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Why Does SEO Take So Long?

It’s normal to wonder why does SEO take so long.

Working hard without results can be very frustrating with search engine optimization.

But how long does it take for SEO to take effect? And what steps can you take to speed up this process?

Those are the questions I’m going to answer in this post.

So keep reading to get the honest truth about the length of time SEO takes to see the full effects of those efforts. I’ll also include some actionable tips you can use to make things go faster so you’re not waiting so long for your webpages to improve in their rankings.

And once you’re done reading here, check out my guide on how to increase SEO traffic in 30 days to get some good tips on speeding up this process.

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Why Does SEO Take So Long?

SEO takes so long because there are several factors involved to get results: SEO keyword difficulty, competition, inbound links, and domain age. Therefore, SEO can take a longer or shorter time depending on how you approach these key search engine optimization areas.

Plus, it takes time for search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing to recognize your SEO implementations and compare your content to other websites that are competing in the same space to give your web pages the authority they deserve.

That’s the simple answer for why does SEO take so long. And if you want to learn more about organic SEO, check out my guide on what is organic search engine optimization.

We’ll now go over these concepts in more detail so you can fully understand how they impact the speed of search engine optimization.

Keyword Difficulty Affects SEO Speed

According to Mangools, “Keyword difficulty (also known as keyword competition or SEO difficulty) is an SEO metric that estimates how difficult it is to rank for a keyword.” And there are many factors (both on-page and off-page) that influence the degree of keyword difficulty for a particular search term.

Some of those elements include the other attributes for why SEO takes so long that we’ll discuss next. But for now, just know that the difficultly level for all keywords is not treated the same by search engine algorithms.

Often, when a keyword has a large monthly search volume, then it will be more difficult to rank high for in the search engine results pages (SERPs). That’s because many websites are competing for that same term in order to capture the high volume of traffic for their business.

(Read my guide on what does SERP mean if you want more details about this term.)

A good example of this is a keyword that has a 20,000 monthly search volume as reported in keyword research tools like SEMrush (best with free trial) or KWFinder (cheap with free trial). That’s a lot of potential traffic for a website to get, and therefore, many SEOs will be targeting that keyword to get a piece of that action.

On the other hand, keywords with low monthly search volume are not as difficult to rank for on the SERPs because fewer websites are competing for those terms.

A good example of this is a keyword that reports a 0 monthly search volume. For many website owners and SEOs, this type of keyword is not worth optimizing a webpage for because it appears like no one is searching for it. But, the truth is that some of these 0 volume keywords can generate loads of traffic and many are a hidden treasure.

For example, Niche Pursuits proved that 0 volume keywords can actually bring in a decent amount of traffic. In one instance, a keyword phrase brought in 100 pageviews per day. In another, it brought 400 pageviews per month. This is mostly because keyword research tools are not 100% accurate with their estimated monthly search volume and because of this, many SEOs skip past trying to rank for these keywords, and that makes them easy to target.

Something else you need to keep in mind in regards to how long SEO will take for your site to kick in is that you need to target keywords that match the authority level of your website.

If you’re a new website, for example, then you should optimize your content for lower monthly search volume terms that also have low keyword difficulty. And with the right SEO strategy, you can rank for some of these keywords within 1 day or even a few weeks.

But if you’re site has been around for many years and is already an authority in its niche, then you can easily optimize SEO keywords for higher monthly volume terms with more competitive keyword difficulty. However, the results may not be instant; you may need to wait 2 weeks to several months for the SEO effects to kick in, depending on the strength of the competition.

If you want to learn more about this topic, check out my post on why is keyword research important for SEO. You may also want to learn about how many SEO keywords per page to focus on and how to add keywords to website HTML. I’ve got everything covered for you here!

And if you want to really speed up the process of ranking a webpage, then be sure to check out my Google SEO ranking secrets. It has a long list of tips and tricks you can use to properly optimize for both on-page and off-page factors.

Competition Makes SEO Take a Longer Time

In every market there is competition. However, some industries are much more competitive than others.

Take lawyers and real estate for example. These are the most competitive niches in SEO, according to the answers on Quora.

