How Long Does SEO Take to Start Working?
“I’ve been working on my website for a couple of months, and I still don’t see any results?”
“When can I expect to see my website on the first page on Google?”
“How long does it take for SEO to start working?”
These are only a few of the questions our clients ask a lot.
And we get why.
If you ask an SEO expert, they’ll probably tell you: “it depends”.
As frustrating as this answer is, it’s true. Numerous factors can affect the success of your SEO campaign. We’ll run through them in this article.
SEO is the answer for businesses in industries that can’t do paid advertising. Without doing SEO, many businesses cannot thrive in today’s digital landscape.
According to 82% of 75 SEO experts surveyed, it will be six months until you see an increase in traffic and one to two years to see the full results of your SEO campaign. But surely the results seen depend on what your SEO campaign involves and the quality of those strategies?
We agree with the statistics. In our experience, it can take from two-three months to more than a year to see satisfying SEO results.
SEO is much more than just setting up your website, doing a couple of things (that everyone else on the planet is doing), and expecting to rank in 1st place. It’s managing partnerships, staying authentic to your audience, handling content, and lots of ongoing work. The job is never done.
Factors That Might Affect Your SEO
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is a combination of various vectors and best practices that, when working together, can impact your results positively.
Some of the factors can include page reliability, content relevance, content quality, user experience, good-quality images, and some technical aspects such as page speed, website crawlability, website security, and more.
It’s important to remember that no two websites are the same. If you see a positive effect on a website doing certain things, there is no guarantee that you’ll see the same result doing the same things on another website.
The average time for SEO to take effect can vary depending on a few factors:
- Does the website or brand have good authority built already?
- How established is the brand within its niche?
- How competitive is the niche?
- Is the website ranking for high-priority keywords already?
- Do people share content from your website online?
On average, in a reasonably competitive industry, you can start seeing positive movement within 3-6 months after the beginning of your SEO campaign.
If your website has zero or low authority, this might not be the case – it will definitely take longer to see some changes if it’s a brand new site.
This is a no-brainer, but we have to point it out – how long it takes for SEO to work also depends on how much time and effort you are putting into working on SEO. Are you doing it yourself, or did you hire a team of experts to help you?
That’s why statistics show that large companies see results faster – they simply have a dedicated team of experts and resources to work on SEO regularly.
SEO is Never Done!
Your SEO work will never be done.
The reality is that SEO is a constant job. You should create meaningful content and work on your website constantly if you want to see positive results. And once you climb to the 1st position, you shouldn’t stop either.
The question “how long does SEO take to start working?” can be misleading. It suggests that you can stop putting in any effort after 6-12 months, but that’s not the case.
That is because search engines like Google change their ranking algorithm and how they present information to their users every day. Some changes are significant, some are small, but they all affect ranking positions, and you should adjust your SEO efforts accordingly.
How Long Does It Take For a New Website to Rank?
The short answer to this question is six months to a year on average, but again, it depends on many outside factors. A brand new website will take longer to rank well in the search engine than a website with authority.
The authority of a website can be built in time by publishing high-quality content and creating links and mentions to the website from credible sources.
SEO experts believe that new websites are often placed in something called “Google Sandbox”. This filter intentionally stops you from ranking well in the first months, even if Google believes your website is the best result for the given search query. This is like a probation period, and it’s done to avoid cheating the Google algorithm or scamming potential customers.
In our experience, a brand new website needs a minimum of 6-12 months to start accumulating a decent amount of traffic. Of course, we’ve seen some early results – some websites start ranking well in the third or fourth month. However, often those numbers are not that significant, and it mainly depends on the type of industry and how competitive the niche is.
How Soon Can You Expect SEO Results?
If you’ve been working hard the last couple of months to build a good SEO reputation for your website, it’s natural to wonder how soon you can reap the fruits of your labour.
It’s impossible to give an answer that applies to all websites, but most SEO experts say they see the first positive results as soon as 2-3 months. We’re talking about a measurable increase in keyword rankings or website traffic, not achieving all your SEO goals.
Factors like domain age, content quality, competition, and the conversion rate can affect the period in which you can see some changes.
Even Google has mentioned that SEO results can be expected 4 to 12 months after the beginning of the campaign.
How soon can you expect SEO results depends on the current state of your website. Technical issues such as website crawlability, security, and broken pages need to be addressed as soon as possible. All this needs to be done for Google to start evaluating your website seriously.
Other SEO issues such as rewriting content and writing new blog posts are not that urgent and can be done after you make sure all technical aspects of your website run smoothly.
