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SEO | Apr 19
Mara Calvello on February 26, 2021 (last modified on April 6, 2021) • 22 minute read
In the world of search engine optimization, there are so many questions you could ask.
But at the end of the day, one question rules them all: How long does SEO take? Or to be precise, how long will you have to sit and wait until you start to see results from your SEO strategy?
While some may say the answer is black and white, others disagree. Truth be told, a lot goes into an SEO strategy, and a lot can go wrong.
Thankfully, we’re here to break it all down and to give you an answer once and for all. Plus, eight additional tips to consider before you get started.
Need an answer fast about how long SEO takes for results? Jump ahead to:
Seeing success from an SEO strategy is more complicated than you may think. You can’t simply wave a magic wand and expect your website to climb the ranks of the search engines overnight. You have to take some key elements into consideration if you want to give your website its best chance.
The main factors that determine how long it takes to see success are:
When it comes to SEO and how fast you should see success, it’s always a good idea to keep an eye on the competition. Know who they are, what they’re doing, and how you can make your strategy better to beat them in the SERPs.
Starting things off explaining why competition is such an important ranking factor in the world of SEO is Mary Clare Novak from G2. Novak shares, “Seeing results from your SEO efforts depends on the popularity of your primary query and the level of competition to rank for it.
Most studies will show it takes three to six months for pages to see real traffic and rankings, but that is for high-quality content from sites with authority on the topic.
Besides relevance and accurately addressing the search query, factors that can affect ranking include URL structure, keywords on the page, internal and external links, and user experience.”
In agreement regarding the importance of knowing your competitive market is Blaze Bullock from Blaze Digital Marketing. “It completely depends on how competitive the market is and if you’ve already done some SEO.
If you’re a plumber starting from scratch and don’t even have a website in a place like San Francisco, then it’s most likely going to take an absolute minimum of three months but most likely six.
If your company already has great brand awareness and you’ve had a website for a few years, you could start seeing results from SEO in a month or two,” shares Bullock.
Not sure what to look for in a competitor? Janice Wald from Mostly Blogging shares some tips as to what to pay attention to. “Sometimes it takes months or years to rank. How long it takes to rank in the SERPs depends on various factors.
First, how much online competition is there for readership? The lower the amount of competition, the easier it is for you to rank. Also, what is the quality of your online competition?
In other words, if their blogs are authority blogs with high Domain Authority Rankings, ranking well in the SERPs will be difficult if not impossible.”
Agreeing to this strategy is Haris Bacic from PriceListo. Bacic states, “Excluding edge cases, we notice on average the SEO results take around 3 months to mature and show results.
By looking at keyword difficulty level and competition, you can somewhat reliably predict how long it will take to rank for that keyword. If you target keywords in foreign or very low competition niches, you can see results in a matter of weeks. But if you are trying to rank for high competition keywords, results could take months and even years in some cases.”
As you build out an SEO strategy for your company’s website, do you have a budget you want to stick to? Having a higher budget to put towards SEO efforts could help you rank for certain keywords faster.
For instance, Kylie Moore from The Loop Marketing explains, “Businesses investing in SEO should begin to at least see a measurable difference (e.g. increased traffic and leads) within 6 to 12 months.
When it comes to your company’s budget, the more time and money a company is willing to put into SEO efforts, the better the payoff (meaning that results will become more apparent more quickly).
Also sharing the importance of having a dedicated SEO budget is Kateryna Reshetilo from Greenice. “If you are starting from zero, in the best-case scenario, you will see results in 3 to 6 months. This is based on our own experience, as well as the experiences of my colleagues from different industries. However, think about how many resources you can invest in SEO.
Depending on the competition in your market, there is a certain threshold below which there is no point in pursuing SEO. The more you can invest some monetary value in SEO the faster you’ll see results.”
Next up is domain authority, which can play a big part in how fast your rank in the SERPs, especially if you’re developing SEO for a new website. The term domain authority (DA), was developed by Moz as a way to give your website a search engine ranking score, from 1 to 100. This score predicts a website’s ability to rank on search engine results pages. The higher your DA, the better your chances.
Breaking this down further is Tyler Tafelsky, who shares, “ Depending on a site’s domain authority, it typically takes a couple of months before a page begins to realize its full SEO potential. That’s assuming a modest level of competition and a site with medium domain authority. Add active link building into the mix, or a site with high domain authority, and measurable results can be achieved in less than a month.”
Also explaining why a website DA is so important is Antonio Wells from NAMYNOT Inc. “If this is a brand new website, on average, it takes 6-8 weeks for effective rankings to rank well in SERPs.
If this is an existing website, however, with very few search optimizations, it could take 3-6 weeks. If this is an established site with great SEO, it could take hours or days. Especially if the site is accepted into Google News, it could take minutes to hours.”
