in 2015, I made a choice to commit to creating new, user-focused and optimized content at least twice a week. As you can see for the first 12 months, we didn’t see any "real growth." Now looking just at this chart, it would be easy to say that content wasn't working. But, if you dig into the data you will see that users were engaging and that we were starting to see tracking in a number of keywords and phrases.
I also realized that the industry we are in (marketing) is very competitive and that if I was consistent, I would be able to drive results. As you can see that work has paid off. Posting great content on a consistent basis has lead to increased results over time. This is scalable growth. Scalable growth beats quick wins every time.
So you just read about how I produced scalable growth in search results over time. But what about your business? How long should you expect to have to invest in order to see results? Again the question is not so black and white. There are a number of factors to consider when launching or starting a digital marketing strategy. Typically, we say you will start to see the needle move within three to six months. This is because that's usually the time it takes to do the research, plan a persona-centric strategy and begin to execute that strategy. Again, this is just an estimate. I've seen sites turn around in a week and others take years to produce lasting results. Budget is also another factor at play. Typically, if you pay more, more work can be done, and the results can be generated faster.
Never sign a contract with an agency or company that promises ranking positions or a certain amount of users. These may look good on the surface, but most of the work you will get will be bad and possibly harm your website. Also steer clear of experts who are afraid to share examples of past work or what their "secret sauce" is. If they have something to hide, that's a huge red flag.
Typically when starting a digital marketing campaign, email is one of the best mediums to drive quick wins. But you need a good list of contacts that expect to hear from you. Using social media channels and getting connected in niche communities can also help drive quick wins. While doing all this, you should also invest in building an organic strategy that will produce even better results over time.
It can be frustrating to hear that results will take time and effort. That’s why it’s important that you find the right agency to partner with. By taking the time to find a company that will work within your budget, communicate with you in a timely manner and answers your questions transparently you will find yourself less frustrated while your digital marketing campaign builds your reach.
We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.