How long does it take for SEO to work?

How long does it take for SEO to work

How long does SEO take to work?

There are a ton of different variables that affect a company's SEO success or failure, but one thing is certain: it takes time for SEO to work. Beware of those who promise to get your business on the first page of Google right away; if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. That said, you will start to see results after about a month….but they won't be as good as what you will see after 6 months, or after a year.

SEO The Top 3 Types

There are three main ways your site can get traffic, through map listings, through organic search results and using pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns. Google Maps and other map apps make it easy to find local businesses and typically connect directly to the business website, making it an easy way to drive new traffic to your website. 

Organic search uses an algorithm to determine which websites rank in order when a keyword is typed into a search engine. PPC campaigns are paid campaigns that companies use to increase their rankings via paid ads.

The type of SEO results you are looking for, whether local, national or global, will also affect your timeline.

If you are a new business with a new website and without much search history it will take longer for you to see results.

It also takes time for user behavior to change. It can take a while for consumers to realize that you've made changes to your site. Want to know exactly how you can improve the user experience on your website?

SEO How It Works

According to Forbes, some people are misinformed because SEO doesn't work the way it used to. Before, SEO was all about keywords – identifying which ones had the most traffic and were most relevant to your type of business. But today SEO is much more than keyword strategy; it's almost impossible to rank well just by focusing on 5 or 10 high traffic keywords. That's because people have changed the way they use search engines. In the past, they used to type a word or two when searching, such as “pizzeria”, whereas now users type in questions and complete sentences, similar to the way we speak (ie: “which pizza place is closest to my location”). This is called natural language search. The “question” how long it takes for SEO to work can be answered as we noted above by observing natural patterns when searching the internet.

Another thing to consider is the value of SEO rankings. What's the point of being listed #1 on Google if all the traffic going to your site isn't converting? Who cares if you get thousands of website visitors every day if they aren't leaving their email address or making purchases? When presenting an SEO game plan, be sure to consider ALL your long-term goals, not just put more emphasis on your rankings.

Your domain name also plays a huge role in SEO. It should definitely contain keywords, but even that is not enough. Do some research on your name before settling down; consider whether it is used by other companies, or has been in the past – this could potentially hurt your rankings or prolong your efforts to attract new traffic.

The Timeline

All these variables considered, most companies will start seeing results in 4-6 months with SEO.

The first month should be about research and planning. Come up with your short-term and long-term goals, look at what your competitors are doing, and start working on a keyword strategy. You shouldn't make big changes to your website in the first month. Your website audit should take 2-4 weeks.

After compiling your research (on your own website as well as your competition) you can start making technical changes to your website. For some people this will be quick and easy, a matter of changing your site layout or adding more CTAs. For others it may mean a complete overhaul of the site. Things like content creation and link building take time, so take that into account when considering your SEO timeline. The more work your site needs, the longer it will take to see results. An average timeline for this would be 1-2 months.

Content creation

Once you've reconfigured your site, you can start working on content creation, ideally somewhere around the 3rd or 4th month, depending on the work your site needs. Content creation will likely take around 2 months to implement.

By the 5th month you should start to see some results in terms of ranking and website traffic, but keep in mind that it won't be anywhere near the success you should have at the end of a year. At this point, if you haven't already, you can start incorporating social media into your strategy. 

Social media is a great way to organically drive people back to your site and increase your traffic. If your leads haven't increased after increasing your social strategy, you should definitely revisit your plan and possibly consult a social media management company. This is also a good time to work on your link acquisition efforts, which can take 3-4 months to implement effectively.

By the end of month 6, you should have come close to meeting your goals for site traffic and rankings. If that's the case, then you should continue to focus on content creation and social media management, but Forbes says it's also ok to take some creative risks and see where you end up.


If you have a strong following, one or two changes (whether good or bad) won't ruin months of hard work, so don't be afraid to think outside the box! Just remember to always monitor your results so you'll know if your efforts are working. How long search engine optimization (SEO) takes to get started is always an urgent topic for our potential customers.

The problem with answering this question is that there is so much noise in digital marketing that many companies start an SEO strategy with unrealistic expectations because an agency has guaranteed that they would "stay on top in three months!"

Unfortunately, SEO doesn't work like that.

There is no governing body in SEO, which means there is an overabundance of opinions and often misinformation that often makes it yours.

way in many SEO campaigns. You've probably heard the stories of sites ranking within a few months, but the data is often ambiguous, if not misleading.

