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How long does it take for SEO to kick in?

If you’re a business owner looking to invest in SEO you have undoubtedly got a lot of questions! SEO is a complex subject that has many components, so it can be confusing if you don’t work within SEO. One question that everyone wants to know is how long does it take for SEO to kick in?

In this article, we are going to cover everything related to the lengths of time things take in SEO. This way you can get a real deep understanding of how things work and why things take the time they do.

So, let’s not waste any more time and jump right in!

What we will cover in this article

How Long Does SEO Take to Work?

How long does SEO take to work? If only there was a simple answer to this question, I wouldn’t need to write this article! However, here’s the simple and most common answer you will get… it depends.

Okay, so that answer isn’t a lot of help is it? So, let’s quickly look at how SEO works. SEO is made up of two main parts. On-page SEO and off-page SEO. On-page SEO is everything that happens on your site and off-page SEO is everything that happens on someone else’s site. 

On-page SEO is implemented first. Depending on how much needs to be done would determine the amount of time it would take to implement it. This would be things such as keyword research, creating and/or changing content and fixing issues such as speed, broken links etc. Generally, this often takes between 1 to 2 months to fully implement.

Next comes your off-page SEO. This cannot usually start until you at least have some good content in place to link back to. So maybe if you have some content in place, you could get started midway through the on-page SEO. You would need a good strategy too. It’s not just a case of ‘starting’ off-page SEO, you need to work out why someone would link back to you, identify who they are and create a strategy that works with your goals. Off-page SEO can take a while to get off the ground, so it could be a month after you start before you start seeing your first links coming in. 

So that’s between 1 – 3 months of just setting up!

How soon can SEO work? Providing everything goes smoothly with your on-page SEO and you’re building backlinks soon after, you could expect to see movements in rankings within the first month. Just changing your sites content slightly can cause things to change.

If you make changes to your site’s content and Google crawls and indexes your site fairly quickly, rankings can shift pretty fast. 

These are early signs your SEO is working. When I say working it’s a sign the changes you have made have had an effect at least. They might not be moving in the right direction though!

When Should You Expect to See Results from SEO?

For many websites, you can get results within the 6-to-12-month period. But you might not be one of those many websites. Yours could take 12 – 18 months! Or longer! Why you ask? Because there are so many factors at play with SEO such as competition, budget, resources, content, website history, backlinks etc.

No two websites are ever the same, so one website that has taken 6 months to see results might have also had the same work done to it as another similar website, but the other website has taken 12 months!

So, is it all just an educated guess?

Yes, it is! All we can do is assess the various factors, understand the resources we have and make a good educated guess. We cannot control Google; we can only influence it. 

What Does SEO Success Look Like?

What does success or results even look like for SEO? Success looks different for every business and every website. Some business owners want more leads, others simply want to always be in front of the right people to build authority and raise brand awareness.

These various goals business owners have can be measured with various metrics. 

You need to define your own success. Establish what problem are you trying to overcome with SEO? What is it you want to achieve? And how long a time frame do you want to achieve this in?

Your SEO goal for 1 year will look a hell of a lot different to your 5-year goal. Have a vision of where your site will be at the different points of time in the future, and understand what success looks like at those different times. 

How long for SEO to take
How long for SEO to take

Why Does SEO Take So Long?

As we briefly explained earlier, SEO takes so long because there are so many factors at play, and we cannot control Google. You do not pay to have your listing on Google’s search results, it’s not pay-per-click where you get charged every time someone clicks on your ad. You rank organically and you have to earn that spot. 

Earning your trust with people takes time. Working your way up in a company takes time. It’s no different with Google. 

Your Competition

The first main reason that plays a big role in how long it takes is your competition. Every niche and industry have different levels of competitiveness. For example, the insurance industry is going to be enormously more competitive than let’s say the cleaning industry. 

You’re competing with the likes of ’Compare the Market’ or ‘Aviva’. They have huge monthly budgets to ensure they stay as the market leaders.

On the other hand, if you’re a local cleaning company your competitors are going to be other local cleaning companies. Their budgets will be much smaller. You essentially need to have more or equal amounts of spending power to compete. 