Jordan Schneider at Soundstripe, Inc. also weighs in on why a website’s domain authority is such an important factor in SEO. “I think if I had to pick the factor with the greatest impact, it would be the relative domain authority of the site attempting to rank for the keyword against those currently occupying the SERP.
So, if you’re starting a website from scratch, it’s going to take a lot longer for you to rank for any of your target keywords than if you have an existing site with an already healthy backlink profile.”
What makes the DA of your website so crucial, but also so complicated, is that it’s difficult to try and change. Camila Reed Live Life Big explains further, “I do believe that domain age is one of the biggest factors that can change the 6-month time frame and older domains can move things along a little faster. Not only would I argue that there’s a sandbox where Google puts the brakes on a new domain but time is also one of the hardest metrics for an SEO to change.
You can get backlinks, produce content and build an amazing website in a day but you can’t change the age of your domain. You can work around this by leveraging dropped domains or buying an existing site but the age of a domain is still one of the toughest metrics to modify.”
Wrapping this factor up is Tommy Landry ay Return On Now. “There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Domain Authority is one of the primary driving factors behind the timing — domains with good authority can do on-page SEO alone and expect results, while newer websites will need to put in a lot more time and effort on off-page to get that same boost. Depending on exactly how low the website’s authority is at the start, the duration can last from days or weeks up to years, explains Landry.”
Another absolutely crucial factor to ranking for SEO is inbound links. Having link building techniques put in place as you develop an SEO strategy will help speed up the ranking process. This, of course, is easier said than done.
Here to explain the importance of backlinks is Bianca Ward from EssayWriterFree. “In general, SEO needs at least 3 months. Having taken into account my 5 years of my experience, I can say that the backlink profile is one of the most important factors. In this case, it’s necessary to get backlinks from authoritative websites to improve your ranking.”
Making backlinks even more complicated, it’s not all about how many your website has, but also how you acquire them. According to Janelle Owens at LSAT Prep Insights, “There is a multitude of variables in determining how long a new SEO campaign will take to show results.
That said, all else being equal, I would say it takes 4 to 6 months for SEO to show results. While on-page SEO is critically important, in my opinion, the strength of a website’s backlink profile is paramount. And it takes time to build quality backlinks. “
Backing this point up is Ray Blakney at Live Lingua. “One of the main factors I have seen for ranking more quickly is link acquisition velocity over an extended period of time. Showing Google that you are consistently growing the links each week tends to get the rank up quickly,” shares Blakney.
In addition, the acquisition of backlinks should be slow and gradual, as that is a more natural means of link acquisition. Acquiring hundreds of links overnight will raise red flags with Google.
In any event, assuming you can perfect on-page SEO items like website speed, structure, and keyword optimization in your content, and work hard to build links, I think it will take 4 to 6 months to show significant results.”
Think you can ignore link building and just focus on publishing articles on a consistent basis? Think again. Dorka Kardos-Latif at Copyfolio explains, “We launched our blog with a brand new domain in August 2020 and started publishing articles regularly.
However, we didn’t start ranking until we started doing some link building. With some good quality links, we started ranking in positions 40-75 at the end of November and got on the first page of Google for the first time with 6 keywords at the end of January 2021.
So, I’d say it takes around 6 months to rank on the first page for easier keywords, starting with a completely new domain.”
Hammering this point home is Abdul Ganiy Shehu at Your Content Mart. From my personal experience, it typically takes between 3 to 6 months for SEO to start showing results. Although, there are factors that might make you rank faster such as.
For instance, pay attention to link building. If you can acquire or build backlinks to your page as soon as you can, then you’ll most likely rank faster in the SERPs. Links are super important in SEO and play a huge role in ranking,” shares Shehu.
We’ve all heard the phrase “content is king”. This is absolutely true when it comes to ranking for SEO, as high-quality content still reigns supreme if you want to improve your website’s rank.
Breaking this down further is Jerome Williams at JWorks Studios. “The biggest factor in SERP to me is great content. You have to write for your audience, not the Google bot! If well organized, well structured, and useful content is on your page, the bot will pick it up and slot you where you belong.”
Producing high-quality content is only half the battle. You also have to be sure you’re publishing the content on a consistent basis. Explaining this concept is Rachael Cecko from Lake One. “Consider how quickly you can produce the content. Research is critical, but to actually start actioning SEO, you need content. Your content production velocity will depend on your setup and competing priorities. A delay in content production ultimately equals a delay in SEO results,” shared Cecko.
