How long does it take for SEO to work?

Feb 21, 2023 | SEO

SEO or Search Engine Optimisation is a common practice amongst marketers and website owners to get their website in the coveted number one spot on Google (or any search engine, but generally Google reigns supreme!).

Jury is still out on exactly how long SEO takes to work, as there are so many influencing factors (how long is a piece of string comes to mind). As a marketing agency we have found that you should start to see results within 6-12 months, assuming you are continually analysing, updating, and assessing your SEO strategy. This time frame is backed up by industry leaders such as Semrush and Hrefs.

Table of contents

SEO is a long-term investment
What is SEO?
How does SEO work?
How long does SEO take to work?
Why does SEO take so long?
What are the marketing alternatives to SEO?
Does SEO work for small businesses?

SEO is a long-term investment

Although SEO has proven to be one of the most effective ways to drive traffic towards a website (with 32% of all clicks on Google going to the first result), you are unlikely to see immediate results. SEO means playing the long game, and it often surprises our clients just how many factors need to be considered. So, if you’re looking for a quick fix, sadly SEO may not be the solution you’re looking for. But if you want to ensure long-term, good-quality consistent traffic that will grow with time, then read on!

What is SEO?

Let’s start with the basics. The goal of SEO is to bring in organic traffic from search engines, ensuring that the right customers can find the right information at the right time. SEO can be broken down into 3 main elements:

  • On-page SEO involves optimising the content on your website, using things like keywords, meta descriptions, image alt text, readability, and quality content.
  • Technical SEO is anything that helps Google crawl and index your website, without this your website will never be visible in the SERP (Search Engine Results Page). This includes things like mobile optimisation, page speed, contrast, and image sizes (you can find a helpful glossary of technical SEO terms here)
  • Off-page SEO is anything that is drawing in organic traffic that is not on your website, like guest blogging, social media marketing, backlinks, and brand awareness.

How does SEO work?

SEO works by optimising a website’s content based on relevant search terms or ‘keywords’ to increase that contents ranking and overall website visibility. Results on the first page of Google receive almost 95% of web traffic, meaning you need your website to rank in the top positions for users to find you. Some of the key ways an SEO strategist, marketer, or website developer will use SEO include:

  • Competitor analysis to understand which keywords your competition is ranking for, and where they might be missing out.
  • Keyword research using tools like Semrush or Google Keyword Planner to create new content, address keyword gaps, or update old content.
  • Obtain backlinks from high quality sources through outreach, such as news articles, PR releases, link exchanges, directory listings, and producing helpful resources other websites will want to link to.
  • Optimise internal linking, making sure that all of your content is connected and updated.
  • Fix any broken links or 404’s on your website, either through redirects or merging content.
  • Improve page speed and mobile optimisation, as this is where many people now access the internet.

How long does SEO take to work?

You should allow for 6 to 12 months to see the results of your SEO strategy, but it can take even longer depending on how much competition you are up against. Equally, you may see some wins more quickly.

Why does SEO take so long?

As you can see, there are a multitude of factors that need to be considered when implementing an SEO strategy. SEO requires quality research and technical knowledge that can take some time to get your head around, which adds to the time it takes to see the results of your labour!

In addition to the time required for quality SEO to be implemented, Google has to consider a number of factors before you can take the number 1 position, and often this comes down to your competition.

Wooden hand showing number 1 on Google

One of the things that the Google algorithm will consider is how long a website has been around, and how ‘trustworthy’ that resource is. If you are new to SEO or have just launched your website, you will find it hard to compete against competitors who may have been playing the game much longer. In this scenario higher authority websites will always have the upper hand, which is where competitor analysis can be really helpful. Optimising for those niche, long tail keywords that your competitors have missed is a good way to start bringing in organic traffic and growing your own domain authority over time.

Ultimately SEO takes so long because it requires investment and commitment, both of your time and your money. But if you’re willing to get stuck in, SEO can become one your most powerful sources of traffic and revenue, that is drastically cheaper in the long term compared to paid advertising.

What are the marketing alternatives to SEO?

SEO covers a wide range of marketing techniques but differs from another popular form of digital marketing: PPC or pay-per-click advertising. PPC is a great way to bring in traffic to your website, and it’s very possible to get consistent sales or leads through a well optimised ad campaign. Like SEO, PPC falls under the umbrella of Search Engine Marketing, and there are lots of ways a business might use PPC.

The only downside to PPC? Well, it’s in the name. You will be paying for every click, which can eat into your ROI. SEO may not provide you with results right away, but in the long term you are not paying for the clicks that come to your website. Often, we recommend a combination of both SEO and PPC, as both techniques will complement each other to get the most out of your marketing budget.

Does SEO work for small businesses?

Yes, SEO can definitely work for small businesses! It is a great way to get quality traffic without needing a big budget for a PPC campaign. Although big brands will have more resources that a small business, they might not have the benefit of the expert knowledge a small business owner can provide.

In 2022 Google updated its algorithm to prioritise ‘helpful’ content, meaning that unique, useful content from an expert in the field holds some weight over mass produced, impersonal blog posts from a bigger brand who might just be looking for clicks regardless of relevancy.

In addition, small businesses are often able to thrive by focussing on ‘local’ SEO that targets a very niche area and local search terms. Focusing your efforts on the area that you can provide services to is a great way to gain quality traffic from customers who are more likely to trust a local service over a big brand.


Expert SEO services from Example Marketing & Web Design

If you’re looking for more advice and guidance or you’re thinking about outsourcing your SEO strategy, get in touch with our team at Example Marketing & Web Design. We work with businesses across Norfolk and the UK to deliver SEO and content marketing that works.

Contact us to see how we can work with your brand to construct a tailored SEO strategy and grow your business!

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