Category Tag

How long does SEO (Search Engine Optmisation) take?

Samantha Whitewood

September 27, 2022


min read

No items found.

SEO is a digital marketing activity that can take a while before you start seeing results. Find out, once and for all, how long it really takes to see results!

Short answer: 4-12 months

Long answer: The best SEO agencies explain that SEO is a complex practice with many impacting and undefined variables. On top of that, SEO success is not a guarantee. Results from SEO are dependent on many factors, including:

  • The industry you’re operating in
  • The keywords you’re trying to target
  • Your website’s technical setup and health
  • The level of competition for your chosen keywords 

These, along with other factors, will determine whether your SEO strategies will work and if you stand a chance at ranking in search engines. 

Find an SEO agency near you

If you don't feel like reading then please contact our friendly team. We have EngineRoom SEO services across all major cities:

Or view all SEO agency services.

How long does it take for SEO to work?

I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but SEO doesn’t happen overnight (and if an SEO agency is promising you this, reconsider doing business with them). Implementing an SEO strategy is one thing, but actually seeing the organic traffic come through or your website in the search engine results pages is another. 

SEO success is dependent on many core things; having an SEO campaign tailored to your website and specific business needs is the key to delivering a long term return and ofcourse plenty of patience.

The real question should be, how much work are you prepared to put into your SEO? 

How long SEO takes largely depends on how much you’re willing to put in. If you’re looking for quick wins, perhaps you’re better suited to Google Ads or pay-per-click marketing. On the other hand, if you understand that you need to work for your SEO before your SEO works for you, then you’re likely to see long-term, profitable results from SEO. 

For example, here is the traffic of a website that purely focuses on blog post creation, often compromising on topical relevance of their blogs to increase the quantity of content on their site and topical relevance. 

Example of a website with alot of informational content (5,764 sessions) and a low amount of leads (54)

Whilst it’s true that Google loves content, so yes, your organic traffic will be trending upwards, but it’s unlikely to see a significant and parallel increase in website conversions.We regularly see this when reviewing potential new SEO clients.

Now, this client started their SEO campaign with us in May 2019; notice how website traffic growth looks slow when compared to the example above, but conversions have increased alongside traffic? This is an example of a healthy growth rate as a result of a well-tailored SEO strategy.

Example of a very focused SEO keyword driven campaign that generates a tighter ratio between sessions (3,562) and leads (310)

How long does it take to rank on Google?

There are over 200 ranking factors in Google’s search engine algorithm, all of which are weighted differently, never fully disclosed and constantly evolving. Google is always changing the rules of the game, making it impossible for any SEO professional to pinpoint exactly how long it’ll take to start ranking on Google. However, a skilled SEO specialist should be able to estimate how long it’ll take to rank your website or webpage on Google and plan your SEO campaign accordingly.

These are the factors that should be taken into account when analysing a website, planning a new SEO strategy and setting realistic expectations for how long it’ll take a website to rank on Google:

1. The website

  • Is it built for search engines?
  • Does it pass technical SEO audits?
  • Does it pass Google's core web vital performance metrics

2. Website’s backlink profile

  • Is it at risk of penalising your site and hindering your organic traffic and search results performance?
  • Is it competitive compared with the websites trying to rank for the same keywords as you? 

3. Inbound links 

  • Do you have any authoritative websites backlinking to yours? 

4. Internal linking structure

  • Is your website distributing site authority to the correct pages?

5. Content

  • Is the content on your website quality content? 
  • Does it provide a solution to the answers your target market is asking?

6. Site structure

  • Is your website's site architecture configured to help search engines understand your site and find and index the most important website pages?

7. Competition

  • There are high and low competition niches; which is your industry in? 
  • Have your competitors been doing SEO longer than you?

8. Domain authority

  • Does your website have the SEO merit to compete for high competition keywords? 
  • Does your website have the domain authority to compete against the existing competitors in the market?

9. Domain age

  • Do you have a brand new domain comprised of mostly newly published pages?

How long does it take to rank for keywords?

It’s pretty simple; high competition keywords will take longer to rank than low competition keywords. If you’re new to search engine optimization and you’re entering a market with strong players on the first page of Google for your desired keyword set, you need to understand that it may take a long time to outrank them, and it may not even be possible. 

