How long does SEO take to work? (And 5 tips to rank faster)


An organic website presence is a must if you want to drive leads and sales online. After all, the first-page Google results get up to 89.8% of clicks.

By ranking organically, not only do you not have to pay through the nose per click, the traffic potential is actually higher in the long term.

But it does take time.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a long-term strategy. If you create a Google Ad, you can start driving traffic and results instantly.

But how long does SEO take to deliver results when done right?

That’s what we’ll break down in this article. We’ll cover official Google guidelines, the newest research, and data from internal case studies.

We’ll even throw in a few tips to help you drive results faster.

How long does SEO take to deliver results in 2021?

After optimizing the SEO of a site, it will typically take around three to four months (and up to a full year) before you notice significant results.

This may seem like a long time, but it’s in line with Google’s official guidelines on the topic.

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According to Google’s Maile Ohye, it will take between four months and a year to see results after hiring an SEO agency or expert.

In some cases, with a strong domain and a lot of low-hanging fruit keywords that were previously untargeted, you may see results sooner.

But expectations are a lot less forgiving.

In our latest study on SMBs and digital marketing, we discovered a market discrepancy: 68.8% of SMB owners expect results in under three months.

But unfortunately, SEO is not a sprint; it’s a marathon. The real benefits add up over the long term.

SEO Takes Time… Let the SEO Agency of the Year Speed it up for You!

Since 2009, we have helped many businesses grow their online leads and revenue through SEO. Let us do it for you!

Why does it take “so long” to see results from SEO?

The reason any SEO effort takes months to show results is that even with a lot of hard work, the process involves a lot of waiting.

A few contributing factors to that wait include:

  • Google needs to re-index and reconsider your page rankings for any pages you optimize.
  • Creating high-quality content that matches search intent of the SERPs is time consuming.
  • Google prefers “proven” content with signals (like backlinks) or social media attention that show it’s worthwhile.
  • White-hat backlink and authority building takes time.
  • Google-approved link building (where you earn links by creating high-quality content) takes a lot of time.
  • Building authority and a brand also takes time.

Bottom line: you can’t rush the process.

Any SEO service that offers short-term link building is probably offering black-hat, low-quality links from a private blog network. Even if you see short-term benefits, the risk of getting penalized and completely shut out from the rankings can be severe.

But what if your website or page is brand new? How long would it take to reach the top 10 results then?

How long does it take for a new website to rank on Google?

Ranking a new website in the top 10 results on Google can take a very long time, up to multiple years if you don’t do everything right.

Over 94% of first page results are older than a year. The average page in the first position is more than two years old.

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But don’t give up all hope.

Of the 5.7% of pages that do rank within one year, the vast majority hit the first page within two to six months.

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While the trend varies a bit based on your DR (Domain Rating), even low DR domains show the same tendency for ranking in two to six months.

Note: A high domain rating essentially means your domain has a lot of backlinks from relevant sites in its category. It’s a clear indicator of authority and trust on the internet.

Let’s take a look at a real-life example of how we helped a client reach SEO success within such a time-frame.

Real example of how quickly HigherVisibility can deliver SEO results

We recently worked with a company in the shipping industry that had a very underwhelming organic presence.

When we started working with them in July 2017, they averaged 1,900 visitors per month, including paid sources.

That quickly changed after we got to work.

First, we fixed all on-site issues, like duplicate content, broken links, and more. Then, we applied more advanced white hat SEO strategies, like like analyzing competitor link profiles, creating high-quality content focused on attracting real backlinks.

Within three months, the organic traffic started to shoot up. By December that year, organic traffic had already more than tripled.

But the progress didn’t stop there.

One year later, in July 2018, the site received over 27,000 visitors. That’s a 1,321% increase in traffic in under a year.

But this is a time frame that you can only expect when working with an experienced SEO firm.

If you try to do things yourself, the first step on the journey becomes learning SEO best practices and ranking factors.

And we’ve got bad news for you.

The process of learning the ins and outs of SEO is even more time-consuming than waiting for results when working with experts.

SEO Takes Time… Let the SEO Agency of the Year Speed it up for You!

Since 2009, we have helped many businesses grow their online leads and revenue through SEO. Let us do it for you!

How long does it take to learn SEO?

If you’re starting from scratch, it could take you as long as four weeks to three months to grasp even the basics of on-page SEO.

Just like learning any professional skill from scratch, it takes time. But there are a couple of reasons why even the basics take months:

  • There’s a lot of conflicting information online. Finding trusted sources can be difficult. Here is a list of SEO courses we aggregated that could help get you started.
  • The feedback loop for SEO is very delayed. If you experiment on your site, it will take months before you know if it worked or not.
  • SEO trends and tactics are always changing and developing, so it can be hard to stay up-to-date.
  • There is a wide variety of complex tools that you need to learn to use effectively. For example, can you make sense of these results from Ahrefs, an SEO research tool?

Unfortunately, the basics will only cut it in non-competitive industries or for local SEO.

If you’re in a competitive industry and not just trying to rank for local terms, basic SEO strategy will only take you so far.

If you really want to drive results, you need to master every advanced SEO tactic and become an expert.

