How long does it take for SEO to work

Follow along with our free guide

Waiting. That’s something we have nearly eliminated in our modern world. Every day we enjoy instantaneous satisfaction from developments like email and texting, same day shipping, media streaming services, drive-thrus . . . the list goes on. 

However, even with all of our advancements that have brought down wait times and quickened the pace of life to a dizzying degree, there are some things we still have to wait for. 

One of them being results from SEO strategy. 

Although it may seem old-fashioned and bizarre by today’s standards, SEO takes time to work for your website. 

No amount of money thrown at the issue will change this, either; it takes time, effort, and strategy to show search engines why your website should be at the top. 

But how much time? Waiting is a whole lot more bearable when you have a clear window, after all. 

The short answer: It usually takes at least 6 months to start seeing significant results, and around 1-2 years to see substantial progress. 

The honest answer: It depends; there are many factors that can affect how long it takes your SEO to work. 

Don’t despair about being in endless SEO limbo. Today we’ll be going through the following topics to demystify the SEO timetable:

  • Why it may take time for your website to see results
  • How to tell if your SEO is working
  • Strategies to make your SEO work faster. 

External factors that affect SEO

An important thing to remember is that your website’s performance does not exist in a vacuum, it is highly influenced by its macroenvironment: the rest of the internet.

Here are some ways that outside forces on the internet could affect your website’s SEO.

Google’s continuous algorithm improvements

Google, and other search engines, have one main mission above all other objectives: to answer user’s questions the best they can, delivering the right information in the right format so that it is most convenient and easy to understand. 

To keep improving on this goal, Google is constantly updating how it indexes web pages; making changes to its algorithm, the criteria it looks for on web pages, the weight/importance it gives to certain factors, and so on. 

You’ll often hear about the “old days” of SEO, where there were shortcuts and loopholes aplenty to getting your content to rank. Google has long since wised up to these tactics, and has become very effective at identifying web pages that employ shady or spammy tactics to try to rank.

Due to Google’s advancements to its algorithm and search bots, there are no easy work arounds to rank quickly, making it a strong factor as to why it takes websites so long to build up their reputation and authority and start ranking highly.  

The amount of competitors in your niche

If there are a lot of competitors in your industry’s niche, you probably aren’t the only one using SEO tactics. If there are many other web pages targeting the same keywords as you, it will become that much more difficult to rank for them. 

It takes a considerable amount of time and effort, and maybe even a bit of luck, to overtake keywords that already have a lot of pages targeting them. That’s why we recommend diversifying your keyword targeting through longtail keywords and LSI keywords. 

Website factors that affect SEO

Now that we’ve examined the external factors that can drag out the time it takes to see SEO results, we’ll take a look at how different facets of your website can make or break your SEO’s effectiveness. 

Age

It’s rumored that Google has a “sandbox” for websites that are quite new, and this holding period will prevent the site from getting indexed. 

While we don’t have concrete evidence of this, it is certain that older domains have a significant advantage for ranking over newer domains because they’ve had a longer amount of time to build backlinks. 

Backlinks are crucial to signaling to Google that your website offers value and has authority over its subject matter, and it can take time to earn the quality backlinks your site needs to rank.

Speed 

We started off this article with talking about how many things are instantaneous these days. When it comes to getting users to spend time on and enjoy your site, speed is absolutely critical; there is no patience to be given to pages with slow load times. 

If you fear your website is guilty of this deadly blunder, you can confirm or deny your suspicions using one of the many site speed checkers available online. 

Safety

As the internet becomes ingrained into virtually every aspect of our lives, security has become a relevant and popular concern for many users. People have extremely sensitive personal information on their computers, such as passwords to financial accounts and medical information, and NO ONE wants to deal with a security breach. 

If your website has had security issues in the past or present, Google will restrict your website accordingly. Ensure your website poses no risk to users for getting viruses or hacks, and let users know that their security is your priority. 

How quickly and consistently you can publish quality, valuable content

If your website has very little content or pages on it, search engines and users alike will have a hard time finding the content and judging whether it is valuable or not. If you have more content on your site, the chances are much better for one of these pieces to take off and set your SEO progress in motion. 

If you are able to post content consistently, you will show search engines that your website is reliable for producing content in your particular niche, and this will also nudge your SEO progress in a positive direction. 

Google can discern whether this content is good or bad. Search engines will recognize thin content, as well as content that is irrelevant, outdated, or otherwise useless to users. 

