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Why Does SEO Take So Long?

impatient lawyer watching hourglass

In the world of digital marketing, search engine optimization is the ongoing effort of improving a website so that it earns the capability to be found when someone is looking for something. A mountainous amount of work needs to be been done to make the process as efficient and as effective as possible, especially in competitive industries like law. But why does SEO still take so long even when we know what we need to do?

We always explain to our clients that, like any marketing decision, SEO is an investment. In cases of social media and advertisements, it is entirely possible to see an immediate ROI, but SEO, by its nature, requires time to settle in and earn visibility. The reasons for this are, unfortunately, plentiful.

Google Is Slow, Competition Is Fast

When you step into the SEO game, make no mistake that you are stepping into a cutthroat competition. Not only are there tons of other legal firms working to make their way to the top of page one on Google and other search engines, but Google is also notoriously slow to update those positions. And the higher you rise, the longer it will take you to move up another position.

This might sound a bit like you are competing with hundreds of thousands of legal firms for a few of the top spots, but it gets a little less intense when you start considering firms in your location and in your specific niche. You might fight for years to earn a top spot for something like “top divorce attorney in the US,” but it will be much easier to earn a top position for “divorce attorney in [your city].”

Nevertheless, this fight to the top is a big part of why seeing the fruits of your SEO labor is such a lengthy process — even once you demonstrate your website is a credible source for people, you’ll need to show that you are more helpful than the person websites you.

Professionals Chime In on the Time it Takes for SEO to Work

Jessica Bane“According to Google’s John Mueller, there’s no specific timeline for when SEO results become noticeable… [but] SEO is one of those processes in digital marketing that has a “slow burn” effect. The reasons behind this include the time it takes for search engines to crawl and index new content, the process of building authority and credibility, the highly competitive nature of ranking factors, and the time and effort required for effective on-page and off-page optimization.

A new website (fresh URL) logically takes longer to rank than an older, more established one. This is because older sites have had more time to establish their domain authority, gather backlinks, and accumulate content that complies with Google’s algorithms. While a new website essentially has to start from scratch and prove its worth in these areas.”
Jessica Bane –

Nikolay Krastev“Imagine Google as this giant librarian who wants to recommend only the best resources to their patrons (internet searchers). You must be an authority in your field to earn that librarian’s trust. This means creating high-quality content that solves people’s problems and getting other reputable websites to link to yours. Building trust with Google takes time and consistent effort.

The SEO landscape is crowded, folks. If you’re targeting keywords related to, say, the best pizza places in New York City… you’re going up against established websites that have been climbing this SEO mountain for years.. It takes strategic planning and some clever footwork to outrank those pizza giants.”
Nikolay Krastev –

Brandi Koski“If you have any hope or expectation for your site to draw organic traffic, then yes, it’s worth the effort to invest in an SEO strategy. Again, this is an ongoing effort and one made easier and more fruitful with the right, knowledgeable partner. While it may initially seem daunting to compete with established players, effective SEO strategies can still carve out a niche and drive valuable organic traffic.

SEO isn’t just about ranking for generic keywords; it’s also about targeting long-tail keywords, optimizing for local search, and creating high-quality, niche-specific content that resonates with the target audience. Additionally, SEO provides long-term benefits, unlike some forms of paid advertising that cease once the budget runs out.”
Brandi Koskie –

Content Is King, and the King Is Bloated & Slow

Producing high-quality, optimized content that effectively targets relevant topics and keywords is essential for SEO success. Unfortunately, it is also extraordinarily time-consuming.

Even an experienced writer typically requires 1-2 hours to research and create a single in-depth blog post while adhering to SEO best practices as well as legal standards. This process is shortened dramatically when you’re using experienced writers who deeply understand the legal industry like the back of their hand, but even then, content creation is where time is mostly spent, even with AI as a helpful assistant.

Scale this across an entire website with numerous pages and blog posts, adding up to tens of thousands of words, and it’s easy to see why a comprehensive SEO strategy requires months to properly execute. And that’s before accounting for the additional time needed for designing graphics & photos, adding videos, and creating other media that helps your SEO as well.

Oh, and we didn’t even mention the content updates and refreshes. See, Google’s algorithm favors fresh, updated content. In the legal sector specifically, laws and regulations change, necessitating continuous updates to existing content.

Like most kings, content production is — to our dismay — largely on its own schedule.

Link Building Is Critical

Link building is one of the most important (and challenging) aspects of SEO. A strong backlink profile signals Google that you and your content is something that many people are finding valuable.

The more quality links you earn, the more this elevates your domain authority and potential search rankings. Sounds like a simple enough process, right?

Unfortunately, link building takes a lot of time and strategic effort.

Here is my recommendation: provide value to websites through your content or expertise first before requesting links back to your own site. Comment on their blogs, share their content socially, or establish yourself as a reliable industry resource. In short: earn the links through merit.

Guest posting on industry blogs allows you to gain niche links while also publishing helpful articles for an engaged targeted audience, and many sites and organizations will consider this a win-win scenario. Interview influencers in your field and obtain links from expert Q&As. Pitch data-driven studies or market research that publishers will find credible.

Whatever it is, it needs to be novel and valuable.

It feels slow at first, but the compound effect of diverse, high-quality links over time leads to unprecedented SEO growth. Making this a central focus early on paves the way for long-term success and means you won’t need to be playing catch up down the line.

Technical SEO Takes Time

Behind the scenes, there is a tremendous amount of technical optimization that makes up a strong SEO foundation. While producing engaging content and earning quality links are crucial, the website and infrastructure itself also require a significant amount of work to set up and maintain.

At a basic level, clean URL structures, complete metadata, alt text for images, and quality internal linking all improve on-site SEO. Easy navigation, mobile responsiveness, and page speed load times are more technical elements that enhance the user experience and therefore boost your SERP rating.

But as we dive more deeply into technical SEO, architecture choices like a streamlined information hierarchy using appropriately structured HTML headings and clear page taxonomies also provide clarity to search bots crawling and indexing the site.

All of this is necessary for a strong SEO program. And if you think it sounds convoluted and time consuming — you are right. A lot of the time we spend on SEO is taking care of these less sexy but still absolutely necessary aspects of your website and web presence.

Sometimes SEO Can be Quick

In instances where we have a client with an aged domain (3+ years) with some decent links from other credible websites, we find that often we can redesign the website, add fresh content and see visibility gains quickly. Feel free to see some of our real SEO case studies that support this. In these instances it’s not unusual to have clients report new leads coming in within the first month of SEO upstart.

Contact Everest Legal Marketing

If you would like to schedule a call to discuss your SEO strategy, reach out to us at (909) 697-7484, or submit a contact form and we’ll get back in touch with you at a better time. We are local to Southern California and are happy to meet virtually or in-person.

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