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How long does it take SEO to work?

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How soon will you see the results of SEO?

You have an objective to grow your business – check. You are savvy and recognise that SEO is essential in reaching a wider audience – check. You have done your research and appointed a reputable SEO expert to optimise your website and develop your SEO strategy – check. Your next move will naturally be to question “how long will it take to see results?”

SEO is not an exact science, but many companies see results after six months to a year. It depends on variables such as competitor activity, how quickly your website can be optimised and how niche your market is.

In taking the first step to optimise your website for search engines, you have made an astute decision and maximised your opportunity for success. But in SEO, good things good things come to those who wait – and great things come to those who wait longer.

Here we take a look at the factors that affect how long it will take your SEO investment to pay off.

Why does it take SEO so long to work?

SEO experts are regularly quizzed on how long it takes for an SEO strategy to work. The short answer is no sooner than six months, and perhaps up to a year.

The more painstaking, but enlightening answer is that it depends on several factors. A thorough audit of your current web presence and an understanding of your business objectives and competitors will be required before we can even give you a (ballpark) timescale.

SEO pros are skilled at analytics and have a deep understanding of how search engines work, which will eventually see your website climb the rankings. But given the variables involved, even the most accomplished marketer will require time to pinpoint the right strategy.

The good news is that SEO is a results driven exercise, and good SEO marketers are naturally competitive at heart. They will use every tip, tool and technique at their disposal to ensure your investment pays off sooner rather than later.

What determines the speed of SEO success?

Not to state the obvious, but the internet is a complex place. The speed of your SEO success will be determined by many variables, which requires skilful navigation to get results.

Here are three key factors that may determine how long it will take to see rewards.

Website optimisation

Simply put, website optimisation is the art of making your website easier for people to find.

There are numerous tools and techniques that an SEO expert can employ to optimise your website. They will seek to improve the content, structure, accessibility, trustworthiness and speed of your site, to satisfy the search engine’s many criteria.

Depending on what you are starting out with, this could be a medium to long-term project. See more on website optimisation techniques below.

Competitor activity

Website competition can be brutal, with hundreds of thousands of similar businesses vying to be seen.

Like every other measure of business success, your SEO performance will be affected by the behaviour of your competitors. Depending on how optimised their website content is, they will be easier or harder to compete with in search engine rankings.

If your nearest competitors are out there producing crowd-pleasing web content on a regular basis, or have a burst of promotional activity, then naturally they are going to be harder to beat. This is where an SEOs competitive streak kicks in and they will be doing everything within their power to ensure that your website outperforms them.

Market niche

Whether you provide a niche product/service or one with mass appeal will also have a bearing on the pace of SEO success.

The size of your audience is a big factor in how soon you will begin to see results from SEO. If you serve a niche market with specialist services or products, you could see faster results.

For example, a small, online pet supplies company will find it hard to compete in SERPs (search engine result pages) against large retailers in an already crowded market. A pet supplies store specialising in guinea pig care might hope to fare better. A pet supplies store specialising in guinea pig outfits will fare better still… you get the picture.

That’s not to say that smaller businesses with a mass-market product/service cannot benefit from SEO, the results will simply take longer to achieve.

Why is website optimisation important?

Clients often wonder why they don’t appear higher in online searches, even though their website may be new and looks the part. The fact is, you can have the shiniest bells and whistles site imaginable, but if it is not optimised to satisfy search engines, it can still go unnoticed.

With no exaggeration, the internet consists of hundreds of billions of websites, all jostling for position. The search engine’s formidable task is to rank them in the most helpful way in response to search queries. The objective of the world’s leading search engine provider (let’s not be shy, it’s Google), is to make information ‘universally accessible and useful’ and so it ranks sites according to how relevant, meaningful and trustworthy they are.

So, the answer lies in providing search engines with what they need to recommend your website above others. What Search Engines Want is a contender for the longest blog ever written, so here is a more merciful summary.

Content, content, content

Rich website content (think detailed blogs, video, imagery) is essential in SEO. Search engine bots have integrity, and they ‘crawl’ websites for regularly published, valuable content. Unless you have the marketing budget of Bill Gates, you can’t churn out a library of informative, relevant articles overnight. Even if you could, Google favours older content as more reliable so your content will need time to mature.

Website structure

In order for a search engine to recognise your website’s value, its architecture needs to be watertight. Your SEO expert will work to make your website fast, secure and easy to navigate. Crucially, it needs to be optimised for smartphones, which is where half of website searches take place.

Search analysis and keywords

You will have heard talk of how keywords are the way to SEO nirvana. Although they are not the be all and end all of SEO they once were, they are still an essential. SEO pros will use search analysis to pinpoint the keywords that are most regularly searched for in your industry and build them into your site. This is not a case of simply hurling words at a page, the goal is to work keywords into the entire fabric of the website, including in headings, URLs, meta descriptions and content.


You may enjoy a good reputation as a trusted supplier and business partner, but the word ‘trust’ is different in the context of web searches. SEO builds trust in several ways, such as achieving as many external links to your website as possible to demonstrate your company’s credentials.

As in life, trust takes time to build and search engines trust websites more over time.

This list is by no means exhaustive, but hopefully it provides an insight as to the work required to make websites more visible.

So back to the all important question “how soon will I see the results of SEO”. In website optimisation, the timescale depends on the starting point. Does the website need an overhaul, a restructure, or does it require starting from scratch? If your site is little more than a description of your products/services and your contact details, you should accept there is work to be done. Sure, there are quick fixes that may produce small wins, but to fully optimise a website takes time, investment and skill.

SEO success delivered by Targeted SEO

Thanks for reading! We hope we have given you some insight into the complexity of search engine optimisation, and why it is difficult to put a deadline on success. While it may be a (relatively) long journey, it is a very profitable one, which we would be delighted to embark on with you.

The Targeted SEO team are highly skilled, professional and approachable. We won’t blind you with jargon or unfathomable analytics (unless you would like us to). Our aim is to provide regular, unambiguous updates so you can be confident that your hard-earned marketing budget is being put to good use.

When the SEO stars eventually line up, you will see a reward for your investment and patience, in the form of higher ranking and increased website traffic.

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About Targeted SEO

Targeted SEO is a specialist search engine optimisation company based in Southampton. We focus on developing websites which grow in organic traffic, resulting in more leads, online enquiries and sales for our clients.

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