Remember: valuable content is content that is in the best format for the user to digest, is easy to understand, is informative and entertaining, and offers something unique to other content on the same subject. Its unique qualities could be a new perspective or take on a topic, new research or study results, or information in a format that hasn’t been done before. 

Whether you can build trustworthy links

As we said earlier, backlinks are super important to build in order for Google to consider your site worth ranking. If people are linking to your site, it shows that you’re offering worthwhile stuff, and you are an important voice in your industry.

Backlinks from diversified, trustworthy sources will not only help Google better understand the purpose and subject of your content, but it will also create a positive reputation for your website. 

If you’re new and have not built backlinks yet, or if you have not had an intentional effort into gaining quality backlinks, this is definitely obstructing your SEO progress. 

The user experience of the site

In order to rank, your website needs to be easy to navigate for both human users and search engine bots. Humans don’t have the patience to click around a confusing website, and search engines will rank it lower, index it incorrectly, or miss indexing the page altogether. 

If your website isn’t easy to use, people will click out right away and never return, which will certainly detain your SEO efforts from making any impact. 

Think about the journey you want users to take on your website, and identify the pain points and places for potential confusion on your website. What you find may be the culprit of your sluggish SEO results!

How to tell if SEO is working

We’ve looked at many different areas that may be preventing your website from benefiting from SEO tactics, both externally and internally. 

However, if we have no way to measure and quantify where we’re at and changes that happen to our website over time and after changes have been made, our SEO efforts will have little guidance to go off of.  

Get ready to learn how to dig into your own analytics, and interpret them to create the best SEO plan for your website. 

Tracking search performance in Google Search Console

Google Search Console will give you visibility to the following metrics:

  • Clicks: When a user selects your website from the search engine results page; they click on your website
  • Impressions: When your website comes into view on the search engine results page for a user (they do not need to click on it)
  • Average CTR: The percentage of impressions that led to a click, calculated with this equation: ( Impressions / Clicks * 100 = CTR % )

The higher the CTR, the better. You want users that view your website to click on it.

If you want to improve your click through rate, try modifying the title tag, meta description, or focusing on building the reputation and favorability of your brand. 

  • Average position: The average ranking of your page on Google for a certain query. Note: Every query with impressions is calculated to give you your average position.

Google Search Console allows you to view these metrics with certain filters, such as country, device, etc. You can observe how your website is performing for a certain set of queries, and look at how each page is ranking. 

You can view these metrics over time, and see which dates had the most significant activity. 

Although the metrics that come from Google Search Console are heavily sampled, they’re a great place to start to evaluate how your website is performing in search results. 

Tracking traffic in Google Analytics

Google Analytics is more complicated than Console but it offers deeper, more specific insights and the ability to build the view of your site you need. Analytics also works seamlessly with Console and the other Google marketing and advertising products. 

To start getting insights, you will need to set up a Data Stream with dimensions and metrics. 

Google Analytics allows you to view data based on a certain audience set, which can be very helpful in tracking exactly who it is that’s visiting your website, and who isn’t.

There are many specs and features to take advantage of on Analytics that we won’t describe here, but the main point is that tracking your traffic using this tool will allow you a level of visibility that will allow you to better prepare yourself to complete the next step. 

Optimizing your traffic to convert (because that's what really matters)

Once you have a detailed view of your traffic, you can work on incorporating strategies to turn these users on your site to customers. Here’s a rapid fire list of how to do so:

  • Segment your audience
  • Conduct A/B tests
  • Display testimonials
  • Improve your sales copy
  • Improve your CTA buttons and placement
  • Add product recommendations
  • Add pop-ups (or, even better, two step pop-ups) and exit-intent pop-ups

How to make your SEO work faster

Now that we’ve identified some potential bottlenecks in your SEO journey, we can look at potential catalysts for faster, better results. 

Publish interactive, well-structured content more often

We’ve emphasized how important valuable content is already, and now it’s time for you to produce some. 

Whether that means setting the resources and time aside for you to do this yourself or hiring someone else to do so, establish a steady system for creating and posting content that works for you. 

Once you have a consistent rhythm for posting quality content more often, your SEO has major potential to pick up, too. If you want to create content that is expertly geared toward ranking, check out our secret to getting any blog to rank here.

If you’re strapped for resources or ideas, repackaging existing content in a new format or refreshing old content to put out a new edition are two ways that you can avoid producing a net-new piece from scratch. 

