Why does SEO take so long?


I often have students ask me why does SEO take so long to work. They’re used to more instant fixes in digital marketing – things like Facebook ads can send traffic the same day. SEO can’t. SEO or search engine optimization is a long-term strategy that works great but will not drive traffic starting on day 1. 


It can be frustrating to wait; I get that completely. Part of the frustration comes from not knowing if they’ve done their SEO right and will get results (until they work with me or take my class to learn how to do it right).


SEO takes so much time to work because you are working with Google. Search engines need time to find your content, index it, and begin to trust it, so they want to rank it higher and share it with more people. Google needs to ensure your website is good, trustworthy, and has correct information that their customer (the searcher) will like. As your website becomes more trustworthy in Google's eyes, you'll start to rank for more keywords and get more traffic from your SEO work (if you're following Google's SEO rules which we'll talk about in a minute). 


First Things First, SEO is a Long-Term Strategy.


SEO is not a quick fix but a long-term strategy requiring consistent effort and patience. It takes time for search engines to crawl and index your website and even longer for your content to rank for targeted keywords. It does not happen overnight and, in fact, often takes 12-24 months to start to really "take off," but once it starts working, SEO compounds and can drive more and more traffic for you. 


It's not fast, but the benefits of a well-executed SEO strategy can change everything for your business. A website with good SEO will rank higher in the search results, which helps you get found by the right people more often in Google, generates more organic traffic, and leads for your business. 


The key to getting results is to stay committed to your SEO plan and focus on the long-term goals rather than expecting immediate results.


The compounding effect of SEO is part of what makes it worth the wait. If you knew that every blog post you wrote would eventually rank at the top of Google’s search results, get found by the right people, and drive traffic to your website, it would be a lot easier to write those blog posts, wouldn’t it?


It's important to be Consistent with Your SEO to get it to Work.


I teach my students to write one SEO-friendly blog post each week because this allows them to have lots of opportunities to be found by the right people on Google. Most small business owners know the goal is to write one new piece of content each week for their audience, and I know that can feel like a lot, but when you pair your content with SEO. You write content that your audience is looking for; you have a better chance of that content working to grow your business.


A business owner who writes one blog post a week for a year has the chance to drive thousands of visits from SEO in time. If you choose to target a keyword with 100 searches a month and you can write a great blog post that helps your ideal customer and is optimized for Google, and it ends up ranking in position #1, you could get an average of 34 visits a month from that one blog post. 34 visits a month is equal to 408 in a year. That’s not a huge amount of traffic on its own, but when you take 34 visits * 50 blog posts a year, it starts to add up quickly. 


Now imagine if you wrote one blog post every week for 50 weeks that year, and each of them followed the same process and ranked in position #1. That would give you 1,700 free visits from the first year’s blog posts.


Imagine if you did this for the next five years, and you wrote just one new blog post each week but chose a keyword with a search volume of around 100, your website ranked in position #1, and you got traffic for every post you created. You’d have thousands of visits to your site each month for years. And it keeps growing because the blog posts you wrote in year one are driving traffic too. Suddenly the compound effect of SEO is driving your business. 


  • 1,700 visits for year one
  • 3,400 visits for year two
  • 6,800 visits for year three
  • 13,600 visits for year four
  • 27,200 visits for year five


I had a client in my corporate days who referred to SEO as the unstoppable train for their business. It drove more traffic to their website than other channels. They were awesome about executing the strategy we laid out for them, creating consistent content, and ensuring it was optimized for Google, and they got results every month. They actually stopped doing Google ads and invested the money in SEO instead because we got a better return on their investment. That’s possible for you too, in time.


SEO Takes Time to Work, and Getting it Right from the Start is Critical

I’m not here to promise you that you’ll get amazing results in 90 days because the reality is, I can’t make that promise, and neither can anyone else who’s teaching you or doing your SEO. SEO takes time to work. 


It’s a slow process, but when it’s done right, it does work. It often takes 12-24 months to see results from the effort you’re putting in, but once the results start, it can begin to speed up for future content. I’ve been testing ranking speed for a while now, and I’ve seen some keywords begin to rank within 45 days while others have taken 6 months to start moving up.


In my experience (15+ years now), SEO works when it’s done right, and I know I’ve said that a few times, so let me explain what I mean. I see people make some very common SEO mistakes that are the reason they’re not getting results. They’re trying to choose keywords that no one is searching for, so there’s no audience for the content they’re creating, and it’s going out into that black hole on the internet, never to be found by anyone or they’re choosing a keyword to use in their optimization that their website won’t be able to rank high on Google for, or they’re doing the optimization, but they’re doing it wrong.


