How Long Does It Take For SEO To Work?
Estimated reading time: 17 minutes
For many, measuring SEO is something way out of their comfort zone. While recognising it’s needed for their website and business success, the million-dollar question is usually “how long does it take for SEO to work?”. But, thanks to a whole host of variables, there’s no definitive answer. However, if you’re looking into SEO, this guide will take you through the process and help you understand what’s involved in creating an in-depth SEO strategy.
How Long Does It Take For SEO To Work?
When most people ask us about how long it takes for SEO to start working, it’s a hard question to answer because of the number of factors involved. But we usually suggest they give SEO a minimum of 4-6 months before starting to see results and between 6-12 months to see a proper return on investment.
Most people usually focus on keyword rankings and want to be position 1 for a certain keyword. They then base the success or failure of an SEO strategy purely on keyword positions. Although these keyword rankings are important, they’re only one slice of the whole SEO pie that will get you to the final outcome. And it’s the final outcome of conversions that should be the real measurement of success.
What your conversions are will depend on your business and will be different for everyone. In most cases, they’ll be hot leads and increased sales revenue. But some businesses may have goals such as increasing subscribers, e-book downloads, or just brand awareness. Knowing your own goals for your SEO strategy is the first step to understanding how long it takes for SEO to work.
What Factors Can Affect SEO?
How long it takes for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to start working will vary from client to client and site to site. Measuring SEO to evaluate this properly on an individual basis means looking at different SEO factors. Some of these individual factors will be a direct ranking factor and an important element to focus on, others less so. But collectively, they all count towards your overall SEO success. They can include:
Technical SEO is the term given to making sure your website meets the technical requirements of search engines – Google (as the largest) in particular – with the aim of improving organic traffic. The technical SEO requirements include crawling and indexing the pages and site structure of your website. This is a crucial factor as the easier it is for Google to find all your content, the better it will rank organically.
Domain Age, Authority & URL
Your domain URL and things like its length, keyword usage or how memorable it is are all connected. The age of your domain (how long it’s been around and in use) and your domain authority (a predictor of your site’s ranking ability) all play their part in SEO.
Your site’s user experience (UX) is one of the factors that have a direct impact on your SEO rankings. How easy your site is to use and navigate really makes a difference to customer engagement and Google will pick up on that. Factors also included in UX are your site’s page speed, mobile responsiveness and site structure.
As touched on in your site’s UX, mobile responsiveness and optimisation can have a big impact on your SEO rankings. More and more people use their smartphones and tablets to search and view websites. Google knows this and has made it a big SEO ranking factor so your site needs to be optimised for it.
High-quality, original, engaging and informative content across your website will help give you an SEO boost. But by optimising all your content – making it easily skimmable and digestible with a smattering of keyword intent throughout denoting the user’s reason for a search, plus clear answers to popular questions or problems – will give you extra ranking favourability.
Link Building & Promotion
Link building is getting other websites of similar interest and relevance to your own to link back to your website. Building high-quality backlinks as part of your SEO strategy will give you a real boost as it’s one of the most important ranking factors for SEO. But the promotion of your content is also necessary to attract links and can be done through effective advertising, social media communities and B2B outreach. Find out more about how link building can help with your SEO.
Access To Proven SEO Expertise
As important as your SEO strategy is, its success is largely dependent on who is working on it and implementing it for you. To make the right choice for your business, there are several options available, each with pros and cons, alongside key things to consider, including expertise, efficiency and expense. Let’s look at your choices in more detail:
In-House SEO Teams
Using your own in-house SEO team could be a no-brainer if they have the skills. With brand awareness and in-depth or technical background knowledge on your service or product, they’ll already be up to speed on your company culture and your vision and goals. They’ll also be able to prioritise your SEO and content requirements without having to juggle any other work.
But using your own team can have its disadvantages as well. You might not have many in your team and they may not have the right knowledge or experience to complete the in-depth SEO you need. To keep you on track, you’ll need to ensure they’re fully equipped with the right SEO reporting tools and software and consistently trained in all the right areas which can get expensive. Even then, you might still need to look to a specialist agency to help you.
Agency SEO Teams
When you hire an agency to work on your SEO strategy, you know you’re going to get a higher level of specialist knowledge and expertise from a team with a wealth of experience. There won’t be much these guys don’t know and, armed with the best SEO strategies and tactics, you’ll be able to scale up your SEO efforts with ease whenever you need to. While your own team might get you to a certain point, an agency will have everything you need to take you to the next level – and beyond – giving you the results you need to succeed.
But, no matter how good your agency team will undoubtedly be, and a real asset to your business success, there could be some drawbacks. Many agencies can lack the personal touch you might be looking for, so won’t be available to return your call or email as soon as you might hope to update you on your project. And many will often have a full stack of client SEO work to get through meaning your SEO might not get prioritised as much as you’d like it to be. This is where Improve Position can make all the difference to your project: giving you the one-to-one service you need while getting the results other agencies can only dream of.
