Increasing Lead Flow
25 min read
Updated: July 21, 2020

How Long Does SEO Take to Start Working?

SEO has become more important as a marketing channel as more people have turned to the Internet to help them solve daily problems, find businesses, access information, and purchase products and services. No matter what kind of business you run, your online presence will determine your overall success and help drive new customers to your brand. Improving your SEO, or search engine optimization, is a key part of maintaining your competitive edge and remaining relevant, present, and visible to your customers…wherever they are!
How Long Does SEO Take to Start Working?

Search engine optimization is the process of optimizing your website or eCommerce store so that search engines like Google can direct potential customers in your direction. Through the use of keywords that relate to your brand and products, a good SEO strategy developed by experts can connect you with people who are likely to become customers.

SEO is different from many other marketing channels in that it directly connects people who are actively looking to make a purchase, at least in many instances. Rather than being presented with an advertisement while scrolling through social media channels, or seeing a billboard on the way to work, SEO targets people who are actively searching for a company to do business with or to purchase a product or service from. That makes it incredibly effective, and one of the most important marketing strategies for any business.

SEO Search Results

It’s important to note, however, that optimizing your website isn’t a one-time thing, and nor is it instant. SEO takes time to start working and requires constant oversight of your strategy and its implementation to make sure your website stays on top. That’s because Google algorithms and requirements are always changing, and as bad-faith actors attempt to rig the system against legitimate businesses, Google and other search engines will adapt their algorithm to favor those legitimate companies.

This is what makes long-term strategy important, and why it’s in the interests of any business to take time to understand SEO strategy, or to hire a team of marketing and SEO professionals who can do it for them.

SEO strategy is by no means a quick job, but when done properly, it ensures your business is easily accessible for people in your select markets who are actively searching for your products or services. So, let’s take a look at the fundamentals behind SEO marketing, why it takes time for SEO to work, and what you should consider when implementing an SEO strategy.

Why Does SEO Take Time to Start Working?

SEO strategy takes time to deliver results for a multitude of reasons, but the primary consideration here is that there is just so much competition. If you’re a company that sells shoes, you are in immediate competition with the thousands of other companies all over the world that do the same. Your product might be unique, but the fact there are so many other companies out there with their own search engine optimization strategy means it’s going to take time for search engines to decide who should appear first on search listings for given keywords.

Beyond competition, there’s the question of how often Google is willing to refresh those results. Algorithms are changing all the time, and websites need to be given the chance to establish themselves. If results are changed too frequently, users will be presented with vastly different search results every time they look for something online.

The fact that those algorithms change and search engines refine how they determine the rankings of websites mean that your SEO project should be long-term, too. You may invest in a short-term SEO strategy that immediately gives your site a boost, but unless you stay on top of that strategy and continue to adapt to the latest algorithm changes, your strategy will fail long term.

We’ll take a deep dive into strategy, competition, and Google updates throughout this piece.

Key Variables That Determine How Long Your SEO Will Take

Let’s start with three key variables that will determine how long your SEO strategy takes to work.

Good Strategy

There’s so much at play when it comes to SEO strategy, and the decisions you make will determine how long that strategy takes to work. As we’ve established already, your success in establishing yourself high in the SERP (search engine results page) rankings depends on your ability to continually adapt to changes and stay on top of your content. Strategy takes into account competition, keywords, content, algorithms, and more.

Wanting quick SEO results is one thing, but even if those changes occur quickly, it doesn’t Marketing and SEO specialists stress this point to every business they work with. Don’t assume that finetuning your website one time will fix your problems. The time it takes for your to SEO ranking to update after a single fix is the last of your concerns – you need to be thinking long term.

Competition

The bigger your competition, the longer it will take for your SEO campaign to see results. You will see changes to your rankings at the same speed as everybody else, presuming you put the work in and follow a solid strategy, but you can’t expect to appear at the top of the first page in the first week. It may take years to get to the top of a highly competitive search page.

Keywords and Content

Keywords and Content

Keywords can come under the categories of strategy and competition. These are the words that people use in a search to find your business. You use these keywords in your content to give search engines something to look for.

The way you use these keywords determines the success of your SEO strategy, however. Old SEO strategy said that the more you use a keyword the more likely your page is to appear higher up on the search page – but that doesn’t work anymore. After the practice of “keyword stuffing” became popular, where websites would load pages with keywords in order to attract people to their site, search engines refined the algorithm to be more sophisticated.

Your ability to use keywords in a smart and honest way will determine the speed and success of your SEO strategy.