If you want to see results, you need to work on your off-site SEO by building links and mentions for reputable brands from the industry.
You also need to focus on competition research and evaluate what tactics your competitors use to rank on the first page of search engines.
Why Does SEO Take So Long to Work?
As we already mentioned, Google and other search engines are constantly updating their algorithms. They test how their users behave on a given search query and evaluate which search result will satisfy their needs best.
At the beginning of the SEO industry, it was reasonably easy to “manipulate” the algorithm to rank on the first page. People used strategies like keyword stuffing, creating spammy content, sharing the same content across the internet, or even buying links from PBNs.
In today’s digital era, these methods won’t bring you any results and might also bring penalties to your website. Google has optimised its algorithm immensely, so it’s impossible to scheme it the same way. Google prioritises its users and will always do so. Google’s primary goal will always be to make sure users find precisely what they are looking for.
The primary factor on why SEO takes so long for you is your industry. Do you have a lot of competitors? Are they working on SEO? It also depends on the budget and resources you have to invest in SEO.
If a competitor has a dedicated team of SEO experts that work full time on SEO strategies, and you work on your own and spend 4-5 hours per week, you cannot expect to see the same results for the same amount of time.
Today’s digital reality is that it’s almost impossible to come across an industry in which less than 4-5 competitors are actively working on their SEO.
With SEO, there is always something you can improve, always something you can implement. There are tons of relevant content you can create and new keywords to target.
SEO is a long-term strategy. Consider it as an addition to your digital marketing efforts.
How Many Hours Per Week Should I Invest in SEO?
SEO is an investment. One of the main things you need to consider is how much time and resources can you put into it. Are you going to work alone? Or are you planning to work with an agency, or are you planning to hire an in-house team?
SEO can come with a lot of costs, so you need to estimate how much you are willing and able to pay per week or month. From there, you can figure out if you can afford to hire an agency or a full-time employee.
Research shows that for ultimate SEO results, you need to spend, on average, between 4-10 hours of work per week, especially in the beginning. The time can drop to 1-3 hours of weekly maintenance once you make sure your website is well optimised and technically reliable. So, if you want to see significant results, we advise you to stay within that timeframe.
But this also highly depends on your industry. If your business is in a competitive niche, you’ll need to put in extra hours weekly to make sure you are competitive.
Don’t look at SEO just as a cost; look at it as an investment in your brand presence. The more you optimise your website, the easier it will be for your customers to find you and purchase from you.
How Do You Know If Your SEO Efforts Are Working?
We get that you might feel frustrated that you’re not sure when or if at all your SEO efforts will bring you some positive results.
So how do you measure your work? How can you know if your hard work is paying off?
Annoyingly, the answers to these questions are not straightforward.
There are numerous online tools that can help you evaluate the performance of your website. Some of these can also show you historical data and allow you to see how your website progresses over a time period.
Tools like Ahrefs and SemRush can give you a great analysis of your website’s current positions. You can explore how your keyword rankings are changing over time, be notified when a new website is linking to your website, and even explore content strategies and find ideas for new topics and keywords you can follow.
Google Analytics and Google Search Console, on the other hand, can give you raw data on how users behave on your website. You can evaluate the CTR of your web pages, see changes in traffic, and even track conversions.
All these tools can help you understand the SEO performance of your website better; however, you also need to know what metrics you should keep an eye on.
Here are the key metrics you should definitely keep an eye on:
- Impressions. An impression is when a user “sees” your website, content, or ad campaign in the SERP of the search engine but without taking any other action.
- Clicks. A click is when the user actually clicks on the result in the SERP or on the link, ad campaign, etc.
- A click-through rate (CTR) is the number of clicks your webpage receives divided by the number of times the same webpage has been seen (impressions). So CTR=clicks/impressions
- Organic Traffic is the traffic that comes to your website from a search engine after a user inputs a search query.
- Backlinks are the number of links from other websites that link to a page or resource located on your website.
- Conversions are the number of actions a user takes once they land on your website. Conversions can be clicking a link, adding a product to the cart, buying a product, filling out a form, and more.
Remember, customers come first. Search engines like Google want to give the best results to their users for their search queries.
They often experiment with the rankings and see how users react to them. They’ll look at things like:
- How long did they stay on a particular website?
- How quickly they exit the website?
- Did they end up purchasing a service or a product?
Remember SEO is a marathon – not a sprint.
Serve your customers first, and Google will love you for it.