There are many questions about SEO, and none of them are as difficult to answer as "How long does SEO take?" Many variables play a role in how your site ranks and when or even if you'll see results from your optimization efforts.

Understanding how SEO works and the variables at play are crucial to succeeding on the search engine results page (SERP). You won't find a top secret hack to pump up your SEO, but you will get a real answer on how long SEO takes to work.

Let's dive!

How long does it take for SEO to work?

The more accurate answer is that it depends. For most sites, it takes about 2-3 months to rank for low competition keywords and about 4-12 months to achieve significant search success. Most SEO agencies will tell you that it usually takes about 4-6 months to rank and while this is not false, we commonly see:

Most brands can expect to see SEO ranking within 2-3 months on low-competition keywords. Google even offers a timeline, claiming it takes 4 to 12 months to achieve significant search success. If you're trying to rank on high competition keywords, we've found that you'll likely see results within 2-3 years.

Why does SEO take so long to work?

Over the years, Google has improved its algorithms and its search engine. In the late 2000s, many “shortcut” tactics could boost your search engine rankings (meta keywords, anyone?). But, of course, this led to poor user experience for researchers.

Google has considerably improved its UX by continually optimizing its algorithm, and with each optimization, it has become more challenging to rank. Quality rules in today's market and this alone will increase the time it takes for your site to rank.

Let's take a look at some factors that will determine how long it takes you to rank and how low quality SEO will extend your SEO timeline.

As each pillar of SEO impacts how long SEO takes to work SEO is nuanced, but at its core, there are three main pillars to finding SEO success. Let's take a look at each pillar and how they play a role in the time it takes SEO to work.


Your SEO content needs to have value. Next to backlinks, quality content is one of the most important factors in determining how quickly you rank on Google. Let's face it: if your content is of low quality, you're going to fight an up-and-down battle with your SEO efforts.

You can build thousands of backlinks to your site, but if you're producing content that has little or no value, your results will be less than ideal.

Of course, you could go to fiverr and order 100 articles with the intention of adding as many pieces of content to the index as possible. But don't get carried away by the word count or the number of indexed pages; nor are they classification factors. Instead, your focus should be on producing content that solves researchers' problems (also known as research intent).

It can be a 500 word article, or it can be a 3.000 word article. The length of your content depends on the topic and what type of content currently ranks (well) on Google for that topic.

You don't have to whip out your wallet and pay for a shiny new SEO tool to create content that ranks well. Just Google the keywords about the keywords you're writing about and voila!

Be sure to note the structure of your content and the topics covered. Your goal is to create higher quality content that is unique to you and your business.

Technical SEO

In recent years, Google has greatly improved its search engine, and with these improvements has come additional complexity for website owners. Content and links will move the needle, but if Google can't properly crawl your site, you'll be fighting a losing battle.

Technical SEO is the practice of optimizing your website and infrastructure to help search engines crawl and index your website more efficiently.

If Google and other search engines have trouble crawling and indexing your site correctly, you'll have an uphill battle to increase your organic rankings. The most common technical SEO issues we see are:

  • Slow page speed
  • Bad internal linking and site architecture
  • Technical duplicates (www. and non-www. version of your indexed domain)
  • Broken links (404 errors)
  • Redirection chains

Not all of these issues are catastrophic and some of these areas will have a greater impact compared to others. That's why prioritization is so important with Technical SEO.

The (external) link is one of the most important aspects of SEO, and there is no denying the impact of quality backlinks.

The volume of backlinks/forwarding domains is a factor, but you can't just rely on raw numbers.

This is where quality comes into play. You can buy thousands of backlinks from sites like Fiverr and Black Hat World, probably from low quality domains, and of course you're risking your domain using Black Hat's SEO tactics.

As Google says: "Any link intended to manipulate a website's ranking in Google search results can be considered part of a linking scheme and a violation of Google's guidelines." Google takes this seriously, and you can see why.

You may see a temporary increase in your rankings, but it won't last long. You'll be at the top of Mount Google until the next algorithm update pushes you from the top of the mountain into the depths of the unknown.

Instead of buying links, you should build high quality backlinks from authoritative domains.

You've heard all the buzz around backlinks (with good reason), but most SEOs turn a blind eye to internal links. Internal links pass

by PageRank and are one of the few ranking factors you have 100% control over.

