This article was first published April 19th, 2023 and was last updated January 2024.
Have you ever wondered how long does SEO take to work? On average, businesses take 6-12 months to see results from SEO (search engine optimization) efforts. However, there are many factors to consider when evaluating your strategy.
A renowned American basketball player and coach, John Robert Wooden once said, “Good things take time, as they should.” This statement remains true in your organic SEO approach.
In this article, we are going to answer the question, “How long does SEO take?” We’ll also explain why developing a solid SEO strategy is always worth the time. Let’s get started!
Table of Contents
- How SEO Works (And Why it Takes Time)
- How Long Does SEO Take? 3 Factors that Affect SEO Success
- Analytics are the Key to Success
- Metrics to Measure
- SEO Campaign Timeline
- 4 Strategies to Help Your SEO Campaign Succeed
- Why is SEO Worth the Wait?
How SEO Works (And Why it Takes Time)
To understand why SEO takes time, you first need to know how it works. SEO is the process of improving elements of your website to improve search engine rankings and traffic. It involves many different strategies, including keyword optimization, link building, and more.
Search engines like Google look at two things when evaluating a website and deciding where to rank it – relevance and trust.
Relevance considers the quality of content on a website and the coding behind the scenes. Building relevance means optimizing the code and making sure the content accurately represents the business and the brand.
Trust refers to how many other websites on the internet refer back to a single site. If many high-quality content sites point back to it, it becomes more trustworthy. If the content satisfies the searcher’s intent, then the Google algorithm will start to trust it more and move it up in the rankings.
A good SEO approach takes time to develop and implement. If you rush the process, you’re more likely to make mistakes or inadvertently violate rules. When creating your SEO strategy, following best practices is essential so your website doesn’t get flagged.
How Long Does SEO Take? 3 Factors that Affect SEO Success
1. Web Page History
Did you know the history of your website plays a role in how long your SEO strategy takes? Search engines look at your website’s historical data to determine its Google E-E-A-T (experience, expertise, authority, and trustworthiness). These guidelines play a key part in search engines’ decisions on whether to display it in their search results.
If your website has a long and successful track record, then you will likely be rewarded with higher rankings on search results. Conversely, if your website has a poor history, you may find yourself penalized due to having outdated content or strategies that are no longer effective.
Consider these elements when evaluating your website’s history:
- Content: The written copy (text) on your website and its helpfulness to both readers and search engines.
- Domain Authority: Not only the domain name’s age but the value it holds within online communities.
Backlink Portfolio: Falling under domain authority, the number of backlinks on other websites that link back to your domain.
2. Online Competition
The amount of competition is another important factor to consider regarding how long SEO takes. From an SEO perspective, “Competition” refers to how many businesses (or websites) want to rank at the top of search engines. When there is high competition in a particular market, it can take more time or resources to rank high on the search results.
For example, a plumber in a small town will face less competition than an ecommerce clothing store. In this scenario, the plumbing company might be the only plumbing company in the town trying to grab the top spot of the search results. Meanwhile, thousands of different ecommerce clothing stores are fighting for the top results, creating more competition.
This means it may only take the plumbing company a few months to see results from SEO. In contrast, it could take upwards of 12 months (or more) for the ecommerce company to start seeing results.
SEO is a process that takes time and effort to be effective. The time it takes to see results can vary depending on the available resources. Having the right resources at your company’s disposal can greatly affect how quickly SEO efforts take shape.
With enough funding and personnel, more comprehensive techniques can be implemented. These techniques include keyword research, content creation, and link building initiatives.
Without the necessary resources or budget, time frames become longer for an SEO campaign. In addition, If there is no strategy or plan for using those resources most effectively, any progress will likely not last long-term. Having the right resources and budget available is essential for successful SEO implementation.
Analytics are the Key to Success
With all the time and money you put into your SEO, you might ask, “How can I tell whether I am having success with SEO?”
The simple answer to this is that good SEO will get results, but you have to know how to obtain the right information and measure the results. To get this information, you need access to analytics that will show the progress of the campaign.
To get meaningful analytics, you will need to understand the metrics that matter and what they can tell you about the progress you are making.
Metrics to Measure
In analyzing the success of your SEO efforts, several metrics can help paint the overall picture of your success. Let’s take a look at some of the most important metrics and what they can tell you about your SEO.
Increased traffic to a website is a huge win for SEO. The ultimate goal is to get more traffic to your site through an increase in rankings. Essentially, you can’t just measure success by an increase in rankings. You need to make sure those rankings improve the traffic to your website.
This is how many hits on a page you get. You can measure this through various SEO tools, though Google Analytics installed on the site is the most popular. You can track the traffic by page and see its progress over time as an SEO campaign continues on.
Measuring traffic can also help you understand what kinds of advertising and other campaigns are working. Traffic can show you what worked and brought in more people and what may need a little more effort and work to make it happen.