Your Resources

Following on from spending power is resources. The reason you need to have more or equal amounts available to spend monthly, is because the company with the bigger budget will have access to more and better resources. This means they can produce more frequent and better-quality content than you. This means they can spend more time on building better and more backlinks than you.

Unfortunately, like most things in life the more money you have the more of an advantage you have. 

Inbound Links

Inbound links also known as backlinks play a big role in how quickly you rank. Generally, the more quality backlinks and the quicker you can build them, the higher the likelihood you will rank faster. 

It’s important to note more doesn’t mean better. One high-quality link with let’s say a domain authority of 80 that gets 1 million visits per month of relevant traffic to your site, would be worth hundreds or even thousands of poor irrelevant backlinks.

In fact, poor irrelevant backlinks are pretty much worthless. 

Your aim is simply to find the best and most relevant websites that will link back to you. They will move the needle quicker than purely going of quality of inbound links. 


Content is another factor in the time it takes to rank. If you’re producing lots of great content regularly Google will always favour that over a website that produces no content at all!

The same as backlinks, it’s about the quality of content over the quantity of content. Only increase the amount of content you produce if you can do it without lowering the quality. 

Your Website History 

Checking the history of a website is something people often forget about. Your domain name could have been used before. Or you could have used an SEO agency in the past that didn’t play by Google’s rules. On the flip side, your website could be brand new, with a brand-new domain name. 

You need to do your due diligence on your own website’s past. Find out what marketing you have done before and check out your domain name to make sure it’s clean. 

You can do this by using tools such as Ahrefs or SEMrush that will show you your website traffic history and backlink profile. Google Search Console should also flag any issues and penalties your domain has incurred. 

You can also use a website called Way Back Machine. This website takes snapshots of the web and archives them. Simply search your domain and see if there’s any evidence of a previous site!

Immediate SEO results
Immediate SEO results

How Do You Know If SEO is Working?

SEO unlike other forms of marketing is notoriously tricky to track. SEO is considered brand marketing whereby it’s more about indirectly getting in front of the right people consistently. Whereas other forms of marketing such as PPC you’re targeting a small audience and putting your offer right in front of them. With PPC and other types of paid ads, you can see exactly how much people spend, how many clicks you get and then work out the conversion rate!

Let’s look at metrics you need to watch with SEO:


An impression is every time your website comes up in a search for a particular keyword. It doesn’t matter where it is in the search results if someone for example searches ‘flooring company UK’ and your website is somewhere within those results that’s 1 impression. 

As your site starts getting picked up for more keywords the number of impressions you get will increase. This is usually one of the first metrics you can see moving upwards. 


Clicks as you have probably guessed are the number of clicks you get for a certain keyword. You will only usually start getting clicks when you rank fairly high for a keyword. You might get the odd click here and there from being on page 2 but clicks will generally start increasing once you hit page 1. The top 3 spots will get the most clicks. 

Organic Traffic

Organic traffic is the traffic you’re getting naturally through Google’s search results. Slowly as the months go by and you start getting keywords on page 1 your organic traffic will increase. It’s important to look at organic traffic over a long period where you should be able to see an uptrend. 

Average Position 

In the beginning, if your site is relatively unknown, your average position for the keywords you have been picked up for will be quite high. As the campaign starts going you should see this improve. 

The only thing I would say about the average position is if you keep creating new content and keep getting picked up for more keywords, it’s quite likely your average position will remain quite high. 

Number of Keywords

Much like impressions, you will start to see the number of keywords increase as you start the campaign. You will also see this increase if you continuously add more content. With this metric, it’s just nice to see that you are getting picked up for the keywords you are targeting. This means you can assess how they move and if you need to do anything else to your content to improve their positions. 

The Number of Ranking Pages

The number of pages on your website that rank is a good indicator to see what’s working. Or not working! If some of your pages are not ranking that you want to rank, there could be an issue.

The Number of Backlinks

The number of backlinks can be an indicator things are moving. If you’re building backlinks you would of course, expect to see more backlinks. However, if your content is ranking on page 1 you could start to see people linking to you naturally without you asking them to. When your write an article, you link out to other websites that could be useful to the reader. If you’re on page one and someone’s looking for some good content to link to, to explain something further, you could gain a backlink. 

