How long does SEO take to work? It varies by circumstance, industry, and competition for keywords. Understand that there are many Google ranking factors and they're adjusted regularly. You can usually expect SEO techniques to show results in three to six months. For extremely competitive fields, this may take a few months longer.
Wrapping Your Head Around Google
How does this work? Google sends out bots – these are software programs that navigate through web pages. It's doing this constantly, so it racks up billions and billions of web pages.
These bots are essentially automated librarians for the web. They collect and collate information, and catalog it all in Google's index. When a user makes a search, they're not actually searching the web. They're searching this index.
A well-designed website makes their information very easy for these bots to understand and categorize. That means they understand which search results should call up that website. They'll have more entries in more extensive parts of that index.
A badly designed website might be less readable and miss out on some easy cataloging that would have helped it show up in search results. They'll have fewer entries in fewer parts of that index.
On top of this, there are upwards of 250 additional factors that help Google's bots index your site. These can include SEO keywords, titles, HTML tags, bounce rates, loading speed, media metadata, the list goes on.
How SEO Works
The reason you have a marketing agency or department is so that they can take care of those 250+ factors that will help your website climb Google's rankings. Still, you should be familiar with the most important factors that inform your site's ranking. SEO is incredibly powerful.
An SEO strategy means you include repeated keywords in your content. When someone searches for those words, your website will show up in their search results. You're not the only one doing this – all your competitors are, too. That means finding keywords that are more commonly searched but now as commonly used. That balance can take some testing to get right.
Keywords are read by Google when they're in the text of your content – in blogs, articles, white papers, eBooks, etc. That's not the only place Google looks for them, though. They'll also search titles, headings, alt text for images, meta descriptions, links and their anchor text, and that's just a start.
Google will also penalize when certain keywords are overused. This is called keyword stuffing. If the content itself isn't of good quality, visitors will leave it – Google also measures this. It will prioritize readability, including media, and regular updates. If you use the same keywords as a more established site, you'll rank below them.
This is just the beginning, and you can already see how many different Google ranking factors intersect with each other. It takes time to realize the benefits of an SEO strategy, but once you do it will consistently build your inbound marketing numbers so long as you keep putting content into it.
An SEO strategy is a long-term investment. Most of your content should be oriented around evergreen topics. Their keywords will still produce reliable results years down the road. As you amass regular content, Google starts ranking your site more highly.
There's room for delivering content about more immediate events. This can be useful for bringing in a lot of visitors who may be interested in a very specific topic that's dominated your industry or broken through the mainstream news cycle. Realize that this content is less likely to still be delivering hits a year from now than the evergreen content, however.
Your content should also prioritize delivering information and not directly selling. People will value your content if you can help them feel more knowledgeable and informed. They'll bounce right off a sales pitch.
You'll notice a luxury clothing designer will post blogs about this year's fashions, fashion history, what colors are in, how the handbag has evolved, or how fashions differ around the globe.
You'll notice that a shipping site will post blogs about the places it ships to, how to understand customs laws, or how to package and ship difficult items.
Once you trust the brand to inform you and help you understand something complex, you trust their products and services, too. You don't need to sell each individual product when you can sell trusting the brand itself. If the customer trusts the brand, they'll sell themselves on the products for you.
Expanding Your Presence
The success of this is two-fold. Google ranking factors take time. Google (and other search engines) can't index your website effectively unless it's clean and designed to be understood by its librarian bots. It can't start to raise you in Google rankings unless it knows that you're delivering fresh content on a regular basis.
While users may hit upon a blog or article in the first few months because they searched a specific set of keywords, it takes a critical mass of content with a range of keywords to start getting many users hitting upon multiple blogs and articles.
Exploring Your Reach
Explore those two ideas and how they work. Think of it this way:
1. Google doesn't want to just push any page that throws recent content up to the top of its rankings. New pages that only posted once a month or two would be leapfrogging each other all the time.
Google has to serve its users. It prioritizes sites that it has a high level of confidence in being useful and engaging. It measures that confidence through its automated bots. Your site, and regular content utilizing SEO need to make those bots indicate to Google that your site is useful and regularly updated. Then Google will turn around and rank you more highly. That takes a few cycles of those bots going back and forth to tell Google that this site is one that deserves to be at the top of the search rankings. Google's confidence is based on those indicators being reinforced every time its bots measure them, and that confidence is what climbs you up the rankings.
2. More content also means casting a wider net. A few blogs and articles are a few fish hooks in the water. Some days will be good, some days will miss the mark. A critical mass of content is a net. It's going to haul up much more. You'll have a good catch every day.
In terms of Google's automated indexing, and in terms of your own organic reach, SEO takes a few months. Once it earns Google's confidence and hits that critical mass of organic reach, SEO will keep on delivering so long as you continue to maintain it. Remember that you can lose Google's confidence and you can lose that organic reach. Keep up the practices that got you there or it's going to be another lull before you build those things back up again.
How long does SEO take to work? Starting from scratch, it's going to take most organizations three to six months. Once it works, though, it keeps on working and building so long as you keep it going.