As a business owner, you want nothing more than to get more customers to your website. This is the reason why you hired an SEO provider to execute the optimization process for you.

Time and again, business owners are concerned that they haven’t been ranking #1 at the top of Google despite investing thousands of dollars in campaigns that ran for months.

I hate to break it to you, but there is no shortcut to SEO. The expectation of getting to the top in such a small amount of time is absurd, knowing that effects of the best SEO practices take time. They’re worth the wait.

So instead of asking how long does it take to rank #1 for a keyword in your business, it’s more realistic to ask how long it takes to start seeing results.

After all, SEO is important because it is one way you’ll meet your online business goals. In this article, let’s explore why SEO takes time.

How does SEO work?

Think of SEO as an interplay of strategies that increase your website’s visibility on search results. Being visible online matters because it is how people looking for your services are going to find you.

A typical online searcher would start searching for information using Google. Let’s say the person wants to train his dog, so he looks for articles by typing “dog training.”

If you have published a post on dog training, your post has a chance of showing up in search results. SEO is the ingredient that you need to work with your content to make this happen.

Making sure that your website shows up when people search for your topics is not an overnight process. One huge aspect to consider is that there are thousands to millions to billions of websites that might be offering the same thing you do.

So, search engine spiders follow these pages and carefully examine them to determine whether they have “what it takes” to appear at the top of search results.

Search engine spiders check specific ingredients that meet SEO requirements on every web page. For example, spiders look for relevant and related keywords in your page titles, header tags, images, and content. They scan for duplicate content and the overall quality of your content.

Aside from the elements found on your website or on-page factors, Google also takes into account factors outside your website. These are the links that it gets from other sites and mentions of your brand name.

This is one of the reasons why SEO takes time.

White hat vs. black hat SEO

Perhaps you’ve heard about white hat and black hat SEO. Put simply; white hat SEO refers to good SEO practices while black hat tactics are those that search engines do not approve of.

Some business owners who think that SEO is a sprint resort to black hat techniques. They pay black hat practitioners to build hundreds of thousands of spammy links to their sites, build private blog networks, do keyword stuffing, and more.

True enough, most black hat practices take you to the number one spot of Google in less time. But this will not last for long. Google is getting much better at detecting black hat SEO. Once it detects your spammy practice, your site will get penalized or completely wiped out from search results.

In a Google Webmasters video, Matt Cutts addresses the concern of a small company who unknowingly hired an SEO firm that did black hat. The SEO firm did spammy techniques. On the other hand, the company’s site got penalized.

The small company asked whether they can still stand a chance against their competitors despite their penalty. Matt Cutts answered, “The good guys stand a chance if they don’t spam.” put in mind that a site that’s penalized takes more time to recover and reclaim a decent spot on Google.

Let’s now proceed to the next part of this article to learn when you’re going to start seeing results.

When do I see the effects of my SEO campaign?

Considering that we follow only the best and ethical practices to boost your business website, you will start getting results in 4-12 months. Maile Ohye who works with Google gave out that answer (fast forward to 1:39 in the video below).

Again, these results are not necessarily an increase in rankings but more of conversions and sales. Of course, that depends on several aspects which we will discuss.

Why THAT long?

In the past, all people had to do was to research a keyword that could get them a significant amount of traffic and then infuse those keywords into their content.

Then, they built as many backlinks as they could from websites regardless of whether these sites were relevant and high-quality.

Coupled with the fact that there are more websites now than there were way back, SEO has evolved. You need not only consider the nuts and bolts but also user experience, relationships, and your current competitors.

Below are the reasons why SEO take time.

A thorough site audit has to be conducted first.

Successful SEO campaigns start with a complete site audit. An SEO specialist examines several areas while detecting problems that may prevent it from ranking. Your website may look fine in your eyes or the eyes of your audience but not to Google.

Good website audits can take weeks to a month, and even longer – especially will really large sites with thousands of pages. Your SEO might find based on the audit, that your site has several problems which require a complete overhaul.

Then changes or optimizations will be made based on the findings. This will ensure that nothing about your website is preventing it showing up on SERPs.

Remember that a website audit is the basis of every important decision you make with SEO. The SEO will assess your site in the following areas:

  • Crawlability – Your website might be preventing spiders from crawling pages before adding them to their index.
  • Usability – This is geared towards satisfying the experiences of your prospective customers. If your site makes it hard for them to accomplish their goals, they’ll bounce off quick.
  • Code quality – Poorly written code can negatively affect how your site is crawled and how people see it on different devices.
  • URLs – Some sites have unsightly and awkwardly long URLs. The more readable your URLs are to humans, the better.
  • Internal links – Links within your site are important, but most of the time, they’re overlooked. Your SEO specialist has to check whether you have pages that are linked closely together and the anchor text that is used to link to a page.