Referrals from Other Websites

Referral traffic can indicate from other websites can indicate more people are linking to you and more people are finding you through following those links. 

Domain Authority and Page Authority

Domain authority is an unofficial way of understanding the authority of a site from taking the first glance at it. Domain authority and page authority was originally created by Moz. Take domain authority with a pinch of salt as it can easily be manipulated. However, in this case, seeing your domain authority and page authority rise is an indicator your site is moving up the ranks. 

Brand Mentions

If more people start talking about your brand, then something is definitely working! The bigger, more authoritative and well known you become; you should expect people to start mentioning you more. Use Google alerts to monitor this!

Leads and Conversions

The more leads and conversions you start getting through your site, then clearly the more visible you are on search engines. Obviously, if you’re doing other forms of marketing you will need to take this into account too. Just a simple checkbox asking where people have heard about you on the contact form could be helpful. You can also track conversions on Google analytics or your CRM. 

Fast SEO results
Fast SEO results

How Long Does It Take for A New Website to Rank on Google?

New websites will on average take longer than existing older websites that are over 1 year old. By ‘new website’ I am referring to the age of the domain itself. This is because it can take longer for Google to trust a new site. You should expect the first year of your new website/new domain to be slow. Having said that from personal experience, in some cases, you can still get fairly good results by the 6 months mark.

With the thousands of websites being started every single day many of them are spam sites! Google needs to make sure your website is not just another spam site. The last thing Google wants to do is rank spam websites, users would be right pissed off if they clicked on a page 1 result and it resulted in them getting scammed. This would tarnish Google’s reputation. This is why Google treats your website with caution to begin with. 

There is speculation of something called Google Sandbox. This is where all new websites supposedly go to begin with. It’s like a probation period until Google trust you enough to rank you. Whether this exists or not is up for debate though as it’s never officially been confirmed by Google. 

How Long Does It Take Form A Backlink to Kick In?

Backlinks can be detected quickly by Google. Even software such as Ahrefs detects backlinks fairly quickly too. There is usually a delay before they start helping with rankings. The exact length of time is almost impossible to measure. You can’t even tell how effective one particular backlink is. All we can do is make an educated guess. Personally, I would say anything you build this month don’t expect to see an effect from them until the following month at least. Maybe even two months. 

Do Google Rankings Matter as Much as You Think They Do?

Yes and no. Keyword rankings are the most common way of monitoring your campaign. There is specific software just for tracking keywords, and most reports an SEO company would send to their clients would be showing them the tracked keywords. 

However, you should know that keyword rankings are not fully accurate. There are a few reasons that could skew what you’re seeing.

Firstly, the way keyword software gets its keyword positions is by performing a search on Google for the keyword/s you’re tracking. It will only tell you the position of the keyword at the point of the scan. Keywords bounce around all day long so within an hour that position could have changed. 

The next would be personalisation. If you have searched something previously Google will know this and will tailor your results more based on your search history, giving you a slightly different result to someone else. 

Another reason is your device and location. If you’re on a mobile walking around in London looking for a coffee shop, Google knows this! It pre-empts what it thinks your most likely want and presents to you results that fit that. Again, giving you a different result from someone sitting at home on a computer searching for a coffee shop in London. 

Lastly, SERP features are becoming bigger and bigger. Featured snippets, images, videos, products and many other features are appearing above the official page 1 result. For example, a website that ranks in position 4 can outrank position 1 with a featured snippet! 

This shows that keyword positions on software do not tell the whole story. Use rankings but use them as guides.    

How to Start Getting Organic Traffic Faster

To get organic traffic you simply need more time, money and resources to chuck at SEO. Create more quality content, build more high-quality backlinks and spend more time and money promoting your content.

My Rankings Are Stuck at The Same Range. How Long Should I Wait and What Should I Do?

Rankings do not move linearly. You might find they shoot up one week and then drop back the next. You might find you hit a flat spot for weeks or months! 

To overcome this, you should step back and re-evaluate what you’re doing. Perform some more competitor analysis, audit your site, look at your content and look at ways you can improve. 

