SEO Expectations vs. Reality- How Long Does it Take To See Results?

Michael Jenkins
Michael Jenkins

CEO - Shout Agency
[email protected]


How long does it take for SEO to bring results?”– This is one of the most frequently asked questions among website owners. The complexity and intricacy that shrouds the world of SEO has given birth to unrealistic expectations pertaining to when to start expecting  results. Most website owners think that SEO is a one-time investment with everlasting results, and are shocked when they discover that it’s an ongoing process that needs ongoing maintenance. And more than anything, it is a slow process.

How long it actually takes for your SEO efforts to bear fruits will vary from website to website. Some might see results in a couple of weeks, while for others it will take months. Your success depends on several variables such as the competitiveness of your target keywords, content quality, your site’s niche, domain authority etc. 

SEO Takes Time

This is straight from Google’s mouth: “It can take four months to a year from the time you make changes to start seeing results.” 4-12 months can seem like an eternity when compared with how fast traditional advertising brings results.

However, if you are working with a sizable marketing budget to bring in traffic through pay-per-click ads, it will take time to bring in traffic for free through search engines.

The land of websites is eclectic—some are really valuable, some are irrelevant for the keywords they’re targeting, while other websites are spammy and only want visitors for fraudulent activities. Search engine bots, like the Google Bot has to sift through ALL these websites to find the best ones that genuinely gives their users the best experience. This takes a lot of time because Google has to analyze a lot of websites against each other on a myriad of factors to find the ones that are worthy of the first search engine results page.

Here are a few factors Google looks at when assessing site rank:

Keywords: These are words or phrases people enter into the search box to find answers to their queries. If you want to drive targeted traffic, you have to get your webpage ranked for the most relevant keywords. Just like you, all websites have a group of keywords they want to rank for. And some website’s target keywords will overlap with yours. They are your competition, and to overtake them requires time and patience.

Domain name: Including focus keywords in your domain name is a great signaler for Google to understand the context of your website. Although it helps, it doesn’t necessarily guarantee that your website will rank for the keyword. The domain age matters too. A website that has been around, without penalties, longer than yours will be looked at more favorably than a new website that just got launched. This is because it has a longer history of producing great user experience for visitors. 

Content: Search engines revolve around questions that users ask and the answers websites provide. This is why every piece of content on your website has to be remarkable and comprehensive. This is an important reason why website owners get frustrated after failing to see quick results. Because creating a piece of good, in-depth content using targeted keywords takes a lot of effort and time, and one such article is not enough to bring traffic. Google loves websites that consistently update their old content while regularly adding fresh new content to their blogs. 

Competition: Unless you’re a business that sells ice cream in Alaska, chances are that your site is surrounded by competition. The more expansive your competition, the longer it will take to see results. Once you start producing good quality content that’s optimized for specific keywords, you will find it easy to overtake lower ranking pages, but as you get closer to the first page, it will take longer to outrank the higher competition.

Backlinks: When it comes to backlinks, there are two facets of it that matter– Its volume of links (i.e. number of websites pointing to your site with a link), and quality of links (how authoritative are those websites). It takes time and A LOT of persistent effort to earn good quality backlinks from high-ranking websites. Google looks at backlinks as a form of recommendations, and the more recommendations that your website receives from other high-caliber sites, the more Google look at your website as an authority. And as a rule of thumb, the more authoritative backlinks you earn, your ranking will climb fast and higher up the search engine ladder.

These are just a few SEO factors that determines how your website performs in the SERPs.  And as you can see, it takes time to optimize web pages with high-quality content and high-authority backlinks.

It takes time to earn trust in Google’s eyes, and the higher the competition in your niche, the more effort it will take to beat the crowd.

While some websites do get lucky and start getting seeing results in a very short amount of time, know that it won’t last long. When it comes to SEO, slow and steady really do win the race. Bringing in long-term results takes time because good SEO practices require the execution of  sophisticated measures across numerous variables. Taking short-cuts will involve flaky black-hat practices that will pull your site down to the trenches just as quickly as it sent you soaring up.

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