How long does SEO take?

I’ve started investing in SEO, when will I see the results?

The simplest, but also most frustrating answer is: it depends. SEO is a long term investment. Like a steam train, it takes a bit of time to get going, but once it’s up to speed it has a lot of momentum. That speed and momentum depends on where your website is at and what the competition is, but it’s going to take a few months before you see anything at all.

There are several reasons for this:

  • Firstly, you can’t dive straight into SEO. You need to do a fair bit of research before you can even start; assessing which keywords to use, analysing the current state of a website and looking at who else you’re competing against. SEO professionals use sophisticated software tools to collect and analyse tons of data about the things people search for and how your website currently performs.
  • Even after you’ve planned and completed some SEO work, the results aren’t instant. Google and other search engines have a lot of websites to keep track of – it’s a number in the billions. When changes are made to a website you can ask Google to come and have a look at the changes you’ve made, but it may take a little while for them to get round to it. If Google hasn’t noticed that you’ve made your website better yet, it isn’t going to rank more highly.
  • Search engines are trying to decide which is the best website to place highly. One aspect of your website that they look at is for how long, and how frequently it’s been active. A website that is slowly but steadily making small updates for a long time is going to look better than a new website that has suddenly done loads of stuff in a short space of time. Consistency is key here so little and often carries more weight than a big boost of investment now and then.

As a rough estimate, it may take a month to get started, perform all the research, create a strategy and start carrying out the work. Once the first few pieces of work have been completed, it will probably take another 2-3 months for your website to make detectable progress in rankings reports. But this is still the minimum period for results to be seen.

Considerations

There are a few things that may mean you need to allow for a little more time:

  • If your website hasn’t been active for a while it takes time to establish a pattern of regular activity. The longer the gap, the more time it will take your SEO to get going.
  • If you are launching a new website and building your online presence from scratch, it may take a little extra time to put in place all the foundations.
  • Some places and industries have businesses that have been investing heavily in SEO for a while. Your goals need to be proportional to your business when there’s tough competition.
  • Search engines asses the entire online presence of your business. If you’ve changed it’s name or address in the past then you may not get the credit your website deserves because search engines can’t see a clear history. It can take a lot of time to find and clean up conflicting information that still exists online.
  • Some people try to take shortcuts. So called “black hat” SEO techniques are things like paying for fake reviews. It may give you a brief boost but search engines quickly catch on and then punish your website.

So is it worth the effort? Absolutely. SEO is far more cost effective that more traditional marketing techniques, and the benefits accumulate over time. While a traditional print advert will only bring in business while it is in print, and maybe for a short while after, the work carried out to improve your SEO will improve your website’s performance and bring in leads for years to come. Many of the the tasks carried out for SEO, such as creating content, will always be of value to, and accessible by, potential customers.

Investing in SEO can require a bit of patience. But once things get going, it can have a huge impact:
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