When considering digital marketing efforts, many people are looking for strategies that generate fast results. After all, the more traffic and leads are coming in the door, the more sales opportunities appear for any business.

While SEO can be highly effective, it’s not the quickest marketing strategy. As a small business owner, you may be asking the agency or freelancer you hired how long SEO takes to work.

Unfortunately, SEO is a little bit like a slow cooker. You need to give it plenty of time to see an effect. Even then, you’ll often have numerous ongoing tweaks to make. Let’s look at how long SEO takes to work and the key factors to be successful with SEO.

how long does SEO take to work

SEO Doesn’t Generate Immediate Results

Though SEO is powerful when executed properly, you need a clear-eyed view of it before you start writing blog posts. Google staff themselves state that SEO requires four to 12 months to generate meaningful results, and requires ongoing improvements after this period. 

Given the amount and complexity of factors that SEO is based on, there’s no way to standardize SEO outcomes. Instead, leveraging proven SEO techniques and producing quality content over time will maximize the benefits you derive from this marketing approach. 

Remember that even if you’ve been doing SEO for several months, your posts may not rank as high as you want them to. Continue using white-hat SEO techniques and writing content that’s relevant to your products and services. Over time, Google will see your site as authoritative and reward you accordingly. 

Factors That Affect the Success of Your SEO Campaign

By acknowledging that SEO is a long game, you’ve addressed the hardest part. Now you can roll up your sleeves and start creating an SEO roadmap.

What exactly are the nuts and bolts of a successful SEO campaign? They include your content quality, technical SEO, and backlinks. Let’s break each one down into detail:


There’s a well known phrase in digital marketing that “content is king.” While businesses require a lot more than content to be successful, it’s absolutely a critical part of the puzzle. 

When producing content, satisfy three conditions above all else. Ensure your high quality content addresses your visitors’ questions, is long-form, and is easy to find. 

Quality is subjective, but most readers will agree that this means original writing that’s thorough and helpful. You don’t need to be an absolute expert in your topic, but you do need to generate insights that users can’t find elsewhere. 

Long-form content is becoming increasingly important as well, as readers are looking for information they can trust. If you’re learning a new skill or solving a problem, chances are you aren’t going to be satisfied with a meager 300-word post. You’re looking for proven information that gets results. In Google’s eyes, this often means blog posts that are more in-depth, in the neighborhood of 2,000 words and up. Creating longer form content requires more budget and resources, but longer pieces have a greater likelihood of generating rankings and traffic.  

It may go without saying, but written blog posts are often the most valuable type of content to produce. They’re easy to make, quick to share, and simple to update. It’s also easy to publish several blog posts per week, which shows Google that your website is a source of constantly updated information. 

With SEO, the sooner you start, the better. In fact, there are 3 reasons to start SEO now vs. later. Starting now gives Google the longest amount of time to crawl your website and start indexing your pages. Be advised that if you’ve never published content before, Googlebot may not index any blog posts for the first two months. 

Technical Fixes

Another component of successful SEO is technical SEO. The technical side includes aspects of your site that Google evaluates and users may or may not see, like your sitemap, page speed, and confusing site navigation.

Though technical SEO isn’t usually exciting, it’s just as necessary as your content. If you sell a great product or service but your website isn’t user-friendly, Google takes note of this.

Google wants to display websites that offer great experiences for users. If your website takes several seconds to load or leads to broken pages, you’ll get down-ranked. Poor rankings lead to fewer visitors, fewer clicks, and ultimately a loss of traction. 

Set aside enough time to check all the technical aspects of your website, such as adding internal links and optimizing your title tags. Other technical fixes include seeing which pages are indexed, looking for duplicate content, testing your site navigation, and reviewing your calls to action (CTAs). If any areas need help, create a plan and timeline to get them fixed.


Website backlinks are another critical aspect of successful SEO campaigns. A backlink is a link from one website pointing to another.

In an ideal case, a backlink is coming from a high authority site and pointing to a website with less authority. By obtaining more backlinks to your website, Google sees your website as more trustworthy, which boosts your search results page rankings. 

Every long-term SEO campaign should include building authoritative links from reputable, high traffic websites. Excellent backlinks generate more traffic that sticks over time, which is one of the 5 reasons SEO is a great investment for your business.

