How long does SEO take to start working?

By Tim Priebe on December 12, 2018

By Tim Priebe on December 12, 2018

So your website doesn’t show up well in Google, and you’ve hired an SEO firm to help fix that. You’re paying them the big bucks, perhaps thousands a month. But you’ve been paying them for several months now and haven’t yet seen any increase in website traffic or business.

Should you be worried?

Probably not. Many SEO companies say it takes four to six months to see results, but in reality there are a number of factors that influence how quickly ongoing search engine optimization takes to kick in.

As my team has worked with clients over the years, we’ve identified five major factors that impact how long it takes your SEO to start working:

  1. How competitive your industry is online.
  2. How competitive your geographic region is online.
  3. How much time and/or money you’re investing on a monthly basis.
  4. What you were doing before.
  5. Whether your tactics are white hat or black hat.

Let’s examine each of those.

Factor 1: How competitive your industry is online

There are certain industries out there that are more competitive than others when it comes to SEO activity. Those include the following:

  • Affiliate marketing
  • Automotive
  • Consumer electronics
  • Digital marketing
  • Finance
  • Gifts & novelties
  • Home & garden
  • Insurance
  • Internet & telecom
  • Jobs
  • Mortgage
  • Pharmaceutical
  • Real estate
  • Travel

I’m not saying people in those industries shouldn’t invest in SEO. I’m just saying that all things being equal, it will take longer for it to kick in.

Factor 2: How competitive your geographic region is online

Of course, if you’re targeting local traffic from Google and other search engines, how competitive your local market is plays a big role.

In the United States, for example, both coasts tend to be more competitive, and things get less competitive as you move to the central region of the country.

Since we often perform SEO in Oklahoma City and the surrounding areas, we tend to have an unfair advantage over other areas in the country. Depending on the other four factors, we can often get great results for our clients with less investment than would be required elsewhere.

Factor 3: How much time and/or money you’re investing on a monthly basis

This one should be a no-brainer, but how quickly you get results varies greatly with how much you invest. If you’re investing just a few hundred dollars a month, you can generally expect it to take the better part of a year. If you’re investing a thousand dollars or more, it should just be a matter of a few months.

Of course, if any of the other factors are not in your favor, even a couple thousand dollars a month may take the better part of a year to see results.

Factor 4: What you were doing before

When you need to know how long SEO should take to start working, that’s usually because you’ve switched from what you were doing before.

I like to compare organic SEO efforts to a snowball. Positive efforts will accumulate and accelerate over time. So if you already had another firm working on your SEO or were doing it yourself with white hat tactics (we’ll explain what that is in the next factor), you may have already started to gain some steam.

On the other hand, if you or an SEO firm were doing some shady things, you may have your work cut out for you.

Factor 5: Whether your tactics are white hat or black hat

When we’re talking with people about SEO, they’re usually looking to do one of two things:

  1. Hire us to do their SEO for them.
  2. Have us do SEO training so they can do some SEO work themselves on an ongoing basis.

In either case, the tactics used will be those commonly referred to as white hat SEO tactics. But if they’re hiring someone else (especially an overseas company) or have learned how to do it on their own, there’s always a chance they’re using black hat SEO tactics.

Put succinctly, white hat SEO tactics are those that are approved by Google. Black hat SEO tactics are those that essentially try to cheat the system, at least when you look at Google’s guidelines.

Black hat tactics can see quick results, but they’re much more volatile, and there’s a decent chance you could be blacklisted from Google and completely disappear from the listings.

We’ve seen it happen!

My advice? Don’t underestimate how long it will take for your SEO efforts to start working. Take these five factors into account and adjust your expectations accordingly.

Investing in just a few months of SEO will be a waste of time and money! Plan on a year or two, and be patient for the first six to twelve months. If you give it enough time, an investment in SEO can pay off in the long term.

SEO Resources

We’ve been working with clients on SEO for more than a decade now. As a result, we have a number of resources available.

First, here are a few articles we’ve written:

I also wrote an ebook a while back that contains a brief, practical overview of Search Engine Optimization with proven tips on how to increase your organization’s ranking.

One of our episodes of PixelTV contains some tips for performing SEO on your website and thinking of keywords to optimize your site for.

Finally, we help clients by either performing their SEO for them or by training them on how to do their own SEO. If you need help showing up more and better in Google, we would be happy to talk with you.

Just reach out to us to have a conversation!

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