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, we are going to going to show you how to figure out how long SEO would take for you! To do this we will consider three key variables:

  1. your current situation – where you are now
  2. your objectives – where you want to be
  3. your resources – this could be budget, your time or other resources in your business

Our aim is to give you the means to assess your own SEO situation and to determine what is realistically achievable. Alternatively, if you would like a professional opinion just drop us a line via our contact page and we will gladly take a look and give you an estimate of what we think is possible and how long it would take.

Remember, not all SEO needs an agency or deep pockets. You can get started with some Beginners SEO tips here and then move on to a more structured set of small business seo tips here. If you really want to get serious we offer a free SEO audit and plan that you can request here.

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 SEO, local 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 just too many 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 clear SEO KPIs and monthly reporting that considers not only SEO metrics but how these are moving the dial with real-world business objectives (leads, sales etc).

It is also really important to define what we mean by working here.

  • If your website is on page 5 of Google and each month it moves forward a page your SEO is working
  • However, you will be unlikely to generate leads or sales from SEO until you get to the top of the first page

It is crucially important to understand not only what success looks like (leads and sales) but also what progress looks like.

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 of digital marketing tactics.

How Long Does SEO Take To Start Working?

Again, this very much varies on a case-by-case basis.

We can illustrate this by looking at two ends of the SEO starting point spectrum.

  • If you are an established brand or big business and have tons of authority but technical or strategic SEO issues, fixes or content development can deliver big results relatively quickly.
  • For the majority of SME businesses, it will take months to generate some initial results and traffic can then be developed over time.

The reality is that the only way you can determine accurately how long SEO will take is to clearly define your objectives, determine your current position and see exactly what you need to do to go from SEO Zero to SEO hero (a manual SEO audit and plan can help with this).

There are no easy answers here

SEO can be a cost-effective and powerful marketing tactic, but it is not easy, or quick.

Like most marketing SEO needs commitment and expertise to get great results but once established, it can be hard to beat.

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 review your current situation and give you some feedback on how long SEO will take for you!


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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