How Long Does SEO Take?

Let’s Dive Right In To Learn How Long SEO Takes

Just How Long Does SEO Take?

You are on the phone with your client or maybe you’re in a face-to-face consultation with the SEO services you provide. There are many questions about SEO they’re throwing towards you. But there is one question that has always been the most difficult to answer – how long does SEO take? There are many variables that play a part in optimizing your own website. Now, you need to evaluate those same variables in your competition’s SEO efforts. Sad to say, this makes for an even more difficult answer. The numbers are swimming in your head as well as are the variables. You could give them the numbers game, or you can give a short and sweet answer. It depends. Every SEO consultant or agency must come to terms with this fact. It is impossible to measure a specific timeframe for SEO results. And frankly, there is no “secret formula” because it doesn’t exist. Thankfully, there is less guesswork than there are credible answers. As I’ve mentioned before, it all comes down to the variables in both your own website and your competitor’s websites. According to Search Engine Land, there are three specific criteria’s that determine how long your search engine optimization efforts will take:  
  • Supply Vs Demand
  • Link Building
  • Quality Content

Supply Vs Demand

If you are selling an undesirable product or service, it’s likely you won’t face any competition. On the other side, selling highly desirable products and services will face varying degrees of competition – classic supply and demand scenario. Pro Tip: If you are a kitchen remodeling business, you are less likely to face competition than a real estate agency in the same city. And the real estate agent in that city would face less competition than a national mortgage company. Simply put: the more websites there are in your industry you are up against, the longer it will take to get results. The graph below is a bell curve illustrating the point above. Websites that are ranked lower in Google will be the easiest to outrank than web pages the closer you are to the first page.
bell curve image - how long does seo take - photo credit by search engine journal - four peaks seo
An important factor of competition often overlooked is the distinction between volume within a niche as compared to the competency of the SEO professionals behind those top ranked pages in that niche. A great way to look at this is demand drives companies into specific niches, increasing its competition within that niche. The greater the demand, the more the competition offers competitive deals. This means they must grab a hold of the larger share of that demand to continually increase revenue, month over month. In this type of demand, larger companies can afford the best in the SEO industry, making your SEO efforts longer and more competitive.

Link Building

Link building tactics of the last ten to fifteen years are now null and void but they still play a vital role in SEO. Today’s link building tactics and their impacts, however, depends on a few more key factors. In the beginning, link building was dependent on volume: the more links you have, the better your SEO success, and in less time. Today, the number of links no longer matters. Pro Tip: A mass amount of low-quality links will not help your rankings. In fact, a high number of low-quality links can hinder your SEO success. Instead, focus on nothing but high-quality links from relevant but high domain authority websites. In 2018, the speed at which you earn links and have historically earned links are factors worth considering. A sudden, dramatic increase tells Google you are attempting to manipulate rankings. A natural link growth should look like the image below:
natural link growth image - how long does seo take - photo credit by search engine land - four peaks seo
Now here is where things can be a bit tricky. A “grey area” exists in the link building game. Events such as product launches or a high-quality, shareable content piece could be factors for that “grey area” thus you’re less likely to be penalized by Google.
maybe natural link growth image - how long does seo take - photo credit by search engine land - four peaks seo
Here is where you know you just went wrong and will more than likely be penalized:
definitely not natural link growth - how long does seo take - photo credit by search engine land - four peaks seo
Simply put, the greater speed at which you earn links from relevant, high-quality domain authorities, the more quickly your website will rank. Remember, keep a relatively stable growth during your link building campaigns and you will do well. Only when you use black hat techniques will your website be penalized thus hindering your overall SEO success.

Quality Content

Quality content matters. Period. And we are not just talking about your blog posts but also the content on every single page of your website. Like the last ten to fifteen years of link building, gone are the days of publishing 300-500 word articles. Buying these articles from popular sources such as Fiverr (for, well… $5 USD) is no longer going to help with rankings. Don’t worry – not all content published needs to be miniature novels. While there may not be a defined minimum or ideal length, it must address a “searcher’s intent”. It must be long enough to communicate and effectively solve their problem. Read More about Search Intent Jennifer Slegg, Search Engine Marketing Consultant and Writer of all things search for “The SEM Post”, addresses quality content in just a few but short tweets:
Jennifer Slegg - how long does seo take - four peaks seo

From The Industry Leaders

Brian Dean, owner, and founder of Backlinko weighs in about high-quality content and length:
“Based on SERP data from SEMRush, we found that longer content tends to rank higher in Google’s search results. The average Google first page result contains 1,890 words.
Again, there are no minimum or maximum lengths but there are recommended lengths for better user-experience. Read More about Backlinko’s Case Study There is no right or wrong way when to post content. If you have several pieces of high-quality content ready to be published, publish them. There is no metric or penalty for posting them all at once. Waiting to publish high-quality, relevant content may hurt your SEO efforts. But there’s a caveat here. Our recommendation is having publishing schedule. Why? When new content is added on a regular basis, it encourages Google’s spiders to crawl your site more frequently. This helps with the speed of your SEO efforts. More importantly, this creates “return visitors”. Visitors that return to your website sends a positive message to Google about your UX (User Experience), again, increasing the speed of your SEO efforts.

So, What’s the Point of Hiring an SEO Person or Agency then?

My favorite quote about SEO comes from SEO Expert and Writer for Search Engine Land, Jeremy Knauff:
“Our job is a lot like that of meteorologists, where despite all of our knowledge, experience, and tools, we often get things wrong. And much like my local weatherman, whom I want to choke until he turns blue when my beach plans are ruined by the rain that he promised wasn’t going to happen, our clients are often just as frustrated when they don’t see results from their SEO campaign as quickly as they would like.”
It’s my job as an SEO professional to manage client expectations. If I don’t, then failure is inevitable. With little keyword competition, you may see improvements in organic rankings and traffic in as little as a few weeks. Greater competition may take months whereas highly competitive keyword topics may take a year or more. For example, in Arizona, we have a highly competitive market for “phoenix home remodeling” businesses. Thankfully, our recent home remodeling client was in a “semi-decent” ranking position before starting SEO services. We were able to rank their website to the #4 spot on the first page in a matter of 60 days as compared to being found on page 57! This was no easy task since a website redesign had to take place plus focus on generating leads from the SEO practices performed. Read more about “Phoenix Home Remodeling”. It should be noted when clients and agencies both use tactics that violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, it will work in the short term – in the end, you will be penalized and fall back to square one.


At the end of the day, be prepared for several months to a year before seeing results from your SEO efforts. According to a comprehensive analysis by Tim Soulo:
“only 5.7 percent of newly published pages will get to Google’s top 10 within the first year”
There is no one perfect method for accurately predicting when you will achieve first page rankings for specific keywords, but you can make “best guesses” from certain variables. As you go along your SEO journey, you will discover which niches rank well within a defined period based on those variables.