How Long Does SEO Take to Work? It Depends.

This post was first published on January 6, 2020, and was updated on July 7, 2020, for accuracy.

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. Why are my competitors ranking higher on Google?
4. What can increase the chances of SEO success?
5. Consistency is key to SEO results

One of the most frequently asked questions I get, which is also one of the hardest to answer, is how long does it take for 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. I know that’s a frustrating answer. I plan on turning it into a fun drinking game. Some have claimed it may take 6 months. Others say between 4-12 months.

 However, there is no exact answer as to how long it takes for SEO to start working. I’ve seen SEO results after a few weeks for one business, while it has taken several months for another.

Let’s explore some commonly asked questions that clients often have when getting started. 

1. Why does SEO take so long?

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 digital marketing and SEO for years. On top of that, the more competition in your industry, the harder and longer it might take to see results.

    That doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t stand a fighting chance; it means you need to be realistic about your odds of ranking prominently. That rings especially true if you’re going after extremely competitive keywords in the short term.

  • Keywords: Everyone wants to own top rankings on Google for broad keyword phrases (queries that are 1-2 keywords long) to reach the most people. However, 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, they’ll get a variety of 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 make the phrase more long tail. That increases 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 this keyword phrase: “how long does SEO take to work?” You’ll see there are about 231,000,000 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 is to have great, well-optimized content. This also assumes you selected realistic long-tail keywords from the beginning. That will help position you as a thought leader and increase the chances that people want to read and share your content.

    And just because you’re ranking on Google today, doesn’t mean you will rank tomorrow. Search engine optimization is an ongoing marketing strategy. You need to revisit content to ensure 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. If your website doesn’t provide that great experience, you run the risk of being displaced and not 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. Links help to tell search engines that your website is so valuable that people are willing to link back to it.

    This obviously means that your content needs to be great. Other strategies for generating links include PR efforts or guest blogging. Here’s an example of my guest blog on 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 a quality SEO campaign.

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’s now in Google’s hands. It will take time for Google to recognize your content as a high-quality source of information for its users.

 

3. Why are my competitors ranking higher on Google?

Don’t be disheartened when you see competitors rank higher in search results. With the right SEO strategy, you can increase your chances of sharing and owning the space.

There are a variety of reasons why competitors can be outperforming you on Google. Here are three:

  • Quality content: It’s not enough to have content for content’s sake. Your content needs to be relevant and provide value to visitors. Quality content helps to keep visitors on the website for longer as it can keep them engaged. It can also help lower your bounce rate and generate more backlinks.

    Since content is so important for SEO, an SEO content audit should usually be performed. This can help identify strengths, weaknesses, threats, and opportunities. Seeing what content works well for competitors can also help you create more effective content.

  • Technical soundness: Website accessibility is essential for seeing results from your SEO efforts. As I mentioned before, Google is all about the user experience. If your competitors are providing a better experience, Google will reward them for it with higher rankings.

    Having a technically sound website is crucial for providing a positive user experience. This includes fast page load speeds, a mobile-friendly design, clear navigation, and easy-to-read content. When you really think about it, incredible how Google forces websites to provide this positive experience.

    There’s also on-page SEO factors to consider. This includes meta titles and descriptions, headings, anchor text, alt text for images, and internal links. All of this can help ensure that your content is read by both users and search engine crawlers. 

  • Active follower base: When brands have a large, active follower base on social media, that can help increase referral traffic. This can indirectly and positively impact SEO.

    It can be an easy way for your followers to amplify your message with their social networks. And depending on whom you ask, social shares can act as a vote of confidence. It can demonstrate to Google that your content is trustworthy and authoritative.

    Wondering what you can do to grow your social media followers? Here are a few considerations:

    Have a consistent brand message and post regularly.
    • Share content that is relevant to your business
    • Use messaging that speaks directly to your target audience.
    • Interact with your followers and relevant influencers to create conversations and engagement.

4. What can increase the chances of SEO success?

There are a few factors that can impact how long it will take to see results. Here are two:

  • Work with an expert: I previously talked about what an SEO consultant does since working with one could save you money, time, and frustration in the long run. An SEO expert will help you set realistic goals and create a strategic plan. They can help increase the chances that you will rank on Google and get found by your customers.

    Google is always updating its algorithm 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 this ever-changing and highly competitive field.

    It’s possible to do search engine optimization yourself. But you may risk making costly mistakes that might hurt your company’s reputation. You could also lose potential customers and revenue in the process. Adding SEO to your already lengthy list of responsibilities will take you away from other important duties like providing quality service to customers, managing employees, etc.

    Instead, discover how to find a good SEO consultant. 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. It helps to increase website traffic and attract new customers. Quality SEO and content marketing campaigns will help your business thrive now and into the future.

    How much SEO services costs vary because different businesses and websites have different needs. If you’re curious about how to set a budget for SEO, I previously wrote about how much SEO costs for a small business to help give you an idea.

5. Consistency is key to SEO results

SEO is like investing in a safe and steady Roth IRA rather than the risky stock market. Your efforts will compound over time and gradually deliver greater returns the more you put into it.

It’s a long-term operation. It takes time to conduct keyword research, review competitors, analyze data, and optimize content. But the results are worth it!

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.