One of the most common questions we hear from new clients is “How long will it take for us to see results from SEO?”
Like many digital marketing questions, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. The amount of time required to see results from SEO depends on a variety of factors, from the point you’re starting from to the market you’re targeting, your expectations and even your budget.
There’s a common saying amongst search engine optimisation experts that SEO “is a marathon, not a sprint.” Thanks to Google’s Panda and Penguin updates, we know that trying to sprint to a fast result in SEO can often end up costing your business far more than it earns.
So, how long does it take to get results from SEO? Before we give the short answer, let’s look at the four primary factors that determine how long it will take for your business to see real results in terms of traffic, lead generation and revenue from SEO.
The more competitive your market, the longer it will typically take to achieve great search engine rankings.
This is because Google’s algorithm is designed to serve the most relevant, trustworthy result for every search term. Relevance is calculated by analysing your on-page content, whereas trust is signalled by other trustworthy websites linking to yours.
When you enter a competitive market with a fresh, new website with few links, you’re competing against entrenched competitors. These competitors may have been operating in the industry for years, or even more than a decade, with their own optimised websites and thousands of links.
Your website, on the other hand, might be brand new and barely linked to. As a result, the time involved in reaching the top position is immense. Luckily, there are several ways for you to start generating results without directly competing with your larger, stronger competitors:
- You can optimise for long tail keywords, which deliver a smaller amount of traffic but typically have high conversion rates and are significantly less competition in organic search.
Interestingly, data from a Search Engine Watch study shows that keywords of 11 to 30 characters in length convert far better than short keywords, making them a great target for your initial SEO efforts.
- You can optimise for first page rankings that aren’t necessarily in the top 1-3 positions, then focus on optimising your title and meta description to get the highest possible CTR and earn more traffic than your competitors.
- You can optimise for local search instead of competing against national and international businesses, letting you tap into a less competitive, more familiar market.
As you can see, while it can take quite a long time to rank for your primary keywords, ranking for long tail or local keywords lets you start generating rapid results from your SEO efforts by going after a smaller, more defined market.
One of the most important factors in determining how long it will take for you to get results from SEO is your website. The more established your website is before you start SEO, the faster you will begin to see results.
There are some exceptions to this, such as for websites that have a Google penalty due to poor SEO practices. However, most established websites already have high quality links that make it easier to optimise the website for organic search.
If you have a website that’s several years old, has been featured in local or national media and has a reasonable amount of high quality content already, it may only take a few small changes to your on-page SEO to improve your rankings and start generating more traffic.
On the other hand, if your website is brand new, reaching the same level as your competitors can be a more involved, time-consuming process.
Every website is unique, and there’s no exact formula for determining a website’s ability to rank in search for its target keywords. If you’re interested in SEO and need to know how to optimise your website, our team can audit your website and provide an actionable SEO strategy.
If you’ve recently opened a bank and want to outrank Lloyds, Santander and Natwest for search keywords like “credit cards”, it’s unlikely you’ll succeed any time soon.
A key aspect of generating real results from SEO, in terms of both traffic and revenue, are your expectations. The more realistic you are about your target search keywords, the faster you’ll be able to see real results from your SEO campaign.
This is one reason it’s best to optimise for long tail or local keywords as a small, newly opened business. By keeping your expectations realistic in the early stages of your SEO campaign, you can focus on making gradual progress towards your ultimate SEO goals.
All too often, expectations of rapid progress in SEO lead to great rankings, followed by a swift and aggressive penalty from Google for improper linking practices or weak on-site content. It’s better to enter SEO with the expectation of continual progress than instant results.
There are no shortcuts in SEO, and the few that exist rarely last very long. Instead of chasing the ultimate prize right away, focusing on continual growth and improvement lets you generate small results shortly after starting your SEO campaign, and big results in time.
SEO isn’t a spending contest, but your budget does play a role in how quickly you can expect to rank for your target keywords. A higher budget allows you to buy higher quality content for your website and dedicate more time and attention to tasks like outreach and link building.
This doesn’t mean that you need to spend a fortune on SEO. In fact, if your business targets a small market with little competition, you can expect great results from SEO without spending a particularly large amount, provided your website’s content and links are on point.
So, how long does it take to get results from SEO?
With great on-page content that’s optimised for your target keywords, realistic keywords that are achievable for your website and the right combination of outreach and link building, you can see real, measurable results from your long tail SEO keywords in as little as three months.
In a highly competitive market, results can take longer to arrive. However, once they do begin to arrive, the amount of traffic and leads you generate from SEO will gradually increase over time, giving your business continual improvement every month.
One of the best aspects of SEO is that the results continue to grow over time. What starts as a single phone call from a customer who found your website through a long tail search keyword can often evolve into a steady, predictable stream of leads, sales and incoming revenue.
As the saying goes, “SEO is a marathon, not a sprint.” Focus on small gains early in your SEO campaign as your website establishes itself as a relevant, trustworthy source of information for your target audience, and before you know it, you’ll see steady, measurable progress.