One of the most common questions any SEO expert gets asked is “how long does SEO take?”
The truth is, no one can say for sure. There are a number of unknown factors at play that influence how quickly and effectively your website rises amongst the ranks in Google search.
I like to think of SEO like exercise. A personal trainer can tell you how to improve your level of fitness. But, the results will take time, and the most critical thing is consistency. The more adherent you are to the plan, the faster you will get to the goal. How long it takes is going to vary widely from person to person.
Like exercise, though, if you do it consistently for 6 months to a year, there’s a good chance you are going to make some significant progress.
In summary, while I can’t give you an exact timeframe for SEO, a well-informed strategy should start showing results within 6 – 12 months.
What is SEO
Before we begin, it’s important that we’re on the same page as to what we’re talking about.
SEO is the process of improving a website’s authority in the eyes of Google, and by proxy, increasing its ranking in the search engine results page (SERPs).
Every time you type a search into Google, the first few results you’ll see are all advertisements. Those businesses that paid money to appear at the top of the search results.
So why invest all this time and money into SEO, when we could just pay to be at the top of the search results?
The answer is two fold.
1) Most people tend to just skip past those advertisements. If you don’t believe me, notice that over time Google has worked very hard to make the advertisements looks more like the organic search results. Tricking your average user into clicking on ads without knowing it.
2) A paid advertisement gets you to the top of the search results. But, as soon as you stop paying it’s gone. A solid SEO strategy gets you to the top, and takes much less resources to stay there.
In the end, an SEO campaign results in a much better ROI (return on investment) than a PPC (pay-per-click) campaign.
Things You Should Know
SEO is a Long Term Strategy
SEO can be a powerful component of your business’s growth strategy. However, for a new website starting completely from scratch, results can take time. The key is to be consistent, be patient, and be sure to have other pieces of your overall strategy in place to sustain your business while you build your SEO engine. Slow and steady wins the race.
SEO is HARD
If everyone knew exactly what it took to rank at the top of the Google search results, it would be easy for people to exploit the system and fake their way to the top.
Because of this, Google intentionally keeps the vast majority of what makes or breaks a high ranking website under wraps. There are something like 200 Google ranking factors, and those of us living outside of the Google headquarters only know a fraction of them.
And the ones we do know, we aren’t even fully aware of their relative weight when compared to the others.
Factors Affecting Your Ranking
Google considers hundreds of ranking factors when choosing who’s number one. Depending on the website, Google may update your score for each of those ranking factors on an irregular basis. If you want to make it to the top of the search results though, it’s important we keep several factors in mind.
Number of Backlinks
Did you know that Google search results are a democracy? Well to some extent that’s the way it is. An important ranking factor for your website is the number of other websites linking back to yours. Google counts these links like votes. When a site links to another site, they are saying to Google “I trust this site as a source of information on this topic.” The more quality links your site has, the more authority you have in the eyes of Google.
Link building is a time intensive process that requires a solid content marketing strategy, and reaching out to other websites who may potentially want to link to your beautiful new content.
Age of the Website
Are you starting to implement an SEO strategy on a site that’s been around for years? Or did you just buy your domain 2 weeks ago? The age of your website can be a huge factor in determining how quickly you see results from your SEO efforts.
Over time, older websites start to naturally accrue backlinks from around the interwebs, and those “votes” add up to naturally boost the authority of older websites. So for a newer website to catch up to an older one in terms of authority, it takes a lot of effort and link building.
Level of Competition
These three things all play off of each other. The number of backlinks, the age of the website, and the amount of competition.
Given two nearly identical websites in the same niche, the one with the higher level of “authority” according to Google is likely to come out on top.
How do you build authority? By building backlinks over time, both naturally and intentionally. By building out content that attracts your ideal clients and customers.
The more competition there is in your niche, the harder this can be to accomplish.
Is your website reliable? Or does it crash all the time? Choosing a reliable host is an important decision. Luckily, these days there are a number of low-cost options to choose from including Siteground, Bluehost, and others.
Are there any broken links on your site? Is it mobile responsive? Does it follow all of the SEO best practices? Technical SEO is the process of painstakingly moving through each and every one of these items and making sure that, from a technical perspective, your website is in top condition.
Fixing things like these ensures your users have a fast, error-free experience on your site that will keep them around longer, and keep them coming back.
SEO can be an addictively fun game to play. Like exercise, it takes the discipline and dedication to perform a set of tasks consistently over a long period of time.
While improving our website’s authority in Google’s eyes can be an expensive endeavor, the payoff, in the end, is free organic traffic from Google search results.
To see SEO success, be sure to keep a watchful eye on your technical SEO. Take the time to write good, relevant content. Lastly, work to build good quality links back to your website. Do all that and with time you will start to see the results.