One of the first questions we get asked by potential new clients is how long does SEO take? If you Google around you will see the general answer given here is between 4 to 6 months. But this is a bad answer. It is a generalised answer for starters and does not take your current situation or objectives into consideration.

In this post, I am going to try and give you an overview of how to determine how long SEO would take for you. This will consider three key variables: current situation, objectives, and budget. Of course, you can always tackle SEO yourself. We have a bunch of SEO tips for beginners to help you get started, and a more structured set of SEO tips for small business for those with a little more time and experience.

We love to help at Bowler Hat, so if you are challenged for time, drop a comment below or fire us a message on our contact page and we can give you some input on what an SEO campaign would look like for your business. 


Defining Results…

An important caveat here is how we define what SEO results look like. To an SEO agency, it may be that we are seeing positive movement for your major SEO KPIs: rankings and organic traffic. However, as a business, results may mean seeing conversions from organic traffic. So, if the agency moves you from page 5 to page 2 then that’s definitely progress. But, it may not be the kind of progress that generates business (yet). So, it is important here to understand that SEO is a process yet it will likely not drive real-world results until we make it to the top half of the first page.

It’s also important to remember that SEO will drive increased exposure and visibility, however, your website still has a job to do here to convince those visitors to take the desired action. Lots of moving parts.



How Long Will SEO Take For You?

So this is the big question – and it needs clarity with regards to the objectives which should be to bring new leads or sales into the business.

There are three main variables you must consider here:

  1. Situation – where are you currently? What search terms do you rank for and where do they rank? How much volume will these keywords drive? How much authority does your website have in relation to the competitors? What content assets do you have? Do you have technical SEO issues? Do you have a content management system like WordPress? A thorough assessment of your situation will determine your starting point and what SEO tactics are needed.
  2. Objectives – where do you want to be? What search terms do you want to rank for? How quickly do you need this to work? How active are your competitors? Your business objectives will determine if SEO is a good fit for you at this point in time. Often, paid search (PPC) marketing can be a better starting point and then when that is driving profits these can be reinvested into your SEO and organic search marketing.
  3. Budget, expertise & resources – When you understand the current situation and objectives you can determine what needs to be done to get you to where you need to be. This could involve having a new website, technical SEOlocal SEO, content development, link & authority building and myriad other jobs – in brief, SEO can have a lot of moving parts so you have to ensure you have the expertise, time, and budget for the bits you can’t or don’t have time to do yourself.


Clearly, it’s hard to give a general answer. There are a lot of variables that need to be considered. SEO can never be good, fast, and cheap. In fact, it can only ever be two of these. Fast and cheap? It won’t be good. Good and fast? It won’t be cheap! Cheap and good? It won’t be fast. You get the picture.

Determining how long SEO will take is equal parts art and science. And just to further complicate things it is all too often a moving target. Algorithm changes, SERP layout changes, competitors’ SEO campaigns and myriad other variables have to be taken into consideration. But, it is essential that you form a realistic opinion as investing for six months without hitting your goals and then pulling the plug is not good marketing. This is why SEO needs monthly reporting that considers not only SEO metrics but how these are moving the dial with real world business objectives (leads, sales etc).

In the majority of cases, getting an accurate idea of how long SEO will take for you will require the help of an SEO consultant or expert. Digital marketing is complicated, and SEO, whilst potentially lucrative, sits at the very top of the difficulty spectrum.


How Long Does SEO Take To Start Working?

To summarise, in some cases, SEO can start working almost instantly. If you are a brand or big business and have tons of authority but technical or strategic SEO issues, fixes here can deliver big results in short timescales. For the majority of SME businesses, it may take months or even years to reach your SEO objectives. To determine how long SEO will take for you we must analyse the current situation against your objectives and factor in your budget and resources.

So, no easy answers. Unfortunately. If you are struggling to get a handle on this drop a comment below or give us a shout on our contact page and we can give you some feedback on how long SEO will take for you!


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2 Responses

  1. Hey Marcus, in our experience one year is a reasonably safe projection for clients to see significant improvement. It may happen quicker, but all too often the easy ones take the longest 😉


    1. Yeah, it is tough. We have had huge results in weeks when there are technical issues holding people back. We have also had edge cases where after doing everything right sites won’t budge. Typically, things will start moving forward straight away. I guess my point with this was that real results, as in sales and leads and enquiries and all that good stuff, these won’t come till things are hugely improved so it’s important to set realistic timelines with clients so everyone is on the same page. 🙂

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