One caveat to this solution is that you must avoid having duplicate content on your website-this redundancy will be recognized and only work against you.  

Utilize attention-grabbing headlines, keyword-rich phrases, and imagery

It can be the slightest differences that puts one page over another in the search results, so it is key to pay attention to the fine details in your content. 

From the very beginning of advertising, punchy headlines have been utilized. Only recently have they gotten a fun, new name “Clickbait.” While you don’t want to mislead your users with what your piece of content will actually include, you can take a few pieces of advice from the Book of Clickbait:

  • Keep it short
  • Make it gripping
  • Make it descriptive
  • Make sure it flows off the tongue
  • Leave the reader wanting more

Incorporate your target keywords throughout your content, especially in the different web components and the first few lines of content. Be sure not to overstuff though, or you’ll be caught and penalized. 

We are increasingly becomng a “visual” culture - for better or for worse, people prefer to look at pictures rather than read words. Embrace that in your content! Incorporate relevant imagery that adds interest and emphasis to the points you are making. Don’t forget to add alt text to those images, of course.

For even more tips, visit our guide What Google looks for in SEO content.

Refine content to your target audience

If you already have a lot of content on your site, we can analyze why this content is not yielding the results you want. One reason is that the content may not be completely relevant, interesting, or applicable to your target audience and their specific qualities. 

Go through your existing content and put yourself in the shoes of your target user. How would your content help them? Do they need this content in any way? If the answer is no, you may want to archive or delete that content. 

When it comes to creating new content, do your due diligence and research what’s trending among your target audience and what they’ve been searching for lately. Then, tailor your new content to meet these needs. 

Audit your site

Beyond looking at just the content on your site, you can complete an entire site audit. This can be a lengthy process, or you can break the audit up into sections. We have a thorough guide on conducting a site audit here. 

A site audit can be tailored to your particular website, but an audit can evaluate every factor we discussed above and additional factors. Site audits will help you with benchmarking, improving technical SEO elements, and improving your content and content strategy.

If your website is a vehicle, think of a site audit as detailing and deep-cleaning of the car. Once your website comes out looking shiny, new, and revamped, Google will be much more likely to show it off closer to the top of the search results.

Acquire backlinks

Backlinks, backlinks, backlinks! If you want to see better SEO results, acquiring quality backlinks is one of the only surefire ways to do so. So how can you go about building these?

First of all, make sure your site is linked on all of your social media profiles. 

Certain types of content are especially enticing for people to link to. These formats include:

  • Lists (for those that need choices or inspiration)
  • “How to ___” guides (for those that need a step-by-step process)
  • “Why ____” explanations of a specific subject (for those that need a question answered)
  • Infographics (for those that want their information displayed aesthetically)
  • Embedded videos (for those that need an engaging format)
  • “The ultimate guide to ___” (for those that need a detailed deep dive, just make sure to break guides up into many sections for easy navigation!)

These formats work because they are easily digestible, they offer a certain piece or set of information in a format that naturally draws a user in. 

There a few different sources/people that you can reach out to in order to earn backlinks:

  • Guest bloggers for a guest post
  • Industry influencers for an interview
  • Adjacent, non-competing businesses for a mention or guest post
  • Encourage your users to share your content with their peers, on social media or their own blogs
  • Customers to share their success stories with your business

Sometimes backlinks require intentional outreach and the possibility of rejection, but the reward is well worth the risk. 

Conclusion

Hopefully this demystified why your SEO efforts may not be producing the desired results as quickly as you wanted them to. 

Let this be encouragement to you; as soon as you identify what the problem is, you are that much closer to solving it!

Being impatient for SEO to work isn’t a bad thing; it shows you care and are committed to advancing the position and performance of your website. Just don’t let this impatience cause you to engage in any black hat SEO tactics, or dissuade you from continuing to execute and improve upon your SEO strategy.

They say the beginning of a journey is always the hardest part, and since the SEO landscape is always changing based on search engine updates, it can very often feel like you are back to the beginning of your SEO journey again and again. 

If you’d like additional support to accelerate your SEO progress even more, stay tuned to our blog, or get a free consultation from one of our SEO experts.

Join hundreds of marketers to get exclusive SEO tips, guides, and resources in your inbox

We’re always sharing insights, findings, and case studies with our subscribers. Sign up to get our best SEO tips and advice in your inbox.