Aside from the fact that your multiple aspects of your site need to be checked, another reason why SEO takes time is that an SEO audit is a continuous process. You need to make improvements over time to stay relevant and competitive.

Great content that delights users and search engines is not easily created.

Every moment, countless pieces of content are produced. When you publish a blog post that you think is “good enough,” others in your niche are doing the same. They might even be doing better.

And mind you, content that appeals to the interests of users and satisfies Google takes time to create. If you lack writing or video creation skills, you’ll have to hire a skilled team to do the work for you. That’s not something you can accomplish in a matter of hours.

For you to publish high-quality content that deserves to rank, you must consider readability, uniqueness, the emotion it elicits from your readers, word count (at least 2,000 words), headline, backlinks, and social shares.

Not to mention, it will take some time for Google to index your newly published content.

Make sure that you’re an authority on a topic. Write blog posts that are relevant to your business, with your main keywords and related keywords in them. Stick to a regular publishing schedule as this increases your SEO value and keeps readers coming back.

Solid strategies are built upon competitive research.

Like a physical business, online businesses have competitors too. Look around you and realize that you have competitors leveraging SEO, some skilled in SEO and some with deep pockets, who are stealing your customers’ attention.

Competition becomes more intense if you are in a competitive niche. Competition for content quantity and quality, backlinks, existing ranking, site speed, and others. Again, this is why SEO takes time.

To get ahead, your SEO analyst will have to research your competitors. Discover their strengths and in what areas can you get better at.

Can you produce regular content that’s compelling and with a longer word count to include long tail keywords? Can you get editorial mentions from powerful sites like Forbes and Entrepreneur? How about starting a link building campaign through guest blogging?

Fortunately, there are tools that will help you analyze your competitors based on your needs. Examples of these tools are Ahrefs and Monitor Backlinks.

Getting quality backlinks takes a lot of work.

The fourth reason why SEO takes time is that building good backlinks to your site requires hard work. Hard work that doesn’t reap instant results. But of course, don’t forget the weight that quality links put on your SEO performance.

Backlinks that matter and definitely move the needle are links that:

  • Come from relevant, established websites
  • Have a high domain authority (DA)
  • Are a mixture of dofollow and nofollow

Going back to your competition analysis, acquire links from powerful websites that link to your competitors. At the same time, get backlinks from great sites that your competitors don’t have yet.

No matter what white-hat strategies you use to build backlinks, whether it’s commenting on other websites or writing a guest post, focus on quality and delivering value.

Your budget for SEO affects the rate of your progress.

Unless you can do SEO all by yourself, you need to set a budget. The more money you invest to hire a larger team to handle your campaign, the earlier you get things up and running.

Don’t expect faster results just because you paid more. There is no guarantee that bigger budgets lead to instant SEO results.

However, it allows you to make as many SEO optimizations as possible and then update your campaign, which of course is an ingredient for long-term success.

What should I do next?

Now that you know why SEO takes time, what are your next best steps so that you eventually meet your business goals?

Invest in a good SEO firm or consultant.

Unless you have more time to handle SEO all by yourself, be careful in choosing an SEO expert. Hiring the wrong team or person for the job may get you quick results through spammy techniques. Later, you’ll end up with a damaged, penalized website.

If you hired the right SEO, time would have been spent wisely. A good SEO specialist is transparent with strategies, provides monthly reporting, and can provide past references.

Don’t stop just because you’re seeing or not seeing results.

Many business owners easily get dismayed after a few weeks or months of not seeing an increase in rankings. The problems starts when you equate SEO results with the budget you set. Another common scenario is business owners quitting their campaigns once they generate traffic and sales.

It doesn’t matter whether you give up or stop early. No one succeeded by thinking of SEO as a short-term strategy. This leads us to the next part – updating your methods.

Update your methods.

Simple improvements to real results in SEO happen only if you treat SEO as a long-term tactic. Google algorithms change from time to time. These updates affect your website’s performance. What is relevant today may not be relevant tomorrow.

Stay abreast of algorithm changes as this will help you make improvement for your website to grow.


Because times have changed, it’s important that you take SEO more seriously. You’ll start to see SEO results in 4-12 months by making sure that your site is free from issues and meets search engine requirements. But this time frame varies depending on the situations we discussed above.

At the end of the day, the decision is yours if you want to pursue a good SEO campaign. No shortcuts, no fast lanes. Only proven and search engine friendly strategies that help your business thrive.

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