It will always be one of the most frequently asked questions by clients to search engine optimisation (SEO) professionals, especially when the client in question isn’t a very experienced or knowledgeable one in SEO: “how long will it take for SEO to deliver results for my business?”
And it’s certainly not a question that can be answered easily in one sentence, although plenty of SEO marketers, empathising with their client’s desire for certainty, have long attempted to do exactly that.
A common refrain to such anxious clients is: “it takes at least three months for SEO to have an effect.” But in truth, this will always be an oversimplification, as the question of how long it will take for a given SEO campaign to produce results is an inherently complicated one.
What do we mean by “complicated”?
It’s the thing that many of us say in our lives, about our personal relationships or other situations where the ‘state of play’ may be less than simple or clear: “it’s complicated”.
But when it comes to SEO and how long it takes to produce results, we really can say “it’s complicated” with good reason, as there are just so many variables involved.
The three main variables in determining how long an SEO campaign will take to deliver, might well be (a) competition, (b) inbound links, and (c) content. We will explore those particular variables in greater detail below.
First, competition. This is an important one, because while there are certain factors you can directly control – for example, the amount of money you choose to plough into an SEO campaign – you can’t at all control what your competitors are doing, and all the different variables they face.
There’s a general school of thought in SEO, that the greater the competition you face in your industry, the tougher the task it is going to be to work your way up the search engine rankings for relevant terms.
But even in that regard, there is complexity. There is the local factor, for instance – a real estate agency serving a relatively small English town like Macclesfield, is likely to face lower competition for relevant search terms than a real estate agency catering to the whole of Manchester (at least as far as the ‘headline’ town or city, rather than each town or city’s districts or suburbs, is concerned).
To underline that complexity further, let’s take a look at one of the types of business that Mr SEO is most distinguished in serving: car dealerships.
If you are specifically seeking out SEO services for car dealerships, you might imagine that with car dealers being a highly competitive industry, it will take a while for your own dealership to gain serious traction in the search engine rankings.
But there’s another way of looking at it: historically, car dealerships have not been the most strongly associated with the world of SEO, given their emphasis on presenting strong roadside appeal compared to, for example, software development or digital marketing companies.
So, while there are certainly a lot of car dealers out there, a significant number of those might not have been thoroughly optimised for the search engines. This means that even though the leading names in this sector might be difficult to topple at the top of the search rankings, some changes to your dealership’s SEO might have an almost instant positive impact at overcoming rival dealers lower down the search engine results pages (SERPs).
What about the roles of inbound links and content?
On the subject of the “main variables” we referenced above, let’s address the other two: inbound links and content.
The term “inbound links”, of course, refers to the hyperlinks that are pointed to your website from other sites around the web. The practice of accumulating these links – “link building” – will be of great importance when you are seeking to improve your site’s search engine performance.
Broadly speaking, the more links you have directed to your site by other sites, the stronger your site’s search engine rankings are likely to become. But those inbound links should also be genuinely high-quality ones from relevant websites – otherwise, links in sheer numbers alone might do more harm to your brand’s online visibility than good.
As this is an article about how long SEO takes to deliver positive outcomes, it’s probably a case of, the faster you can build those links, the sooner the positive impact, right?
That’s sort of the case – but you still need to take great care to ensure compliance with Google’s Webmaster Guidelines with whatever methods you use to build links. Historically, the quickest routes to building links have also often been unethical ‘black hat’ ones that run the risk of the site in question being penalised in the search engines.
If you use compliant ‘white hat’ techniques, though, your site’s link profile should grow gradually and naturally, gaining the desired results for your business over time. You will simply need to have a bit more patience.
Finally, the content your site publishes will be another big factor in the period of time an SEO campaign takes to give your business results. A bit of a myth has prevailed in recent times that longer content is automatically better for SEO – when in truth, it is still high-quality, relevant content that is useful for human readers, that is likeliest to give your business real benefits in the rankings.
So, you don’t need to worry about ensuring every piece of content your site publishes is at least 3,000 words long. If a given piece of content delivers on the promise of its title and solves the problem the visitor has that led them to that content in the first place, it will be good content for SEO – even if it is just a few hundred words long.
So, how long will it take for my SEO campaign to yield results?
It’s that million-pound question again! And again, it doesn’t have a single million-pound answer. To pick up on the “three months” cliché we mentioned earlier – even that’s not quite right, because in some cases involving the use of niche terms in a low competition market, positive results could be seen almost as soon as Google recrawls the given page after optimisation work.
Another timeframe that is often mentioned by SEO companies is six to 12 months – although again, so much of this depends on the above variables and what exactly one might consider to count as “results”.
An Ahrefs study five years ago, for example, analysed two million keywords, and found that the average age of pages ranking in the 10th position in Google was 650 days.
This simply further serves to underline that, if you want to make it to the top of the search engine rankings, you shouldn’t be listening to certain less reputable companies’ promises of instant page-one results. SEO needs to be a long-term endeavour if your business is to get the best out of its involvement in it – and when you contact Mr SEO today, we can assist your brand in its pursuit of truly effective SEO efforts for many months and even years to come.