When it comes to digital marketing, people ask me this question a lot: “how long will it take for SEO to produce results?” No matter what industry your business is in—whether your company is looking to create or improve their digital presence—this is an all too familiar question that everyone wants to know the answer to. Unfortunately, the answer is not so simple.
Over the past decade, SEO has evolved significantly. It now better reflects a website’s overall quality and the relevance of user’s searches, while simultaneously penalizing websites that utilize older, black hat SEO tactics that used to provide quick results—for example, low-quality link building or keyword stuffing.
Nowadays, the success of your online campaigns and the time it takes to see results can vary based on a number of factors, including:
- The size of your SEO project(s)
- How long your website has been around
- If you’re currently involved in any SEO efforts
- How much content is on your website
- What market you’re targeting (and its saturation/ competition)
- And most importantly: what your ultimate goal is
With so many factors at play, you need to look at SEO as an investment—not a short-term quick fix.
“SEO that generates results for your business is not a strategy that can come to fruition overnight, despite what many SEO firms and specialists may claim.”
Producing quality results takes time. SEO should be considered a long-term marketing strategy that requires thoughtful planning, cross-departmental cooperation, and a results-driven approach.
With that being said, there is a plausible scenario for what your SEO efforts might look like during the initial months and the results you might expect from its implementation.
Initial Steps—Planning the SEO Strategy (0-2 Months)
These first few months are mostly dedicated to planning, and it’s unlikely you’ll begin achieving any noticeable results to your SEO rankings or bottom line. Depending on the size of your business, this stage can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to complete. This planning process includes:
- researching relevant keywords
- benchmarking your competitors (keywords, traffic, site performance, and online marketing initiatives)
- auditing the performance of and content on your existing website
- getting a better understanding of your ultimate goals
SEO Strategy Implementation (3+ Months)
After the planning process, the next step is to begin the implementation. This stage has an open-ended timeline as SEO is an ever-changing strategy that requires constant monitoring and optimization of content. As your SEO strategy matures, revisions and corrections may be needed to accommodate for new opportunities.
Stage 1 – Addressing technical site & SEO issues
During this time you’ll be working on fixing the technical issues on your site that affect your search engine ranking.
Stage 2 – Begin execution of long-term content marketing strategy
This includes blogging, writing, and optimizing content for product category pages, and service pages (what we call ‘$$$ pages’). A strong content strategy is likely one of the most important elements to include in your SEO efforts as it can help drive your website to the top of search engine rankings.
NOTE: You may start seeing an increase in traffic within a few weeks of publishing great content, but remember that SEO is an ongoing approach.
Realistic Timeline for SEO Results (7-12 Months)
While your keywords will likely start performing better prior to the 7-month mark, in all reality, 7-12 months is likely how long it will take before you start experiencing any impactful results from your SEO efforts. Google and other search engines have gotten smarter over the past few years, and they can no longer be tricked by content that’s stuffed with keywords or doesn’t make sense. Google is looking not only at your content, but also at your reputation. Is what you’re saying reputable? Do you have a history of great content? Do you have high-quality links? The more of these questions you can answer “yes” to, the better your search ranking.
Why Partner With an SEO Firm?
While you can’t take shortcuts on your way to profitable SEO, that doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile. If you want to go about SEO the right way and potentially see results more quickly, it’s smart to partner with an SEO firm. The best SEO companies will save you months of research and implementation time by using their industry experience and expertise. Many times an SEO firm will have worked with a similar client in your industry and can leverage that experience to deliver better results for you. They can also give you a clear timeline on when you should see specific results and how they’ll deliver those results.
SEO: A Long-Term Marketing Tactic with Strong ROI Potential
It’s easy to get impatient when it comes to SEO, but success by any standard will rarely come within the first three months. If you quit after just a few months because you’re not seeing results that justify the cost, you’ve essentially just thrown away your money due to unrealistic expectations. SEO is a long-term investment—one that requires at least a budget for 6-12 months. But if you give it enough time, it’s one of the smartest long-term marketing strategies around for growing your business. Partnering with an SEO firm can help you develop a realistic timeline and see solid results that deliver a strong ROI in the long-term.