How long does it take to be an SEO expert (and deliver results)?

Mastering advanced SEO techniques like an SEO specialist will take you at least a year. And that’s if you’re working in the business directly under someone who knows their stuff.

Creating the perfect SEO campaign for your site will probably take even longer.

Hopefully, by now, you understand that becoming an SEO expert and dominating the results in a few months is a pipe dream. (Unless you absorb new disciplines like a young Leonardo Da Vinci.)

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few quick wins you can implement to see faster results from your SEO efforts.

5 tips to start seeing SEO results faster

Here are five of our best tips to help you start seeing results from your SEO initiatives faster.

1. Use keyword research to find low-hanging fruit

If you target the wrong keywords, you may not have a chance of ranking in the top results even if you invest multiple years.

For example, if you’re a local John Deere tractor dealer, you shouldn’t be focusing on the keyword “tractor” at all.

You’d need an estimated 270 unique backlinks to break into the top results for that keyword.

Instead, focus your keyword research on finding lower volume, less competitive keywords. That could be terms in your local area, like “tractor dealer + city,” or specific tips on tractor maintenance, etc.

Keywords that you could consider “low-hanging fruit” have these three characteristics:

  • An acceptable monthly volume (at least a few hundred searches)
  • Some level of commercial intent (like a product category, name, location, etc.)
  • Limited competition

There are no worthwhile keywords that have zero competition. That’s the reality of doing SEO work in 2021 and beyond.

But you can do your best to find keywords that match that sweet spot of limited competition, decent volume, and good search intent.

2. Invest in a quality host with fast loading times and a professional design

If Google users who click through to your site have a horrible experience, it doesn’t matter how good your keyword selection is.

Page speed became an official ranking factor in 2018. Plus, your loading times affect whether people stay on your page or not, which influences dwell time (another signal).

HTTPS has been an official ranking signal since 2014, and Google Chrome and other browsers will single out your site as unsafe if it’s still on HTTP.

Invest in a quality host that offers HTTPS, caching, and fast loading speeds.

Professional website design is another aspect that plays a crucial role in the user experience of your website. Design and usability is also factored into Google’s algorithm’s brand new page experience ranking factor.

So, to sum up, a great-looking, easily navigated site that loads fast will boost the results from every other SEO tactic you implement.

3. Eliminate basic on-page errors like duplicate content and broken links

The first step towards optimizing your SEO usually involves fixing your existing mistakes. Even if you think you’re doing everything right, there’s probably something you’ve missed.

A study of 175 million pages revealed over 300 million SEO mistakes. That’s an average of more than 1.71 issues per page.

Some of the most common mistakes include meta titles that are too long, duplicate titles, and missing or too long descriptions.

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Other common mistakes include:

  • Duplicate content
  • Hidden (unreadable) content
  • Broken links
  • Missing H1 tags
  • Poorly nested subheaders

To identify other basic mistakes, you can follow along with our local SEO checklist.

4. Start building backlinks by improving content quality and building relationships in your industry

It’s not a secret that backlinks are the key to organic search engine results. On the surface, it’s a factor that hasn’t changed much over the past decade.

When more unique domains link to your page, it means higher rankings and more search traffic.

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But Google now also considers the quality and relevance of your links.

One of the best white-hat tactics for building relevant, high-quality links is to network and build relationships with people in your industry.

You can do this by identifying top bloggers and influencers by exploring competitors for your targeted keywords. Then there’s also the art of building a rapport over social media. Twitter is a good starting point.

Of course, they’re not going to share low-quality, uninteresting, keyword-stuffed content just because they know you.

You have to work hard to level up your content as well.

Do this by:

  • Staying on topic.
  • Developing your voice.
  • Using visuals and graphs to show, not tell.
  • Sharing unique research or case studies when possible.
  • Reading and learning from the best blogs in your industry, but never copying or plagiarizing.

Together, these things will help your organic social media presence, and lead to natural inbound links.

If you then try a tactic like reaching out to blogs that link to an outdated resource, they’re also much more likely to reward you with a link.

5. For faster, better results, leave it to the experts

If you’re completely new to SEO, your head is probably already spinning from the first four tips.

Keep in mind that this is just scratching the surface of the discipline that is SEO.

As a business owner, one of the keys to success is knowing when to delegate and outsource. If you want fast, powerful results from SEO, you’re probably better off leaving it to the experts.

Hiring a professional SEO agency could be the way to go, trusting in their experience and knowledge in order to catapult your page to the top of Google’s search results.


If you try to figure out the world of SEO on your own, you can forget the lower end of the time frame of just a few months to get results.

With a DIY approach, you also have to learn cutting-edge techniques and best practices before you can even start waiting for results.

Best case, you’ll start seeing some improvements in six months to a year. In the worst-case scenario, you could fail to make any real improvements no matter how much time you invest.

If you don’t have time for failure or waiting an extra year before seeing results, you should invest in professional SEO services.

SEO Takes Time… Let the SEO Agency of the Year Speed it up for You!

Since 2009, we have helped many businesses grow their online leads and revenue through SEO. Let us do it for you!

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