One of the questions that I get asked most frequently is ‘how long does SEO take’? There are a couple of different ways to interpret this question – like how many hours does it take to DO search engine optimisation for a business? Or how long does it take to start seeing results from SEO?
In this article I’m going to answer these SEO questions – plus a few bonus questions. I am going to write as though you have a basic understanding of what SEO is and how it works. If you need a quick refresher on SEO before we dive in, I recommend checking out these articles first:
- Beginner’s Guide to Understanding SEO
- Getting Started with SEO: The BeKonstructive Approach
- 3 SEO Red Flags You Should Be Aware Of
How Long Does SEO Take?
As a broad response to this broad question – it takes a while.
Most SEO Specialists will tell you that SEO is an on-going service. It involves a lot of tweaking, testing, then tweaking again. According to Reputation X, Google changes its ranking list and search algorithm at least 500 times a year.
That means that if you engage an SEO service at the start of the year, as a one-off service – Google will change the goal posts 500 times before the end of the year. That’s more than once per day! If you don’t have someone monitoring these changes and updating your website accordingly, then you will start to fall behind very quickly.
While there are only a handful of major updates to the algorithm each year, an SEO specialist still needs to be keeping on top of the small changes, tweaking your website content to adjust to the constant changes.
The closer you get to the top 3 spots for a given keyword or search term – the more competitive it becomes. Which slows the process down further. And if you do get to the top of the rankings and then pack your bags up and go home – it will be a matter of weeks before someone else nudges you out of the top spot.
Think of SEO like that game “King of the Hill” we all played when we were kids – getting to the top of the hill was only half the battle. Maintaining your position once you get there requires just as much strategy, dedication, and ruthlessness.
How long does it take to DO SEO?
How long SEO physically takes to do will depend on a number of different metrics. A larger website with more pages is going to take longer. Or a business that targets a broad range of keywords is also going to take longer.
Add to that the health of your website, the age of your domain name, your backlink profile and authority score, the quality of your on-page content, the speed in which you want to achieve results – and it is hard to pull an exact figure out of this air.
However – as a starting point – I would suggest that any SEO package or service you engage should have a minimum of 10 hours per month in it. Ten hours per month is enough for the average business to get started with.
It is enough to build out some of your content and make sure your on-page text is relevant to your chosen keywords, while also having enough time to create some backlinks and maintain your website health.
Anything less than 10 hours, and you’ll want to be asking your SEO specialist what you can do to help – what blogs can you write and what pages need more text? Basically, if you’re giving your SEO specialist a budget of less than 10 hours per month, then you better be prepared to make up the difference.
Maintaining Your SEO:
If you are in a relatively non competitive industry and you already ‘own’ the top spots for all of your keywords – then you might be able to drop to 5-6 hours per month as a ‘maintenance’ type of service. Just don’t let your guard down or a new competitor might swoop in and steal your crown.
Large / Competitive Businesses:
If you are a large business or a business that is in a very competitive industry – ten hours is probably not going to cut it for you. We have a client that we’ve been working with for over five years. Their keywords are very competitive – but have extremely high search volume as well. For this particular client we perform 30-40 hours of SEO work per month.
How long does it take to get results from SEO?
This is another question where the answer depends on a number of different variables. I’m going to break this down into two different scenarios to help you get a feel for how long it might take for YOU to get results from SEO.
Scenario #1: A BRAND-NEW BUSINESS
We have recently been working with a brand-new business. They have a new website, with a new domain name. All of their social media accounts are new, and prior to a few months ago, their business name did not exist.
We have been working on their SEO for 3 months now – on a 10 hour per month package. None of their search terms are ranking on the first page of Google yet. And we don’t expect them to for another couple of months.
New businesses take a while to build up authority. A lot of the SEO work for a new business takes place off-site, building out directory listings, backlinks, brand mentions and engaging in Digital PR activities.
We need to prove to Google that this is a legitimate business that is here to stay – and that involves building out a body of content – both on their website and throughout the internet.
Scenario #2: AN EXISTING BUSINESS THAT HASN’T ENGAGED SEO TACTICS BEFORE
We have recently started working with another business on their SEO. The business has been around for approximately 5 years. Their website and domain name have been active for the entire time as well.
Prior to starting SEO work with BeKonstructive, they were not indexed for any relevant search terms. Their website generated less than 50 organic users per month.
They also signed up for a 10 hour per month SEO package. In the first month we focused on building out their services landing pages – whereas previously they had one single ‘services’ page that listed everything they did on one page, we pulled each core service out and gave it its own dedicated page. We optimised each page for a different keyword and worked with the client to add 500-600 words of text on each of the new services pages.
Those new pages went live in the last week of January. We were seeing positive improvements in their rankings by mid-February. They still have a long way to go, but the results we are seeing for this client are significantly faster than those we’re seeing for the brand-new business. All because their domain name, social media channels and website have been ‘live’ and active for longer than the new business.
