If you’re reading this, chances are you’re already a believer in the value of search engine optimization (SEO).
The basic logic makes sense to you: The more visible you are in search engines, the more traffic, leads, and sales you’ll get.
But despite various attempts at getting SEO to work, you just can’t seem to gain any traction in Google’s results pages.
So what’s going on?
Sadly, overnight successes are rare in the world of organic search marketing. The truth is that even the best-executed SEO campaigns can take a while to bear fruit.
But this is good news if you’re willing to be a little patient since you’ll automatically have an edge on those marketers interested only in a quick fix.
We promise that better rankings, increased traffic, and higher conversion rates are all within reach if you stick to a carefully-planned and implemented SEO strategy.
In this post, we’ll give you a better sense of just how long it takes to see SEO results, describe what you can expect during different phases of a typical SEO campaign, and look at what you can do to get results quicker.
First up, how long does it take for SEO to produce results?
How Long Does SEO Take To Start Working?
In our experience, it takes most brands between 6 and 8 months to see results from their SEO efforts. And by results, we mean sustained increases in organic traffic, leads, and revenue.
And by results, we mean sustained increases in organic traffic, leads, and revenue.
(In some cases, it’s possible to see improvements much sooner. These ‘quick wins’ can occur when, for example, you get rid of multiple spammy links at once or fix a major crawling issue that affects your entire site.)
Of course, the 6 to 8-month SEO timeline is only a rough estimate. It all boils down to how quickly you can establish your site’s authority and credibility in Google’s eyes. And so the amount of time it takes for your site to see results will depend on various factors, including:
- The level of competition in your niche
- What keywords you’re trying to rank for
- Your domain’s age
- How much optimization your site needs
- How much content you already have
- The quality of your backlink profile
- How well you execute your optimization strategy
- Your SEO budget
With that in mind, let’s take a look at what the first 6 months of a typical SEO campaign could look like.
What Happens In Months 1 To 6 Of A Typical SEO Campaign?
Below you’ll find a realistic SEO timeline for a typical campaign planned and implemented by a high-quality Search Marketing agency.
But before starting out on any SEO campaign, it’s essential that you first have a clear understanding of what you’re trying to achieve so that you and your SEO team can better prioritize tasks and track progress.
Are you looking for an increase in overall traffic, or are you more interested in boosting your number of leads? Do you want to improve conversion rates, or is building brand loyalty your top priority?
Of course, these goals aren’t mutually exclusive. But the more ambitious your aims, the longer you’ll take to reach them.
The first month of the SEO roadmap is usually dedicated entirely to research and discovery.
One of the main goals for SEO specialists during this phase is to get a complete picture of your brand and the competitive landscape surrounding it. This involves getting a better understanding of your target audience’s main pain points, the unique selling proposition (USP) of your business within your niche, and what your competitors are doing well (and not so well) in their SEO efforts.
Your SEO team will also conduct keyword research during the first month. This lets them figure out which keywords your site should be targeting and how well you’re currently ranking for them.
Finally, your SEO team will also begin a technical and content audit of your site during this phase. These audits will help uncover various problems relating to your site structure, user experience, and content quality and coverage.
Occasionally, early audits will also help your SEO team identify a few quick, high-impact changes that they can implement with minimal development resources. If they do spot such quick wins, you might notice some positive results as soon as they implement them.
Equipped with a thorough overview of the current state of your website, your SEO team can then begin to build and prioritize a plan of action for getting your website in better condition.
Once your SEO team has completed their research and diagnosed the main problems with the site, it’s time for the optimization to begin.
Based on what they uncovered in the technical audit, your team will start to modify your pages. For example, they might update on-page elements like meta descriptions and image alt text, compress images to improve page load speed, or implement redirects to ensure users and search engine crawlers end up on the correct pages.
At this point in the SEO timeline, your team will also begin the task of brainstorming and planning content ideas based on their keyword research findings. The more your content ideas can capture the search intent behind your target keywords, the more likely you’ll be able to rank for those keywords.
If they haven’t done so already, your SEO team will also conduct a thorough audit of your backlink profile during this phase. This will reveal any questionable and potentially harmful links pointing to your domain and will give your team an idea of what kind of content tends to generate the most links for you.
At this point, your SEO team will likely have already implemented any quick fixes, and your overall website hygiene will be steadily improving.
That said, you might get discouraged at this stage of the SEO timeline as you notice early signs of progress beginning to decline. This “Gap Of Disappointment” occurs when the continued upward trajectory you’d expected isn’t borne out in reality.
But fear not! This dip in results is perfectly normal, and things will start to improve again within a few months.
One of the main SEO activities introduced in Month 3 will be content restructuring.
