How long does it take for SEO to work?
Learn the answer to this frequently asked question and the reasons why SEO is a more time-intensive effort than other digital marketing strategies
As a leading digital marketing agency that offers search engine optimization (SEO) services to our clients, one of the questions we are asked most often before starting an SEO campaign is “How long will this take to show results?”
Although a recent Ahrefs poll found that 45.6% of people report it typically takes three to six months for SEO to show results, the real answer to this question is it depends. 
This answer may feel evasive, but in reality, it’s the most honest answer an SEO agency could provide you.
Why does SEO take so long?
Unlike paid ads that show results as soon as the campaign is turned on, every single SEO campaign will take a different amount of time to achieve your goals and reach your key performance indicators (KPIs) depending on various factors such as your website’s history, competition, and strategy.
It takes time to prove to Google that your website deserves to be at the top of the search engine results page (SERP) because the search engine is specifically designed to show the best results for each search query.
How is the success of an SEO strategy defined?
It’s important to consider what your business is looking to get out of an SEO campaign before getting started. A successful campaign can look different to every business, but some of the most common goals expected to be achieved by implementing SEO include a combination of:
- Increase in organic website traffic
- Influx of marketing qualified leads (MQLs)
- Increase in revenue by a set amount over a specified time period
- Boosted brand visibility
- Growth in rankings on SERPs
What factors influence how long SEO takes?
The factors that most commonly influence how long SEO efforts will take to show results include:
- Website history: Your website’s digital footprint will have a significant impact on how long SEO will take to show results. The general rule of thumb is that older websites will rank quicker than newer ones because they have backlinks and more website authority. However, if you have an older website that has faced a penalty, core algorithm update, or previously implemented negative SEO practices, it will be more difficult to rank than a new, untainted website.
- Competition: Another key factor in creating an SEO timeline estimate is the level of competition for your targeted keywords. If you work in a highly-competitive industry like residential real estate or IT services, your ideal target keywords will also be extremely competitive to rank for, meaning it will take you longer to rank for them than businesses in niche industries like a specialized health care service that has relatively little competition.
- Resources and strategy: While you can’t control your website’s history or your competition, you can allocate as much of your resources as possible to a tailored SEO strategy that specifically details how you’ll rank for your target keywords. Depending on your strategy, you can determine how much original, high-quality content you want to publish per month, the velocity of your backlink building efforts, and the SEO tools you want to utilize for the best insights and expert recommendations.
- Execution: The proper execution of an SEO strategy is an often overlooked factor in how quickly you’ll see results. If you’ve detailed a well-constructed strategy, but you don’t have the team or resources to properly execute it, you’ll never see any real results. That’s why most businesses partner with an experienced digital marketing agency that has the experience, tools, and resources to design and execute a unique SEO strategy for your business.
Is there a way to estimate how long it will take on a case-by-case basis?
Although there’s no guarantees, most SEO strategists can provide you with a best-guess estimate of how long it will take for you to see results by analyzing your website’s current standing and the outlined SEO strategy which would include:
- Velocity of high-quality link building
- Time for content creation
- Time for links to be crawled and indexed
- Room for trial and error.
The bottom line
SEO takes time. Whether it’s three months, six months, or a year, you have to wait to see the impact of your SEO strategy before seeing results and deciding to scale up your ongoing investment in these efforts or not.
Interested in implementing an SEO strategy for your business?
Your future clients are searching for you online, and our team at Different Perspective can help them find you.
By partnering with our Orlando-based digital marketing agency, your business can implement a targeted SEO campaign that will increase your online visibility in search engines like Google and help you create connections with your target audience.