Let’s cut right to the moral of the story: There is nothing fast about the SEO of today. Establishing and maintaining your website’s reputation with the major search engines takes TIME. Not just time to do the work, but time to see quantifiable results.

SEO strategy is a long-term constant in the life of a website that should never be interrupted. A good analogy to consider would be a fitness routine; you see results when workouts are never skipped. Both are also difficult – if not impossible – to accurately predict quantifiable results on anything remotely resembling a fixed schedule. It just doesn’t work that way. There are simply too many variables to consider, many of which will be well outside your control.

The work of search engine optimization is conducted in what can only be described as a complex, ever-changing environment. True SEO is about identifying – and resolving – issues of the past and present while staying well-positioned to effectively address any future changes in the landscape. Just like in the gym, there are no shortcuts and you have to do some heavy lifting.

Now, that’s not to say YOU have to do all the heavy lifting.

There is no shortage of companies offering SEO services, but – buyer beware – not all were created equal. Your spam folder is likely full of offers from firms promising millions of hits overnight and massive amounts of links coming in from third-party affiliates around the world. There is a reason those offers ended up in your junk folder, so don’t be fooled by others like them that may have slipped past the sentry.

Of paramount importance, take the time to define your goals up front. Be precise. Why are you bothering to publish your website in the first place? What is the ideal end result? Are you looking for an online press outlet? Are you trying to establish/nurture brand loyalty? Are you supporting a sales effort that wants to improve conversion rates? Defining exactly what you want to achieve will more clearly define your strategies. Takes just a bit of time and thought, but it’s critically important prep work that will save a lot of time and money later.

Fast-forward now to the point where you have launched a solid SEO strategy based on the well-defined goals you hope to achieve by its implementation. This is where your timeline for delivered results often begins to resemble the hopelessly confusing uncertainties of quantum mechanics. It was difficult enough to predict how long it would take to get to this point, it’s going to be virtually impossible to see too far into the distance from here. You just can’t reliably predict much of anything beyond steady, incremental progress. To accomplish that alone will require you to stay nimble and responsive, monitoring key performance indicators as you constantly refine your path to reaching your established goals.

So, forget the overnight success schemes and the silly guarantees. They aren’t worth a thing. Instead, be realistic, understand that you are in this for the long haul, and pay very close attention to the details as you go.

It will yield results – in time.