The Role of SEO Strategy

Your SEO strategy is everything. You can include new keywords on your page, but if you’re not doing everything else, your competition will trounce you on technical SEO.

SEO strategy exists precisely because there are so many variables and elements to this kind of marketing, including on and off page SEO.

On page SEO refers to the things you can control on your site. It’s what you can immediately handle yourself through keywords, content, images, load speed, and more. Off page SEO refers to everything you can’t immediately handle yourself, including promotion on major media outlets, backlinks from other websites, or posts about your website made on social media done by big names.

SEO strategy really is everything, and while some people have the connections needed to develop off page strategy through social media backlinks, there are things every business can do either by hiring experts or learning about it themselves.

Optimizing Your Content

When it comes to content, there are several things to think about beyond the words that appear in paragraphs on each page. Your content includes your headlines, title tags, your meta titles, and meta descriptions.

Metadata is what appears to searchers on a search engine page. The use of appropriate keywords here is important to entice those searchers but also to give search engines an anchor term. Without using the right keywords, a search engine won’t find you when pointing people in your direction.

Meta title and Meta description examples

Remember that Google actively discourages people using dense blocks of text loaded with keywords. That gives you more reason to create text that your visitors will want to read, and makes you think about including keywords in more natural ways.

When optimizing your content, consider the length of your content, the detail you cover (and consider whether that can be split into several pages), and the relevance of keywords to the service you provide. Even if you fill a page full of keywords about shoes, if your business sells cars, Google will know. Whether through image data, videos, reviews, or social media posts, search engines will know you’re trying to rig the system.

You should carefully think about your Google keywords, too. Finding the keywords that best relate to your product, which are searched frequently, and also give you the best opportunity in terms of competition, is another consideration to think about. The Google keywords service helps you research keywords, see how many people search those words, and assess the competition with other businesses. You should choose keywords that specifically relate to your product, to ensure your website is relevant to searchers, and choose a combination of highly competitive and less competitive words.

Technical SEO

Then there’s technical SEO…which is a whole new world! This refers to the technical things you can do to your website that improve the experience for visitors. This affects your Google search rankings thanks to changes in the search engine algorithms. Instead of relying solely on keywords, search engines will favor websites that offer a positive user experience.

First, consider the speed of your website. If your website takes too long to load then it’s more likely that a user will click the “Back” button and click onto a different website in their search results. It also makes it harder for a search engine to crawl through your content and find important and relevant information to the search.

Technical SEO

For this reason, it’s important to ensure the images on your website aren’t unnecessarily large and that data is split between pages. Put too much content and data on one page and not only is it a nightmare in terms of user experience, but Google and other search engines just won’t be able to rank you properly.

Another important thing to consider is your website’s ability to adapt to different screen sizes. More people than ever are accessing website primarily on their phones or tablets, meaning it’s important your website isn’t only optimized for desktop machines. The solution to this is creating a mobile-specific version of your website that loads when someone accesses the site on a mobile device. Perhaps a better option, however, is a responsive website that looks the same but moves buttons and navigation menus around depending on the screen size.

Google prefers websites that are adaptive and responsive.

Take the time to amend these things and keep your website speedy, and you’ll reap the benefits in your search engine rankings.

Analytics

Analytics should also form the core of your SEO strategy. This is a software tool provided by Google, and also refers to the general process of analyzing data and ensuring you’re making the right decisions in your SEO strategy.

With Google Analytics, it’s possible to see how many people are reaching your site and through which keywords, and even analyze traffic from different websites. The software gives you an insight into the SEO measures you’re using and how effective they are. The software even provides regular reports, collecting important data and compiling all the key takeaway for you.

These include:

Behavior Reports

SEO Analytics Behavior

Behavior reports look at how users interact with your website. It shows if users use your site’s search function and that path they take through your site. It shows how many people visit each page and which page they often land on first. It’s a super valuable piece of information, helping you redirect resources where possible, and understanding which pages need the most attention to keep readers engaged.

Acquisition Reports

SEO Analytics Acquisition

Through acquisition reports, you can see pre-click information, including impressions and queries, as well as bounce rate. It looks at how social media impacts engagement on your website and gives you data on how campaigns are affecting engagement on your website. This helps you finetune campaigns designed to increase engagement.

Audience Reports

SEO Analytics Audience

An audience report gives you an insight into how many active users are on your website at any time, allowing you to filter through given periods. You’ll see the lifetime value of each user based on their activity on single or multiple sessions, and get to know more about user behavior. Again, this helps you finetune your SEO strategy.

