Like most good things, SEO isn’t something that suddenly works. Instead, the effects build up over a long time before finally success the threshold that causes your rankings to jump. Even more confusing is how rankings typically don’t show steady improvement. Instead, they stay the same for long periods before quickly improving. Depending on your site’s initial rank, this pattern may need to repeat for several times before the maximum results are seen.
This logically leaves those who aren’t used to the process wondering just how long it will take for SEO to work. If nothing occurs for a month, is it normal or a sign that you’re being ripped off? There are a few issues that go into determining how long you should imagine to wait and what may be mandatory for SEO to work at all:
Your SEO Method
While the overall goal of SEO has always been to get more traffic to a site, the exact means of doing so have different. Years ago, the method was simple: Identify high-traffic, low-competition keywords and try to get #1s for all of them. This worked absolutely perfectly for many years, and if you can achieve it, it will still work now. However, thanks to the arrival of huge competitors like Amazon, Wikipedia, and others, most “big” keywords have become tremendously hard to win. It can take years of dedicated effort to unseat a site like Amazon from a highly-relevant, high-traffic, profitable keyword.
Because of this, Forbes reports that the chances of success are higher when going after “Long-Tail” keywords. These are ones that are connected to the main idea, but that comes up when discussing the topic with “Ordinary Language.” Since it’s almost impossible to purposely aim for all of these keywords, they are far less competitive than the main ones.
With this method, the Forbes article estimates that it can take four months or more to start seeing results from SEO Services, and up to a year or longer to see the full effect. Importantly, this approximation includes some months for research, site overhauls, and content creation.
Local vs. National or Worldwide
It’s an open secret that, in most areas, it’s a lot easier to rank for Local Keywords than national or worldwide ones. This is only because there is less competition. In fact, in some small towns, there may be no competition at all! While the latter situation is fewer and rarer as local service providers understand the power of the internet, it is still true that most locales have only a few businesses covering each service industry.
Meanwhile, if your product or service can be sent nationwide or farther, you have to compete against every other company in your niche – no matter where it is based. This greatly increases the amount of competition involved, so it’ll take far longer for you to claw your way to the top of the heap.
Search Engine notes that the speed of SEO’s effect slows down as you get near the top listings, regardless of competition level. That’s because those at the top typically have bigger SEO budgets, so they are harder to beat. Depending on the niche in question, it can take some serious financial firepower to unseat the #1 listing.
Despite sufficiently of people parroting that “Content Is King,” SEO has always been about links. Without them, nobody sees your content to know if it’s any good or not! Google removed its PageRank listing in part because it made it super-easy for Webmasters and SEOs to see if a page had enough links, which, as Moz notes, then resulted in people taking steps to hugely rise their link counts in order to brute-force their rankings. Of course, Google didn’t appreciate how this restricted with their goals, so they made their system more complex.
Even with many changes since then, links are still important to SEO and if you can get good ones fast, your efforts will work faster. Unfortunately, this is no longer just a case of firing up a link-generating program and letting it run all night. Instead, Google now pays care to link value, velocity, and whether or not the links stick around or drop off suddenly.
No Answer for How Long SEO Work
Due to all of these variables and many others, there is no solid answer for how long it’ll take SEO to work for a exact site or page. If you already have great content, attract new links on a regular and natural basis, and little competition, it will take less time for a thoughtful SEO effort to start to pay off. On the other hand, if your site has bad content, hardly any links (or worse, Google penalties from link spamming), and other problems, your SEO program will first have to correct these issues before it even has a hope of working. This, needless to say, will take far longer.
One of the best ways to get results as fast as possible is to hire an effective, experienced SEO company. This way, you’ll avoid pitfalls that can slow or even derail your efforts. You’ll also be able to focus on your own business, while the pros take care of the hard work of getting more organic traffic to your site.