Your internal anchor text is also a positive ranking factor on the page, and there is no penalty for using exact match anchor text with your internal links. The goal here is to provide Google with as much additional context as possible.

What you turn on is equally important. You want to link to relevant sub-pages that support your main topic, commonly referred to as the hub and spoke model. All of your internal links go through PageRank and this model will keep PageRank flowing between your hubs and spokespersons.

SEO: The Factors That Can Extend Your Ranking Timeline

There is no one-size-fits-all SEO strategy. Taking the same approach to SEO on every site is like trying to solve an algebra equation while ignoring variables.

If you're launching a new project, it's going to be a long-term effort. And if you're working with an SEO agency, they should communicate this right from the start.

If they make promises like guaranteed page one rankings or their prices seem too good to be true, then run for the door. The truth is, it can take up to six months to see results. It will be a multi-year effort to compete with the leaders in your space. In other words, it won't happen overnight.

1. Competition

There was a time when SEO was unknown to most companies, besides the companies that knew about SEO didn't give much importance to SEO. This lack of knowledge has opened up opportunities for small businesses to advance quickly in SERP.

This is no longer the case. SEO adoption has grown, so companies are investing heavily in SEO, building their SEO teams in-house and augmenting their in-house teams with agencies to maximize their organic reach.

Think about how much you are investing in your SEO campaign. Your competition is at least investing so much. The quality of your competition can impact how long it takes you to see results, and of course if no one is actively optimizing for your keywords then you'll see results much faster.

You may hesitate when deciding whether or not to invest in SEO. However, every week you postpone your decision, your competition is still building links and producing content, widening the distance between you and your competition, thus increasing your ranking timeline.

2. Poor keyword research and targeting

Search engine optimization (SEO) has changed dramatically since the late 2000s, when you can rank keywords in meta-keyword tags and on all of your landing pages. As search engines improve and thus SEO becomes more popular among marketing teams, ranking becomes a little more difficult.

Long-tail keywords are less competitive and therefore allow you to answer specific questions your users are asking directly.

Like SEO, keyword research has changed dramatically over the past five years, and relying solely on keyword research tools to create content is a surefire way to set yourself up for failure.

Most SEO content completely ignores search intent. It is common among most companies to go into a keyword research tool, sorted by search volume, and then create content or a page with the keyword such as H1. That's not enough.

More than ever, Google is a response engine and wants to provide its users with detailed answers to their questions. So, once you find a keyword, you need to take a step deeper and ask yourself, "What is the searcher really looking for?"

3. Internal pressure and unrealistic expectations lead to poor SEO as well as needing more time for it to work

Here's a scenario for you: Your competition is beating you on high value keywords, and then you feel pressure from within your organization to dethrone them in three months. You might want to look for an SEO agency that will tell you that they can accomplish this in two months and thus make all your dreams come true. Quality backlinks, quality content and a quality website go a long way in ranking in today's market.

4. Ignoring site structure and internal linking

Unfortunately, internal linking is overlooked when asking, "How long does SEO take?" We've established how important backlinks are for SEO, but what about the internal links that exist on your site?

It is important to remember that internal links pass pagerank! The idea is simple, but it is often ignored. You want to move PageRank from pages with the highest PageRank to pages with the lowest PageRank How do you do this? Internal Connection.

I would be remiss if I didn't include one of the best features I've seen in maximizing your SEO efforts via internal linking.

5. Blindly copying your competitors

Any well thought-out SEO strategy will include a competitor analysis as it is important to understand what your competition is doing and where they are succeeding.

However, over the past year, we've seen this morph into a copycat SEO circle. Companies produce the same content as their competition just because they rank well, and I understand that.

You're under pressure to deliver results, and when you're short on time, it doesn't always make sense to reinvent the wheel.

In this way, you are setting yourself up for failure just by copying your competitors. So, analyze your content, look for angles they haven't explored, and look for ways to dig deeper with your content.

How long does it take for SEO to work: Conclusion

SEO is not a one-size-fits-all strategy. Several variables will impact how long it takes your site to rank. So, staying consistent is critical. SEO will be important to your success even if you don't see results after three months. Creating as well as tracking meaningful KPIs will let you know if you're going the right way.

With Colors Agency, we guarantee much more than just an attractive look as well as a modern layout for your website. Our main focus is to offer companies around the world effective solutions to generate visibility on the internet.

Our agency develops SEO strategies and brand positioning for multinational companies, large, medium, but also small, all projects are important to us.

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