You also want to make sure the increased traffic to your website is relevant, and the new visitors to your page stick around long enough to convert. If you see high bounce rates measured through Google Analytics, know that you need to change up your content. Higher traffic but high bounce rates don’t necessarily mean success. High traffic with sustained time on the page, with a bonus of higher conversion rates, equals a truly successful SEO campaign.
There are a lot of additional traffic KPIs you can go into. You can also go in-depth and measure things like organic search traffic, referral traffic, and increasing pages that bring in solid traffic, like product pages.
Page Load Time
Search engines gather more information than a page’s relevance to a given relevant keyword or the value of the information on the page. They also look for key indicators that reflect the user experience. The page load time is one of these indicators. If a page takes a long time to load, then the search engine will likely rank it lower than a similar page with a faster loading time.
While the load times of your pages will not be a metric that helps to indicate success, it is important in that it can offer a way to improve the SEO for a page that is underperforming.
Time on Page
The amount of time that a visitor spends on the page can be a good indicator of the quality of the user experience and whether you are getting the right kind of visitors. For some pages, the time on a page is going to be short no matter what, but there are others where you should expect the visitor to spend a few minutes.
By tracking the amount of time users spend on the page, you can find out whether the page content is hitting the mark and getting the right results.
One of the most common ways to measure an SEO campaign is to track keyword rankings and how they climb. One of the things we track at Boostability is where desired keywords on a campaign start and then where they are month by month. Every single day we see keywords on page 11 or lower (that means a ranking over below 1000) and watch them climb over the course of a campaign up to page 1 (ranking between 1 and 10).
The entire point of SEO is to get your website up in the rankings for the keywords people search for. So when you see an increase in rankings, that means your SEO campaign is successful. More keywords ranking high in the SERPs should hopefully bring in more traffic.
We’ve written extensively about keyword research and how to pick the right keywords for your business and your area. Picking the wrong keywords or keywords that are too competitive could lead to frustration and a website that doesn’t increase in the rankings. Essentially keyword rankings can be one of the biggest indicators of SEO campaign success.
You can track the rankings of your main and halo keywords. Watch for the keywords that your competition ranks for, and then target those in your content. All these can help demonstrate the success of your campaign.
If you are a business that operates locally, you also want to see how you are performing in the maps section. This shows the person searching that you are a local business, and it can help them find your location. It can be a powerful tool, so you should track your progress on the maps.
People are going to want to access your site from a number of different devices. If your page only provides a good experience for people who are at their PC, then you are going to miss out on all of the business that you could be getting from mobile device users. You want to ensure that your page is formatted well and easy for mobile users to navigate.
Furthermore, this can affect your rankings for mobile searches. As I mentioned earlier, Google is always updating its algorithms to provide users with the most useful search experience. For this reason, they have made updates to determine the user experience for mobile devices.
The indexing of your pages is an important metric. Google will only show the pages it has indexed, so if some of your pages are not indexed, it will hurt your SEO efforts.
In Google’s webmaster tools, you can check the index status of your pages and see if there are any previously indexed pages that have been deindexed.
The search engines will also look to see whether your site is available through a number of different venues. When the search engines see that you appear in all of these different places, it indicates that your site is more reputable. Establish a social media presence and maintain a regular blog to achieve this far-reaching presence.
This will not only show the search engines that you have this wider presence and give you a quick SEO boost but also drive more traffic to your site and provide sustained returns for SEO.
What do you ultimately want when someone comes to your website? Essentially you want them to take action. Whether that’s making a purchase through an e-commerce option, maybe it’s filling out a lead gen form to learn more about your B2B company.
Track the success of an SEO campaign is essentially measuring an increase in conversions from your website. More conversions likely mean more business and more revenue.
You can track the conversion rate and try to get it higher by taking the number of conversions and dividing it by the number of unique visits to your website. You can use this formula for all kinds of metrics, like emails or new accounts and sales. As your conversion rate climbs, it means greater success for your SEO campaign.
No Crawl Errors
Crawl errors refer to issues that Google has when it crawls your page. If Google cannot read the content, it cannot index it, which will mean that your page will not appear in the search results. Find any crawl errors that you have using the webmaster tools and take steps to address them.
The bounce rate is the number of page visitors that leave the page before taking additional action. If you have a high bounce rate, that is going to impact your overall search ranking. The big key to a low bounce rate is providing the visitor with a useful webpage. Depending on the intent of the page, this can mean different things.
A high percentage of returning visitors will tell you a lot about the value of your site. If a good number of visitors come back to your site a number of times, then it is a good bet that you are providing a quality user experience. If not, you will need to look into things you can do to address the situation.
Number of Pages Receiving Visits from Search Engines
You also want to look to see how often the search engines are crawling your pages. If the search engines see your site as valuable, the crawlers will visit the site more often. When your site is crawled more frequently, it means that updates and changes to the site will be reflected in the search results in a more up-to-date manner, and it can indicate that you are already doing very well in SEO.
SEO Campaign Timeline
Most digital marketing agencies forecast businesses can expect to see results from SEO starting at the 6-12 month mark. Here is a simple breakdown to showcase what happens within the first 12 months of an SEO campaign strategy.
