How long does SEO take to work?

Blogging, Content Marketing, SEO


If you’re looking to do SEO on your website or you’ve started, you may wonder how long does SEO take to work? It’s a very common question to ask if you will start investing in a new digital marketing channel. Understanding how long things work, how long it takes to see results, and how to interpret the results to know if your work has worked is critical to growing your business.

Let’s start with how SEO works.


When you start doing SEO on your website, you help Google better understand your site, making them more likely to show it to people searching online. Google doesn’t understand your site completely without you helping by optimizing the pages on your website for search.


Google looks for insights on what a website is about in specific places on every page, and when you do SEO on your website, you add a keyword to each area that Google will check. Having the same keyword in each spot where Google looks for clues helps them understand that the page is about that keyword.


What should you do for SEO?


You want to choose one keyword for your blog post or page that you will optimize (do SEO on). You need to ensure it’s a unique keyword you haven’t used on another page or blog post before because Google will only show your website or blog two times for any single keyword. Using lots of different keywords helps you have more chances to rank in the search results and get traffic.


You will use your keyword in all places where Google will look for clues on your page; these are called optimization elements.


You’ll want to use your keyword in the following places:

  • Title Tag
  • Meta Description
  • URL
  • Header Tags
  • Copy
  • Image file name
  • Image ALT text


Request my free SEO Content Quick Start Guide to learn how to do all this correctly. It walks you through this step-by-step.


Once your website is optimized the right way, how long does SEO take to work?


Your SEO program will take time to work. It won’t have immediate results, but if you’ve done your SEO right, you will get results. SEO is a long game. Some factors will impact how long it takes for you to see results.


These factors include:

  • The age of your website
  • Your competition
  • The keywords you are using in your SEO
  • The number of links and type of links to your website
  • How users interact with your website
  • The quality of your content
  • The frequency of your content updates


What does all of this mean to your SEO?


The age of your website plays a role in how long SEO can take to work because websites that have been around longer are often seen as more authoritative by Google. They’ve been around longer, built more backlinks from other websites, and all of this plays into their domain authority, which estimates how authoritative Google thinks the website is.


Your competition will greatly impact how long it takes for SEO to work. If you have competitors who are doing SEO and are strong, it may take you a bit longer to see results when you first start than if you’re in a niche where your competition isn’t doing SEO yet.


The keywords you’re using will also impact how long SEO takes. The more competitive the keywords you’re targeting, the harder SEO will be. If you’re targeting lower competition keywords, you will likely see results faster than someone trying to target hyper-competitive keywords.


I had a client years ago who wanted to rank #1 for the term engagement rings. It’s hyper-competitive (823,000 searches every month) and was a nearly impossible challenge. I also wanted to rank them in position #1 for engagement rings because their owner offered to “drape me in diamonds” if I got them to that spot. What girl doesn’t want that? 🤣


But they were a small, independent diamond company with one store, and Helzberg’s Diamonds ranked in position #1 for the term engagement rings. Helzberg has hundreds of stores, and its website has been around for years.


This client wasn’t seen as equal to Helzberg’s in Google’s eyes, and because of that, they weren’t going to beat them and rank in position #1. We did get them to the first page, and we ranked in position #1 for other keywords but never engagement rings because it wasn’t a keyword their brand could rank in position #1 for.


Choosing the right keyword (one that you can rank in position #1 for will help your SEO work a lot better). Today Blue Nile ranks in position #1. That old client is no longer even on the first page for the term even though it looks like they could potentially rank for the term today – they’re not optimizing for it in the right way anymore, which is unfortunate because 10 years later, it might actually be a good option for them. This also illustrates that the keywords you can rank for will change over time. As you get better at SEO, your website is around longer, and your link portfolio grows, you may be able to rank for more competitive keywords.


The number of links to your website and the type of links you’ve earned will impact your SEO timeline too. Links are a major ranking factor for Google. In fact, your content and the links to your site have been the top 2 ranking factors for SEO for over a decade. You need to work to earn good links. Don’t ever buy links from someone; Google does not want you to do that. Link building is all about link earning these days and has been for more than 10 years now.


How users interact with your website is another factor in how long SEO takes to work. You won't rank as high if your website has a poor user experience. If people struggle to find what they’re looking for on your website, the navigation is wonky, or they come, look at one page, and leave quickly because they can’t find what they need or want, then you’re going to have less success with SEO because you don’t have a good user experience. And websites with a poor user experience are not ones that Google wants to send lots of traffic to. If you’re unsure how people interact with your website, check your Google Analytics account and see how much time they’re spending on your site, your bounce rate, and how many pages of content they’re reading. Engagement metrics will help you understand your site is good or bad from a user’s perspective. You want a bounce rate below 60%, an average time on site above 1:00, and pages per visit over 1.0 – the higher, the better.


The quality of your content is critical to your website’s overall SEO success. Your visitors want good content that helps them make decisions or learn about their interests. Google wants your content to help visitors and provide value. Short blog posts or pages that tell visitors almost nothing about your business are not seen as a good user experience and won’t rank as high as ones that provide value. It’s important to consider what the reader wants to know when searching for information on a specific subject. You should anticipate their questions and provide the information they’ll find helpful. Google’s latest big algorithm update in 2022 was the Helpful Content update which focuses on ensuring the content ranking at the top of the search results is truly helpful to a searcher. They were trying to remove listicles and articles that don’t tell you much from the results.


Google also wants content to be updated regularly and wants to have new content to share with searchers. Google created Query Deserves Freshness years ago to essentially help provide new or updated answers to queries. Google doesn’t want to show outdated information or old websites to searchers. This doesn’t mean you can’t keep content on your website for years; it simply means you need to ensure your content is still current and update it on an ongoing basis for the best results. I personally update my older blog posts once a year or so, and I update them based on priority order.


So how long will SEO take to work?


With all this said, SEO will take, on average, 6-12 months to start to work and 12-24 months to see strong results. SEO takes time. You need time for Google to find your new content, index it, and show it to people. Your website won’t likely hit positions 1, 2, or 3 quickly unless you’ve found a keyword with no competition yet.


SEO generally works because your content gets indexed, your website starts to rank for the keyword you’ve optimized for, and, in time, your website moves higher in the search engine rankings for that keyword. As you move higher, you get more organic traffic to your website.


You can learn more about how to know if your SEO program is working in this blog post.


SEO takes time to work, but it’s a super powerful marketing channel that can change everything for your business if you do it correctly. Start by choosing a keyword your website can rank for and follow the steps to optimize your page for that keyword. Do what you’re supposed to do the right way, and you will start to get results.


If you’re ready to get started with SEO today, sign up for my free class and learn what to do so the work you do gets results for your business.