Some of the key variables that can affect how long it takes for you to see results with SEO include:
- Domain age – if you registered your domain name yesterday, it is likely going to take 3-6 months of an on-going 10 hour per month SEO service to start seeing results.
- Business age – if your business is brand new, the best thing you can do to help speed up your SEO results is some Digital PR. Get yourself featured in some online publications, invest in some content that is share-worthy, and build up as much hype as possible for your brand.
- Website Health – We’ve worked with businesses who have neglected their websites for the last two years. Even though their domain name is ‘old’, it has taken us the first two months of their SEO service just to bring their site health in line with ‘best practice’ from a usability, site speed, and security perspective.
- Existing SEO – Another example of a client we have worked with came to us because they weren’t happy with the SEO service they were receiving. They felt that the keywords they wanted to target weren’t the ones that their SEO provider was targeting. They tried to address this with their provider, but their concerns weren’t being listened to – so they came to BeKonstructive. The SEO work that the other company was doing wasn’t bad – they just had the wrong strategy. So, we were able to build off the work they had already done, re-optimise the pages for the correct search terms, and started generating relevant traffic for our client within a month. Within 6 months, all 12 of their chosen keywords were on the first page of Google and we were feeding new terms into their campaign to expand further.
The moral of the story here is that there is no ‘one size fits all’ answer to how long you can expect it to take to get results from your SEO campaign. I would say that the majority of businesses will fall between 1 and 6 months – if you’re 6 months into an on-going SEO service of 10 hours per month or more and there’s still not a trickle of traffic coming through, then it is time to start asking some questions.
How long does it take to lose results from SEO if you don’t maintain your campaign?
The biggest factor that will determine how long it takes to lose your SEO results if you don’t maintain your campaign, is competition.
If you are targeting keywords that aren’t very competitive, and you get into the first spot, you can probably get away with not doing much on the SEO front for a few months. You’ll still want to keep an eye on the competition to make sure no one swoops in and steals your #1 spot out from underneath you. But if your competitors aren’t active, then you don’t need to be either.
If you are in a competitive industry or targeting competitive keywords – then you can’t really afford to let your guard down or your SEO activities slip. Doing so could mean losing important ground that takes twice as long to gain back.
We have a client in the travel industry that fits into both of these categories. Some of their travel destinations are niche and don’t have a lot of competition. They own the top spots in Google for those destinations and we just have to keep an eye on them, maintain them with the odd blog or some tweaks to the on-page content but otherwise they are fairly self-sufficient.
But other destinations in their campaign are extremely competitive. With some of their search terms netting 18,000 searches per month – getting them onto the first page has been a battle. And keeping them there, pushing up the ranks, is proving to be just as difficult. We have to work on these keywords every single week. If we drop the ball, we lose ground almost instantly.
Is SEO worth it?
This is the big million-dollar question! If SEO is an on-going service that can take anywhere from 1-6 months just to start seeing any kind of return – is it actually worth it?
Firstly, SEO is the best option for sustainable long-term growth. Yes, it takes a lot of effort to get it off the ground, but once it gets going, it gains momentum month-on-month.
Think of SEO as an investment, with compounding dividends each month. This compounding traffic (and leads, and sales) allows you to grow your business at a sustainable rate.
Secondly, most SEO specialists will agree that SEO traffic has some of the highest conversion rates compared to other marketing channels. That means that if you compare 100 people from your organic SEO to 100 people from your Facebook Ad campaign – you will find that the organic SEO people will generate more sales or leads for your business.
This is mostly due to ‘intent’ – when someone finds you in Google, they have physically typed a search term into Google; they are actively looking for a product or service. When someone sees your advertisement on Facebook, they aren’t actively searching for you. Rather, you’re showing them an ad and hoping it piques their interest or that they impulse buy.
And thirdly, people who find you organically through Google are less likely to be incentivised by price. I don’t mean that price doesn’t factor into their purchasing decision at all. I just mean that they weigh up a number of different factors in addition to price.
People who find you through organic Google search results are more likely to browse your ‘about’ page, read a bit about your brand and your values, and make a considered purchasing decision.
People who click on Google Ads on the other hand, are more likely to be shopping around to find the best price. Which is great if you are the cheapest product on the market; not so great if you’ve invested in being sustainable and ethical, and as a result have a slightly higher cost per unit.
People who search via organic means are more likely to listen to your message and learn why your product costs more – and then make an informed purchasing decision.
How Long Will SEO Take for My Business?
No two businesses are the same. There are so many different factors that play into how long an SEO campaign will take to start seeing results – from your SEO budget to the health of your website, the quality of your content, how competitive your industry and keywords are, the age of your domain and business… and so much more.
If you’d like to have a no-obligation conversation about SEO for your business, and what kind of investment you’d need to make to see results, we’d be happy to have a chat. We have worked with a number of different businesses, in different situations, and can draw on our past experience to give you an estimate of time and budget, as well as any major hurdles we’ll need to overcome. Get in touch today to book a consultation.