Freelancer SEO Consultants
Finally, freelance SEO consultants can give you another option for your SEO. These guys can give you the best – but also the worst – of in-house and agency worlds. A freelance SEO consultant can be hired as and when you need them to give you a high level of expertise and experience, while working with your in-house team’s capabilities, to deliver what you need in a relatively cost-effective way.
The negatives can mean that as a single freelancer, they might specialise in the wrong areas or might not have the broader skills you require for your project, so may not be the best fit for your needs – or your team. And as a freelancer, they will probably be juggling the work of plenty of clients, so communication and deadlines might be delayed.
Our SEO Process
As a results-driven, UK SEO agency, Improve Position has a proven method for delivering exceptional SEO campaigns. Working with you, we use a streamlined 5-phase SEO process to take all the complex areas of SEO and package them into separate, simple and easy to understand nuggets. This means you only pay for the deliverables you need to get the results you want as quickly as possible. Here’s what you can expect from us:
Phase 1: Learning
Our learning phase is all about discovering as much information about you and your business as possible. Starting with a detailed onboarding questionnaire to get your answers to the biggest questions, we follow that up with in-depth data analysis reports on your website to see how well it’s performing and highlight areas that need attention. After that, we take a good look at your competitors to help us create a multi-channel SEO strategy, based on what’s already working in your sector. The first phase is finished with a bespoke plan, clearly setting out the actions and deliverables we’ll complete to reach your goals.
Phase 2: Improving
The improving phase is where the real work starts. With our own custom-built tools, we complete a website quality audit using data from all the online big hitters including Semrush, Ahrefs and Google. This process acts as both a technical and content audit combined, looking at every page on your website to see where we can deliver some quick wins. This is then followed by targeted primary and secondary keyword research and an ongoing strategy for on-page optimisation, so your content is in line with what search engines want to show in their results.
Phase 3: Building
The building phase of the process helps your site to deliver quality content that really hits the mark for your customers and the search engines. Using the results from your website quality audit, we’ll analyse all your existing site pages to improve the quality, targeting and focus of each page and decide whether it needs to be left as is, refreshed or rewritten. We’ll also carry out a comprehensive keyword gap analysis to find the keywords and topics you need to stay ahead of your competitors. Then, based on everything we find, we’ll develop a solid content strategy and creation plan with a detailed content calendar.
Phase 4: Promoting
Once we complete all the work in the previous phases, we’ll start to look at promoting your content to increase your site traffic. Our citation management will help build your online profile in various online directories including Google MyBusiness, while a full backlink audit and cleanup will analyse every backlink you have and make sure it’s as good as it can be. We’ll then look to build new links through comprehensive outreach and acquisition to promote your website, build authority and rank higher.
Phase 5: Evaluating
Moving forward, our evaluation process means we carry out regular auditing to stay alert and react quickly to any technical issues that might occur along the way. And, after every 30 days, we’ll provide a full, custom-built, monthly SEO report with organic traffic stats and conversion data giving you up-to-date information. These reports are one of the main reasons why clients choose us as other agencies can’t provide the same level of detail in such an easily digestible format using their off-the-shelf reports. At the end of your SEO campaign period, we’ll provide a full wrap-up report that shows your overall ROI improvements from start to finish. We’ll also advise you on your next steps to take things to the next level.
Our SEO Timeline
A proper SEO strategy should be an ongoing process indefinitely and it’s why we always advise our clients to invest for a minimum of 12 months. SEO is not typically a one-off process and this is how long it takes to complete the work required to a high standard.
However, a 12-month SEO campaign can typically be split into two sections. The first 6 months will include all the one-off work of setup, research, strategy and on-page implementation. Whilst the last 6 months should then focus on the regular work of building new content and backlinks on an ongoing monthly basis.
Results-wise, you should expect to start seeing improvements in rankings and organic traffic as a minimum by the end of the initial 6 months, once all the one-off work has been completed. When you choose us for your SEO, this is what you can typically expect during this initial 6 month period:
Month 1 is spent doing all the required preparation, setup and research work – and there’s usually a lot more work than you may think. The amount of work will vary from client to client, depending upon the services you’re having, but can include:
- Setting up your website correctly in Google Analytics, Google Search Console and Google MyBusiness.
- Ensuring the correct conversion and/or e-commerce tracking has been put in place.
- Running various technical and content audits to find the pages that are working well and, most importantly, those that are underperforming and need improvement.
- Carrying out market and keyword research to find the most profitable keywords.
- Creating accounts in various rank tracking and reporting tools to correctly measure performance.
- Building a custom SEO strategy, based on our month 1 findings.
Month 2 is where we start making the physical improvements to your website. Using the results of our audits and keyword research from month 1, we now carry out an in-depth on-page analysis. This is where we look closely at all the on-page elements of your pages, listing out what is currently in place and what we propose to change.
Once you’re happy with these changes, we’ll then implement them in various stages, based on the size of the website, starting with the highest priority pages first. This can be a time-consuming process, which usually rolls over into months 3 and 4 of a campaign.