The more links you gain from other websites in a shorter period of time, the better. Beware, though; you don’t want to buy links or have to beg for them. Google’s algorithm can see if you’re getting thousands of links but from low quality sites, or you’re gaining an unusually large amount of links in too short a time (think several thousand links in a day or two). 

Instead, create email templates for a backlink outreach campaign. Look for relevant websites with blogs that would have natural backlining opportunities for your website. Then, reach out to them and ask if they’d be willing to offer you a backlink. It helps if you’re willing to offer them one in return. 

Know that building healthy, authoritative backlinks is probably the toughest part of SEO. It takes time, links can change without you knowing, and it’s hard to reach decision makers. That being said, Google loves authoritative sites, and a strong backlink profile is a key way to reach that threshold.  

Factors That Affect The Length of Time It Takes to See SEO Results

Now that we’ve examined the core of successful SEO campaigns, we can look at what influences how long SEO takes to work. While you don’t have control over Google’s algorithm, there are numerous actions to take that work it in your favor. 

There are three key areas here, too: competitors’ websites, the time and resources you have available, and your domain. Let’s look at each one in detail: 


Your competition is the primary factor influencing how quickly your own SEO efforts will pay off. The more work your competitors have done, the more catching up you have to do. 

If you’re writing one blog post five days per week, but your competition only writes three, you can expect to surpass them pretty quickly. If your top competitor is writing five blog posts and one eBook per week, and you’re barely churning out one post per week, you’ll have to up your content strategy. 

There’s also the factor of who knows more or less about content marketing. A company putting out low quality content often won’t get past a business that does one high quality piece of content per week.

Take time to look at the amount and type of keywords your competition is ranking for, too. You want to build your keyword strategy on a combination of your own keyword interests and those of your competitor. 

Targeting the right keywords creates a healthy balance of differentiating yourself through your own content, but going after their rankings too. Consider the quality of their on-page optimization and where you may be able to beat them. If you already know the 17 on-page factors to boost your rankings, it’s only a matter of time before you’ll surpass them in the SERPs.

Time and Resources

Your time and resources play a major role in the speed of your SEO’s effectiveness. If your team is large enough to write one blog post per day, you’ll see some steady growth after a few months. 

If you can assign one blog post per day to three or four writers, you’ll notice exponential growth after the first couple of months. Such a strategy assumes all of your blog posts are search engine optimized, and that your team revisits old posts to further optimize them. 

That’s one reason it’s great to set KPIs. Before all of your SEO work begins, identify the main goal you want to hit. Do you want to gain 500 more visitors per month within three months? Reverse engineer that goal until you see how much content is needed to reach it. 

In order to track your KPIs effortlessly, consider the 13 SEO tools every small business should be using. It will save you time upfront and money in the long run, as you’ll know where to optimize.


The domain you’ve chosen, whether or not you bought it from someone else, and how much optimized content is on it influences everything, too. Newer domains require more time to be seen as trustworthy by Google, hence many digital marketing experts’ avoidance of them. 

If your domain has aged a few years and you already have some content on it, your new SEO efforts will produce traction much faster. Keep in mind that domains with penalties on them also take longer to rank well. 

Overall, you want a domain that’s at least a couple years old that has several pages already indexed in Google. The algorithm gives preferential treatment to websites it’s already indexed, so the more pages you add to a seasoned site, the faster it will take off. 

How Long Does SEO Take?

All in all, how long does SEO take to work? For most businesses–especially if they’ve never done SEO before–it takes between six to 12 months.

That provides enough time to create content that can be thoroughly optimized. It also offers Google enough time to notice, index, and rank your website. Few websites will rank high even after a few months, but keep using the right strategies and you’ll be on page one. 

The Bottom Line

By now, you’re familiar with how long it takes SEO to work. You’ve (hopefully) embraced the fact that SEO can’t work overnight, and that quality content combined with technical prowess grows site traffic effectively. 

Let’s recap what we’ve covered:

  • Obtaining strong rankings in search engines takes time. Create a robust SEO campaign and stick with it for four to 12 months to see results. 
  • Numerous factors influence Google’s view of your site as well as your SEO’s effectiveness. These include your backlinks, content quality, and technical SEO. 
  • The amount of time it takes before SEO works depends on a lot, too. These factors include your domain age, your competition’s strategy, and the time and resources available to you. 

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