How Long Does it Take SEO to Work?

Shannon Correia October 16, 2021

Optimizing content is one of the best techniques in a marketer's toolbox. As with content marketing in general, a pertinent question is: how long does search engine optimization take to work? The general consensus is that the results trickle in over the long term. Let’s take a deeper dive into these expected timeframes.

How SEO Works 

What does time matter? Well, marketers and entrepreneurs need to record results to measure the performance of their strategies and to make accurate forecasts. Time is not the only factor that comes into play, and it is not the only one that is not clear-cut. In fact, many elements of SEO are general concepts and guidelines with no fixed strategy to copy-paste for success. 

The reason SEO matters is that without it, search engines are unable to index the content and recommend it to searchers accordingly. With a whopping 2 billion websites in existence, it’s clear why this is important. Ranking on the first page of a results page means your website is being found and seen. Without this, you’re relying on paid ads (which has its own set of disadvantages) and organic traffic (which is notoriously difficult to achieve). SEO also helps to improve your brand perception since high-ranking sites are considered to be authoritative sites. 

Once you optimize your website and the content that populates it, you can expect the SEO to pay off in the coming months. Multiple factors are taken into account, from the website itself to the content. This is also something that is always in flux, with SEO guidelines changing to meet the ever-evolving needs of viewers online. 

When it comes to how you figure out if SEO is working, you can conduct the following tests:

  • Keyword mapping: This measures your website traffic over time in relation to relevant keywords
  • Results page ranking: Seeing how your page moves in terms of its search engine ranking
  • SEO plugins and on-page SEO recommendations 
  • Technical SEO tools and software
  • Heat mapping 
  • A/B testing 

Some of the elements you’ll need to work on for SEO include: 

  • The market - how competitive is it? This is also why localization strategies work really well
  • The resources you have to invest in SEO (not only in terms of time but budget too)
  • Your website’s domain authority and structure 
  • Inbound and outbound links to your website
  • Content marketing 
  • Schema codes 
  • Keyword strategy


SEO Timeline: Measuring Your Performance

1 month: Conduct a full SEO audit 

By conducting a comprehensive audit, you’ll be able to identify your starting point and determine your goals going forward.

Be sure to review the following:

  • Keyword research
  • Technicalities of the website 
  • Content marketing 

Once you have the above, create a comprehensive overview. From here, you can set goals and assess your success with SEO so far. In cases where you are beginning from scratch, be sure that you conduct keyword analysis, create an optimized website, and develop a content strategy. This way, you can ensure that there are no limitations to your SEO strategy that are preventing you from ranking higher up in the search results, such as:

  • Images that haven’t been optimized 
  • Incorrect title tags 
  • On and off-page SEO efforts (do not engage in growth hacks and black hat tactics)
  • Age of the website
  • Errors
  • User experience 

While you’re waiting to measure your SEO results, you’ll be working. Content marketing is essential for SEO and needs to be rolled out continually. 

2-3 months: Create content marketing 

Content marketing will pay off in the long term. It provides extra value to your audience which can help draw in organic traffic to your site. It is also where the all-important back linking comes into play since building links to your site helps boost SEO. Content marketing does not only include your blog - include working with guests or influencers and consider digital PR as a means of expanding your linking strategy externally for added authority and visibility in the market. 

3+ months: SEO Grows

SEO efforts will continue to grow, especially when you apply a consistent strategy. By providing search engines with more information and drawing in more visitors, your SEO will continue to improve over time. This needs to be tracked and updates need to be made to your website and content on an ongoing basis to ensure it remains relevant and attractive to viewers. 

SEO results generally reflect this stage. At 3 months in, you can expect to be able to rank for low competition keywords. Greater results can be measured between 4 and 12 months (according to Google), especially when you’re competing for your share of popular keywords. It takes a while since the search engines take time to crawl, index, and rank. The use of short- and long-term keywords comes into play. 

As much as it's up to the search engines to see results of SEO, it also requires time on your end to plan, produce, and publish quality content. 

This lack of knowledge opened up opportunities for smaller businesses to move up the SERP quickly. It should be seen as an investment by your marketing team, and one that holds great potential if managed well. 

When you’re measuring your SEO performance, be sure to take the following metrics into account: 

  • Impressions
  • Clicks
  • Number of ranking pages
  • Number of backlinks and referrals 
  • Traffic
  • Domain authority
  • Page authority 
  • Brand mentions 
  • Conversions

Marketers need to follow updates that search engines are making and adjust their strategies accordingly. For example, we have seen the rise of pillar pages which can boost your SEO and ranking on search engines since it provides comprehensive information filled with relevant links. 

While some results from SEO trickle in, you’re likely to notice a ‘bump’ in your metrics. This is where there is a consistent elevation in traffic to your site which generally takes a few months to occur.

Improve Your SEO with Nexa

Nexa is a digital marketing agency based in Dubai. We help clients across a range of industries to improve their SEO and ultimately grow their businesses. We’d love to help you with your SEO strategy and rollout. Get in touch with us to get started.