How Long Does SEO Take to Work?

SEO Plan For Success

21 Sep 2022

Jonathan Ward

You may be wondering if SEO is worth the time investment. Find out why it’s so effective and how long it takes before you start seeing results.

Today, all businesses need a website. After all, the internet provides a worldwide platform for business owners to showcase their companies. However, not all websites are created equally. Some see success, while others fall by the wayside. The difference? Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).

Now, we’re not saying that a website is unsuccessful purely due to its poor SEO, but it is a pretty big factor when it comes to getting you on the first page of the Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs)

Whether you’re a dental practice or a garden centre, chances are you’ve realised you should optimise your website. You’ve delved into the world of Search Engine Optimisation, and now you’re waiting to see results. But how long does SEO take, and when will you see the fruits of your labour? While the desire to see success is valid, SEO is not going to give you instant results.

How Do You Define SEO Success?

To measure your results clearly, first, you must define success and what it means for each business. By looking at a business’s campaign goals and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

Your campaign goals refer to the eventual outcome you hope and plan to achieve, while your KPIs are metrics that demonstrate your progress towards said goals. For example, your goal might be to increase your revenue by a specific amount over a 12-month period. Here, your KPIs will be organic traffic growth, increase brand awareness, impressions, and rankings.

Keep in mind, that KPIs must be realistic and measurable. When examining your KPIs about your business’s campaign goals, you’ll be able to see if you’ve achieved SEO success or if your strategy needs to be revisited and tweaked.

There are several key factors that determine how long it will take to see success from an SEO strategy. We explain each of them below.

1. Content

Your website’s content will greatly determine how quickly you see results. Quality content matters!

Content that ranks well is in-depth and covers a broad spectrum of its respective subject. Content must provide real value to the user and should incorporate engaging visual content to complement the written content. Remember, quality beats quantity every time. Focus on value, not word count.

Did you know that deleting content may also speed up your SEO results? The key lies in determining which content to keep, which to improve, and which to delete. Keep creating original, helpful content that solves your audience’s problems and improves continually. This has become even more important since Google announced its ‘helpful content update’ this year.

2. User Experience (UX)

It is true that Google is a robot, we cannot forget that it works to satisfy the needs of human beings. And human beings like to feel good, they love to enjoy themselves and to know that they are cared for. Therefore, taking care of your users’ experience is a key aspect of your SEO efforts to be truly successful.

A whopping 88% of consumers are less likely to return to a site with bad UX. Having great UX improves organic search marketing performance, helping websites rank well on the SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages).

Factors such as Navigational Elements & Layout, Mobile Responsiveness, Site-Speed and URL structure all have a direct impact on your SEO ranking. Boosting your user engagement metrics will subsequently influence your overall search ranking.

If you don’t give your site UX much attention it will end up in the metaphorical bin.

3. Technical Structure

If technical SEO issues exist on a site, they will need to be resolved before you can experience the growth you’re looking to see.

Technical SEO relates to things like:

  • Crawling and indexing
  • Site speed
  • Canonicalization
  • Structured data
  • Duplicate content
  • XML sitemaps
  • Hreflang
  • and more

Resolving issues around some of these areas will have a bigger impact than others, but the fact remains that any technical problems should be fixed. However, technical SEO on its own isn’t going to be enough. Think of resolving these issues as removing the brakes on your project and allowing your site to compete against others. 

4. Internal & External Links

If technical SEO is the foundation of a website, then internal & external links are the doors that allow you to move from room to room.

The more links you have to your website, the better. But it’s not just about the numbers. The quality of the links matters since a few high-quality links from relevant websites will significantly impact your results more than a truckload of irrelevant links. As high-quality links are more challenging to earn, your competitors won’t necessarily be able to replicate your success. 

Also, try to link to your own pages within your content. For example, if you’re a garage door company writing about the best garage doors to choose from, link to your product pages where you mention these doors.

Keep in mind that if you’re using methods that don’t meet Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and you have a sudden increase in the number of links that trigger a manual review, you could face a penalty. The speed at which you earn links should grow steadily.

5. Mobile Optimisation

In the age of mobile-first index, it’s absolutely crucial that your website is mobile-friendly. The mobile-first index has become Google’s primary ranking index, meaning it is updated before its desktop index.

When designing for a mobile user, it’s important to make your design responsive so it can cater for different device screen sizes. Think about design elements such as long scrolls as opposed to forcing a user to load another page and impede their surfing experience.

In general, the two most important factors are responsive design and page load speed.

6. Keyword Placement

Keywords should be strategically placed throughout the content to make it clear both to the search engines and the users what topics the content will cover. This means that keywords should be used naturally throughout the content, but they should also be included in the headings and tags, including the H1 and H2 tags, the title, the meta tags, and the meta description.

7. Metadata

Metadata helps to describe the information on your webpage in a way Google or other search engines can better understand. That includes your landing pages, as well as your blogs, articles, and eBooks. Search engines crawl your web pages to recognise keywords and other information. They then compare those with your metadata to organise your webpage in the SERP.  

Below are the meta tags you should look to include on every page of your site for SEO success:

  1. Title Tag
  2. Header Tag
  3. Meta Description
  4. Canonical Tag
  5. Alternative Text Tag (ALT Tag)
  6. Meta Robots Tag
  7. Meta Viewport Tag (Responsive Design Meta Tag)

Meta Data summarizes the contents of your page for the benefit of users and search engines. Which in turn affects your click-through rate, which has an impact on your overall SEO.

8. Competition

Low competition niches and search queries see results quicker than competitive ones. That’s why using long-tail keywords is so important. Trying to rank a page for competitive keywords such as “house for sale” could take MUCH longer! However, it may be possible to see results in a few months for narrower, lower-competition keywords.

Therefore, to see SEO success, you need to consider how your competitors become as visible as they are now and how they maintain their credibility. You must make room for others’ aggressive strategies on your own.

So, The Question You REALLY Want Us to Answer…How Long Does SEO Take to Work?

How long does SEO take? The short answer is between four to twelve months. The longer answer has to do with all the factors that tie into your SEO strategy. For instance, if you target low-competition keywords, you can start to see results within four to six months. A brand-new domain should expect to see results within nine to twelve months.

By results, we mean a measurable increase in traffic and associated leads or conversions. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have achieved your goal by this point, but any business that is investing in SEO should expect to be able to see progress within this timeframe. 

It’s impossible to give a figure that applies to all websites, and the best that an SEO expert can do is give a best-guess estimate based on analysing a website’s current performance and the proposed strategy.

There’s no getting away from the fact that it takes time to improve your SEO. Google along with other search engines, want to show the best result for any given search query, and it takes time to deserve to rank. You’ve got to earn top search visibility. 

But with the right strategy in place, 4 to 12 months is a long enough period to be able to see the impact of SEO efforts and to be able to justify ongoing investment into growth. 

Is Search Engine Optimisation Worth the Effort?

So, should you invest in SEO? The answer is a resounding yes! You should see the results over time if you work at them consistently. In today’s world, you can’t afford to avoid optimising your website. Your competitors are already doing it, so why wait?

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