One of the most frequently asked questions we get asked as a full-service SEO company is "How long does SEO take to work?"
Frustratingly, there's no one-size-fits-all answer to this question as there are just so many variables at play. But we can give you a better idea.
Keep reading to learn more about what your SEO efforts should look like and how long it will take to start seeing real results that generate leads or sales, as seen in the image below - a 189% increase in leads!
SEO Related Questions To Ask Yourself
Before you start any SEO work, there are a few questions you need to ask yourself. This will help you to better understand the depth and breadth of work that your site will need and how long it will take to start seeing real movement. No two websites are ever starting from the same place. The time it will take to get real SEO results is dependent upon your site's age and domain authority, how much SEO has been done on the website in the past, how much content is on the website and many other critical SEO factors.
Let's touch on a few.
How Old Is Your Website?
A major factor when asking, "How long does SEO take to start working?" is the age of your website. Domain age has nothing to do with the ranking process. However, an older domain may benefit from SEO efforts more quickly than newer domains. Why? Because older websites typically have more backlinks and content, resulting in a more authoritative domain. Just be aware when beginning an SEO strategy that it may take more time for your site to gain a competitive advantage if it's a newer website.
What Are Your Competitors SEO Strategies?
How long does it take to get SEO results? An easy way to answer this question is to take a look at your business and your competitors. Are you offering unique services or products that only a handful of other companies provide or are you a small fish in a BIG pond? If you're the only company offering a good or service, it might not take as long to see results. Analyze your competitors (especially if they dominate search results) and make note of what they do well. This can give you valuable insight as to what you want to achieve.
Where Are Your Rankings Now Compared To Where You Want To Be?
Take a moment to really consider your website and business. Where do you currently rank on Google? What is your main goal with starting SEO work? Are you looking simply for rankings or actual results? Where do you want to get to? For true SEO success, you need to fully understand that long-term SEO efforts lead to long-term results.
How Long Does SEO Take To Work?
Many SEO companies will tell you it takes about 4-6 months to actually start seeing results from SEO work. Remember that this is how long it takes to start seeing results. It can take more than 12 months to see results for a brand-new site, whereas an established site may see results within just 30-90 days. No matter what, whatever results you're seeing at six months will be considerably less than what you'll see at 12 months.
What Your SEO Efforts Should Look Like
As we've said, every website is different and will have a different SEO strategy from month to month. But during the initial months, you can expect your SEO efforts to follow a pretty standard path. The following is a high-level look at what you can expect in the first six months of SEO work. For even more information on SEO, read about what SEO is and how it works.
Month 1: Research & Planning
The first month (or more) of SEO is typically allotted for research, discovery and planning. This SEO consulting can include everything from conducting a website audit to creating a keyword strategy. If research and discovery can be completed quickly, then technical changes to the website may commence.
Month 2: Begin Technical SEO Work
Once research and planning are complete, the technical SEO work can really begin. This includes any modifications made to the website based on the site audit results. Keep in mind, some companies may need a website overhaul, which can take months. While some SEO activities, like working on link profiles and building content, can be done concurrently. Understand that you won't yet start to see results as the changes being made will only begin to have an impact once they're complete.
Month 3: Focus On Content Creation
In a perfect world, content creation would begin immediately after the research and planning stage, but a site overhaul needs to be prioritized first. So that's why once you've hit the third month in your SEO efforts, it's time to really start focusing on SEO content creation. This can include articles, blog posts, category page content, FAQ sections, landing pages, etc. It is at the end of this month that you may start to see some improvements in rankings. In rare cases, you may already see these rankings translating to leads or sales, but this isn't the norm and shouldn't be expected.
Month 4: Continue Content Creation & Optimizations
During the fourth month of your SEO efforts, content creation should be going strong and you should be continuing the technical optimization of your website, along with developing a healthy link profile. While you won't see massive improvements until you're about 12 months into your SEO efforts, it is during the fourth month that you can typically expect to see a marked increase in rankings, traffic and lead generation.
Month 5: Incorporate Social Media Management
At this point, you'll most likely begin incorporating social media management into your SEO efforts in order to support your content and increase direct traffic to your site. This helps to generate leads and create a healthy and natural link profile. You'll also be continuing with content creation and might even start engaging in some PR, if it makes sense for your company. It is during month five that you should start to see increased traffic and leads coming in from SEO.
Month 6: Add Conversion Rate Optimization & Continue Content Creation
Depending on where you are at this point, you may benefit from adding conversion rate optimization (CRO) to your SEO efforts. This can help to improve how the traffic coming in is converting to leads and/or sales. But in general, it is from this point on that your activities will be consistently focused on content creation and promoting it. Additional SEO efforts or projects may vary greatly depending on your company and website.
Avoid the Mistake of Stopping SEO Efforts Too Soon
One of the biggest mistakes we see is a company underestimating just how much time and money it takes to be successful with SEO. SEO is a marathon, not a sprint. And as with anything, success rarely comes within the first three months. It's a massive mistake to start SEO the right way only to quit after a few months â€” you're basically throwing your money away.
Go into SEO with realistic expectations. If you can't foresee being able to budget for 6 to 12 months of SEO, you should consider allocating your budget elsewhere. But if you make the proper investment and understand that SEO is a long-term marketing strategy with one of the highest returns on investment (ROI), you'll be set up for success!