Compare that to bone broth (you drink) and laser tattoo removal. These niches have very low competition, yet high profitability, according to Detailed. So optimizing a webpage for these types of keywords will not take as long for SEO efforts to take effect.

With more competition, the longer it will take to climb to the top of the SERPs. This is both because of the number of competing webpages and the fact that the top-ranking pages tend to have experienced SEO professionals behind them.

Higher demand drives more companies and money into a niche, which leads to increased competition. And as these businesses are pushed to offer more competitive deals to get a larger share of the market, they have to hire more advanced search engine optimization professionals to speed up their SEO efforts.

This is one of the top reasons why SEO can take so long to see results.

If you’re operating in a competitive market, then you’ll often need to wait several months before you see the effects of any SEO changes you make. That’s because many other digital marketers are making adjustments alongside you and the results from those tactics will take time to kick in.

But if you’re in a low competition niche, then you can see SEO results much faster. For example, I’ve had some of my webpages rank in the top 10 search positions for low volume keywords on the same day I published a post. I’ve also had other keywords rank in the 40s to 50s initially, but then shoot to the top 3 results in the SERPs after 1 week to 30 days.

Inbound Links Take Time In SEO

Inbound links are also referred to as “backlinks”. And to put it simply, HubSpot gives this definition, “An inbound link is a link coming from another site to your own website.”

In my on-page vs off-page SEO article, I explain how the most influential type of off-page SEO is the number and quality of backlinks to your website. And according to Moz, “The authority of the linking site and the linking page both matter.”

In other words, it’s better to have an inbound link pointing to a page on your site that is both relevant and from a trusted source than some random site that has nothing to do with your industry.

When done correctly, getting backlinks to your website is a time-consuming process. That’s because good inbound links don’t come easy; authority sites don’t just link to anyone. And search engines like Google knows this. That’s why they have a patent for “Detection and Analysis of Backlink Activity” in order to filter out inauthentic or purchased backlinks.

To get a good inbound link, you need to develop a relationship with another webmaster in order to score a placement. And that takes time.

(But what if you own more than one site? Can you cross link them together? Sure, as long as you follow the advice on my guide about what is cross linking in SEO here that includes steps on how to do it safely.)

Generally speaking, more inbound links will help you achieve SEO success more quickly, but they also have to be good quality backlinks; you can’t just create 100 links in 30 days on spammy websites and expect those links to boost your keyword rankings.

In fact, studies show that fewer, high-quality links from relevant websites have a far greater effect on your SEO efforts than a large number of low-quality links from irrelevant websites. (Search Engine Journal has a good article on 3 Ways to Measure Links Quality if you’re doing your own outreach.)

This is one of the biggest reasons for why SEO can take longer than you expect when creating inbound links. You need to give those backlinks time to age and relay the proper signals to your website in order to achieve higher rankings in the search engines.

Just remember this: if a link is easy to acquire, then it probably won’t do much to help your website ranking better. So spend the time to network with trusted sources in your niche in order to get those valuable inbound links.

And a good way to do this is by using content marketing strategies. Check out my content marketing vs SEO article to learn more about this concept and how it can help.

Domain Age Impacts SEO Efforts

The term “domain age” refers to how old your website’s domain is. In other words, it’s how long your domain (or root URL) has existed.

An expert at Moz responded to a question about how much domain age matter’s in rankings and here’s what he said, “It is a factor. In general, it is easier to rank for a keyword on an older domain name than a newer domain name if all things being equal.” He went on to say, “Remember, Google’s focus is to show the most relevant results to the user. A factor of this may take into account that if a website is brand new (a month or so) it may not be as credible as a site that has been for a few years.”

Search engines can discover (and verify) the age of a domain in three ways:

  • From the WHOIS registration data.
  • When the domain was first crawled by the search engine.
  • When the first link to the domain was discovered.

Additionally, Google’s patent for “Information Retrieval Based on Historical Data” goes one step further to verify the trustworthiness of a domain by indicating, “Certain signals may be used to distinguish between illegitimate and legitimate domains. For example, domains can be renewed up to a period of 10 years. Valuable (legitimate) domains are often paid for several years in advance, while doorway (illegitimate) domains rarely are used for more than a year. Therefore, the date when a domain expires in the future can be used as a factor in predicting the legitimacy of a domain and, thus, the documents associated therewith.”

