The Million Dollar Question: How Long Does SEO Take?

By Published On: February 8, 2024

As a digital marketing agency specialized in SEO services, we are constantly being asked by clients the million dollar question, “How long does SEO take?” Which is understandable, because the main goal of SEO is to increase your search engine rankings to the top of the list, so who wouldn’t want to know how long it’s going to take. A common misconception from clients is not understanding the external role Google plays in SEO, as well as the fact that SEO is indeed a long game.

There isn’t a magic button we can click to make SEO work faster, in fact SEO takes a long time to take root on your website, as well as requires continuous updates to see real results.

While this may be discouraging at first, it’s important to understand that SEO is 100% necessary in today’s online climate, and when done right can produce results for years to come. Think of SEO as building a foundation for your home. You couldn’t enjoy the perks of your house without building the foundation first!

This article will discuss how long SEO takes as well as strategies to effectively execute SEO.

What is SEO?

Before we dive into the intricacies of how long SEO takes, we must first cover the bases of what is SEO?

SEO, or search engine optimization, is the practice of optimizing your website to improve its visibility and ranking on search engine results pages (SERPs). In simpler terms, it’s the process of making your website more attractive to search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo, and Duck Duck Go, so that they can better understand the content your website is providing to customers, in turn indexing your site to rank higher.

SEO involves a wide range of techniques, including keyword research, on-page optimization, off-page optimization, link building, content creation, and more. These techniques work together to improve the relevance, authority, and trustworthiness of your website in the eyes of search engines. The ultimate goal is to increase your website’s visibility for relevant search queries, driving more organic traffic and potential customers to your site.

Creating a successful SEO strategy takes time and expertise. If you are looking to work with an agency specialized in SEO reach out to YouWho Digital to learn more about our SEO offerings.

Factors that affect how long does SEO take?

From keyword research and on-page optimization to link building and content creation, there are numerous elements that go into an effective SEO strategy. And while there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of how long SEO takes, we will explore the many factors that can influence the timeline of SEO results.

It’s important to note that SEO is a long-term strategy that requires time, effort, and patience to yield significant results.

However, the timeline can vary depending on several factors, including the competitiveness of your industry, the current state of your website, and the resources you allocate to your SEO efforts.

  1. Competition

One of the key factors that affect SEO timelines is the level of competition in your industry. If you’re operating in a highly competitive market, where many businesses are vying for the same keywords and target audience, it may take longer to see noticeable results.

Think of the types of company’s you are competing with – if you are a local phone company, competing with companies such as Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T, understandably it’s going to be harder to break through to the top of search results, and likely take a lot of time and resources to get there.

On the other hand, if you’re in a niche industry with less competition, you may see improvements in your rankings and organic traffic more quickly. For example, if you are a local pet sitting company, and there are only a handful of pet sitters in the area, with many of them not having a website your chances of ranking are much higher.

  1. Your Website Setup

Another factor that can affect how long SEO takes is the current state of your website. If your website is brand new, it will naturally take longer to build authority and trust with search engines. This is because Google starts your domain authority at 0. It takes time, backlinks, and relevant content feeding from your site to get Google to index your site and start to score it higher.

This is commonly known in the digital marketing world as sandboxing. Research on the subject has shown that sandboxing takes place for the few months of your website launch and could potentially last up to 2 years for new websites. No matter how much effort you put into your new site, you may unfortunately be at the whim of Google’s algorithm. As a result, the facts of the matter is that SEO takes time and patience.

How long does SEO take | YouWho Digital

Conversely, if you have an established website with a solid foundation, you may see improvements in your rankings and visibility more rapidly.

One caveat is that even if you have a website that’s been running for a long period of time, the website could not have been set up properly for SEO, and is likely missing many of the crucial features needed to set up proper SEO. There are many plugins offered today that will help structure your on-page SEO that may have not been around when your website was first built, such as Yoast and Rank Math.

At YouWho Digital we specialize in rebuilding out-dated websites to ensure they are set up for success in today’s digital age. If this is you, give us a call.

  1. Time & Resources

The time and resources you allocate to your SEO efforts also play a significant role in how long SEO takes. If you have a dedicated team or agency working on your SEO strategy, with sufficient time and budget, you’re likely to see quicker results. On the other hand, if you’re handling SEO on your own with limited resources, it may take longer to reach your desired goals.

We see many clients set up the expectation that they will add blogs to their website, but let’s face it life happens. As a result, you may only be able to add one blog a quarter, while your competitor is publishing new blogs every month. As a result, due to the time you are committing (or not committing) to your SEO strategy you have unfortunately lost.

It’s best to work with an SEO agency who dedicates time and resources monthly to your SEO strategy to ensure your website is continuously being updated and managed with SEO tools that will help boost your online presence.

There are many overseas marketing agencies who send spam emails to our clients all the time promising 100’s of backlinks, instant results with guaranteed top search placement.

