Why SEO is a Marathon Not a Race (& Why It’s Still Worth It)

  • SEO needs continuous optimization to stay ahead of competitors and search engine algorithm updates.
  • SEO success is like a marathon, requiring long-term training and strategy adjustments to improve results.
  • Follow the rules and avoid black hat tactics that promise quick results to avoid Google penalties.
  • Balance quantity and quality with SEO, producing high-quality content and building quality links.
  • Despite significant time and resource investment, long-term SEO efforts can pay off with increased organic search traffic and business success.

When you start a business or decide to finally invest in an online marketing budget, it’s perfectly normal to want to see results right away. You put time, effort, and money into something intangible, so waiting around for any kind of return on investment can be unnerving. 

As an SEO and marketing agency, we often get asked by clients how quickly they can see results from their SEO efforts. It’s understandable that businesses want to see a return on investment as quickly as possible, but we’re here to tell you that measurable results are on the way. 

SEO is a highly effective strategy for increasing your website’s online presence, but much like Rome, it can’t be built in a day. So if the old tortoise and the hare fable isn’t enough to convince you that patience is an SEO virtue (ok, we’ll chill out with the idioms), we put together this list of reasons why SEO is a slow-moving process and why it’s still worth the effort.

  • SEO is a process, not a deliverable

You can’t sell an SEO. You can’t buy an SEO. You can’t measure an SEO. It can’t be compared to something like a web redesign or a press release because one of the biggest misconceptions about SEO is that it’s a one-time deliverable that can be checked off a to-do list. Think of SEO as less like the marathon trophy and more like the training process. You can’t win a marathon just by running one time. Instead, long-term SEO requires you to start small, scale up, and then repeat, repeat, repeat. From there, you need to take a look at your results and tweak them accordingly.

To be successful in a marathon, you need more than just two feet. You need the right nutrition, the right training regimen, the right amount of sleep, etc. To nail down all of these functions, you need to test them all individually, so you can get them exactly right. 

Just like you run time trials before the big race, you’ll run trials of functions like content, link building, site optimization, etc. Then, you’ll either maintain the same strategy or make adjustments based on how you do it.

Additionally, an SEO strategy requires constant attention and optimization. Search engine algorithms are constantly changing, and your competitors are constantly optimizing their websites too. This means that if you’re not actively working on your SEO, you’re likely falling behind.

  • To be perfectly honest, SEO is COMPETITIVE!

The NYC marathon sees about 100,00 applicants each year. Of those, about 50,000 are accepted. Unfortunately, of those, only one will receive first place. 

Do you think that’s tough competition? Think about it this way: there are nearly 2 billion sites on the web. That means: it’s even tougher to get to the top of Google than it is to win the NYC marathon. 

So if it takes a whole lifetime of training to win the NYC marathon, how long should it take to win the web? Depending on your industry, you could be competing with hundreds or thousands of other businesses and millions of web pages for the same keywords and search terms. We’re trying to say that it will take time for your SEO team to understand what your website needs to improve on and what competitors are doing, so they can overcome them. This means that even if you’re doing everything right, it may take some time to see results.

If you’re near the front of the pack, we have some helpful tips for those looking for ways to finally get the coveted #1 rank and featured snippet.

  • Going too fast will do more harm than good.

Just like you can’t sprint a marathon, you can’t expect to sprint your way to success with SEO. Any company that promises significant results within the first three months is likely using black hat tactics to make a quick sale, which could ultimately lead to penalties for your site. When it comes to Google, rapid traffic growth can actually be detrimental to your site’s credibility. While paid ads may deliver quicker traffic, Google doesn’t reward this traffic as favorably as organic traffic gained over a more extended period.

If you want your site to be viewed as a trusted source by Google, it’s essential to focus on gaining a reasonable amount of traffic over an extended period. Attempts to speed up the process through spammy tactics or trying to game the system can end up doing more harm than good. Just as athletes are tested for cheating, Google will test your SEO traffic for shortcuts, so it’s crucial to play fair by following best practices and creating high-quality content. Ultimately, the only way to win with SEO is to play by the rules and follow Google’s spam policies.

  • It’s a matter of quantity AND quality.

Winning a marathon requires running a lot and running smart, and the same is true for SEO. In order to succeed, you need to build a significant number of quality links, target numerous relevant keywords, and produce a large volume of high-quality content. Achieving both quantity and quality simultaneously takes a considerable amount of time and effort.

Additionally, SEO is not just about quantity. It’s also about quality. In the past, websites could rank highly by stuffing keywords into their pages, but search engines have since evolved to prioritize valuable, high-quality content. Google has specifically highlighted “helpful, people-first content.” As a result, creating high-quality, optimized content is crucial to achieving success with SEO.

  • It’s totally worth it.

Anyone who’s ever placed in a marathon will tell you the reward was worth the effort. The same holds true with your SEO strategy. When you start gaining results based on the incredible blog posts you put out, the relationships you’ve built with other websites, and the way you learned from your mistakes to make yourself stronger, you’ll feel like you’re smiling from ear to ear at the podium. 

Just like finishing a marathon brings a rewarding feeling, so does a successful SEO strategy. When you begin to see positive results from your excellent blog posts, valuable relationships with other websites, and the lessons learned from past mistakes, you’ll feel like you’re smiling from ear to ear at the podium. 

Although long-term SEO requires a significant effort, it’s still worth it. Research has shown that the majority of website traffic originates from organic search results. If your site isn’t ranking well in search results, you could be missing out on potential customers. By dedicating resources to a well-planned SEO strategy, you’re investing in the growth and success of your business.

Final Thoughts on Long-Term SEO

SEO takes a lot of time and effort, but it’s essential for any website to perform well in search engines. If running a marathon seems out of scope in the scheme of running your business, then there’s a good chance running your website’s SEO on your own is equally overwhelming. Working with a team of experienced SEO specialists allows you to achieve the long-term results you need without having to put in the hours on your own.

Reach out to our team of experts at Redefine if you want to participate in the SEO marathon with us. We’re committed to helping you cross the finish line.

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Andrew Hernandez
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