Month 2 is also the time to start thinking about building on your existing content through the likes of blog articles and/or resource guides. We’ll plan out topics in an editorial calendar and build detailed SEO briefs for each topic that any experienced copywriter can follow.
Month 3 is where we start turning our attention to getting your new content online. Our briefs will be passed to your copywriter for them to start writing and, once ready, we’ll upload the content for you and submit them to the likes of Google to get the content indexed as quickly as possible.
Now your website has some linkable content through the addition of blog articles and/or resource pieces, we’ll start doing outreach. First, we’ll perform an in-depth backlink audit and build a bespoke link strategy, based on competitor link profiles. Once we know the kinds of links we need, and how many, we’ll start reaching out and pitching to high-authority sites in your niche to earn placements.
If you’re a local business trying to reach local customers, we’ll also start our citation building service. This starts with a citation audit to see where your business has been listed online and working with you to make sure all the details are current and correct. Once your existing citations are looking healthy, we’ll start to build new ones and work with you to encourage your happy customers to leave reviews on your listings.
By month 4, we’ll continue adding new content and building new backlinks and should also be nearing completion of your on-page implementation work. Depending on the size of your website and how long the on-page improvements take, you may start to see the website move up the search results around this time, although traffic increases may not occur yet.
The key here is patience. While on-page changes can make a website move up the rankings, they can also make it go down. So it’s crucial that we record all changes made and track the rankings closely to see what improvements, if any, take place. After a few weeks, you may find your website needs further changes, based on the results.
During this month, we should also expect to see your first blog articles being indexed by search engines, and therefore see your site ranking for some new, long-tail keywords. Your first backlinks should also be going live around this time, although we shouldn’t expect to see any impact on rankings from those links yet, as it can take Google a few weeks to find and crawl those links.
By month 5, all of the one-off SEO work will be complete and we’ll be continuing to build new backlinks and upload new content. It’s around this time that you should start to expect improvements in traffic over the next couple of months from the increased rankings our changes have generated.
We should also see your first batch of backlinks being picked up and crawled by Google and other search engines during this month. Your citations should also be having a positive impact on your local rankings as well.
By this point, despite seeing improvements in rankings and traffic, you may still find that conversion rates are low. This is because, typically, on-page and content improvements will help your site rank for a wider range of lower competition keywords, which naturally have a lower search volume. But, as search engines start picking up more and more high-quality backlinks to your site, you’ll find it easier to rank for higher competition keywords which will come with higher search volumes too.
By month 6, all services will be in full swing and search engines should start to pick up all aspects of the work being done.
The continuous addition of high-quality and natural links to your website will start to help increase your domain authority, which means you’ll be in a much stronger position to rank for those higher competition keywords. This should result in larger increases in traffic, leading to more enquiries and a higher conversion rate.
From this point onwards, every website will be in a different position. Some may just need to keep everything going to slowly grow or maintain the conversions they’re receiving. Others may not be seeing any results yet and need more time, which may be down to them operating in a more competitive market.
Even with all this information, you’ll probably still have more than a few questions to ask us about your own SEO strategy. Here are a few of our most commonly asked questions:
Common SEO Tools You Can Use
Using some of the best free and paid-for SEO tools can make it easier for you to ensure your website is optimised as much as it can be for the best performance. But, they can also help to manage and monitor your search engine rankings. Here are some of the best tools around to help you.
Google Analytics | £ Free
A great recommendation to get started with. Google Analytics gives you in-depth and high-quality information and data about your website organic and non-organic traffic, your site visitors, conversions and plenty of other metrics in one easy to use dashboard.
Google Search Console | £ Free
Google Search Console really delivers the tools you need to appear in the results for the keywords, terms, and phrases, your ideal customer is searching for. Used in tandem with Google Analytics, Search Console provides easy access to crucial metrics.
Ahrefs | From $99 per month
A more advanced all-in-one SEO tool, Ahrefs is becoming increasingly popular for SEO newbies and experts alike. From one dashboard, you can optimise and analyse your site to track your rankings while using the keywords explorer and other tools to keep tabs on your competition.
Moz Pro | From $99 per month
Another powerful all-in-one SEO tool, Moz Pro helps you to dig beneath the surface to understand your customers, track your rankings and create custom reports. With its in-built site crawler, Moz Pro also searches for any issues that might stop your site from reaching its full potential.
Semrush | From $120 per month
More advanced – and probably better suited to anyone with a background in SEO – Semrush provides a comprehensive set of SEO tools, allowing you to track website improvements and identify which keywords it’s ranking for. The SEO toolkit also lets you see how you compare with your competition.
Let Improve Position Help With Your SEO
Now you know what’s involved and how long it takes for SEO to work, as well as understanding the benefits SEO can give your business, it’s time to let Improve Position help you.
If you’re struggling with your SEO and want to learn more about our SEO process, get in touch today for your free, 30-minute SEO consultation. We can help you with a long term strategy to get you the SEO results you need.