Your keyword research will show keywords with a range of search volume; this is usually the easiest and earliest indicator of how competitive a keyword is (and, therefore, how long it’ll take to rank for that keyword). 

SEO software like Semrush has metrics built into its keyword research tools that estimate keyword ranking difficulty. So, in your keyword targeting, include a mix of lower search volume keywords and long-tail keywords; these will likely be easier to rank for in the early stages of your SEO program.

Example of a keyword diffculty of 50% +

Whilst it's great to also optimise for the more difficult keywords, it could be a while before you rank on the first page of Google’s search results for these. It’s estimated only 5% of users click through to the second page of Google, so you’ll see more conversions being on the first page of Google for a lower competition keyword than you’ll see on the second page for a high competition keyword.

Why does SEO take so long?

SEO takes so long because of the many factors that need to work in unison. 

For example;

  • Website design, there’s no point in having the best-designed website if it's negatively impacting your site speed and makes it too slow to load. You need to consider the technical aspects as well as design.
  • On-page SEO, a beautiful webpage full of interactive elements won’t perform well if you’ve not left enough space for content. So, you also need to review all on-page elements of SEO.
  • Site Infrastructure, link building won’t be effective if you’re building links to a site, but they’re being pointed to the wrong page. So pay attention to your site’s infrastructure.
  • Penalties, keyword stuffing your content to try and cheat search engine algorithms is useless in terms of SEO. It may result in a search engine penalty, negatively impacting your SEO results over the long term. 
  • Content, there’s little benefit in ranking for keywords and driving traffic to your site if it has poor content. Instead, you’ll need to think about how you’ll convert users into a sale once the SEO is working.

Remember, all these need to work together to achieve optimal SEO results:

  1. Website design
  2. On-page SEO (keyword optimised content)
  3. Website Information Architecture (IA) 
  4. Off-page SEO (technical website health)
  5. Link building

Essentially, there’s no point in investing in a brand new website and expecting that alone to rank you in the search engines. Without implementing SEO in its entirety, you’ll compromise on significant results and likely only see minimal organic traffic (if any). 

How long does it take to learn SEO?

There’s a reason many companies outsource their SEO efforts to digital marketing agencies; it can take years to become an SEO expert. The length of time it takes to learn SEO isn’t because it is overly complex but rather because of the volume of information. You must be proficient in the 3 key areas (on-page SEO, off-page SEO and link building), the Google algorithm, and other search engine algorithms – if you want to rank beyond just Google.

On top of that, search engines are always updating their algorithms, so you need to be aware of what changes have recently been made (or are predicted) and ensure your SEO and website account for these changes. It also pays to be educated on the historical search engine updates to learn what doesn’t work for SEO and what’s caused an issue for website owners in the past (to know what to avoid).

To put this into context, a digital marketing agency's SEO division will usually be composed of experts (or teams of experts) split across the three SEO areas. This division allows for optimal proficiency in each area as it’s simply too much information for one person to know and know well.

At EngineRoom, our SEO department looks a little like this:

  • SEO strategy team (dictating the SEO strategy followed by the below)
  • Content team
  • Content editor
  • Technical SEO specialists
  • Website designers & developers
  • Link builders 
  • Project manager (to keep all of the above moving parts moving in unison) 

So, you’ve decided you want to do SEO. Great idea!

Now that you understand SEO is a worthwhile investment (that takes time) and will yield strong long-term results, you’re ready to start an SEO program. What’s next? 

We recommend chatting with a few different digital marketing agencies until you find the one that offers an SEO strategy that best resonates with your business and newly set expectations. 


Ready to start an SEO program?

Book a strategy session with one of our senior digital advisors and they’ll take a look at:

  • Your current website
  • Your competitors website and traffic
  • Your business objectives

Following this analysis, they’ll sit down with you to begin strategising an SEO program.


Some questions to ask:

  1. What industry experience do they have? Do they have case studies as proof?
  2. Do they understand your business model, and do they recommend SEO?
  3. If not, do they provide alternative marketing strategies?
  4. If yes, what timeline and milestones do they recommend for measuring SEO success?
  5. How does the agency plan to measure performance?

Talk to an SEO specialist at EngineRoom.

Still, have SEO-related questions? Book a free strategy session with a member of our digital advisory team, and we’ll answer them for you.

Ready to kickstart your growth?

Visit EngineRoom

Let's join forces and accelerate your growth together!

Explore our products and services