How Long Does SEO Take?

By Lisa Hirst Carnes | October 2019

How Long Does SEO Take?

When organizations come to us, they are often very excited about beginning a new search engine optimization (SEO) campaign. They’re eager to see their site earning top rankings on Google and see thousands of qualified prospects visit their landing pages each week.

It’s understandable that they want to know how long it will take for campaigns to start paying off. So, a common question we hear is:

“how long will search engine optimization take to start working?”

As you can imagine, there aren’t necessarily firm time frames we can point to. Markets are very different, and that one organization might have stiff competition while another doesn’t. And, the underlying website and reputation of an organization both make a big difference.

Still, we don’t like to dodge questions, so here are a few very generalized guidelines to keep in mind…

Paid Advertising Can Pay Off Quickly

Paid advertising, also known as pay-per-click or PPC advertising, can be put into place within a couple of hours. You simply choose your target market, bid on search terms that apply to your products or services, and create some ads.

While we don’t recommend any marketer begins a PPC campaign without at least a little bit of planning in place, it’s not unreasonable to suggest that this kind of effort could show measurable results within just a few days (and possibly sooner). While it’s not SEO, it can be a good supplement or give you a chance to test different keywords and concepts quickly.

Local and Niche SEO Campaigns May Take Effect in a Couple of Months

If you’re targeting local buyers, or people searching for niche and long tail search strings, you might be able to effectively optimize your website and start drawing in visitors within a few weeks.

Because Google is constantly scanning the web for new content, it’s possible to see results from a highly focused campaign in a short period of time. In our experience, it takes the majority of clients a couple of months or less to make an impact.

We recommend adding some longtail keywords to your campaign so you have success more quickly. 

Organic SEO for High-Traffic Phrases Might Take Six Months or Longer

When you start looking at SEO for more competitive terms or keywords, things get a little murkier. Obviously, competition plays a big factor, as do search volume, the current state of your website, your content, backlinks, and much more. 

With all of those caveats in place, though, we can say that most clients will see measurable SEO improvement within 3 to 6 months, assuming they’ve made a consistent effort or investment. 

They make not end up at the top of Google’s rankings in that time, but they should see increased search visibility and more incoming visits, both of which point towards progress in the right direction.

There are Ways to Make SEO Faster

It’s worth pointing out again that there are a lot of variables that affect SEO timing. It’s entirely possible to achieve a top search ranking within a few weeks, and it’s also conceivable that you could optimize your site and post new content for years without getting ahead of your competitors.

This is tough to hear. In our world of instant gratification. We want things now and we don't want to wait. That's why it's helpful to put other strategies like paid advertising, referral partners, and social media while you're laying your SEO foundation. 

Some of the factors affecting your search visibility are out of your control like Google Algorithm updates. According to Moz, there were over 3,000 updates last year compared to fewer than 400 in 2009. Check out Moz's algorithm update timeline to learn more about Google updates. 

However, auditing your website, researching the right keywords and search terms, and developing a commonsense plan all help you to work more efficiently. If you pursue these tactics instead of following gimmicks, you’ll speed the process up without sacrificing your future profitability.

Steer clear of SEO firms making lofty promises. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. 

Need Help Putting Your Website and Online Marketing Campaigns Together?

If you’re looking for ways to make your website and business more profitable, then a consultation with our creative team is a natural first step. Contact us today to schedule a time to talk so we can put our expertise to work for you!


Topics: Digital, Digital Marketing

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