SEO 101: How Long Does SEO Take to Start Working?
As somebody who has been in the SEO industry a long time, the question clients ask me the most is “How long before we are #1 in Google?”
Unfortunately the answer is more complicated than the question.
To some extent, SEO gives immediate results in the form of fresh content, better organization, but the majority of businesses are after something a little more long term and visible, usually a prime spot on page one of major search engines.
How long after you start SEO do you see results?
There are a lot of variables that play into how quickly you see results after you start doing SEO.
Baseline traffic, website design, domain age, meta descriptions, geographic location, competition, and target market all play into how quickly you can gain search engine traffic from SEO.
Generally speaking websites can see results in 4 to 6 months.
Obviously, SEO results grow over time. The traction you’re getting at 6 months typically is less than what you should be experiencing at 12 months.
Why so broad?
Typically that question is on a per-domain basis. The SEO results in your business is looking for (Local SEO, National SEO, Global SEO) is going to influence the types of SEO techniques that are performed on your site.
A local business website with 100 pages, running on WordPress, is different than a global eCommerce site, with millions of pages, running on Magento.
Can we speed it up?
Many factors determine how fast your SEO efforts will start delivering results. If you have a new website, new domain name and fresh content without a business history it could take a while. Sometimes up to six months before you see results.
Below is a new website and cold-start domain (with no history or activity…ever). We worked on consistently for 6 months. The drastic increase represents what we call the bump and it typically happens after 6 months.
For this particular site we posted an average of 2000 – 2500 words a month for six months. This is in addition to heavy on-site and off-site optimization techniques and true organic link building (no bought links here).
We expect the traffic to continue to increase by 50% to 60% over the next 6 months. In short, don’t expect success to come easy. Unless you write some really awesome content and have a very niche and popular website.
Positive and Negative SERP Adjustments aka Fools Gold
Before the bump we have what is typically the equivalent of Fools Gold SERP increases. This is especially true for new websites. But not so much the case for websites that have been active and were just in need of SEO adjustments.
In the image below you will see a consistent pattern of a giant jump followed by a nominal fall in ranking, then proceeded by a subtle change the following couple of months.
The long story of why I think this happens: With this particular site it was old but never worked on. So it had history with search engines but nothing to positively rank for. Which was due to content issues and normal SEO fundamentals.
But as we fixed the on-site issues and improved the content, search engines become excited to rank those pages. So they gave them a nice jump in the SERPs. But typically what happens is those search results begin to fall back and then settle/stabilize. Once the SERPs stabilize that’s typically where you start to see slow, but incremental changes, in search engine rankings as you implement your continued SEO strategy.
But this time those results are more stable and consistent. Typically they do not drastically jump around. Unless you have an alogo update or something else catastrophic happen on your website.
The problem with the Fools Gold period is clients can become excited. Then quickly discouraged when the following month those results change. I’ve seen it happen time and time again.
SEO is an investment
Think of SEO as a 401k approach versus a roulette approach. Your efforts will begin to compound over time and gradually deliver greater returns the longer you do it.
To understand why it takes SEO a while to start working, let’s break it down and look at the parts:
Success in SEO, as with most things in life, comes down to mastering the basics.
With that in mind, here are some SEO basics that everyone should understand.
SEO stands for search engine optimization. It is the process of getting traffic from the free, organic, or natural search results on search engines.
All major search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo have primary search results, where web pages and other content such as videos or local listings are shown and ranked based on what the search engine considers most relevant to users. Payment isn’t involved, as it is with paid search ads.
Search Engine Basics
This starts with understands the three main types of traffic companies receive from search.
Map Listings – Google Maps started in 2005 as a way for consumers to find local establishments on the platform. It became the world’s leading map application with new features added on a regular basis.
Organic – Traditional search results from Googles search engine. We discuss more below about the algorithm that determines these rankings.
PPC – Pay per Click campaigns are when a company pays for their search engine rankings through ads. These ads are traditionally on the top and right of the Google search. Pay per click campaigns are also called Search Engine Marketing.
Four Determining SEO Factors
1. Keywords and Search Phrases
Keywords help you drive the targeted traffic that you want to your site. With all of the changes that Google has made over the past year, this means you need to create quality traffic that your visitors will like as well.
When you can do this successfully, you have the power to find the quality clients you want for your business. It is not easy, but with the ideas above you have the strategies to make it work for your business.
2. Your Domain Name
At the root level your SEO revolves around your domain name. Does your domain have keywords in it? Having a domain name with keywords in it can accelerate your SEO efforts. But its not a silver bullet technique. Even domain names with SEO rich keywords can rank horribly.
Did you just buy your domain name? Relationships built on the internet with search engines revolves around trust. Mimicking real life to determine trust search engines must determine you know what you are talking about. They also factor in the age of your domain to determine the legitimacy of you information, website and business.
Is your domain penalized? If you bought your domain name from a third party auction site its possible its been abused and discarded. If it was involved in malicious activity or black hat tactics and flagged by search engines it will take you a long time to reverse the damage.
Was your domain owned by a business outside of your geographical area? Sometimes when a business closes they sell their domain name. Perhaps your business has had the.org and now the .com is available. You might be excited because it was owned by a business in another state long before you started your business.
The only problem in the beginning is that domain has a long history with the previous business in their geographical location. While this won’t ruin your chances it does put a bit of a roadblock until you assume ownership and the internet begins to recognize the owners new address.
3. Your Business and Location
For starters every business should claim and list their business with Google. It’s free and a great tool for improving your businesses online presence.
What does your business provide? If you have a niche business serving a limited clientele you will see faster results if your clients are specifically searching for your services. For example your business only recycles cooking oil for restaurants in Fort Myers, Florida.
If you are in a more competitive field, like dentistry, you will have more competition. Not only are there more dentists than oil recycling companies, they are spending money to consistently outperform their competition.
4. Your Content
Your website content needs to do something remarkable. It needs to be written, so humans will enjoy it and Google will rank it. This is a tall order for any site to accomplish. It is a primary reason so many businesses give up in disgust after not receiving enough traffic early on in their SEO campaign.
More SEO Advice for Beginners
For more basic but also in-depth advice, Search Engine Land’s Periodic Table Of SEO Success Factors, introduces you to all the key concepts you need to know.
Guide To Local SEO
As a companion to this post our 10 Local SEO Ranking Factors explains the ranking factors and providing tips and advice on implementation.
As you can see, using search engine optimization for your business is not a one size fits all task. The bottom line is that if you’re focusing on a small group of generic keywords, you’re probably not being found by most of the people who are searching for you.
Consistency is important when it comes to any kind of SEO. Stick with your marketing plan, even if you aren’t seeing noticeable results after month 4, time and commitment will get you the search engine traffic results you want to see.
If you have any further questions on SEO, then take advantage of our Free SEO Audit today. This audit helps you understand what your next steps need to be for your business.