Wrapping content as an SEO factor up is Moses Gomes at DocMode Health Technologies Pvt Ltd. “Usually, I have seen SEO taking between 90 to 140 days to show results for 10% of non – brand-related keywords. The most important and the only factor for SEO to show results is the quality and quantity of content posted on the website. Our blog section took 200 days to reflect on search results after we completed more than 600 blog posts,” adds Gomes.
Going hand in hand with the point of needing to write quality content is ensuring that you’re also writing this content targeting the right long-tail keywords.
Starting this factor off is Nick Marcatelli from ICF Next. “Several factors might impact how quickly a site/page can rank. One that is becoming increasingly important is the ability of the site to answer long queries. With the introduction of the People Also Asked feature a few years ago, Google has shown how question-focused the algorithm has become. And the sites who will answer those questions/long queries would be rewarded in its ranking.”
In agreement is Catherine McNally at Reviews.org. McNally adds, “In my experience, how long it takes SEO results to show up mostly depends on keyword competition and whether you use long-tail keywords.
It’s important to take a look at long-tail keywords, not only to hopefully rank for a more specific search term but also to ensure you’re answering the questions your users are asking.
Long-tail keywords can lead to longer content length or additional published content, which can also signal to Google that you’re an authority on the topic your site is focused on. On top of that, long-tail keywords tend to have lower competition, meaning it’s easier for you to rank higher in the SERPs.”
The last factor you need to consider as you create an SEO strategy to rank as fast as you can in the SERPs is making sure that your website has proper site structure.
Here to explain this is Andres Ossa at Mudango. Ossa shares, “At Mudango, we have managed to rank in top positions in some of the most competitive words in the logistics tech market that we serve.
We did this in roughly 9 months by implementing SEO best practices such as improving site speed, keyword optimization in our landings, and quality and frequency of content.
Nevertheless, none of this is useful if your site doesn’t convert users into customers. Google wants successful sites to be ranked at the top and so, having a proper site structure that converts should be the number one priority.”
Alright, let’s answer the question on everyone’s mind. If you take all of the above factors into consideration as you build an SEO strategy… how long does SEO take to see results?
The short and fast answer is anywhere from three to six months. But… it depends. Don’t just take my word for it. Listen to the experts.
First up to break it down is Bruce Hogan at SoftwarePundit. Hogan explains, “Exceptional SEO improvements or content can have an impact within a few days. However, the majority of changes take 3-6 months to begin adding up and showing results. This is impacted most by a website’s domain authority, backlink profile, and technical SEO.”
Agreeing with this point is Emanuel Petrescu at EmanuelP, who shares, “Ask any serious SEO and they will tell you no one can guarantee anything. That being said, I often see results within the first 6 months. sometimes even sooner.
There are a series of factors to take into consideration, but I believe that if you already have some seniority in the field, and you tweak your content to best serve your user, you can easily outrank your competition – the search engines (read Google) wants to show their users the best possible results for their query. With that in mind, adjust what you already have and come up with new content and Google will reward you by showing your page on top of the search results.”
Still not convinced? Take it from Crystal Diaz at Lights On Creative. Diaz advises, “Usually I’ve seen SEO take anywhere from 3-6 months to produce huge results. Within the first month or two, you might see small little achievements like more keywords driving small traffic. But the bigger things like moving to page one, or moving in SERPs takes months and usually happens after an update.”
Wrapping this answer up is Chris Wilks at BrandExtract. Wilks adds, “As with many SEO questions, the answer is ‘it depends’. As a general ballpark, we typically say that you can expect to wait 3-6 months before getting the results you’re aiming for. However, you can begin to see incremental improvements way sooner than that. In fact, incremental improvements can happen within days or weeks.”
*Editor’s note: Take advantage of the free Google Search Position template when you wake to track the average Google search position by page on your website. When you do, you’ll always know which pages can be boosted to page one of Google.
Even with the above factors put in place within your strategy, and knowing you have to probably wait 3-6 months to see any real movement, there are other things you can do to see SEO results.
Keep these 7 tips in mind as you develop your SEO strategy:
Even if you do everything else right, having a technical issue on your website can kill your chances of ranking or seeing any kind of positive results.
Frank Olivo at Sagapixel explains, “The often-cited ‘3-6 months’ rule of thumb is the case in specific scenarios, but can often be much longer or shorter depending on your goals, your market, and the specific challenges you’re facing. For instance, if a website has technical issues that are holding it back, taking the time to fix a rogue canonical tag can potentially deliver results in a few days.
Similarly, site architecture fixes can often deliver fast results. We recently had a client in the home services space jump from page 5 to page 1 for its head terms in a major market by simply implementing breadcrumbs and improving internal linking to all the service pages. That took about 3 weeks.”
