As a company in the digital age, you’ll already understand the importance of search engine optimization (SEO). A website with great SEO will get more traffic, conversions, and brand awareness. But far from a quick fix, SEO requires hard work and patience to pay off. So exactly how long does SEO take?
The short answer is companies should expect to wait 4-12 months to see results. That said, a lot of variables influence these numbers. In this article, we’ll explore these variables, as well as how to measure for signs of SEO success, and how to build a search engine marketing (SEM) strategy to turbocharge your SEO’s effectiveness.
What Components Drive SEO
When you search for something online, your search engine’s complex system of algorithms will instantly draw data out based on what it thinks you’re looking for, as well as authority, traffic, load speed, and more.
Google processes more than 40,000 searches per minute. SEO refers to optimizing your website so it ranks higher in search engine results pages or SERPS. How long does SEO take? The question is complicated by the many factors that go into ranking highly.
While no one can fully predict how the algorithm will rank a website, there are best practices that reliably boost SEO.
One of the more straightforward components on this list, your load speed can have a huge impact on how much traffic reaches your site. Two seconds or less is generally considered the threshold for an acceptable load speed, while website conversion rates drop by 4.42% for every additional second of loading time.
Bounce rate refers to searchers clicking the link to your website, then quickly exiting, and potentially visiting another site instead. It’s a red flag for SEO as the algorithm may interpret it as a lack of quality content on your site, or too slow a load time.
Great content is essential – especially if asking how long does SEO take? Great, informative content also helps in building brand awareness and authority and driving traffic to your website. It underpins inbound marketing strategy. The better your content, the longer visitors stay on your website.
Best Practices in On-Page SEO
To generate thousands of results in seconds, Google uses bots called spiders to ‘crawl’ across the website, continually checking websites’ pages and indexing them accordingly. You can use ‘On-Page’ SEO – also known as ‘Technical SEO’ – to make your website more understandable, or ‘crawlable’ to spiders, leading to improved rankings. Things like meta-descriptions, H1 headers, and alt-text on images all help improve your SEO.
If your website has a history of hacks or viruses, this will likely be held against you, even if you’re now secure, as Google’s algorithm won’t rank something highly if it suspects it may be unsafe. An SSL certificate can help here, as it verifies your website’s credibility. This is essentially a standard for all websites today.
Authority, Relevance, and Trust
The top result on a Google search gets nearly a quarter of all clicks, and it’s estimated that a whopping 95% of all traffic goes to results on the first page of the SERPs.
Not only does this highlight the importance of SEO, but it also speaks to how much trust searchers put in the algorithm to source credible information. While it can feel omnipresent, it’s important to remember that Google is a business as well, one whose business model relies heavily on being seen as trustworthy. Which is all to say, if your website is deemed to lack authority, Google will be reluctant to rank it highly.
Building an SEO Strategy for Business Success
The value of SEO is enormous, but it is not a quick process. Results can be faster than 6 months – some well-established sites will see results in as little as 2 to 4 – but how long does SEO take for an unestablished website? Likely at least 6 months but you can start to results in as little as six weeks.
It takes time to build domain authority and backlinks. And for SEO to reach its full potential, you’re still looking at about a year’s work – estimated at 4 to 15 hours per week devoted to your maintenance and strategy.
For small companies who need swift results to fill their sales pipeline, this can be a real problem. However, with the right SEM strategy, SEO can be a hugely worthwhile investment for your long-term marketing efforts.
Set a Long Term Strategy
When asking how long does SEO take, the patience required might make you wonder if SEO is financially viable for smaller businesses. We say yes. SEO is cheaper in the long run than other forms of marketing, like PPC, and it helps to build longer-term relationships with your buyers.
Ultimately, an optimized, well-trafficked website is an excellent foundation for any brand.
Follow Trends Not Fads
Google updates, changing trends, and new customers mean that SEO is never completely done – and can be a full-time job. If you see the importance of SEO but find maintaining it is stealing time from other vital aspects of your business, you may find it worthwhile to hire a team to help as and when needed.
Putting together a holistic, well-researched content plan, combining your SEO marketing with paid and outbound, and making sure your content is relevant and engaging will all help you speed up growth right from the beginning.
In our next section, we’ll look at the metrics to judge SEO success.
How to Measure Your Success
When you’re asking how long does SEO take, it’s key that you have a way to measure small, accumulating successes. Websites like SEMrush and Google Analytics can give you a wealth of data on how well it is performing over time, but you’ll still need to know what metrics to analyze. Pay attention to:
Number of Backlinks
Backlinks are links on other websites directing traffic to yours. Backlinks can be bought, but great SEO and high-value content will also nurture them naturally.
Content on other websites that directly mentions your brand or products.
Number of pages you have with high rankings.
Searchers arriving at your site from a search query or an unpaid backlink, as opposed to searching for your company specifically or clicking a paid ad.
As mentioned above, your page and domain authority is crucial to ranking highly.
Traffic From Referrals
Traffic to your site from another site’s backlink or another source, like social.
Clicks and Impressions
Clicks are self-explanatory, impressions refer to the number of times a piece of content is viewed, regardless of whether it’s interacted with.
Obviously, the ultimate conversion is to turn your potential buyer into a customer. But conversion simply means getting the recipient of your marketing to perform your desired action, such as clicking a link, filling out a form, or providing their email address.
How long does SEO take? It depends on several factors. It is highly worthwhile but takes time and patience to see a return on investment. Combining it with other marketing methods can often be the key to enjoying both short and longer-term success.
At Nituno, our certified SEO content writers are experts at using inbound, outbound, paid, and video marketing to empower our clients to reach their full potential.
We’ve written a white paper to demonstrate the benefits and best practices of SEO marketing today. Download it here: