Why Does SEO Take So Long?
I have people ask me all the time – why does SEO take so long? How long will it take for me to rank in 1st? And honestly, it’s a totally valid question. Investing in your business can be super scary, and with a lot of false promises floating around from SEO specialist’s, you might be wondering what a realistic timeline is for you to start seeing results from your SEO campaign.
But to tell you the truth, there’s a TON of work that goes into an SEO campaign, and there’s a lot of variables and factors to consider when considering how long it’s going to take to see movement for your website.
What is SEO?
If you’re new here, you might be like – wait what the heck even is SEO? So many people have heard the term thrown around, but what actually is it? SEO or ‘Search Engine Optimization’ is the process of optimizing a website to be better understood and trusted by Google. That’s it. Simple, right?
SEO is often so overcomplicated in the online and digital marketing world, but at the end of the day, the goal is to optimize known ranking factors in a way that helps Google (or whatever search engine) better understand your content, and build trust to encourage ranking your content higher on the search engine results page.
What Happens During an SEO Campaign?
Most campaigns are carried out differently based on business priorities, website necessities, and the competitive landscape, however, there are three main types of SEO tasks that are usually spread out over the course of the campaign.
1- On-Page SEO
On-page SEO refers to the optimizations which are done ON your website. This includes pretty much everything you can control. Google has several specific areas their spiders use to understand what your website is about. On-page optimization is all about making sure Google understands your page and believes the page is high value to serve higher in the search engine results page (SERP).
2- Off-Page SEO
Off-page SEO refers to the optimizations and efforts that take place OFF of your website. This includes backlinks, citations, and Google My Business. Off-page SEO is really important for Google to understand the authority of your website, and whether they should trust you. Increased trust = increased chance of rankings. Think of Google overseeing the internet with a bird’s eye view: the more consistent mentions and high-quality links to your website, the more other people ‘trust you’, and they should too!
3- Technical SEO
Technical SEO refers to the bones or foundation of your website and server. Auditing a website to ensure all the technical components are running well and fixing any issues or errors increases indexing and your ranking potential. Google is all about user experience and wants to serve fast and valuable content to its users.
Why Does SEO Take So Long?
So, we can see there’s a lot that goes into SEO, but why does it take so long? While we classified the ranking factors into three nice boxes, the truth is, there’s so much that goes into an SEO campaign, and it takes a long time for these variables to work together. It also really depends on the status of your website, your location, your goals, your industry, and so much more.
In fact, there’s a joke in SEO that the answer to every question is pretty much always “it depends” Izzi Smith really said it best with this meme:
Jokes aside, SEO takes so long because there are hundreds of ranking factors and ultimately, you’re at the mercy of Google and its algorithm. What works for one client might not work for another, and for lack of a better word, it really just “depends”.
How Long Does it Actually Take To See Results From SEO?
The amount of time it takes to see results can vary significantly between clients. Again, it depends on the industry, status of the website, and how Google currently views the website.
If your website is brand new, your SEO efforts will likely take a lot longer than a website that has been around for years. Additionally, if you are in an extremely competitive location or have a lot of SEO cleanup that needs to be done, things will take much longer than a small-town local business campaign.
On average, I recommend local businesses expect 4-6 months to start seeing real returns from their SEO efforts. But again, this depends on the industry/current competition and the current strength of your website. For an organic campaign, I usually tell clients to expect 6+ months to start seeing returns from their SEO efforts. That being said, I've seen clients hit over a 300% ROI before their campaign was even over. So it truly does depend!
Stay The Course on Your SEO Efforts
It can be scary and frustrating to put time, energy, or money into something when you're unsure if it will pay off. With SEO, I try to encourage people to stay the course and try not to get discouraged, as things often pick up exponentially when they do start to take off. For example, I recently finished a 6-month SEO campaign for a local business in Los Angeles. We started the campaign in October 2021, and we didn’t start seeing major growth until January 2022. However, once our efforts started taking off, the movement grew rapidly.
When considering the ROI of investing in SEO, you want to ensure you stay the course at least long enough to truly reap the benefits of the efforts. My client featured below saw an average of ~200 positions gained in the first three months we worked together, but as we rounded out the final month they had moved over 2500 positions with over 40 lead-focused keywords ranking on the first page of Google in their area.
If we had given up at the third or fourth month, they would have missed out on more than half of these results!
So, Is SEO Really Worth It?
In my (slightly biased) opinion, SEO is definitely worth it. When it’s conducted in a strategic and lead-focused way, I’ve seen it time-and-time again give clients a huge return on investment. Not to mention that clients tend to see sustained traffic and even growth long after their campaign is over. I personally think this is one of the biggest benefits of SEO. When your IG post shelf life is long over and the ad budget drains, your SEO efforts are the most likely to provide ongoing brand awareness and leads.