How Long Does SEO Take to Work?
by Brian Rideout • July 15, 2022
At least 92% of global traffic comes from Google search, Google Images, and Google Maps, driving 1000%+ more traffic than organic social media. It's no wonder that everybody is talking about SEO like it's the greatest thing since sliced bread. But with SEO, you need to do it a precise way, or else you’re just wasting time and money. So, how long does SEO really take to work, and how do you know it's working?
It's an honest question asked by many marketers and business owners, and most sources will say the same thing. "It all really depends on your budget, the strategies we implement, and the competition, and every SEO campaign is different."
What an indefinite and unhelpful answer, am I right? So, where’s the most suitable place to start? When will you start seeing results?
We will make things very clear for you and explain why SEO works and how long it takes for your rankings to improve. This article will answer all your questions and discuss how long it takes for the best results to come to life and land on that coveted page one of Google's search results.
Are you ready to let SEO work for you and take control of your success? Keep reading to learn more!
How Long Will It Take for a Brand New Website to Rank?First, let's define rank. Ranking in position 99 in Google's results would be at the bottom of page 10. Technically that's ranking, but it's extremely unlikely anyone will ever see it, let alone click on it and visit your site. So let's define "Rank" as a listing on the 1st page of the search results, i.e. organic search positions 1-10.
It may take anywhere between 2 to 24 months for a new website to rank and appear in Google’s organic search results. Your results would ultimately vary depending on your budget, the amount of competition there is within your industry for your chosen keyword phrases, the number of competitors in your city, and the number and quality of the backlinks your competitors have.
We personally have had recent success with one of our clients, who opened for business in a small resort town, and we designed their first website. Because it was in a geographically targeted area (a city of 50,000 people) and because others in their industry had not worked very hard, if at all, on their own SEO, their website ranked on the first page of search results within 4 months for two-thirds of their targeted keyword phrases. By six months, almost all of their keyword phrases were on Google's first page. That's about as quick as you can possibly expect. The only thing that would have maybe sped that up is a bigger budget so we could have acquired a larger number of backlinks sooner in the SEO campaign.
Does It Take Less Time For An Existing Website to Rank?Generally yes. If your site is a year old or more, changes to your content or an increase in the number and quality of your backlinks tends to have a more immediate effect. For another client competing in the large Phoenix and Scottsdale market, we redesigned their site, optimizing the site structure and content around their targeted keyword phrases, significantly improved their site speed, and launched the new website. In two months, they went from page 2 or 3 to page one for nearly all of their keyword phrases. That was without any significant link-building. Once we started building high DA (Domain Authority) links, blogging, and continuing to optimize the content, all of their keyword phrases were on page one, some in the top spots.
In theory, every business, website & SEO project is different, and there are a number of factors that will determine your rankings; you truly may not see significant results within your first month or even the second. How long SEO takes to work will lean on several factors. Here are a few key things to think about before starting website optimization:
- Do you have any competition?
- If so, what keywords are your competitors using and ranking for?
- How are your competitive keywords ranking currently?
- How established is your brand?
- What does your current backlink profile look like compared to the competition?
- What is your site's DA or AS (Authority Score, which is semrush's equivalent to Domain Authority)?
- What kind of content do you publish, and how often?
Domain Authority Is an Ongoing ProcessMost SEO firms don’t have a guarantee on how much time it takes for your rankings to improve because organic growth can be a guessing game at times. It always depends on your competition, strategy, your brand awareness, established authority from local listing directories, technical SEO, and many other aspects.
Domain Authority is calculated using over 30 factors, including but not limited to:
- Your current link-building strategy and the quality/relevance of your backlinks
- The quality of your content; are you writing kick-ass content that answers user intent?
- How frequently you are publishing content and the use of competitive topics
- User experience and technical SEO of core website pages
Large companies will naturally see results in a short amount of time due to having little competition and high authority in a niche already. And websites with multiple high-quality backlinks, like Wikipedia, tend to have higher domain authority scores. At the same time, smaller companies may have to roll out double the amount of content to achieve the same results.
If a website is already indexed by Google, we can generally see significant improvement within two months of a website redesign. Oftentimes, an SEO strategy will start by replacing old content with search-engine-optimized content, improving site speed, and tweaking technical SEO. You can find a perfect example of this on our SEO case studies page!
Less Than 1% CTR on Results From the Second Page of GoogleThis, of course, means that getting ranked on Google’s first page is essential for your business or website. Because Google utilizes hundreds of ranking factors in its algorithm, deciding on the perfect SEO strategy may take some time. There really isn’t a one-size-fits-all method that works for every business. And, to be fair, nearly 60% of pages that rank in the top 10 Google results are usually three or more years old. (CTR is Click Through Rate or how often the search results are clicked on)
As a general rule of thumb, SEO strategy is never frankly “completed,” and there is always more to improve. SEO specialists never stop their efforts, even if they experience a lack of growth in their rankings for a few months. Those experienced in SEO know that there will be plateaus, and when Google's algorithm changes, there will be results that fall. In our experience, and the general advice in the SEO industry, when that happens, relax, don't go making a bunch of changes, wait a couple of weeks, and often you'll be right back where you were. Sometimes you'll be the winner in an algorithm update as well, even if it takes a few weeks to shake out.
