How Long Does it Take for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) to Produce Results?

This is one of the most common questions circling around the SEO (Search Engine Optimization) industry, and unfortunately, the answer is not so simple.

The success of your campaigns and the time it takes to see results can vary based on the size of your SEO projects, the market that you’re targeting, your current SEO efforts and other factors.

Over the past decade or so, SEO has evolved to accommodate a massive increase in keyword competition and many of the tricks that used to provide a quick turnaround, such as low-quality link building and keyword stuffing — common tactics of cheap SEO services to beware — can now damage your SEO and should be avoided at all costs. Google has also increased its focus on the user experience and searcher intent (heard of RankBrain?), even though it refuses to admit this outright. That means the on-site experience as well as the search experience, making a long-term strategy even more important. A reputable SEO agency knows this and knows the value of integrating efforts across services — SEO, content, paid search and more.

In addition, it has become much more difficult to reach the top of the rankings, which is another concern for many businesses interested in driving results from SEO.

Your search rankings are important, but ranking first should not be your only priority when implementing your SEO strategy. Instead, measure the success of your SEO with other performance indicators such as an increase in qualified traffic, an uptick in conversions or revenue growth throughout the course of your efforts.

SEO that generates results for your business isn’t a strategy that can come to fruition overnight, despite what many SEO specialists may claim (in fact, that’s a huge red flag in choosing a consultant or agency). In reality, to produce quality results, you should consider SEO as a long-term investment that requires thoughtful planning, cross-departmental cooperation and a results-driven approach.

You can get a better estimation of when you can start seeing results by evaluating what stage your SEO is currently in and how long each stage should take to perform effectively. Consider the following when determining how long it should take for your business to start seeing SEO results.

Initial Steps When Planning Your SEO Strategy (0-2 Months)

There are many tactics and factors to consider when creating an SEO strategy for your business and depending on the complexity of your project and your available resources this can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to complete.

For example, if you have a large e-commerce site that tackles several markets or niches, your keyword research will tend to take longer, whereas a smaller consultancy company targeting clients in Austin may only need a couple days to discover their target keyword needs.

When contracting with an SEO service provider or consultancy, the first month or two will be spent planning your SEO campaign, researching your targeted keywords and auditing your content and website in terms of value, user experience and technical efficiency. During this period, they may find that additional keywords should be targeted to create the best return for your SEO investment and this can lengthen your timeline, although this planning is worth the extra time and effort if it increases your opportunity for a better ROI. With Google continuing to adapt its search results based on its evolving understanding of how users actually search, ancillary and long-tail keywords may present a new opportunity, for instance. 

When auditing your existing website, it is common to find technical concerns such as canonical errors, broken 301 redirects, 404 errors, and a messy sitemap, all of which can also take a considerable amount of time to correct. A top-notch SEO agency will know how to prioritize these tasks to get the best results in the quickest fashion, but there’s never one right answer.

In some cases, it may be smarter to completely overhaul your website and make the new adjustments as you rebuild. While in the planning stage, you should document these technical issues and consider the time it will take to fix the foundation of your website’s SEO before executing your strategy.

In the first few months of planning, it’s unlikely that you will begin achieving any noticeable results to your bottom line or your SEO rankings. If you are using an SEO service, they may be able to make a few quick improvements during the planning process, but any impactful results are built by implementing a variety of SEO tactics over the course of your strategy. Value-rich, foundational changes have the biggest, most lasting impact on your search visibility, but, of course, those also tend to take the longest to implement. And then you’ve still got to wait for Google to notice your updates. 

Diving Into Your SEO Strategy Implementation (2+ Months)

After a month or two of planning and upon deciding on a strong course of action, it’s time to begin executing your SEO strategy. This stage has an open-ended timeline since SEO is an ever-evolving strategy that requires a consistent and dedicated approach to content creation, keyword research and competition analysis. As your SEO strategy matures, revisions and course corrections may be needed to accommodate for new opportunities. The best SEO agencies are always analyzing and reporting on their performance, then learning from these results and tweaking the plan as needed. It’s never enough to “set it and forget it” — rather, there’s always some sort of monitoring, learning and ad