How long does SEO take?

SEO is a long-term strategy to increase search positioning and the visibility of a website. If immediate exposure is needed, PPC advertising is a better immediate results strategy. Every advertiser would like to know exactly when results will be seen from an SEO campaign. Unfortunately, there’s no hard-and-fast answer for that question. So, let’s look how long SEO typically takes and what factors go into a successful SEO campaign.

Why does SEO take time?

Unlike Google Adwords or Facebook Ads, SEO does take time. With PPC campaigns, an add is created, approved, and shown to potential customers within a relatively short period of time. SEO, on the other hand, can’t be “turned on” like advertising.

A typical SEO campaign involves development changes to a website, as well as on-page optimizations. Technical changes may include moving to a better hosting service or installing a CDN to decrease site load times. These developmental changes will impact overall site performance and speed, but neither solution for a slow site is a “button flipping” answer to SEO problems. Implementing either is time consuming and may takes days to weeks to fully deploy.

On-page optimizations can be done quickly, but the size of a site will greatly impact how quickly. Furthermore, once the changes are made it’s up to Google if, or when, they move a site’s search position. Technical, on-page, and off page factors all come in to play for SEO results and all factors need to be addressed for the best results.

It’s the off-pages fault!

It’s true that technical optimizations and on-page optimizations are low hanging fruits that can be addressed in a timely manner. In fact, most on-page optimizations could be done in a few days if an SEO had the time to devote fully to the campaign. The reality is most SEOs have multiple clients and need to spread their time evenly across all campaigns. Besides, it’s the off-page optimizations that take real time.

A good white-hat SEO employing a link development strategy will take time. Identifying potential websites to partner with, crafting good outreach messages, and waiting for responses all take planning, time and patience. An outreach campaign could go months without acquiring a link. Even if a link is acquired, it takes time for Google to discover the link and attribute value to the receiving website.

How long should it take?

“How long should SEO take?” is a reasonable question. A few factors that impact how quickly a website will see SEO results are:

  • The age of the website

  • The competitiveness of the keyword

  • The CMS the site is built on

  • The SEO budget

  • The content strategy of the website

Just like any business, consumers see authority in a site that’s been around for a while. The short answer is “yes” older websites tend to have more domain authority and can rank faster with SEO. It’s not a guarantee, but this For Rent by Owner case study shows how quickly an old site can rank or rebound with implemented SEO factors. Since so many factors go into how Google ranks a site, a brand new site needs time to address them all. As noted, before, backlinks are a factor and take time to acquire quality ones.

Being #1 on Google is the goal with all SEO campaigns, but there’s more value in some keyword than others. The keyword “Denver Home Builders” has about 720 searches monthly, whereas “House Builders Denver” has about 10 searches monthly. If an SEO campaign targets and acquires position #1 for the latter, there’s isn’t as much value for the site. Given the relatively low search volume for “House Builders Denver” the competition is lower, and ranking becomes easier.

It’s important to target the right keywords. Some keywords with high volume might make sense for a business, but the searchers intent may not be aligned with the businesses service. For example, a land surveyor may see the volume for “drone” and want to rank because they use drones for surveying. However, most searchers are looking to purchase a drone. Occupying the first position may increase traffic, but it would also lead to a higher bounce rate. As a result, the first position won’t be held long because searchers aren’t finding what they are searching for and leave the site almost immediately.

Some sites have closed systems or limited access. This means an SEO might not be able to make the adjustments necessary to fully optimize the site. In some cases, a third-party developer may manage the site and “road-clock” changes from being made. Other Content Management Systems, like WIX or SquareSpace, are easy to use and build in, but don’t allow many technical optimizations to be done. WordPress is one of the most flexible and optimizable platforms but depending on the host or web-dev company managing the site, may also have limitations.

SEO is a business expense. A good SEO will outline what work will be done before a campaign begins. Usually, this covers a certain number of pages to be optimized, outreach to be done, or hours to be spent working. Smaller budgets mean less time and slower results. However, larger budgets don’t always correlate with faster or better results. Continuous updates are better for a site than one large push. Consistent work shows that a site is active and therefore likely to meet the needs of a searcher.

Continuously updating as site is a signal that a site is a running business. Creating valuable content is a good way increase visibility. With increased visibility comes increased traffic and more potential sales. The old saying “Content is King” is still valid in today’s SEO landscape. Content has the potential to a site in many ways.

Creating optimized content increases the number of keywords a website will rank for. It gives site owners shareable social media post options and entices other websites to partner with and link back to the original content creator. Increasing content also helps with internal site linking, by pointing links within a site to other valuable content.

There’s no specific answer to “How long does SEO take?” However, most SEO campaigns will see results right away from on-page optimizations. Then, position increases will plateau while off-page efforts start to take effect. At Cardinal SEO, we often see positive ranking increase in moths 1 and 2, then a short plateau, followed by a steady increase. At a bare minimum, an SEO campaign should last 3 months. Most sites will see the best results with a 6-12-month campaign, depending on the factors discussed int his blog.

Does SEO ever stop?

Websites are living organisms, and competition is always lurking in the search engine results page. A solid foundation can be built and should not have to be revisited often, depending on the industry. However, an ongoing content strategy is ideal to maintain rankings, continue increasing visibility and keep a site continuously updated. Many factors influence whether a site can survive without ongoing SEO. Contact us for a free SEO Site Audit or to get started with a Local SEO Campaign.