Local SEO Is a Completely Different StoryTraditional SEO ranking strategies and local SEO are vastly different as far as ranking speed is concerned. Local Search Optimization, on average, can take as little as 4 to 8 weeks before seeing promising results. It only takes a few minor changes if you have already claimed your Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business), and you may want to make the following adjustments if you haven’t already:
- Provide a great business description that includes targeted keyword phrases within it
- Fill out the Products and/or Services section of the Google Business Profile
- Upload photos of your business, staff, products, and/or services in action
- Add business listings and citations to directories and data aggregators such as Factual, Acxiom, Infogroup & Localeze
Because it can take over a month to see these changes take place, it is critical to apply these tweaks at the beginning of your strategy. If you are building a brand new website with absolutely no local authority, you may even be looking at well over a year before you start to see some really eye-opening results. This, of course, will all depend on how much effort you put into your SEO campaign.
Two things to keep in mind about the local, map-based results. #1 - Listings are VERY heavily weighted towards the location. If your business location is a long way from the city center, you will struggle to get into the top 3 map pack locations. #2 - Reviews are an important part of those rankings as well, so come up with a strategy to get your customers to leave you reviews.
What Determines How Long an SEO Strategy Takes?Selecting low-competition niches, hiring a professional company for SEO services, and Google's frequent algorithm updates, all of which will affect how quickly a strategy impacts your rankings. In this section, we will highlight the top-ranking factors influencing how fast you see results from an SEO campaign.
The Domain Authority and Age of Your WebsiteDomain age is a significant factor in SEO results, and over half of the top search results on Google are 2-3 years old. Having a website with at least some authority is critical before pushing out heavy content. It will help you rank faster at the beginning of your SEO strategy, ultimately boosting organic traffic.
Keyword Research and Examining the Keyword DifficultyKeyword difficulty is an SEO metric provided by SEO platforms like semrush, that estimates how hard it would be to rank for a given keyword phrase. One common misconception that business owners should understand is the keywords that are searched the most and those that drive the most conversions and are easiest to rank for on Google can actually be different from each other.
- Keyword phrases such as long-tail keywords and keywords with a reasonable, though not necessarily the highest, search volume play a significant role in the ranking process.
- If you choose a certain keyword that is too competitive, you are at risk of being drowned out by an oversaturated market and will struggle to see results. It's very easy in that case to give up way too soon, throwing away all the investment you've already made in your search results.
- Truthfully, long-tail keywords may not appear to drive much traffic at all, but they can immensely improve conversion rates and help you turn organic traffic into a sale. They are also generally easier to rank for.
On-page and Off-page SEO TweaksOn-page SEO is the work you can manually edit on your web pages, such as keyword use, title tags, SEO descriptions, and internal links. A couple of things to complete and perfect...
- Internal links are necessary because they show which pages within your website are important to you and also give Google a deeper understanding of what your content is and how it should be navigated.
- Publish a .xml sitemap to make it easy for Google to index every page of your site
Off-page SEO includes everything that is done off of your websites, such as backlinks and content syndication. By optimizing your on-page SEO, you allow Google’s crawlers to locate your information quickly and share it with applicable search queries.
- Create an account and add your website to Google's Search Console
- Upload the link to your sitemap
- Grab low-hanging fruit for links that might include your Chamber of Commerce or professional groups such as BNI
- Vendors can be another source for very relevant links
Technical SEO and SEO-friendly structureOne of the major aspects of SEO mechanics is getting your code and structure correct. Technical issues should never be overlooked because they can affect your rankings immensely and even penalize you, rejecting a web page from even appearing in search results at all. This can seem kind of intimidating at first, but it's well worth your efforts if done correctly.
Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Optimize your site's navigational structure
- Create meta descriptions that use high-ranking keywords and answer user intent
- Use the correct amount of characters in your meta descriptions
- Use competitive keyword phrases in your page titles, limiting the title to 150 to 157 characters
- Use header tags such as H1, H2, or H3 to make content easy to navigate and again show Google what's most important on the page.
- You can luckily use SEMrush and other Free SEO Tools to identify and fix internal linking errors on your website.
What Are the Best Ways to Improve SEO QuicklyYou can improve your rankings by using some of these approaches that modern SEO experts in Phoenix swear by. Following these steps will make it effortless for search engines to crawl and index your website. Here are some fantastic SEO strategies you should try executing:
Optimizing Your Images and Page SpeedImages are such an integral piece of enhancing the experience for users on your website. Novice strategists will spend plenty of time picking the perfect photo for a page, but they need to put time into optimization as well. When used effectively, optimizing your images can boost organic traffic and make your site easier to crawl. Here are a couple of ways to optimize your images:
- The first step you should take in optimizing your images is picking the best file format. The most commonly used image formats are JPEG and PNG. Both of these formats are employed for diverse compression methods, and the file sizes between them can be dramatically different. Be sure to pick the best format image for your website. The bigger your image is, the longer it takes for your website to load. That’s why it’s an excellent idea to make sure that you compress your images before putting them on your website.
