How fast does SEO work has got to be one of the most common questions any SEO expert will get.
The exact answer to this question doesn’t exist. No honest SEO service should promise: give us 60 days and you’ll get results.
But that doesn’t mean it takes forever. In fact, the truth is: SEO works faster than a cautious person would expect, but not fast enough for the super impatient.
Here’s a case study to explain and illustrate how long do SEO results take.
After that, we’ll also answer some frequently asked questions on why does SEO take time.
How Long Does SEO Take to Start Working – Case Study
Back in January this year, we added another project to our ever longer website portfolio.
It was a website on sake, the Japanese alcoholic beverage.
From the get-go, we decided not to give it ANY priority. It was more or less a hobby website that we would work on whenever we could spare some time.
Fast forward six months, we have exactly 10 search engine optimized articles.
If you think it’s too few, you’re right!
Normally, we would churn out 2-5 articles per website per week.
But with this site, we haven’t even taken the time to monetize yet.
Here’s what Google Analytics says about organic traffic coming to this website’s pages just from Google.
So we had exactly 886 users over the course of little more than 6 months. That’s definitely not a figure to bring out at cocktail parties, I agree!
But take a look at that line graph. The first spike happened in the first half of April, and was followed by a steady increase in traffic, up to 150 unique users per day.
The May success gives us reason to believe that the traffic will keep rising.
All without doing ANYTHING but planning out some quality content (frankly, very little of it), doing our keyword research for those articles, and of course, some technical SEO to organize the site and present it to Google.
But that’s not the only interesting thing about this site.
Take a look at its list of pages that reaped up most visits.
For some 64% of all the unique users (565 out of 886), the entry point to our website was the article on numbers in Dassai Sake.
This is a perfect example of how things usually work in search engine optimization: one article manages to break the ice, ranking better than all others.
If the keywords it ranked for have a relatively high search volume (that is, many people search for them every month), this article works as an entry point to the entire site and becomes a constant source of traffic.
Even if you only have ONE OR TWO such articles on a huge website, your business could potentially blossom.
So let’s take a look into the search keyphrases our most successful article managed to rank for.
On this list, keywords with the highest search volume are “dassai” (450 people every month) and “dassai sake” (150 per month).
For this short-tail keyword (a phrase consisting of only one or two words), “dassai”, we already hold the position #8. That’s the first page of Google without even trying!
Of course, this is not a brilliant number of visitors. But it’s very good considering how little SEO effort we invested. We did exactly ZERO off-page SEO. No link building at all! No social media either!
Our site speed is okay (which is expected for such a new site), and each blog post is well crafted and optimized, with all the important elements that make it more understandable to Google such as carefully chosen target keyword phrase, title tag, meta description and other types of meta tag.
Now imagine what would happen if we made a broad SEO strategy for this website and tried to target hundreds of long tail keyword (consisting of at least 3 words), which are typically less competitive. And committed to it more than an hour or two every two weeks!
How Long Do SEO Results Take – Answered
If you’ve taken a look at the case study above, the answer to this question should be a bit clearer.
Even if you don’t pull out an ambitious SEO campaign, you’ll begin to notice some results after 4 to 6 months of work.
But what are these results? Views? Clicks? Actual revenue?
It will heavily depend on a number of factors: how competitive your niche is, how much time, effort and workforce you’re ready to commit to your SEO success, how old your website is, whether it needs a complete overhaul…
To be perfectly honest, there’s also a whimsical aspect to it. As we’ll discuss later, Google’s algorithm gets 3 to 4 major updates every year that will often wreak havoc on your SEO ranking before they settle down.
Our experience with this and other websites matches what Google’s Maile Ohye said back in 2017. (And Google hasn’t made SEO any easier since. Quite the contrary!)
Why Does SEO Take So Long?
By its nature, SEO is a long-term game, and there’s no other way of looking at it.
That’s because it takes up to 4 weeks for Google to just crawl and index your pages. That is, to discover them, capture and store the intelligence, then rank them according to its algorithms and serve them back to users.
And that’s AFTER you’ve created and published some great content, which is a process that never really ends.
(If you want more info, take a look at Google’s own article on how their search works.)
However, that’s not all there is. Google makes tiny tweaks to its algorithms EVERY DAY. As if that’s not enough, it also rolls out major, so-called core updates 3 to 4 times a year!
From the users’ viewpoint, it’s great because this search engine constantly reassesses the content.
For an SEO agency, it means tumbling their results up and down, which in turn requires constant effort to stay on top of the game.
And for you as a business owner, it means that you need to constantly hone and improve your website in accordance with the latest practices.
However, this doesn’t mean you have to wait years to see the first results of SEO. Several months of hard work are typically enough to start reaping a bit of what you sowed.
That’s because you aren’t waiting for ALL of the pages on your website to start ranking. Oftentimes, you only need one or two of them to rank well and become an entry point to your website.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much does SEO increase traffic?
In theory, good SEO can increase your traffic up to infinity!
In practise, however, it won’t be possible for a single reason: your competitors are doing SEO too. So you’ll be fighting over who gets a better real estate on every SERP (search engine results page), for every relevant keyword phrase.
How do you know if SEO is working?
You’ll see an increasing number of visits to your website coming from organic search and not social media, Google ad campaigns (if you have them), or a backlink from some other site that links to you.
You can check that easily by taking a single look at your search engine ranking through various tools such as Google Analytics, SEMRush or Ahrefs.