One of the biggest questions people have about search engine optimization is, “How long does SEO take?”
The primary goal of SEO is to get your webpage at or near the top of organic search engine results for specific keyword topics. Of course, you want this to happen as quickly as possible.
It’s important to realize that a solid SEO strategy isn’t one that leads to overnight success.
With SEO, you want to play the long game, because those are the results that will drive people to your site over time. Although there’s no clear-cut answer, a good SEO strategy should produce results in approximately 6-8 months.
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How Does SEO Work?
In order to understand why it takes this amount of time for SEO to work, it’s helpful to have a basic understanding of how SEO works. The web is filled with pages and pages of information. When a user enters a keyword into a search engine, such as Google, the search engine needs to filter through all of that information to find the most relevant results. Google applies an algorithm to find those best results.
SEO involves addressing each aspect of the algorithm. In doing so, you show Google that your page is among the best results for a particular keyword. While it doesn’t take long to update your page, it does take time for Google to recognize your page as standing out above the rest.
How to “Do SEO”
There are several core aspects to SEO. These features change periodically as search engines update their algorithms in order to continue producing the best results. Here are some of the most important features in SEO:
- Choosing your keywords. There may be several similar keyword phrases to the one that you want to be known for; proper SEO finds and uses the best of those keywords for top results.
- Incorporating keywords properly on the page. You can’t just throw the keyword on to the page over and over and expect to see results from SEO. The keyword phrase needs to be used the right number of times for your word count, in the right places on the page, to maximize SEO.
- Strategic use of headers and subheaders. This relates to and goes beyond the placement of keywords.
- Gaining inbound links from high-quality sites. Links matter in SEO, and this is one of the reasons that getting ranked at the top of search engine results doesn’t happen overnight. High-quality sites need time to see you and link to you. Ideally, they will link to you using the same keyword phrase you want to be known for.
- Establishing a reputation. The search engines give higher value to sites that consistently produce relevant, fresh content. They also pay attention to ongoing growth of incoming links. This is the key reason why it SEO takes 6-8 months to work.
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Why Does It Take Time for SEO to Work?
The previous point about establishing a reputation is the most critical part to understand when examining the question of how long does SEO take.
You can quickly and easily add content to your site that has good keywords in proper SEO format. You can fairly quickly begin to gather incoming links. However, search engines really want to see that this isn’t just a one-time effort on your part. Domain age, which is the length of time since Google noticed the site, influences the likelihood of getting to the first page of search engine results.
Remember, the goal of a search engine is to return the most relevant result to the user.
A single article on your site that several people link to at once may or may not be the best result. If you consistently produce high-quality content on that topic, and other sites with good reputations regularly link to that content, the search engine will trust your site more.
The more reason that the search engine has to trust you, the higher you rank in the results. In his book SEO 2017: Master Search Engine Optimization, R. L. Adams writes, “It takes at least two solid years of building great content and authority to get Google to trust you.” That’s one answer to the question, “how long does it take SEO to work,” but there are ways to speed up results.
How Long Does SEO Take … and Can You Speed It Up?
Ahrefs, a leading website analysis tool, did a study of historical ranking data precisely to answer the question, “how long does it take SEO to work?” These results showed that pages ranking in the top ten of search engine results for varied keywords were typically 2-3 years old. Only about 5% saw top ten ranking within the first year of the page. Of those, most took 2-6 months to reach that ranking, and generally, the ranking was for low-volume keywords.
People want to know if there is any way to speed up SEO results. That 5% number is promising because it indicates that with expert SEO practices, a small percentage of pages will soar to the top of search engine results in less than a year. However …
You shouldn’t expect to see solid SEO results in less than 6 months, especially for high-volume keywords.
AudienceBloom founder and SEO Jayson DeMers wrote an article on How Long Does SEO Take To See Results, where he points out that “results” is a murky word. He notes that, “you can’t expect significant change in the first month.” He says that you may start to see “measurable results” in 3-6 months, but that it’s important to remember that these are just the very first signs of positive results. It’s in the months to follow that the changes really start to add up.
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Play the Long Game with SEO
Although there are ways to speed up results, it’s important not to try to “game the system”. One of the worst things that you can do for your site is to engage in sketchy behavior then get caught by the search engine. This puts a strike against you. Think of your website as being in a relationship with the search engine; you take time to build trust and when you break that trust it takes even more time to regain it.
It’s risky to work with SEO marketing companies that advertise that they can get your site to rank on page one of search engine results overnight.
When you ask them, “how long does SEO take?” and they answer, “less than a month,” you should run the other way. These companies might be able to gain a search engine’s trust quickly (although likely not as quickly as they’re advertising). However, they’re also likely to break that trust, and then you’re going to have a very hard time gaining rank again.
With SEO, you want to play the long game. You want to build up that trust steadily, consistently improving your online reputation, so that you will stay on those page one search engine rankings for a long time to come.