Please do not get sucked into this predatory advertising. Anyone who is running a legitimate SEO company will tell you none of this is true, and in fact most of the black hat SEO tactics run by these agencies can cause much more harm to your website than good, causing you to be permanently deranked and flagged by search engines.

How long does SEO Take – Realistic Expectations

Now that we have an understanding of the factors that can influence SEO timelines, it’s important to set realistic expectations. SEO is not a magic wand that can instantly propel your website to the top of search engine rankings. It’s a gradual process that requires consistent effort and ongoing optimization. A legitimate SEO strategy takes a minimum of 3-6 months to start to take roots online.

Here are the results from a recent Neil Patel study reviewing hard data from over 100 million sites.

  • Traffic increased 11.4% within the first 6 months
  • Another 9.58% traffic bump in months 6-12
  • Year 2 saw a 49.4% boost over Year 1
  • Year 3 was up 30.7% over Year 2
  • Year 4 grew another 13.5%

While it’s impossible to provide an exact timeframe for how long SEO takes, industry benchmarks can give us a rough estimate. On average, it can take anywhere from a few months to a year to start seeing significant improvements in your rankings and organic traffic. However, it’s important to note that SEO is an ongoing process, and you should continue optimizing your website and building authority even after you achieve your desired results.

how long does SEO take | YouWho Digital

Technical SEO 

Technical SEO is essential to your website’s future ranking success because the technical aspect of this strategy helps to improve your website, making it easier for search engines to find it and understand the content being provided. 

Without proper technical SEO, your website may struggle to rank well in search results, even if your content is high-quality and relevant. It’s imperative to ensure your website is properly set up to ensure high quality SEO results in the future. 

Technical SEO refers to the optimization of a website’s technical elements to improve its search engine rankings, while also improving the user’s experience on your site. It involves optimizing various technical aspects to ensure that search engines can crawl, index, and understand your site’s content. By implementing technical SEO best practices, you can enhance the visibility of your website in search engine results pages (SERPs) and increase organic traffic.

Technical SEO encompasses a wide range of factors, including website speed, mobile optimization, structured data, URL structure, crawlability, and creating a user-friendly site architecture. It also includes proper image optimization, HTML tags, and meta descriptions. Each of these components plays a crucial role in determining how search engines perceive and rank your website.

Indexing your website is another technical aspect of SEO that is crucial. The XML sitemap is an important file that tells search engines what pages you have on your website and where to find them. Making sure your website has been indexed by Google is a very important step, as this ensures your website can be crawled to show up in search results. If your website isn’t properly indexed you can risk not showing up no matter how relevant your content is to search results. 

If you need assistance with technical SEO, consider talking to our SEO specialists at YouWho Digital

On-page optimization

One of the fundamental aspects of SEO is on-page optimization. On-page optimization refers to utilizing techniques to optimize individual web pages through meta tags, headings, URL’s, and on-page content. Website and page speed is another important aspect of SEO and how search engines rank your website. Best practice is to ensure your website loads in less than 3 seconds so to ensure customers don’t leave your site.

On-page optimization can have a significant impact on the speed at which you see SEO results. By optimizing your web pages for relevant keywords and ensuring they provide valuable and engaging content to users, you can improve your website’s visibility and attract more organic traffic. However, it’s important to note that on-page optimization is just one piece of the SEO puzzle and should be combined with other techniques for maximum impact.

Creating local pages for search results is a great way to boost your SEO. For example, if you are a cleaning company with service offerings in various cities, it’s a good idea to create individual pages for each location so search engines can find when you customers are searching, “cleaning service near me”, “cleaning service in X location,” etc..

Off-page optimization

While on-page optimization focuses on optimizing individual web pages, off-page optimization involves activities that take place outside your website to improve its visibility and authority. One of the key aspects of off-page optimization is link building, which involves acquiring high-quality backlinks from other websites.

Off-page optimization, particularly link building, can have a significant influence on SEO timelines. By earning backlinks from authoritative and relevant websites, you can signal to search engines that your website is trustworthy and deserves a higher ranking.

While creating back-links sounds like a great plan, the strategy also involves a certain degree of PR to gain backlinks. High authority websites aren’t just going to provide you with a backlink because you asked them for it.

Oftentimes these high authority websites are being inundated with requests to be on their site, so you must strategically reach out to these companies with a specific mission in mind. “What value are you providing their viewers?” “How does this partnership benefit them?”

Working with an SEO agency that specializes in link building through a specific digital strategy is the best way to achieve these results. As mentioned above, be wary of blackhat link tactics that could further harm your website by getting you 100’s of backlinks on spam websites vs. a few valuable backlinks to legitimate sites.

Building high-quality backlinks takes time and effort, and it’s important to focus on acquiring natural and organic links rather than resorting to spammy tactics.

The role of keyword research in SEO timelines

Keyword research is a crucial step in any SEO strategy. It involves identifying the keywords and phrases that your target audience is using to search for products or services similar to yours. By understanding the search intent behind these keywords, you can optimize your website’s content to align with what users are looking for.

