You have done your investigation, examined several different SEO providers, and determined which one you believe had the expertise and experience to push drive your website higher and higher in search engine rankings. Once achieved, your business will immediately begin capitalizing on the benefits increased website traffic generates.

Your instincts may be to badger your SEO account manager in an attempt to discover why you aren’t seeing better rankings, exactly where your money is going, and, at the very least, some more results.

After all, traditional marketing approaches can produce results in as little as a month. With conventional marketing endeavors, you will either observe results and push your campaign(s) further, or they will clearly not reverberate with your target audience, so you have to modify your approach. Simple, right?

So what is the problem?

Most reputable SEO companies (us included) will tell you the exact same thing:

“SEO takes time”

First off, thorough research or your industry and market takes time. The necessary analyses take time to perform and and digest. It also takes time to produce high-quality, optimized content.

And that is only the view from our side of things.

Google needs time to read through your website’s content and designate the appropriate rankings for it. It takes time for search engines to see that adjustments have been made, since they constantly compare the quality of your content and website to every other website occupying the same niche.

User behavior changes over time as well. Users make take awhile to ascertain that you have revamped your website and it’s content.

Despite these factors, any SEO provider can give you numerous examples where their clients cancelled after just a month or two because they did not feel that they were achieving the results they needed to rationalize the expense, or even worse, they were not getting the results they anticipated.

So why does good SEO take time, and why do so many companies out there still have such unrealistic expectations for the process? Click To Tweet

Why Does SEO Take So Long To… What?

There is no hard and firm answer for the question: “how long does SEO take?” And it is very unlikely that any agency will be able to give you an answer that satisfies you.

What people are really asking is how long it will be before they can see measurable results from their SEO.

That is still a fairly generic inquiry, however, because the term “results” will mean something different to each company or person.

From the standpoint of an SEO provider, “results” equal higher returns and increased traffic.

It seems that most, if not all companies out there would be interested in those same types of “results”. We agree, in general, and when factored into the big picture, yes, a common general goal for any company is to see more proceeds and grow.

A common misconception we face is the idea that ranking at the top for a single or “favorite” keyword is the ideal endgame for a successful SEO campaign.

There is a great article in Forbes that explains exactly why this approach can be questionable in current search engine environments.

Forbes’ article illustrates the point that there was a time when good search engine optimization was simply finding 5 or 10 keywords that had the least competition and the most potential value.

These broad, generic terms often generated incredibly high volumes of traffic, and had the potential to a website into a traffic-generating machine.

So much has changed in the world, in approaches and tactics of SEO, and the archaic concepts and ideas that may have been successful in the past will not generate the traffic your business needs, nor reach the qualified, prospective clients you’re seeking.

Everything was Better “Back Then”

It was not all that long ago when SEO really was simply a matter of distinguishing which keywords had the potential to attract the most traffic, then optimizing your website around only those keywords, then constructing as many links as you could manage.

It was simple, and it was methodical. And it was completely unsustainable.

There were certainly individuals and agencies out there that utilized shortcuts or unscrupulous strategies to rise quickly to the top of search engine rankings, but discovered that they did not stay there. Even companies that were using the commonly accepted practices of the industry soon found that they could not maintain the top rankings.

These “conventional” approaches may have been quicker and simpler, but they were also too unnatural and too “mechanical” to be practical.

There were certainly advantages to being “mechanical-” mechanical means there is an increased level of accuracy when predicting a timeline for search engine optimization to begin becoming effective.

It does not work that way anymore, however.

So? How Long?

Its is common to hear estimates that vary widely when you are speaking to different SEO providers. Commonly, businesses are told four to eight months, but six to 12 months is probably more accurate, though.

No need to take our word for it. Here is what Google has to say about it: (Skip to 1:35 mark to get right to their suggestion.)

There you go. Four to 12 months– to begin seeing initial results.

A year can seem like eons to a business owner, and we can dread explaining that to clients, but Google explains it, directly from the source.

Accounting for Variables

We get it–a year sounds like forever, but why not take a more optimistic view?

Perhaps your website is one of the fortunate ones that sees stunning results in the first four months. (By “results” we mean sustainable customers and web traffic, not just increasing ranking for specific keywords.)

What it comes down to are the variables that are currently affecting not just your website, but the industry your business is in. These are constantly fluctuating and numerous and may include:

  • Your geographic location
  • The age of your domain and website
  • The current website design
  • The keywords and topics relevant to you
  • The relevance of your content to those keywords
  • The amount of time the average user stays on the site
  • Your social activity
  • Your competition
  • How quickly you implement recommended changes
  • Your reactions to new trends
  • The perceived level of quality in the content

Each of these variables can affect the amount of time it will take to begin to see results from your SEO campaign.

You can safely assume you will need to factor in additional time for the discovery and research entailed with extensive audits of your website, before moving on to volumes of technical SEO work. It is reasonable for it to take two to three months before you see fresh new content becoming a major factor in your SEO campaign.