- If your website platform and CMS (Content Management System) support it, .webp files are much smaller than even the perfectly optimized .jpg or .png file. In our experience .webp files are 1/3 to 1/2 the size of .jpg. That can result in a considerable decrease in page load time.
- Google is very sufficient at understanding images on its own, but adding alt-text can still be a major help. Also called alt tags and alt descriptions, alt-text is the written copy that is displayed in place of an image on a webpage if the image fails to load. It also supports screen-reading tools when describing images to visually impaired users, thus allowing search engines to better crawl and rank your website. Using an Advisory Title takes this one step further and places a text message over an image when the cursor hovers over the image.
- Lazy loading is a new and intriguing technique that defers the loading of non-essential resources like videos, images, and embedded plugins. Alternatively, these non-essential assets load when a user requires them to. This helps improve page speed drastically.
Additional Methods for Improving User ExperienceGoogle keeps an active record of how visitors engage with your website, and user experience is a key factor in how quickly you see SEO results take shape. As mentioned above, the proper usage of subheadings helps Google understand your content and makes your text more readable to your audience. Here are some user experience tricks SEO professionals use:
- Use illustrations or relevant images - People like photos, even though you'll want those 1,000 words on the page for Google to index and rank you with
- Avoid using popups and paywalls
- Implement the proper use of subheads to break up text
- Make sure your website is mobile-friendly. Nearly 60% of all searches take place on a mobile device. A responsive website design is Google's preferred format.
- Consider using "white space" to make your copy more legible. You'll notice we double-space bullet points for this very reason.
Most Importantly: Ensure Your Content Matches User Search IntentKeywords are the foundation of SEO success, but once you’ve already targeted your keywords, you may need to dive into search intent. Search intent is the user's purpose behind each search query. Answering search intent is Google’s main focus for its users. Here are the key types of search intent:
Informational: Information intent is when a user is looking for something specific like “What day was Elvis born?” This sort of search is particularly quick and doesn’t require a long answer or explanation. Today the answer is often found in Google's search results as a featured snippet.
Navigational: Navigational intent is for when a user is looking for a specific website address such as “Twitter” or “Netflix Login.”
Commercial: Commercial intent search types are when a user is skimming for a product but hasn’t made the final decision to purchase the product or service yet. For example, "Cheap phones" -- The user has decided they want to purchase a cheap phone but hasn't decided what type of phone they want to buy yet.
Transactional: The primary user intent here is to buy something. The user has already made the decision to buy the product or service. Examples may include “Buy iPhone 15” or "Start HBO Trial."
How Many Hours Per Week Should Your Invest in SEO?The majority of your optimization will come from on-page checkups, minor page adjustments, link building, a regular content publishing schedule, and keeping track of your metrics. To see rankings improve quickly, we estimate you should spend anywhere from around 4 to 12 hours a week on your SEO work depending on your website's domain authority. Here are some things you should check weekly on your pages:
- Check for active crawl errors
- Check for keyword stuffing
- Separate duplicate content and title tags
- Fix broken links and 404s
- Update statistics and pages that are no longer evergreen
- Google's Algorithm is always changing, occasionally tweaking the majority of your pages is recommended
- Pro tip: a blog, vlog, podcast, or forum is a fantastic way to have frequently updated content on a website that's constantly ranking
Get Started With SEO Today: See the Results YourselfNow, you have a better idea of how long it takes for SEO to influence search results. The fastest way to see promising results is by hiring an expert SEO strategist for the job. BANG! is a full-service digital marketing agency. We can assist with any website need, from website design to determining your target audience, content strategy, SEO, and even email marketing services.
Want to see how fast SEO works for you? Learn more about SEO and web design by checking out our SEO Services or request a quote online today with BANG!
About the Author
Brian Rideout, Chief Pixel Pusher of BANG! Web Site Design is an industry veteran (sounds better than old guy right?) who started building websites in 1996 when dial-up, modems, Netscape, and 640 x 480 resolution monitors with 256 colors were state of the art.
We stumbled into SEO by "accident" when we got a client ranked #2 on Yahoo (remember, this was the 90's) for an extremely competitive keyword phrase, and they sold out of all the products they had. With a little reverse engineering, we learned what Yahoo was looking for and applied our SEO experience to other clients and then to Google when they became the dominant search engine.
We continued to build websites for small business's in the Phoenix market as well as companies across the country. Our approach of "SEO 1st Website Design" has resulted in many businesses, particularly in the building trades such as contractors and plumbers, as well as law firms, to rank at the top of Google's results which keeps our clients supplied with a constant stream of new customers.
We continue to provide website design, website development, hosting, SEO services, and digital marketing for Phoenix companies. More information about the company can be found on our About Us page. Click the following link for examples of our award-winning website design work.