This is the process of ensuring your existing content is organized so as to maximize its ranking potential. For example, it might make sense to re-categorize certain pages into specific content clusters, or consolidate some pieces of content into one larger piece to prevent keyword cannibalization.
Month 3 will also see the beginning of digital PR and link building. The goal here is to form and nurture relationships with high-authority and trustworthy blogs and earn backlinks from them via guest-posting.
Building a strong and diverse backlink profile will significantly influence your future ranking improvements.
The next phase in the SEO timeline is content production and publication.
Any new content will be based on the content gaps identified in your audit, and each piece will target a specific keyword and a particular stage of the funnel.
Whether you outsource your content creation or produce it in-house, the aim should always be to reflect the user’s search intent (i.e., the purpose of their search) and provide readers with as much value as possible. Moreover, any new content should contain fully-optimized on-page elements, like title tags, header tags, and internal links embedded in contextual anchor text.
As well as working on content, your SEO team will also begin the task of link reclamation in Month 4. This is the exercise of identifying broken links either on your site or pointing to your site and fixing them so that they pass on as much value as possible.
By now, you should start to notice more and more SEO improvements as your new content (and newly-optimized content) begins to climb up Google’s rankings, and your backlink profile starts passing more link equity to your domain.
Your SEO team will continue the drive to produce and publish content. It will also start yet another round of keyword research to try to identify further opportunities for new content.
The team will also double down on its link-building efforts by publishing guest posts on other high-authority blogs.
At this stage of the SEO timeline, it’s common to notice significant and sustained improvements in organic traffic and search rankings.
Of course, if this hasn’t happened yet, there’s no need to be disheartened. No two sites are the same, so you just need to stick to the process.
Throughout Month 6 and beyond, your SEO team will continue with the iterative cycle of content ideation and production, on-page optimization, and link building. Remember, SEO is an ongoing process, and once you’ve achieved success, you need to work to maintain it.
Assuming your monthly traffic figures now measure in the thousands, your SEO team may also advise that you start conducting A/B tests to improve your site experience further and optimize for more conversions.
What Factors Can Speed Up the SEO Timeline?
Okay, so you understand that SEO results take time to materialize and that the rate at which this happens can vary widely from website to website.
But what can be done to speed up this process?
Here are some of our top suggestions:
Create First-Class Content
Arguably the biggest lever you can pull to get quicker SEO results is to fully commit to producing grade-A content.
Thoroughly-researched, well-written, and beautifully-presented content that provides more value than any alternative will naturally earn you links as people rush to share it. And the more backlinks you receive, the better your odds will be of ranking well.
Prioritize Collaboration Between Stakeholders
One of the main causes of avoidable delays in any SEO campaign is poor communication and misalignment between stakeholders.
Successful SEO campaigns almost always require smooth cooperation between multiple teams and managers, from the client and the SEO team to web developers, social media experts, copywriters, and IT technicians.
Granted, this is a tricky problem to solve perfectly, but the more streamlined you can make your approval and implementation processes, the sooner you can expect to notice results.
Set Easier Targets
Every business wants to be at the top of Google’s rankings for their target keyword and draw in thousands of visitors a day.
But to succeed at SEO, it’s more pragmatic to focus on reaching near-term milestones than it is to measure your success relative to some ultimate ambition.
Of course, we aren’t suggesting you stop dreaming big or striving for the best. It’s just that the more you notice yourself achieving smaller targets, the more momentum you’ll build and the more motivation you’ll have to stick with the broader SEO process.
SEO Timeline: FAQs
Are SEO results immediate?
Even though it takes around 6 months to notice the major benefits of SEO, you can also pick up some quick wins early on. Spammy links, site-wide crawl issues, and poor hosting speeds are high-impact problems that can usually be fixed quickly.
Why does it take so long for SEO to work?
Google relies on many ranking factors to determine where to position your pages in its results pages, including your backlink profile, page speed, and visitor engagement. Improving your website’s performance across these measures takes time.
In a link builder survey performed by Authority Hackers, the average time it takes for a website to see the impact of a link is ~3 months:
How can I speed up the SEO timeline?
As we’ve seen, some of the best ways to limit the time it takes to see results is to commit to creating best-in-class content, ensuring that different teams involved in your online marketing have a good working relationship, and viewing your progress through the lens of smaller milestones.
SEO is a long-term game involving multiple moving parts. To succeed, you need good planning, patience, and a willingness to see results get worse before they get better.
We hope this post has given you a better idea of how soon you can expect to see results with SEO and what work goes into bringing those results about.
If your business is looking for some SEO help or if you want to see what your own custom SEO timeline could look like, get in touch!