How Long Does SEO Take to Work? It Depends.

Want to know how long it will take for SEO to work? Like with anything: it will depend. Here are five variables that can have an impact on initial results.

In this article, I will review:
1. Why does SEO take so long?
2. What if I want to see results now?
3. What can increase the chances of SEO success?

One of the most frequently asked questions I get, which is also one of the hardest to give a definitive answer to, is how long it will take for search engine optimization (SEO) to work.

It’s almost like asking a relationship expert how long they think it will take for you to find your soulmate or a fitness expert when you’ll get back to your desired weight.

Like with anything: it will depend, which I know is sometimes a frustrating answer (and I’m turning it into a fun drinking game). Some businesses have claimed it may take between 4-12 months, but there is no exact answer as to how long it takes an SEO campaign will take to work. I’ve experienced SEO success after a few weeks for one business, while it has several months for another.

1. Why does SEO take so long?

Like I mentioned, there are so many variables that will have an impact on the timing of results. Here are five:

  • Competition: There’s a good chance your competitors have been utilizing SEO for years. On top of that, the more competition in your industry, the harder and longer it might take. That doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t stand a fighting chance, but it does mean you need to be realistic about your odds of ranking prominently for extremely competitive keywords in the short term.

  • Keywords: While everyone wants to own top website rankings on Google for broad keyword phrases (queries that are 1-2 keywords long) to reach the most people, I usually always recommend going after long-tail keywords (queries that are 3+ keywords long).

    Think about your own search engine behavior in this example: When a person types a broad keyword phrase into Google, there’s a chance they will get a variety of search results that may or may not be relevant to what they’re looking for. Can you guess what ends up happening next? They go back to the search box and type in more keywords to increase the chances that the results are more tailored to what they’re looking for.

  • Content: There is no shortage of content on Google. Go to Google right now and type in the keyword phrase “how long does SEO take to work?” You’ll see there are about 253,000,000 search results, but we all know most people won’t go past the first page.

    The only way to have a fighting chance in Google (besides selecting realistic long-tail keywords from the beginning) is to have great, well-optimized content that helps position you as a thought leader in your industry and increase the chances that people want to read and share your content.

    And just because you’re ranking on Google for an important keyword phrase today does not mean that that page will rank forever. SEO is an ongoing marketing strategy and you need to revisit content and make sure it’s up to date and relevant.

  • Accessibility: This relates to the technical side of SEO. You need to ask yourself if your website is fast? Can search engine crawlers visit pages of your website quickly and easily? What are the technical hindrances that are preventing your website from reaching its fullest potential?

    You need to remember that Google wants to provide a great experience for its users and if your website doesn’t provide that great experience, you run the risk of being displaced or not having a chance of ranking prominently.

  • Links: Link building on an ongoing basis is one strategy to help your website to rank. This is not always easy since securing links takes time, when done right. By having links point back to your website, you are essentially telling Google that your website and its content is so valuable that people are willing to share it and link back to it.

    This obviously means that your content needs to be great, but other strategies for generating links include PR efforts or guest blogging. Here’s an example of guest blogging with my post on Rosey Social that talks about The Importance of Social Media in SEO.

2. What if I want to see results now?

Trust me, so do I. If it worked this way, I would be retired on a beach somewhere. But you know the saying: if it were easy, everyone would be doing it – and poorly at that. Patience is everything when it comes to SEO.

In addition to what you can do to make your website SEO friendly, you’ll also have to wait on search engines to crawl your website and update results on its end. That means that even after you have done everything right, it will still take time for Google to recognize your business as a valuable and high-quality source of information for its users. 

3. What can increase the chances of SEO success?

There are a few factors that can impact the success of SEO efforts, here are two:

  • Work with an expert: I previously talked about what an SEO consultant does since working with an SEO expert could not only save you money, time, and possible frustration in the long run, an SEO expert will help you set realistic goals and create a workable plan to get your business found by your customers and increase the chances that you will rank on Google. 

    Google is continuously updating its search algorithm guidelines and keeps many of its formulas for how they rank websites a secret. It takes a lot of time to learn SEO best practices and keep up to date in the ever-changing and highly competitive field.

    Sure, you can try to do SEO yourself, but not only do you risk making costly mistakes that might hurt your company’s reputation, you could lose potential customers and revenue in the process. Instead, discover how to find a good SEO consultant and let an expert help map out appropriate SEO next steps that make sense for your business.

  • Set a budget: When you make SEO a consistent line in your budget, you’re investing in the long-term success of your business. As any savvy businessperson knows, success takes time and effort. The world has changed, and your online presence matters.

    SEO continues to be one of the most important digital marketing strategies you can use to increase website traffic and attract new customers. Quality SEO and content marketing campaigns will help your business thrive now and into the future. 

    If you’re curious about how budget to set aside for SEO, I previously wrote about how much SEO costs for a small business to help give you an idea.

Think of SEO as a long-term operation and spare yourself the frustration of wanting to see results immediately. I’m happy to walk you through the process of a high-quality SEO campaign for your company. With over 10+ years of SEO experience, MediaSesh is a results-driven company with proven success.

About the author

Christina is an SEO consultant and the founder of MediaSesh. She has been in the SEO industry since 2009 and has helped companies of all sizes to improve their visibility on search engines.

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