Why Does SEO Take So Long
Why Does SEO Take So Long

How Can I Get on The First Page of Google in 24 Hours?

It’s possible because I’ve done it multiple times. If your site is indexed quickly and you publish some good content, Google can occasionally send it straight to page 1. However, every time Google has done this it’s been short-lived, and it drops back down the rankings again before making its way slowly back again. 

Why it does this, I’m not sure! One theory could be that it’s just testing different content for its page 1 results. 

How Long Did It Take You to Bounce Back from A Negative SEO Attack?

A negative SEO attack would refer to someone spamming your website with hundreds or thousands of spam links. These days Google is smart enough to simply ignore these links rather than take action against you. Otherwise, it would be easy to dethrone your competitors. 

However, in the event of it hurting your site you would need to disavow the links and also try to manually get them removed by the people linking to you. It would be hard to give a timescale because there are too many other factors that play as well.

  • How long does it take to remove these links?
  • If Google has taken action, what kind of action?
  • Are you still building quality backlinks?
  • Are you creating regular content?

How Many Hours Per Week Does SEO Take?

SEO takes as many hours as you want to put into it. The fewer hours per week you dedicate to it the longer it will take to get the results you’re looking for. On the flip side if you have a lot of time, and can dedicate a lot of time to it, you will get results quicker. 

Or you could just hire an SEO company to do it for you. That way you won’t be concerned with how many hours it takes, and you can focus on what you’re good at in your business. 

Is SEO Worth the Time and Effort?

Absolutely! SEO is more than just more sales and leads, it’s truly helping you build a reputable brand and an authority within your industry. The work you are doing now might not seem like it’s doing that much but when you look back in a year, 2 years, 3 years or more you will see how powerful SEO is and what it’s done for your business. 

With paid ads, once you turn them off, you’re gone in an instant. On the other hand, SEO produces long-lasting results.

SEO Is Not A One-Time Deal

SEO isn’t a once and done marketing tactic. You don’t do everything once and leave it. It requires nurturing. It should be built into your business like an employee is.

Let’s say you perform SEO for a year and then you stop doing any work on your site. You might have good rankings when you stop, but slowly over time if your competitors are still investing in SEO you will start slipping back down the ranks. Granted, this could take a long time, but in my opinion, you should invest in SEO for as long as your business is running, and you care about your online visibility. 

Start Early

The earlier you start the better! SEO takes a long time and the sooner you can start working on it the sooner you will get results! Too many businesses put all their eggs in outbound marketing such as cold calling, emailing etc. Of course, outbound marketing does work but you need to diversify how you promote your business and get leads. 

The thing with SEO is everything you’re doing for your website. You have 100% control over your site. The things you control the most should always have preferential treatment. 

Don’t Give Up

One of the most common reasons people don’t get results with SEO is because they give up too early! It’s a slow burner. Just because you don’t see the results you were expecting within the first year or 6 months don’t be put off.

You need to always be learning and adjusting so you can constantly be improving your site bit by bit month by month. As long as you’re not trying to cut corners and you are producing the best work you can, you’ll get there don’t worry.

Conclusion: How Long Does It Take for SEO To Kick In?

So, I hope now you fully understand how long it takes for SEO to kick in. You should now understand why most of the time scales we give in SEO are just educated guesses. 

You need to define your own success in SEO. A successful campaign looks different for every company. You should also set goals within certain time frames. 

Although SEO is hard to measure there are lots of metrics you can use to measure how your campaign is going. Again, decide what metrics fit with your goals. 

Although SEO takes a lot of time and work, make sure you are consistent with it. At first, it will seem like your efforts are not doing much but believe me, they are. 

If you can be consistent with it, you will without a doubt look back later down the line and see how far you’ve come. You will be able to see where your site started and the uptrend of your website of its visibility over a long period. 

Many companies simply do not have the time to spend learning and marketing their own website. Their time is best spent doing what they do best in their own business rather than trying to keep up with the fast pace of the SEO landscape. If this is you, most of the time it makes more sense to hire an SEO company that has the time, dedication and passion for what they do. 

Why not get in touch today and we can discuss how we can help your business with a good SEO strategy!

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