Month 1: Pre-Audit, Keyword Research, and Planning
After a business begins SEO, the initial objectives typically include a pre-audit, performing keyword research, and making a plan. The pre-audit includes analyzing the business website to determine its current SEO performance. Keyword research takes place to ensure the best keywords are selected. Once this is completed, a plan is formulated to provide the structure of the campaign.
Month 2: Onsite Optimization and Technical SEO Improvements
Based on the information found in the pre-audit and keyword research, it’s time to kick things in gear. Within the first couple of months, significant improvements should be made to the website’s technical and user aspects. This creates a solid foundation for the campaign to build. Implementing keywords in specific website areas is vital for the target keywords to improve rankings.
Months 3-6: Link Building, Content Optimization, Local Profile Development
Once the onsite and technical aspects of the website are in place, it’s time to expand the strategy to new areas. Objectives such as link building, content creation, and local profile development will help keywords make the jump to the top results. A well-rounded SEO strategy is critical, as search engines (like Google) look at each of these factors.
Months 6-12: Stabilize Rankings and Re-Evaluate
Within the 6-12 month timeline, you should start expecting to see rankings significantly higher and results happening. Results could mean more website traffic, increased in-person visits, and overall better online visibility. Once rankings stabilize on the first page for a few months, re-evaluate.
Re-evaluating means making the decision of what new keywords (or locations) should be targeted next. The pre-audit, keyword research, and planning process should start again to bring in the best results for your strategy.
With continued work on your SEO approach, you should continue to see upward growth. Although it takes time, the investment creates a high ROI. This is due to how long your site will stay at the top of organic SEO results and be visible to your potential customers. Reach out to our Partnership Success Team today to learn how you can implement this approach in your business model.
4 Strategies to Help Your SEO Campaign Succeed
Here are four key strategies of SEO that all site owners should keep in mind when developing their online marketing strategy:
- On-site SEO
- Technical SEO
- Off-site SEO
Without all of these pieces, your optimization efforts may not perform as well. Here’s what you should know about each.
Most people think of content first when they hear the term “SEO,” and it’s easy to see why. While much of the optimization process goes on behind the scenes, content is front and center. It’s the hook that draws in your audience and gets them to stay. Your content tells your visitors all about your business and — more importantly — what you can do for them.
Content is one of the most important aspects of your SEO strategy. All content you create should include keywords that are relevant to your products and services. It should also engage your audience and establish your credibility. Perform a content audit to find areas of improvement!
2. On-Site SEO
Your content isn’t the only thing on your website that needs optimization. You also need to consider your metadata, which includes page titles, URLs, images, and meta descriptions. Include the target keyword within those areas of the website for the best results. When you make those optimizations, don’t forget to make sure your site provides a natural user experience.
Along with the metadata of an optimized website, a strong local SEO strategy is also important. If you’re a local business trying to appeal to nearby customers, this will include creating and optimizing your Google Business Profile. This goes hand in hand with prioritizing online review generation. Positive business reviews mean better search engine rankings and an improved online reputation!
3. Technical SEO
If you’re not especially tech-savvy, technical SEO may seem overwhelming to you. But don’t worry too much. With a little education and lots of practice, it can become second nature. Here are a few of the tech-related questions you should ask when developing your SEO strategy:
- Does my site adapt for mobile users?
- Can a search engine crawl or explore my site?
- Do I have fast page load times?
- Can my pages be easily indexed?
- Is my content structured optimally, in a natural hierarchy?
- Are there pages on my website that are causing index bloat?
Fortunately, if you have any experience with WordPress, you’re already familiar with basic technical SEO factors. In addition, you can learn more about technical SEO issues and how to fix them. On the other hand, if all of this is way over your head, it may be worth hiring a professional to take care of it for you.
4. Off-Site SEO
Not all SEO work should happen on your site. You also need to start working on off-site SEO if you want to build your authority and improve your site rankings. The most important strategy within off-site SEO is link building.
Link building is a technique that involves gathering links that point back to your website domain from other relevant websites. Make sure you only use websites that are trusted and relevant to what your website promotes. Identify highly relevant pages for your business to solidify your link-building strategy.
Why is SEO Worth the Wait?
Now that you know what goes into building a solid SEO strategy, you can probably understand why it takes months to start seeing results. We hope this article helped you answer the question, “How long does SEO take?” The next question is whether it’s worth it to invest in SEO. The answer is a resounding “Yes!” Here’s why:
Once you’ve optimized your content and website, you’ll provide visitors with a better user experience. You’ll also leverage free organic search, which is how most businesses get the majority of their organic traffic. SEO is more cost-effective than other marketing strategies in the long run and provides a high SEO ROI.
Develop Your SEO Strategy Today
Here at Boostability, we understand that SEO takes time and effort. As the #1 white label SEO reseller worldwide, our efforts help a small business reach the top 10 results of Google every 5 minutes.
If you’re an agency or media company looking to expand your product offering, our white label SEO services will fit in seamlessly with your strategy. Contact our team today to learn how we will help increase your online revenue and brand presence!