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When deciding which SEO company to hire, it is tempting to hire the one that makes big promises. Many people think that hiring a company to manage the SEO for your website means it will push your company to the top of the search engine rankings.

Unfortunately, that just isn’t how it works. While some companies make big claims of skyrocketing your site to the top of the search engine pages, real results just don’t work that way.

Any SEO agency with real experience will tell you the same thing, SEO takes time.

Many regular marketing campaigns can produce results in a month. Traditional tactics see success or failure fast, helping you know what does or does not resonate with your audience. Digital marketing, specifically SEO, takes more time.

From our end of things, there is a lot of time spent researching your market and industry. Analyses are performed for keywords, performance markers, and best strategies for your specific goals. Our teams work together to help implement these strategies which takes time. Producing a quality website or blog content also takes time.

And that is just what is on our side of SEO.

Once these strategies are going, more time is needed for Google and other search engines to recognize a website, the changes that have been made, compare it to similar types of content in the same space, and ultimately give your site the authority it deserves.

Users also require time to change their behaviors and notice any changes.

Despite all these warnings, SEO agencies have plenty of stories to tell about clients who quit after only a couple of months. Some say that they can’t justify the costs, but mostly it is it that they weren’t getting the results they expected.

To help adjust expectations and learn why SEO takes time, let’s take a closer look at why SEO takes time.

Why Does SEO Take So Long To…What?

Everyone wants to know how long SEO will take. However, it isn’t that simple to answer. While everyone wants fast results, “results” means different things to different people.

Most SEO agencies will classify results as increased traffic and higher returns. While most people will agree that is a desired outcome, too many people are focused on making an SEO result about being #1 for their favorite keyword.

Old SEO strategy used to take 5-10 generic terms as keywords and get them highly ranked. Next, it turned into finding the terms that tap into the most traffic then building as many links as possible. This was fine for the time, but it was unsustainable. Too many agencies were using tactics that hinged on buying useless links on dumping sites, giving a temporary increase in SERP placement.

Over time, algorithms have become more sophisticated at finding meaningful keywords to each website. The content is scanned for value to the question or searcher’s intent then ranked accordingly. Building up content and links that give a site real authority cannot be cheated.

So, How Long?

The first step to determining a successful SEO campaign is knowing what your goal is for your site or company. Once you have a goal, you can establish a timeline.

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In the video, Google Webmasters official position says it takes 4-12 months to start seeing a change in rankings. For meaningful, lasting changes, it is more like 6-12 months.

This is never the answer a client wants to hear, especially in this lightning-fast world of information we currently live in. It is important to go into SEO changes knowing that you are committing for a long-term strategy and set expectations (and budgets) accordingly.

Considering Other Variables

Given a range of 4-12 months, most clients will jump to best case scenario and want the 4-month option. While some companies can see fast results, it is ultimately determined by different variables before seeking help and in implementing the strategy. Some of these variables include:

  • Relevant keywords and topics
  • Available content already relating to those keywords and topics
  • Quality of content
  • Age and speed of the websites and domain
  • Current website design, including ease of use
  • Average time a user stays on the site
  • Geographical location
  • A company’s competition
  • Level of social activity
  • Speed of implementing recommended changes

Again, this timeline is going to include the work done by the SEO agency doing site audits, keyword research, and some technical SEO work like checking subdomains.

Four areas that are a little higher impact on timeline and results are quality, competition, speed of implementing changes, and budget. Let’s dive into those a little more.

Creating and Establishing Quality

Ensuring you have quality content on your site is imperative to SEO rankings. Gone are the days of keyword stuffing pages and depending on a keyword in the URL. And it isn’t as simple as churning out blog posts at a rapid pace. Ranking content has quality, which is determined by factors like:

  • Levels of engagement
  • Promotion of the page or site
  • Time spent on site vs users bouncing back out
  • Natural, specific keywords and phrases
  • Related on-site content
  • Links over time from various sources with authority

Content needs to come together with all these things in mind. It must be coherent, useful, and quickly provide answers to users. This will help establish that you are an authority on a topic, service, or product.

11 Types of Content You Should Be Creating for SEO Right Now

Beating the Competition

Competitors have a big influence on your SEO results. SEO is a mainstream marketing tactic which means competitors are also working on their optimization to become the top search result. In other words, are you putting in as much time, effort, and money into overcoming their efforts?

If a competitor is not actively working to improve their SEO, your company might see faster results. But it is important to remember that with every blog post you publish, they could be publishing two. Every link you build, they might be building just as many or more.

It is important to focus on a better strategy. While you may not be able to beat a company’s size, you can focus on building better links, quality of content, and increasing the levels of engagement.

Creating and implementing strategies take time and then search engines have to catch on. Limiting expectations to results in one or two months won’t help your company reach its maximum potential.

Speed of Implementing Changes

SEO managers will often recommend changes that require the company to implement. They can be small, like meta data updates, or a big project like a full website overhaul. Getting them done faster directly impacts how soon you will see results from those changes.

Because it is so important, I’ll say it again: make these changes as soon as possible. Do not brush off changes, even if they are small, because they are foundational elements that are important to SEO rankings. Do them as soon as possible. This will ensure seeing results sooner.

Another change is blog posts. Search engines love fresh material, so stay on top of current industry information and update those posts quickly. Watch what current news is in your industry and cover stories as they develop. Getting people to talk about your piece can give you an edge, but it requires making posts and changes often and early in the game.


One of the hardest facts about optimization relies a lot on a company’s SEO budget. This is not a sales tactic- it has to do with how much time and people an agency can allocate to working on your strategy.

One thing should be clear: cost does not equal quality. Budget only affects speed on completing tasks only, even small business SEO budgets can still make progress, it just might be slower. Paying for the most expensive SEO company does not mean you will get better results and buying links will not ensure a higher ranking.

The only thing that companies can pay for that works to improve a ranking is through pay per click (PPC) marketing. It is not required for high-ranking results but is another tool available to be used as part of a bigger plan, and shouldn’t be the only strategy.

Download our free PPC Checklist

There is No End to SEO

When people ask why SEO takes so long, they imply it is a goal to reach and then move on. There is no end to SEO. When it comes to SEO, there are three things to remember. 

  1. Even if a company hits the #1 spot for a keyword, work is required to keep it. There are other keywords and phrases that need ranking too and more strategy develops.
  2. If Google Webmasters say 4-12 months is the timeframe to start seeing results, imagine how well it will do if you put even more time into it.
  3. Algorithms are updated and SEO changes. Search engines are constantly working to improve results to be more relevant and provide the best answers to questions. Almost every time there is a Google update, adjustments to strategy must be made.

Yes, SEO takes a lot of time, but it is not a goal to check off a list and move on. Staying competitive in any industry requires constant work or the competition will pass you up.

So, how long does SEO take? As long as you want to keep improving your business online.

Need help with your SEO? Contact us for a free search engine optimization quote today!