So aside from registering a domain for several years in advance, there’s not much you can do to control how search engines like Google measure the age of your website’s domain to make the results of your SEO go faster.

If you’re starting a new website, then you could buy an expired domain that was first registered many years ago. By do this, you can get an older aged domain that can help reduce the time it takes for SEO to take a effect.

But if you’re site is already well established on a new domain, then you’ll just have to wait for the months and years to pass while the search engines verify that your domain is credible. While you’re waiting, just continue to write high-quality content that’s targeting low-difficulty keywords and work on building those niche-related backlinks. In time, your efforts will pay off.

I’ve had sites that received barely any traffic for the first 6 months, and then all of a sudden the site popped and every page started ranking on page one of Google for its target keywords. That’s because I followed the advice I just gave you in the previous paragraph. By making your site a valuable resource in your industry, you can speed the time it takes for your SEO efforts to go into full effect.

How Do I Know if SEO is Working?

You know if SEO is working when your keyword rankings and traffic improve. If the keywords you’re tracking are increasing in search engine positions, then your SEO is working well. Also, if the traffic to a particular webpage you’ve done SEO on is rising, then search engine optimization is working.

The best advice here is to be patient when doing SEO implementations on a website. The effects often do not happen overnight but take several weeks to months to see the full results. That’s why your business needs SEO and should be working on search engine optimization updates on a daily or weekly basis.

How Long Does it Take for SEO to Take Effect?

The average time it takes for SEO to take effect is 4 to 12 months. By that time, you should see if your SEO efforts are working. Additionally, good SEO takes time to show the full effects. The results you’re getting at 4 months will be less than what you’re getting at 12 months.

In the video below, Google answers this question specifically to verify that claim. Skip to the 1:40 to hear the answer for how long does it take for SEO to take effect.

As a recap, here is what Google said, “In most cases, SEOs need four months to a year to help your business first implement improvements and then see potential benefit.” One thing this estimate also includes is the time it takes for an SEO to audit your website in order to come up with an actional search engine optimization plan. That process can take 30 to 60 days alone.

Now consider this ranking data analysis by Ahrefs:

  • Only 5.7% of all studied pages ranked in the top 10 search results within 1 year for at least 1 keyword.
  • The average top 10 ranking page is 2+ years old.
  • Those that rank at position #1 are almost 3 years old (on average).
  • The majority of webpages managed to achieve these rankings in approximately 61–182 days.

Based on this information, you shouldn’t abandon your SEO strategies too quickly. You need to make your implementations, then wait for the effects to take place. SEO is important for your online success, especially over the long term.

In my experience, SEO takes a lot longer these days as compared to previous years to see the total impact of your changes. For example, I went through the process of doing a full on-site audit for every page on one of my websites in order to create a checklist of things to do to improve my search engine optimization. And after implementing every step on every webpage, it took 3 months before my keyword rankings increased across the board.

I literally saw no positive improvements in traffic or rankings until one day when things increased suddenly. Then over the next week, traffic and rankings continued to soar and then leveled out and remained steady.

If I didn’t know what I know now, then I would have been very concerned during months 1 to 3. That’s because I wouldn’t have seen any of my SEO taking effect. However, after the 3 month mark, the keyword rankings and traffic surged. After an unannounced Google update, my content was considered to be better than the competition from the search engine optimization strategies I put into place. And now, that site is ranking in the top 10 search result positions for many high-volume keywords.

If you want to learn some of the tricks I use to rank my content quickly, then check out my post that answers the question, “how can I improve my SEO fast?”

You may also want to read my guide on how to boost search results for specific keywords that you want to rank high on Google for.

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Summary on Why Does SEO Take So Long?

I hope you enjoyed this post on why does SEO take so long.

As you learned, the answer for how long does it take for SEO to take effect depends on several things: keyword difficulty, competition, inbound links, and domain age. Also, the average time it takes for SEO to kick in is 4 to 12 months. But keep in mind that every webpage and keyword is different. You could see results much faster than this, or much longer.

So just be patient if you’re not seeing the results you want right now. In time, things should work out well if you’re doing SEO the right way.

Why Does SEO Take So Long