Why Does SEO Take So Long? (And How Long Does SEO Take?)

Discover why SEO takes three to six months and the factors that influence its duration, including crawling and indexing, backlink profile, domain history, keyword competition, and search intent.
  • Portrait of a smiling woman with long hair, transparent background.
    Sarah Berry Lead SEO Consultant
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  • October 25, 2023
  • 7 min. read


How long does SEO take?

It typically takes three to six months for SEO to work (even from an experienced SEO agency) and start seeing an increase in organic traffic, leads, or sales from search, though it could take six to twelve months in some cases.

Why does SEO take so long, though?

Because more than 200 ranking factors power search engine algorithms, and the biggest ones — like your backlink profile — don’t happen overnight but over time as you build your site’s reputation as a trusted resource on the web.

Keep reading to learn more about how long SEO takes, including whether you can get SEO results faster!

How long does SEO take?

SEO takes three to six months to work on average. This number can increase from six to twelve months, though. How long SEO takes to work depends on multiple factors related to the site, like whether it’s crawlable, how powerful its backlink profile is, and how competitive the target keyword is.

Why does SEO take so long?

SEO takes so long because search engine algorithms have become more complex against an ever-growing internet. With more content to evaluate and more ranking factors to consider, it’s begun to take longer for website owners and SEOs to see SEO results, like increased rankings and traffic.

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7 factors that affect how long SEO takes to work

The most influential reasons behind how long SEO takes to work include the following ranking factors:

1. Crawling and indexing

First, if search engines can’t crawl or index your site, you’ll be waiting a long time to see SEO results.

That’s because these two steps are the precursor to ranking in search results. You need a web crawler to crawl your site, so you can then enter a search engine’s index. The good news is you can quickly troubleshoot this issue with tools like Google Search Console.

Even if search engines can crawl and index your site, there are additional considerations:

  • Your crawl rate settings
  • Your XML sitemap update schedule
  • Your internal linking optimization
  • Your crawl frequency

Building your technical SEO knowledge can help you optimize the above areas on your site.

2. Backlink profile

Backlink profile is one of the most talked-about ranking factors because it’s one of the biggest.

For search engines like Google, backlinks serve as an endorsement of your content. If you’re familiar with citations in academic papers, this is where Google initially got the idea for backlinks as a ranking factor.

Websites with a stronger backlink profile tend to see SEO results faster because of their reputation.

Search engines know this website is trusted, which makes the site a more reputable source of information. Essentially, search engines are more confident in these sites to deliver on user intent than other unknown sites.

SEO will likely take time if your website is still growing its backlink profile.

3. Domain history

Your domain’s history can also influence how long SEO takes to work.

Typically, older domains perform better than younger domains in search engine optimization because of their age. That’s because older domains are often more established, meaning they have a longer history with search engines and a more extensive backlink profile.

This doesn’t mean you should purchase an older vs. younger domain.

Expert Insights From Google logo

“As long as you’ve been around for at least a couple of months, you should be able to make sure that you can show up in search results.”

Matt Cutts Source

According to Matt Cutts, a former Google employee, “As long as you’ve been around for at least a couple of months, you should be able to make sure that you can show up in search results.” Some SEOs disagree with this sentiment, but remember, search engines use 200+ factors to generate search results.

Our advice? An older domain is nice, but one relevant to your business is better long-term.

4. Keyword competition

“Why does SEO take so long,” says the webmaster looking to rank for “hotels” with their brand-new site.

Keyword competition also plays a role in how long SEO takes to work. Shorter keywords (think one to two words) with higher search volumes are typically more competitive than longer keywords (think three to four words or more).

That means you’re competing with some big-name sites to rank for a keyword like “hotels,” and if your website doesn’t have the backlink profile (and other SEO ranking factors) to compete, you’ll likely see little traction in your SEO results.

Target a long-tail keyword, though, like “kid friendly hotels with activities in ca,” and you’ll likely see results faster because the keyword contains less competition. Keep in mind that “faster” doesn’t mean overnight results.

5. Search intent

Search intent is another influential factor in how long SEO takes. If your website’s content doesn’t match a user’s search intent (AKA, the problem they’re looking to solve), it won’t drive the rankings, traffic, and sales your business is expecting.

You can take these steps to ensure your content meets search intent:

  • Look at the top results for your target keyword
  • Determine the common threads between these URLs
  • Outline the search intent based on these common threads, like “Looking for a list of kid-friendly hotels (along with their pros, cons, and average cost) in California that also offer kid activities”
  • Develop a content outline based on this search intent

With user-first, SEO-friendly content, you can improve your chances of SEO results.

6. On-page SEO optimization

Along with meeting search intent, there are also several on-page SEO optimizations to consider, like:

If your content isn’t optimized according to search engine optimization best practices, it’ll likely take SEO longer to work for your business. For example, your target keyword should appear in your title tag and throughout your content to indicate to search engines and users your content’s topic.

7. Core Web Vitals

Hate slow websites, especially those that shift once they load? You’re not alone.

Google created Core Web Vitals to target page speed elements that affect the user experience like:

  • How long until users can interact with the content
  • How long until the content responds to user interactions
  • How long until the content displays its largest element in the viewport

If your site delivers a poor experience based on these metrics, you’ll likely see slower results from SEO because of the user experience. You can work towards resolving this issue by working with an SEO and development team to improve your site’s speed and responsiveness.

You can test your speed by using Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool. If you’re wondering how to use Google’s PageSpeed Insights for SEO, all you need to do is visit the tool, enter your website URL, and click analyze.

How can I get SEO results faster?

Like we mentioned before, there’s no reason to fear SEO if you don’t see a return immediately because it can take time to see SEO results. So don’t stop your SEO efforts if your site isn’t ranking right away.

Let’s be clear — you can’t wave a magic wand (or use black-hat SEO) to get SEO results faster.

You can, however, invest the time in building a trusted site with a reputation for producing helpful content that serves users and their needs, along with following the best practices search engines share for SEO.

Do that, and you’ll likely see faster SEO results than a brand-new website with no history on the web.

Make your SEO efforts worth the investment with SEO experts

With more than 200 ranking factors powering your placement in search engine results, you need all the help you can get. From on-page to off-page to technical SEO, our search engine optimization experts can make optimizing your site as easy as 1, 2, 3.

If you are looking for top-notch SEO firms in Chicago, Austin, or digital marketing companies in New York, and other U.S. cities, look no further! Learn how our award-winning team can help by completing our contact form today or downloading the SEO.com app for free!

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Sarah Berry is a Lead SEO Consultant at one of the largest SEO agencies in the USA — WebFX. With more than 10,000 hours of SEO experience, she offers practical insights and strategies you can use to grow your rankings, traffic, and revenue from search.

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