4 minute read

According to Google, it takes 4-12 months for SEO to work.

Ahref ran a poll on LinkedIn with the consensus being 3-6 months for SEO to show results. They also ran a Facebook poll where the most popular answer was 6-12 months. Combining the results comes out to be 3-12 months, which isn’t far off from what Google stated.

If you ask a scammer how long does SEO take to work, they’ll say words like “immediately” or “guaranteed results.” Ignore these churn and burn schemes, it will be a huge money pit, just ask Tom Hanks.

So what is the real answer? SEO takes “as long as it takes” to see noticeable improvements in your website’s (technically web pages’) rankings and organic traffic. Don’t worry, it won’t take as long as it took for Hans Langseth here to grow that beard.

That might seem like a smart A$$ answer (which it is). But it’s actually the truth of the matter. It can easily take at least 90 days to see noticeable rankings. As we continually point out to our clients, measurable SEO results typically don’t show up until anywhere between four months to a year.

SEO is an investment that does work and provides appreciable returns. But just like you don’t expect a wise financial investment to yield significant returns in a couple of days, SEO is an investment that takes time to garner results. Anyone who tells you differently is either a scammer or lacks real-world experience.


Why Does SEO Take So Long To Work?

It can take a long time for SEO to work because Google’s algorithm considers many factors and has to rank thousands of web pages in order from most relevant to least. That is why SEO is considered a long-term strategy. It basically comes down to this…

  • Competitiveness of your topic
  • Usability of your website
  • Quality of your content (especially with all the thin AI content out there)
  • Effectiveness of your SEO strategy
  • Relevance of your web page to the user’s search intent

SEO is organic, not paid advertising where you can bid high to buy your spot. You need to show the Google bots that you are the best result to display, or at the very least good enough to make page one (now top 10) of their results. Keep in mind that 54% of all clicks on Google go to the first 3 spots and less than 10% of people scroll beyond the the top 10 ranking.

UPDATE: It was recently revealed at trial that paying for Google Ads does help improve your organic ranking.


What Are You Up Against?

In a highly competitive industry, SEO results take longer than in smaller, niche markets simply because you are trying to differentiate your content from so many others who are also engaging in SEO and content creation strategies to make themselves rank higher. It’s sort of like the more teams in a league that play each other, the longer the season and the more time it takes to finish first.


How Good is Your Website?

One of the first steps to any SEO strategy is a website audit. If you don’t have a website, obviously, it takes time to design and publish, as well as time for search engines to notice it. If the website is old or you bought it from a previous owner of the business, it will take just as much time, maybe even more, to update it or, typically in most cases, replace it with an entirely new design and approach.

Even if you think your current website is in pretty shape, a website audit might conclude that it really isn’t from a technical standpoint such as it loads too slowly. The good news is that the audit can explain why it isn’t SEO-friendly and how to fix it or take it to the next level.

The key to any website design is to ensure it is responsive, meaning that no matter what device users view it—smartphone, tablet, desktop, Apple Watch—users have the same experience. Buttons work the same, graphics and text aren’t overlapping or cut off, shopping carts function properly, and users can navigate from page to page.

But equally important is making it easy for search engines to find it. Search engines need time to crawl and index your website, evaluate its relevance and authority, and then rank it accordingly.


Content Quality

One of the most important elements of a successful SEO implementation is content creation. There was a time when stuffing web pages with keywords (what search engines look at to determine relevance and ranking), regardless of whether posted content was coherent. It didn’t take long for Google and other search engines to get wise to this black hat SEO strategy (if you could call something short-sighted like this a strategy).

This is why creating compelling content is a powerful key. It’s a combination of inserting keywords in your site’s meta tags (the underlying coding of a webpage or blog post) as well as employing the keywords in what users actually read. Without getting too deep in the weeds, there are different types of keywords, and there’s a lot that goes into selecting the right keywords that help get the content a high search engine ranking. That takes time.

Additionally, it takes time to build high-quality backlinks, improve on-page optimization, and create engaging content that resonates with your target audience.


SEO Effectiveness

Just because you’ve done it once doesn’t mean you can just sit back and watch. SEO is a long game and always in arrears, meaning you have to keep updating it. What seems to work over the last few months may not work in the next few months or take longer to get results the next time.

The beauty of the internet is how you get real-time data about who is viewing your website content, sharing it on social media, what they are clicking on (and what they aren’t clicking on), and which parts of your SEO strategy are kicking in and performing the best.

Even something like color schemes are evaluated. Do users click more on a red Call-to-Action (CTA) button than they do an orange CTA? An A/B test can determine which variation gets better results. And it takes time to do this.

It takes time to implement SEO best practices into all the pages and posts on your website. Nothing is static. You need to constantly and consistently add new content, or search engines start to ignore you. Google loves fresh content and so do their users (don’t you?). Adding new content and revising existing content requires time to write, edit, design, and publish.

This is how SEO can take so long to work and see results.


Changing Search Engine Algorithms

SEO strategies are in a constant game of chess with search engine algorithms. For one thing, there is no one algorithm but rather a massive collection of algorithms, each with individual assignments that also connect with one another holistically. SEO strategies try to figure out what this massive collection is up to. And because all the algorithms are constantly changing, SEO strategies need to evolve with them.

There’s no magical way to plug into what search engine algorithms are doing. Google alone runs 2,500 tests per year, keeping 500 updates, and ditching the rest.

All the best SEO strategies test what is working, figure out what isn’t working, hypothesize why, and react to evolving conditions and trends. And then see if that’s actually getting the desired results. A lot of SEO is trial and error. The ratio of failure to success is something like 70% to 30%. Figuring out that 30% takes (you guessed it) time. But it is time well worth spending to achieve optimum results.

Search intent and your content’s relevance to it are also advancing over time. For example, if you search for “best Jordans,” you’ll see all the results are reviews of a bunch of Jordan shoes, not an actual product page. This is because Google knows searchers want to learn first, and then potentially buy. So optimizing for search intent can bring great results.


How Long Does SEO Take For You?

SEO is an ongoing process, and results accumulate over time. Continuously optimizing your website, monitoring analytics, adapting to algorithm changes, and staying updated with the latest SEO trends is how you achieve long-term success.

Tag Marketing offers several monthly SEO packages to match the needs and growth of small to medium-sized businesses such as yours.

Whatever your situation or budget, we can get you a return on your investment. How long can you wait for SEO to kick in? We try our best to get you results faster than your competitors and take your business to the next level… the top 3 results!