Adding to this tip is Moises Parada from Fidelitas Development. Parada shares, “Every site is different, and depending on where you start with a website can determine the timeframe for showing results. From my experience, I’ve seen true results from an SEO campaign range from 3-6 months after implementing a strategic White-Hat SEO strategy that will benefit the site long-term.
Making sure your site is structured correctly is a huge factor in getting ranked, along with making sure your site has minimal technical errors. Start with the bones of the site and then focus on the content.”
Noting some other issues to keep an eye out for is Zack Duncan at Root and Branch Group. “If there are significant technical crawl issues, we can fix them in the first month and see an immediate lift in terms of search visibility as measured by impressions in Google Search Console. I’m talking about 404 errors and things like duplicate title tags and missing title tags on pages that should be high performers. Addressing some of this will lift search visibility immediately.”
*Editor’s note: Make the most of the SEMrush Keywords and Audits Dashboard template to deep dive into an overview of your SEO visibility. It also makes it easy to diagnose SERP errors quickly.
Something else you can do as a part of your SEO strategy is to optimize your website for speed.
Rob Howard at Howard Development & Consulting shares, “There are many things you can do relatively quickly if your site is not up to speed on the SEO basics. For instance, improving your PageSpeed score can kick in quite quickly, since Google will index your site for changes every few days.”
If you’re still feeling impatient by how long your SEO strategy is taking, consider optimizing your website from top to bottom.
Explaining further is Michal Hajtas at AutoPI, who shares, “SEO depends on many factors. However, I would say it takes from 2 to 6 months to see the real results, as the search engines need to crawl both your page and your website. However, keep in mind that the more optimized a web page is, the faster it gets results.”
Did you know that EAT is part of the Google Algorithm? And no, I’m not talking about taking a break to eat lunch.
Take it from Hannah Brown at Smart Jobhunt. Brown shares, “According to me it will take around 1-3 months for SEO to show results. Keep in mind the factors which help in quickly ranking are: E-A-T, which stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness.”
Someone else who remembers to EAT is Patrick Garde from ExaWeb Corporation. Garde explains, “Based on our experience, it takes about 1-3 months before our SEO efforts can show measurable results. For highly competitive niche, industry or keywords, we give a buffer of about 4-12 months (the time frame according to Google).
The most important factors if you want to quickly rank are the authority of the domain, backlink profile, and content. These factors will determine if your website has enough EAT (Expertise, Authority, Trust).
If you’re getting a little help from an SEO agency to see faster results, the best thing you can do as a client is to react to suggestions, ideas, and strategies as quickly as possible.
Explaining further is Matt Janaway at Marketing Labs. “Using a broad spectrum of client websites in different industries and at different points of the SEO journey, we usually start seeing improvements in SERP performance around the 6-month mark.
Sometimes it can be a little sooner and sometimes much longer. Another factor that can impact the speed at which results start to gather momentum is the client’s buy-in. If the client is dynamic and reacts to advice quickly, it can make the process a huge amount easier,” shares Janaway.
You’ve heard the phrase SEO is a marathon — not a sprint. The best thing you can do for yourself and your company’s website is to rip the bandaid off and get started.
David Cusick from House Method explains, “It can take 3 to 6 months for SEO results to come about. That’s because it involves lots of data collection and observation. Your SEO results also depend on consistent efforts, industry competitiveness, and quality keywords. Regardless, it’s best to start as early as you can and improve your strategies over time.”
When you’re running the marathon that is SEO, one last thing to keep in mind — don’t give up. It can feel like you’ve been waiting forever and you may be close to throwing in the towel. But don’t.
Listen to what Christian Velitchkov at Twiz LLC has to say. “The first thing to understand is that SEO is like a tree, it grows over time. But, one also needs to remember that it begins as a seed. It is an ever-growing process. There are tons of factors that affect SEO. Some of them are, website’s internal structure, internal backlinks, and backlinks to external websites, image optimization, website errors, keywords, content, frequency of content updates and uploads, etc.”
Finally, we have Andy Crestodina at Orbit Media Studios adding to this SEO tip, sharing “Ranking for your brand name is almost automatic. It might take a week after launching a new site. Ranking for a low-competition keyphrase is slower. It might take 2-3 months before you climb onto page one after producing a high-quality, keyphrase-focused page.
Ranking for a high-competition phrase may take a very long time, possibly 2-3 years of publishing a detailed, high-quality, keyphrase-focused page. This time is spent referencing the article in contributions to other websites and occasionally updating or even rewriting the article on that URL.
The more valuable/competitive the phrase, the more time it takes. But never give up. It’s worth it.”
And neither was the perfect SEO strategy. It’s crucial that you take all factors into consideration as you develop a plan of action when it comes to SEO. Make sure to dot your i’s, cross your t’s, and yes… most likely wait somewhere between three and six months to see results. Remember to have patience!
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