The Role of Competition in How Long SEO Takes

Now you should have a better understanding of how analytics and technical SEO works, so let’s take another look at competition. We’ve already discussed the basic principle of how greater competition means more people using the same keywords as you, and how that can impact your ability to reach the top of SERP (search engine results pages).

Your competition is determined not just by the companies out there who offer the same product or service as you, but by the keywords you use. Even if your company is virtually identical to another, you may not be in competition for various reasons. You may, for instance, only serve customers of a certain demographic or in a specific location. In these cases, your keywords because more specific.

If you provide computer repair services in Jacksonville, Florida, you won’t be competing with other companies using keywords like “computer repair services.” Instead, you will be competing with geo-specific keywords. In this example, you would compete with keywords like “computer repairs in Jacksonville” or “computer repair services in Florida.”

The number of companies competing for these specific keywords will determine how long your SEO takes, or how much finetuning it will take to get things right. The best way you can speed up that improvement in your search engine rankings is to use a variety of SEO tools and strategies, as outlined above. Consider the keywords you use and think about where you use these keywords. In geo-specific businesses, think about using location keywords as a priority.

Competition forces you to get smart with your SEO strategy!

The Role of Google Updates

As we’ve already briefly discussed, Google is always changing the algorithms it uses to determine how websites are ranked on its search results. These changes take place to ensure that websites looking to scam users or increase their traffic by tricking searchers are not given an unfair advantage over websites that are legitimately offering a service or products that users are actively searching for.

Google updates help the end-user in that they ensure searchers are presented with the most relevant information every time they search. They also mean that businesses, while still facing competition, face fair competition when they compete for the top space under specific keyword searches.

SEO Google Updates

Many big updates have occurred in recent years, which we’ll examine in a moment, but lots of little changes are also occurring all the time. How SEO strategy is managed today is vastly different than it was ten years ago.

Big Updates That Changed SEO

One of the best-known updates to the Google algorithm is Panda. This was rolled out back in 2011, but the effects are still widely felt by businesses today. It assigned web pages a “quality score” that is used as a factor in ranking. It checked websites to look for duplicated and thin content, as well as keyword stuffing. Before panda was introduced, websites would often rig the system by packing pages full of content that was full of keywords.

It didn’t matter if the content was genuinely useful to the reader, it just meant that the keywords were present. Under Panda, websites to this day have to ensure that their page offers quality content and a positive experience for users. If they fall foul of this and stick to the old keyword stuffing techniques, it will actively count against them in the rankings.

In 2013, the Hummingbird update expanded on the keyword stuffing rules. It helped Google interpret search queries more accurately. Under this update, pages can be assigned to a search results page even if the keyword doesn’t specifically match. You can thank AI for this – the use of natural language processing means search engines are getting smarter. It means your website should focus on concepts and not just keywords.

In 2017, the Fred update warned websites against the use of ad-centered content. While ads and affiliates are allowed, the use of this kind of content is now more strictly controlled. You should watch out for using overly thin content on your website, and if you do show ads, you should make sure that they are relevant to your website.

Don’t try and trick Google…because these big updates appear all the time.

The Importance of Ongoing SEO Strategy

Even if you manage to trick the SEO ranking algorithm, it won’t last. The fact that Google is always rolling out these updates means that things can change very quickly.

Not only that, but the nature of the competition we’ve described throughout this piece means that your strategy may need tweaking just weeks after seeing some success in your rankings.

This is why your SEO strategy must be ongoing, based on analytics and good data, and designed to comply with Google’s algorithm updates. You can do this yourself by staying up to date on your analytics and the latest Google news, or you can place your trust in experts who handle this every day.

So How Long Does SEO Take To Work?

There’s no set time. It could take weeks, it could take months, but it will always take time. A good SEO strategy is ongoing, is always changing, and is based on data.

To learn more about what goes into forging a good SEO strategy, contact our team at Comrade.

We’re marketing and SEO experts with more than a decade of experience working with Google best practices and can build your web presence from the ground up, or resuscitate a flagging performance if your current SEO efforts are not yielding results.

We’ll develop a long-term strategy and ensure your rankings move up as quickly as possible. For a custom plan, and a team of professionals invested in your long-term success, get in touch today. Even if you decide not to hire us, we’ll be glad to discuss your options and build a marketing plan for you, free of charge.

About the Author
Stan Bogdashin
Stan co-founded Comrade Digital Marketing and serves as its marketing strategist and IT expert recruiter.

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