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


  • SEO is a marathon, not a sprint. Take your time, reflect often, and make necessary pivots to ensure you’re still headed in the right direction.
  • There are nearly 1.5 billion websites. Achieving top rankings requires overcoming many obstacles, including your competition.
  • Going too fast will do more harm than good. Sudden leaps in website visits will alarm Google and may ruin your website’s trust score.
  • Gradual quality growth is the best SEO strategy but requires time and work to achieve worthwhile results.

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 it can be unnerving waiting around for any kind of return on investment. We’re here to tell you: we understand where you’re coming from, but also 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. 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:

  1. 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 it isn’t a one-and-done project. 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. You need to start small, scale-up, and then repeat, repeat, repeat. From there, you need to take a look at your results and tweak 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 based on how you do, you’ll either maintain the same strategy or make adjustments.

  2. To be perfectly honest, there’s a lot to compete with

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

    Do you think that’s tough competition? Think about it this way: there are nearly 1.5 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? What we’re trying to say is: it will take time for your SEO team to understand what your competitors are doing, so they can overcome them.

  3. Going too fast will do more harm than good

    You can’t sprint a marathon, and you can’t sprint SEO. A company that promises you big results within the first three months is just trying to make a sale and will likely practice black hat tactics that will get you penalized. If your site gets too much traffic too quickly, Google won’t trust it. Paid ads deliver quicker traffic, but Google doesn’t reward that traffic as favorably as slower traffic over a longer period of time. When it comes to Google, if your site gains a reasonable amount of traffic over a longer period of time, it will register it as a trusted site and rank it accordingly.

    Just like athletes are tested for steroids, hormones, and drug use, Google will test your SEO traffic for any shortcuts. If you’re generating spammy links or having robots write your content, Google will know. The only way to win is to play fair!

  4. It’s a matter of quantity AND quality

    To win a marathon you have to run right and run a lot. The same holds true of SEO. To be successful, you have to build a lot of links, you have to target a lot of keywords, you have to write a lot of content, and they all have to be high level. When the requirement is to simultaneously champion quantity and quality, you need to put in a serious amount of… you guessed it… time.

  5. 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 web sites, 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.


SEO takes a lot of time and effort, but it’s necessary for a site to function properly 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 impossible. 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. Get in touch with our team of specialists if you’re interested in running the SEO marathon with us. At Redefine, we’re here to help you jog your way to the finish line.

Author avatar
Mauricio Moreno
Mauricio has close to 20 years of digital experience and a core foundation in the technical side of SEO. He’s led and executed strategy both in-house and on the agency side and enjoys defining successful strategies for our clients.
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