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How Long Will it Take to Get Results from Digital Marketing

One of the most common questions I’m asked on sales calls is “when can I expect to see results?”

It’s a reasonable question to ask, totally fair. But one that requires an unfortunately annoying answer.

Can you guess what my response is?

“Well, it depends.”

Of course we never leave it at that on a sales call, and won’t here either. But it is the most honest answer and we believe business owners are reasonable enough to handle the truth even when it’s not convenient.

So the natural question that follows is: “OK, of course. But what does it depend on, and what can I reasonably expect?”

To answer this question completely, let’s consider the following factors.

1. Your Industry & Relative Competition

The industry your business is in, will be a major determinant with respect to how long it will take to see results from digital marketing efforts.

For instance, if you’re running a small local business, results will typically yield somewhat faster than those for a larger national entity. That’s largely down to the nature of the competition.

Despite having been true since the day we built RankPay in 2007, the average small local business owner still does not give their digital footprint the love that it deserves. Many are “trapped in the past”, relying on word of mouth alone, or local magazines and coupon mailers to generate leads. 

They either don’t realize that the majority of their potential customers are turning to Google to make purchasing decisions or don’t have the time or resources to leverage the opportunity.

Regardless of the root cause, with lighter competition, a little effort can go a long way (and fast)!

Larger national entities however, will face stiffer competition, and often more established name brands. The strategy accordingly looks quite different, and therefore one could reasonably expect results to take noticeably longer to yield. Not only because the time to execute gets extended, but because chipping away at an industry giant will definitely require some patience and persistence.

  2. Your Digital Marketing Budget

No one likes being told that they have to pay more money to make things move faster. But it is often true nonetheless, both in life and business.

The reason is simple. Good work costs money.

When we engage with a client on a comprehensive digital marketing strategy, we bring to bear a wide array of US-based talent. PPC specialists, senior business consultants, project managers, accomplished writers, etc. As you might imagine, this is not inexpensive for us to deploy.

If we’re restricted by a client’s budget to only leveraging a single marketing channel, our impact will be lessened, and the timeline for expected results extended.

Don’t worry though, this is only true to an extent. There is a limit of course, and a point of diminishing returns.

I will also note here that the old saying “you get what you pay for” is as true today as it was when you were growing up.

In most cases, if you’re offered rock-bottom pricing, you’ll get rock-bottom service. As we discussed a few paragraphs ago, good talent costs good money to employ and retain.

  3. Your Cooperation

I’ve got some more bad news for you. Even if you hire a great digital marketing agency, that fits well with your team and values, you will still have some “homework”.

The early innings of a digital marketing partnership in particular, require close coordination and cooperation.

I have witnessed plenty of client engagements that get hung up on execution due to our client being too busy to respond, approve, or grant access to key areas of our collaboration.

If you’re able to spare a few minutes here and there, to your digital marketing agency/firm/consultant, you will dramatically improve the timeframe in which you can expect results.

If you’re unable to cooperate, it will lead to dragging timelines and delayed return on investment (ROI).

I can sympathize with the plight of the busy business owner of course. So there’s no judgment here. But the above holds true nonetheless, so keep that in mind when you’re looking for estimates on when you can expect yield from your digital marketing efforts.

  4. Your Starting Point

Is your business brand new? Is your website well-established and growing? Have you done some digital marketing in the past?

As you might imagine, if you’re starting from square one, it’s going to take longer to establish the groundwork and build authority in the search index.

If you’re starting from a well-established baseline, the opposite is true.

For instance, if you have been self-managing some Google Ads for your business, it’s likely we can quickly turn around the account with efficiencies and modest restructuring. If you’ve never run ads before, we’ll be starting from scratch, and it may take a bit longer for Google to give you the amount of traction that is ultimately possible through the platform. 

  5. Additional Factors

The factors that can contribute to the overall time it takes to see results from digital marketing are of course more extensive than those listed above. But they all kind of tie back into the big 4.

For instance, if you have built a starter website for your business on, depending on your marketing goals, it may take longer to achieve them because of platform limitations that exist on Wix. That said, this ties back into your “Starting Point” (Number 4), and your “Budget” (Number 2) because you could always upgrade to a more compelling content management system (CMS) like WordPress if you have the budget to do so.

  6. Some Examples

To best illustrate how the above all fits together, let’s look at a few hypothetical examples, and we’ll walk through some reasonable estimates.

A Local Plumbing Business

Frank owns an emergency plumbing business in Austin, Texas. Let’s take a look at our big 4 factors.

  1. Frank has 1 very large competitor, and a handful of smaller ones that don’t pose much of a threat because they (like Frank) have not yet meaningfully invested in digital marketing.
  2. Frank understands the importance of Google, but is hesitant to dive in given a bad experience in the past. He’s comfortable spending up to $1,500 all-in, including Google Ad spend.
  3. Frank is busy, and is often still out in the field with his team. But he always responds to emails within a business day, and is available to meet bi-weekly with a digital marketing strategist.
  4. Frank did invest in a good website, and has dabbled with Google Ads in the past. He also has paid an SEO specialist for a few months to build some backlinks and improve his on-page SEO.

Given the above, it’s reasonable to expect that Frank could see meaningful results within the first 45 days. Here’s how we come to that conclusion.

Since Frank will respond quickly to access requests, the time to get up and running should be quite short. His competition is weak, he has a reasonable starting budget for a local business, and a search-friendly modern website.

All signs point early wins for Frank and his plumbing business.

A Regional Law Firm

Sarah is a partner in a personal injury law firm based out of Seattle, Washington. Let’s examine her situation and come to our conclusions.

  1. Sarah has a multitude of competitors. Some national firms compete in the Google Ad space, and locally her firm is quite far behind a number of competing firms.
  2. Sarah is on-board with digital marketing, and understands it will cost good money to get good results. She is ready to allocate $5,000 per month, all-in to digital marketing efforts.
  3. Sarah is difficult to get a hold of as she is working long hours both in and out of the courtroom. It may take 5-7 days to get a response from her, whether it be by telephone, email, or virtual meeting.
  4. Sarah has a good website, but it is not SEO optimized, is sorely lacking in relevant content, and she does not have a team ready to make updates upon request.

Given the challenges Sarah is facing, it is more than likely that it could take upwards of 60-90 days to see meaningful movement in key digital marketing areas.

While Google Ads may yield somewhat faster results, the time to get up and running must be considered, as well as the improvements that may need to be made to the website in order to earn strong Ad placements on the platform.

Additionally, with stiff competition and lacking content marketing on the site as it stands today, it will take a while, and consistent investment/effort from Sarah and her digital marketing agency to see organic results materialize into ROI.

 7. Conclusion

As you can see, given all of the variables in play, answering the question “how long will it take to get results from digital marketing” is quite difficult. Furthermore, it’s almost as much art as it is science.

Our hope is that by reviewing the above, you’ll understand that our intention is always to answer this question as honestly and transparently as we possibly can. We can’t make guarantees about when results will be measurable, but we can make reasonable assumptions, and then put forth our best efforts to affect those outcomes.

As always, if you wish to discuss the above, or any other digital marketing concerns, our team of strategists is available and it would be our pleasure to learn about your business and marketing objectives.

Sam Warren
Sam Warren is CEO of RankPay, a digital marketing agency that pioneered early advances in Search Engine Optimization in 2007. Now overseeing a growing team of talented individuals, his experience has been largely shaped by personally partnering and working with over 100 businesses, ranging from small startups and local businesses, to national B2B enterprises.
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