Keyword research can have a significant impact on SEO timelines. By targeting the right keywords, you can attract more relevant traffic to your website and improve your chances of ranking higher on search engine results pages. However, it’s important to strike a balance between high-competition keywords that may take longer to rank for and low-competition keywords that may have lower search volumes.

Oftentimes when clients are pursuing SEO on their own they tend to pick broad match keywords vs. long tail keywords because they are easier to come up with. For example if you are a solar installation company, you may pick “solar” when you should actually be writing blogs about “solar panel installation.”

Broad match keywords are also much harder to rank for because the search volume is so high. It’s better to pick more specific, long tail keywords that require a specific search, in turn will produce greater results.

Think of the difference between the two as quality vs. quantity. Writing content for broad match keywords may produce quantity (aka more visibility/impressions), but the quality of the leads generated will not lead to sales. That’s where long tail SEO keyword strategy comes in.

Working with a digital agency specialized in keyword research and creating a keyword strategy that is specific to your company is the most effective way to create useful content for your website that will allow you to rank in the future.

Another good strategy when selecting keywords to write content for is to focus on low difficulty keywords. While the search results may be lower, it’s easier to rank for these keywords. There are various keyword research programs available to help you understand search traffic for individual keywords, such as SEM Rush’s Keyword Magic Tool, and Neil Patel’s UberSuggest.

Local SEO and its impact on SEO timelines

Local SEO is another strategy companies can deploy when looking to improve their search results in a local area. Local SEO is particularly effective for service businesses, think “local plumber near me,” “plumber in Denver, CO,” etc…

Local SEO focuses on optimizing websites and online content to rank well in local search queries. When someone searches for a product or service in a specific location, search engines aim to provide the most relevant results based on the user’s location data.

By implementing local SEO strategies, businesses can increase their visibility to potential customers in a specific area.

A local service business should focus on local SEO strategies to improve its local search visibility. By optimizing one’s Google My Business listing, it will make the business more favorable to Google’s algorithm.

how long does SEO take | YouWho Digital

Soliciting customers for positive reviews on Google, as well as Yelp, and Angi’s List are a great way to boost local SEO, as customers typically search these platforms before making a decision to call a local provider. Having accurate information, positive reviews, and photo proof on these sites will bode well to your company’s reputation to potential customers, and thus lead to a sale.

Businesses who implemented local SEO strategies saw a noticeable increase in phone calls and inquiries within a few months. By consistently monitoring and adapting its local SEO strategy, companies are able to maintain a strong online presence and attract more local customers, in turn boosting sales.

How website age and domain authority affect SEO timelines

The age of your website and its domain authority can also affect SEO timelines. Generally, older websites with a longer history tend to have more authority and trust in the eyes of search engines. This means that they may see improvements in their rankings and visibility more quickly compared to newer websites.

Domain authority, which is a metric developed by Moz, measures the overall strength and trustworthiness of a website’s domain. Websites with a higher domain authority are more likely to rank higher on search engine results pages. Building domain authority takes time and requires a combination of high-quality content, natural backlinks, and positive user signals.

As discussed above new websites start with a domain authority of 0 and build gradually over time. You may be subjected to Google’s “sandboxing” in the interim, but it’s always important to continue to work on your SEO so when the time comes Google will favor your website.

The importance of consistent effort and monitoring in SEO

While this may all seem overwhelming (and it can be at times) It’s important to remain consistent in your SEO efforts to truly see results from your labor. SEO is not a one-time task, but an ongoing process that requires continuous optimization, technical analysis and a proper strategy. By regularly analyzing your website’s performance, monitoring keyword rankings, and keeping an eye on your competitors, you can make informed decisions and adjust your strategy as needed.

Building authority, improving rankings, and attracting organic traffic takes significant time and effort. It’s important to stay committed to your SEO strategy, even when results may not be immediate. By consistently creating high-quality content, earning relevant backlinks, and optimizing your website, you’ll increase your chances of achieving long-term success.

Conclusion: Patience and persistence in SEO

As you can see, SEO is a long-term strategy that requires patience, persistence, and consistent effort. While there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of how long SEO takes, understanding the factors that can influence timelines and setting realistic expectations is crucial.

By investing in on-page and off-page optimization, conducting thorough keyword research, building authority, and monitoring your progress, you can increase your chances of achieving long-term SEO success. Remember, SEO is not a sprint but a marathon. Stay committed to your strategy, adapt as needed, and watch your website climb the search engine rankings over time.

If you are looking to improve your company’s SEO presence and now have a good understanding of how long SEO will take, please reach out to YouWho Digital for a free 30-minute consultation to see how we can help you achieve results well into the future.

As they say, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second best time is NOW” – Thomas Fuller, that in essence is SEO.

how long does SEO take | YouWho Digital

Share This Story!