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How Long Does SEO Take to Rank a Website?

pwd staff OLIVER WOOD
Oliver Wood

|19th May 2016

How Long Does SEO Take to Rank a Website?

Why The Answer is Not So Straightforward

“How long does SEO take?”

We have been asked this question countless times.

New clients are eager to see what SEO can do for their business.

And most expect to see measurable results right away.

But SEO doesn’t work that way.

It requires a long term approach and careful planning at each step. Conducting market research, optimising on-page factors, building quality links, and measuring campaigns all take time. But it all comes together to give your business a strong competitive advantage online.

Why Business Owners Quit in the Early Stages

Those unfamiliar with SEO assume it is a complicated process with unpredictable results. Worse is when assumptions are made when a month or longer passes without seeing any results. So most business owners end up stopping their campaigns prematurely.

The reality is that the early stages of a campaign require a significant investment.

It involves conducting market research, optimising your pages, fixing technical issues, and building quality links. What you may not realise is that all these efforts are actually working but at a slow pace. If rankings for your target move from position 85 to 12 it is a significant improvement. But this won’t exactly lead to an avalanche of traffic to your site.

Studies show that the top rankings attract the most clicks and steadily drop decline:


So while rankings may have significantly improved, you likely won’t see any major gains until after you rank in the top results. Business owners unfamiliar with the underlying mechanics of SEO may conclude that their campaign is not generating results when this is not the case at all.

Factors That Determine How Long SEO Takes

It could take weeks, months or even years to start ranking.

It all depends on the following factors:

  • Competition: Are you in a competitive industry like legal or health? Then it could take longer to start seeing results as your competitors are all likely competing for the same keywords. Likewise you could see results much faster if you are in a rather obscure niche. Competition analysis can help you better understand what you are up against.
  • Domain authority: Is your site still relatively new? Then your way to the top of the search results is going to be much harder. The good news is that even new sites can start ranking for competitive keywords but it takes time.
  • Strategy: What SEO strategy will you be deploying? Certain strategies work better than others. Focusing on the wrong tactics could take longer to produce results or even lead to ranking penalties if you resort to questionable tactics.
  • Investment: How much can you afford to spend? The reality is that you get what you pay for. If you have a substantial budget to work with, then you can target more keywords and invest in other marketing channels such as social media.

So the time it takes for SEO to work for your business depends.

The key is patience.

A Long Term Approach

SEO is a multifaceted field that constantly evolves.

Google strives to deliver the most relevant results for each search query. So the ranking algorithms are constantly being updated to take new factors into account. One recent example is that mobile-friendliness is now a ranking factor. If your site is not optimised for mobile devices, your rankings could suffer as a result.

For these reasons it is impossible to accurately predict when your site will start ranking. Some strategies may work right away while other tactics may be less effective. If you are just getting started with SEO for your business, then you are likely eager to start seeing results right away. But keep in mind that there are so many different variables to consider from competition levels to your domain authority.

Based on our own personal experience, we have had clients ranking within weeks while others took longer simply because they were in a more competitive industry. The clients that have stayed with us are now seeing great results as a direct result of our efforts. So we encourage you to be patient with your campaign and to stay the course.

You will be glad that you did.