When planning investment in SEO, businesses always want to know how long it will take before they see results. While there are a number of factors which can dictate the length of time required to see the full impact of SEO (if there is such a thing), you should start to see an impact within 30 days of implementing a lot of tactics, especially those which focus on onsite technical or content fixes.
However, you need to keep in mind that the initial impact will be small and large performance changes are rare in those timeframes. Typically, you should start to notice search engine visibility improvements first, these are a good early stage indicator if the strategy will be successful. Again, rankings aren’t likely to jump from position 50 to position 5, but you will see progress. Following this, you will then experience increasing organic traffic levels, which should lead to additional conversions.
Within three months, you should have a strong sense of if the strategy is going to be effective, and this should be confirmed within six months.
As with any stratgy, there are several areas which determine the exact lead-time for significant results. For example, a website operating in a low-competition market which has several significant, technical failings can potentially see significant advances in the search results when those failings are identified and resolved. The faster the suboptimal technical issues are identified, and fixes are implemented, then the sooner the results of this stage of optimisation would be seen.
Another example that demonstrates how the specific SEO goals of individual websites affect how long it will take to see SEO results is a website operating in a highly competitive marketplace which is already significantly optimised but wants to gain top rankings, traffic and conversions from some topically-related high competition search queries. In this case, detailed analysis of the search space, competing websites, their content, backlink profiles and promotional activity will be needed. This, along with additional data, will be used to inform content and promotional strategies which will enable the site to beat the competition in the search results. This all takes time to carry out, and it takes more time for Google to discover and respond to the changes made.
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When considering the assessment of success or failure and how long it takes to achieve SEO success, it’s essential to clarify exactly what’s meant. Many businesses and organisations conflate ‘SEO results’ with ‘top rankings’. While gaining top rankings for targeted keywords is often an enormously beneficial and desirable SEO outcome, it isn’t always representative of what’s really desired. What most businesses and organisations want is what they gain from establishing and retaining top organic rankings. Ranking at the top of the Google search results for popular search queries will bring traffic. And ranking for search queries with a purchase-intent will bring converting visitors to the site. Relevant traffic and converting visitors are two of the primary SEO goals for most websites.
When considering how long it’s likely to take to achieve SEO results, it’s a good idea to define precisely what these desired results are clearly. This information can then be used to set realistic SMART objectives for your SEO agency to work toward achieving.
Factors Affecting SEO Progress
Google’s organic search ranking algorithms use over 200 signals along with sophisticated artificial intelligence to speedily present search results which are determined to be the most appropriate and relevant to a search query and user. Many factors influence how quickly each website is likely to see gains in the search results as a result of SEO. Here’s a summary of key influencing factors.
Domain Age and History
Brand new domains have an SEO disadvantage over established domains which have a trusted history. Onsite changes on an established website are likely to be detected sooner by Googlebot than modifications made on a brand new site.
Expertise, Authority and Trustworthiness
Google’s search quality evaluator guidelines advise their staff on how to assess web page quality. Evaluators are prompted to consider the expertise of the creator of the main content, their authority and their trustworthiness.
Raising the quality of existing site pages is often an important element in an SEO strategy, but these improvements take time to determine, more time to implement and then further time is needed for Googlebot to detect and respond to the changes.
Competition in the search results can often be tough to beat. A brand new website with zero history will struggle to overcome an established online brand website that’s been in existence for decades. Targeting lower-competition search queries can be an effective tactic.
Google’s webmaster guidelines provide valuable guidance in what Google needs to find, index and rank a website. If a website doesn’t meet these guidelines, significant work will be required from the site designers and developers to make the site compliant. The time taken to determine the fixes required and for the site developers to implement and test the necessary changes will affect how long it takes before Google identifies and responds to the improvements.
The quality of site content was previously mentioned in regards to Expertise, Authority and Trustworthiness. But there are many other aspects of site content which are very important, including:
- The number of indexable pages
- The volume of indexable text
- Metadata (including page titles, meta descriptions and structured markup)
An SEO content strategy will aim to optimise existing content and embark on content creation to expand the amount of valuable, indexable site content. The SEO status impact of these content changes is unlikely to be immediate as it takes time for Googlebot to detect, crawl and index the changes.
Backlinks continue to play an important part in SEO. But these days link-quality is far more critical than link-quantity. Gaining relevant, authoritative backlinks from trusted sources makes a valuable contribution to Google’s assessment of expertise, authority and trustworthiness associated with site pages. Assessment of competing site backlink profiles can indicate what’s likely to be needed to match them in the search results. Attracting and establishing links from appropriate domains takes a great deal of effort. It involves the creation of link-worthy content, carrying out outreach and composing content to be published from other websites which all takes time to expedite and even more time for Google to detect.
User behaviour and experience significantly influence organic search rankings. Google collects data from their search results such as clickthrough rates (CTRs) to various web pages in relation to the search queries for which they were surfaced. The critical point is that Google aims to rank pages in their search results, which are engaging, informative and offer a great user experience. SEO will seek to enhance user-experience, but like other optimisations, these take time to determine and more time to implement and assess.
How to Accelerate SEO Progress
A new SEO project will typically commence with a phase of detailed investigation and discovery involving a technical audit of the existing website, assessing the competition and gathering keyword research data. The technical audit will generally result in a list of optimisation actions that will often be dependent upon site developers, designers and server administrators. SEO progress can be accelerated by promptly addressing these fixes and site enhancements.
The SEO project will assess various aspects of the existing site content, including metadata to determine where improvements and optimisations can be made. As for technical fixes, the sooner these optimisations are implemented by those responsible then, the quicker the SEO impact will be seen.
Similarly, throughout the SEO project progress and performance will be dependent upon how quickly determined optimisations can be carried out by those responsible. Being highly responsive and implementing recommended changes, fixes and enhancements as soon as possible accelerates SEO progress toward achieving desired goals. Remaining aware of lead-times and delays regarding various action and implementation requests is important when tracking SEO project progress.
Achieving great results from search engine optimisation doesn’t happen overnight. Determining the strategies which will achieve defined SEO goals takes time and more time is then needed to carry out determined actions. These actions often fall to various people outside the SEO agency, so it’s important that they can respond as quickly as possible. On top of this, it takes time for Google to discover and respond to changes that have been made.
It should be clear that the answer to the question: ‘How long will it take to see results from your SEO’ is dependent upon a multitude of factors. One of the most significant is how quickly various fixes, optimisations and implementations can be carried out.