How long does it take SEO to work is one of the first questions we get asked by everyone who comes to us looking for help.
It’s a fair question. You’re investing money, you want to know at what point you’ll start to see results.
It’s also a horrible question, because there’s no way of giving an answer without it sounding like we’re trying to avoid the question.
Because the answer is: It depends.
Yes, we know. But it’s true.
What we can say, is that there is no quick fix to how long it takes SEO to work on your search performance. You won’t suddenly start ‘doing SEO’ and find yourself top of search overnight.
Ideally, you’re talking years of investment and consistency with technical SEO and SEO copywriting. All those websites you see at the top of search today, usually started more than a year ago.
Having said that, you can start to see some movements after a few months.
So, having dodged the question. What are things that will determine how long it takes for SEO to work for your website?
What keywords are you going for?
How you target keywords has changed a lot in the last few years. It used to be that you’d pick a bunch of high-traffic, low competition short-tail keywords, and hammer them until you got to the top.
And for years, it worked. Until everyone started doing SEO and creating content.
Today, while these short-tail keywords retain high levels of traffic potential, they’re incredibly competitive and, unless you already have a website with high authority, you’re unlikely to mount much of a challenge.
Now, it’s better to choose longer-tail keywords, which are still related to the main keyword, but come across in variations or in natural conversation – which is how most people search for things nowadays, rather than using single keywords.
Here’s an example.
Whereas you’d previously have searched for “running shoes”, you’d now look at “best running shoes for marathons”.
These longer searches don’t have the higher levels of traffic (because they’re more specific) but they’re typically easier to rank for, and have a higher conversion rate.
You now also need to factor in voice searches, which rely on more natural language and longer tail searches than single keywords.
We’ve written more about keyword search types in this blog.
Where are you trying to rank?
It makes sense that as your competition grows, the difficulty for outranking other websites grows as well.
For instance, it’s generally accepted that it’s easier to rank for local keywords (less competition) than it is to rank for national or even worldwide (where you’re up against everyone in the world selling the same as you).
Again, this is simply down to limiting your competition.
It’s much easier to rank for local plumbing searches than it is to rank for worldwide SEO agency. It’s simply just down to the numbers of websites who are competing for the same results as you are.
Some local competitors are now trying to rank for searches just outside of their local area, but within a distance that they can serve.
It’s why you see some local service websites with separate landing pages for Manchester and Liverpool, even if they’re based in Warrington.
A lot of it also comes down to cost. Because local searches are typically easier to rank for, you don’t have to put as much budget into SEO to get good results.
But with more competition, you have to invest more to take the top spot of a global company going after the same searches as you.
This is particularly true the closer you get to the top. Generally speaking, it’s harder to break into the top 3 results than it is to get onto the front page. That’s because those top spots are taken by massive companies with huge marketing budgets.
If you want to unseat them, you either need to spend more money, or invest in a clever SEO agency that can be more creative.
Link building is like the difference between telling someone else that you’re great at football, and someone else telling everyone how good you are.
It’s a recommendation from an unbiased third party that your website’s content is worth ranking highly in search. Which is why so many businesses and SEO agencies invest so much time building links.
While ‘organic’ SEO can take months to take effect, link building can add some rocket fuel to speed up the process.
As long as you do it right.
Good link building is about building relevant, high-domain authority links to your website.
The best links to get are from news or industry/trade websites. That’s because Google trusts these sites to only point towards relevant, authoritative websites.
Just know that these links are not easy to get, and it takes investment in content to get close to earning links from these places.
Also, don’t get tempted to fall into the world of paying for spam links or getting involved in blog networks. This is a sure way of getting penalised by Google and wrecking any progress you might have been making
Investing to get results from SEO
Like we said, there’s a lot that goes into SEO and how quickly you’ll start to see results.
As much as we’d like to say differently, believe us it would make our lives so much easier, there is no way of knowing exactly how long it will take SEO to work.
Having said that, if you invest in technical SEO and SEO copywriting that produces great content on your website, it can take less time to start ranking for your keywords than if you simply rush into it.
If you want to get a free technical SEO audit of your website to see where you currently stand, then get in touch.
Or if you’re ready to start seeing better results with SEO using a partner, get in touch with us here.