Even once it has been created, your SEO timeline still depends on a number of variables, so let’s take an expanded look at some of the factors that may impact your results, and the speed of those results. This includes: competition, your budget, quality, and how quickly or frequently changes are being made.

Establishing and Creating Quality

High-quality SEO takes time to implement and it takes time to create. It also takes time for search engines to assess and acknowledge that quality.

Next, you need to be sure your content is promoted properly. Search engines like Google will track the number of people who see it, how many bounce right back out, and analyzes user engagement with your content. Search engines will also glean information about your content from the number of links on and to your website, and the sources or destinations of those links.

Just because a company pumps out blog articles at an astounding rate, it does not necessarily mean that google and other search engines will read those posts as “high-quality” content, or rank them as such.

Quality content needs to be generated in a way that shows search engines that you are knowledgeable about a given subject. Even more importantly, it has to quickly address the concerns and questions your customers may have about your products and/or your business.

Doing this correctly and in a way advantageous to your company will take time.

Your Competition Is Actively Doing SEO, Too

How much effort and resources are you putting into your SEO campaign? Did you consider that your competition is probably putting in about the same?

Not too long ago, a lot of big companies did not understand the value of quality SEO, and this was a huge factor in why SEO was successful. This lack of participation enabled many smaller companies to climb quickly in the search engine rankings.

Times have changed drastically. Search engine optimization is now taught in colleges, and even high schools, and often large companies have entire departments dedicated to SEO, others, still outsource of work to SEO or marketing agencies on top of that.

SEO competition is extreme. Every article you publish has the potential to attract more traffic, but so does every blog your competitors publish. Can you compete with the quality of articles you are publishing, if not the frequency?

Even if you follow every piece of advice, and do everything right in your SEO campaign, achieving measurable results may still take time because chances are, another company is out there doing things properly, too.

SEO does not happen in its own little container.

If your business was using the only one utilizing your keywords, then yes, you would see positive results rapidly. But your business is not using those keywords exclusively- your competition is using them too, and that can have a huge effect on the speed of your SEO results.

Making Changes Early and Often

How many changes have you made? Does your SEO specialist recommend a complete overhaul of your company’s website, or just a few simple changes to the metadata?

The big question is how long did it take you to implement these changes. Some of them are quick and easy, and can often be completed in a day. These changes may seem so minute that the impact on your SEO campaign may also seem irrelevant.

But that does not mean they do not need be done.

These simple changes often affect fundamental components of a campaign, and should be completed as quickly as possible.

Actions that are more complicated typically take more time to finalize, but the sooner they are implemented the sooner you will begin seeing results.

It is important to remember that even if these changes are made quickly, search engines may still need anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to fully register the changes. It is not unheard of for a search engine to take that long just to re-index or re-crawl and given page on your website.

This brings up another point that was mentioned in video we showed you from Google. The representative points out that the common trend that seems to be the biggest obstacle on the route to increasing website traffic is actually the recommendations of the SEO company.The challenge is often actually finding the time to implement all of the suggested changes.

We are certainly not attempting to shift blame for any seeming lack of SEO results onto the clients. We feel this a fantastic opportunity to encourage businesses to get their entire team on board with a plan for search engine optimization. The design, sales, and marketing teams in addition to the executives need to be prepared to do their part in this ongoing process.

When you achieve this, your team will be collaborating with your SEO company instead of working against them, and that will definitely have better results.

Your Budget

Unfortunately, the size of your budget will affect the speed at which your SEO campaign generates results. Larger budgets simply allow more people to research your industry, create your content, and work on your campaign.

Of course, that does not automatically equal an increase in higher-quality SEO (but it should).

One more thing:

When we refer to your budget affecting the speed of your campaign, we mean the speed of completing research, writing content and other SEO-related tasks. We are not referring to the rate at which your website will climb the rankings.

No amount of money will facilitate a faster climb up the organic rankings. Only that the tasks get completed faster on your account.

It is important to examine more than price when selecting your SEO provider. Setting your goals around increasing conversions and traffic levels as opposed to ranking #1 for a given keyword, will probably result in far more value for your financial investment.

There’s a Problem with the Original Question

We have examined most of the things that could impact your potential time table to start seeing results.

And we have strategically used the word “start” several times throughout this article for a very deliberate reason.

See, the issue with the initial question: “why does SEO take so long?” implies that there’s an endpoint to search engine optimization.

While some companies may start seeing results in as little as 3 months, just try to picture how those results can expand even more as you continue to nurture your SEO campaign.

SEO does take time. There’ is literally no way around that. SEO is also not a one-time activity. You cannot just do SEO on a website and call it good. If you want to your company to stay competitive, then your SEO needs to grow and evolve just as your company does.

So, how long does good SEO take? The short answer? It will continue as long as you want to keep your business growing digitally.