Common SEO Mistakes to Avoid so that you get Results


When choosing a keyword, you must consider a few things to ensure your SEO works and your website can rank at the top of Google. You won't get much traffic if you don’t rank at the top of Google (ideally in positions 1-3).


Choose a keyword that your ideal customer uses. If you’re using keywords that your ideal customer isn’t searching for, no one will find you, and you won’t be able to help them. I’ve had a few students recently in this situation, and I dealt with it in the agency world with big brands. It can happen to anyone.


During my corporate days, I had a large outdoor brand client. They made coats, outdoor gear, backpacks, and more. You know the brand though I’m not going to mention their name, but everyone knows who they are. They’re an awesome brand. Anyway, they sold daypacks on their website. They didn’t want to sell backpacks; they sold daypacks. The problem is that consumers don’t search for daypacks; they search for and buy backpacks. We were able to show them (in Google Analytics – in a report that’s no longer available to us) that they were making money from backpacks but not daypacks. After that, they agreed to change the product name and use backpacks, and their sales increased because now they were ranking for the term their customer was using, which helped drive a lot more traffic.


I had another great example of this come up recently when I did a training in a group of doulas, and we were talking about what they should call themselves and what their ideal customer (the pregnant mama) would be searching for. Most people will search for a doula if they’re looking for support during birth, not a birth worker yet; some were using the term birth worker. You must consider your ideal customer and use their terms when searching for something related to your business. You won’t rank for the terms they’re searching for if you’re not using them on your website. And if you don’t rank, your competitor will, and that’s who they’ll buy from because they found them.


You must also use your SEO keyword in the right places on your website page or blog post because Google will look for hints about the page in specific places. If you’re not using your keyword there or the same keyword on every page, it won’t work. If you’re unsure where Google’s looking for your keywords, get my SEO Content Quick Start Guide here, and I’ll walk you through what to do and why. It’s free. I created it to help you get started with SEO.



How to Track Your SEO Progress and Stay Motivated While You Wait


SEO can be slow; you know that now. And it can be hard to keep working on something when you’re not seeing the results yet. I get that. I really do. But know if you’re doing it right and you’re consistent, you will start to see results. You’ll want to use your keyword ranking tool and Google Analytics to track your progress.


SEO generally works because your SEO keyword starts to increase in the rankings, and the page associated with that keyword gets more traffic. I have a blog post here that walks you through how to track your progress and what the different numbers mean.


Cheaters Don’t win with SEO


It can be tempting to try to cheat or do something to give your website a boost. I’m sure you’ve had people offer to sell you links to boost your SEO – please don’t ever do this. Links are important to your SEO; Google sees them as an indication that another site trusts yours and endorses it, which helps Google learn to trust you. However, the links you have and where they come from is critical. You could be penalized if you have links from spammy sites (and good sites don’t sell you links). You need to work to earn links by creating great content that others find helpful and want to share. Earning links naturally is how to build them without getting in trouble with Google.


You must also ensure you’re writing for your ideal customer first and optimizing for Google second. Google wants to deliver high-quality content to its users, and it won’t rank a website with crummy content at the top because people will stop using Google if they feel that the information they get isn’t helpful.


Google wants your content to bring a personal perspective, provide value, and help your ideal customer. You need to be involved in the writing process. I know it can be tempting to use AI tools to create content for you, but they don’t produce the quality it takes to rank at the top of Google. You can use AI tools as a guide – I do that sometimes, but you can’t use them to write your content for you if you want your ideal customer to engage or Google to rank you high. I used an AI tool to help me outline this blog post. It gave me a rough draft to start with, and I’m pretty sure there are about 6 words remaining from that rough draft because it didn’t fit my voice at all.


SEO takes time to work, but it’s worth the wait


Final thought, yes, SEO is slow. It does take time to work, but it’s worth the wait. If you start working on your content and making it more SEO-friendly now, you will get more traffic in time. The longer you put it off, the longer it will take.


A few years ago, people were afraid to learn SEO, didn’t want to deal with it, and were focused on ads and other marketing channels. Still, I’m seeing a big shift, and many more people are interested in learning about SEO today than five years ago, so there will be more competition in search engines as more people start to work on SEO.


Five years ago was the best time to learn SEO, but today’s the second best. Don’t try to do this alone because there’s a good chance you’ll make one of the mistakes I talked about earlier, and then you’ll wait and wait and wait and not see results. SEO takes time; the best thing you can do for yourself is to make sure you’re doing it right from the start so that you get results for your work. If you’re ready to learn SEO, I have a training class that I’d love to have you join.