How Long Does SEO Take to Work?

how long does seo take to work

Every month, hundreds of people search for an answer to this question, most commonly to be met with the advice that SEO takes about six months to work.

While the question seems straightforward, a generic answer encompassing all possible scenarios isn’t feasible.

Picture these two examples, and you will see what I mean.

  1. You are an established site, and your top page ranks around position five. You refresh the content and secure a couple of new links, and it ranks number two. This will create a noticeable increase in site traffic and won’t take six months to accomplish.
  2. You have a new website, which doesn’t have the pages indexed in Google yet. Before you can expat any traffic, you have to get the site indexed, get keywords into the top 100, and then move them up to page one, all before you can reach the starting point of scenario one above.

Understanding that your site’s current health, competition level, and budget are crucial factors that significantly impact the SEO timeline can empower you to make informed decisions.

why could seo take so long to work

Why Could SEO Take So Long To Work?

You Picked A Bad Agency

It’s important to note that the SEO agency you choose plays a major role in the process, so it’s crucial to be cautious and aware of your choice. 

  • Some agencies are terrible, and you will never see improvements. 
  • Some agencies follow a templated plan and retainer model, which will unnecessarily drag out the timeline.
  • Some agencies start with a paid audit and strategy, then map out exactly what work needs to be done to be successful, along with the cost of that work. In this case, your monthly budget will directly impact how many months it takes to implement the work.

Your Site Is Way Behind the Competition

What you must understand about SEO is to rank for a particular set of keywords, you must fill in your gaps to become equal with, and then surpass the competition.

This can be any combination of on-page SEO or link building – determined by where you start. 

  • If everyone ranking has 100 support pages, and you have zero, that needs to be addressed. 
  • If the top sites all have 25 high-tier links to their ranking page and you have zero, that also needs to be addressed. 
  • If you are competing with big brands and nobody has ever heard of you, that needs to be addressed.

Your Budget Is Delaying SEO Results

Just as a set amount of work must be completed, there is a known cost range to accomplish the tasks at hand. 

This could be very specific, like a fixed cost per link, or broader, like an hourly billing model for completing on-page SEO updates.

In either case, the amount of resources—be it time, money, or both—will directly impact the timeline for accomplishing them.

Google Has Dropped the Hammer On You

In addition to examining how your site compares to the competition, you should also be aware of any potential algorithmic updates or manual penalties that may have impacted you.

When dealing with a recovery scenario, additional time and expertise are required to analyze and correct the issues leading to traffic loss effectively. 

Once those fixes are made, you must wait for Google to remove the manual penalty following your reconsideration request, or in many cases, wait for another algorithmic update to see the full benefit of your improvements.

Google Hasn’t Found Or Credited Your Search Engine Optimization Efforts

Another timeline-impacting factor is how soon Google discovers an update was made and “rewards” you accordingly.

Even if you rewrote and republished every page on your site today, it could take weeks to see movement. The same is true with link building. After Google discovers a link, it can take up to 12 weeks to show its full impact on your rankings.

Both are partly because Google must crawl and update your information, then compare that to the other sites and determine where you should appear. 

Search Engines Like Google Want to Protect Their Secrets

It also helps to keep their algorithm a secret. If you immediately saw an increase or decrease in rankings following an adjustment, it would take a long time to game the system effectively.

While a watchful SEO agency can still pick up what’s working and what isn’t, they must allow a longer timeline between adjustments to make an accurate assessment. 

For example, when you first update a page, its position will drop for 2-14 days and then rank higher than the old version. If you had reacted to the drop, you would have made unnecessary changes that could have hurt your rankings.

If SEO Takes So Long, Why Do People Invest In It?

If SEO Takes So Long, Why Do People Invest In It?

Enduring Value Over Time

Despite the extended timeline SEO demands, businesses and individuals continue to invest in it due to its long-term value and effectiveness. 

Unlike paid advertising, where visibility stops when you halt payments, SEO provides sustainable visibility that can lead to ongoing organic traffic. This is critical because organic traffic is cost-effective and tends to attract more engaged visitors who are more likely to convert into customers.

Competitive Advantage

SEO is a critical tool for achieving and maintaining a competitive edge. In highly competitive markets, being visible on search engines can be the difference between a thriving business and one struggling. 

By investing in SEO, businesses can gradually climb the search engine rankings, eventually surpassing competitors and claiming a portion of their leads and sales.

Credibility and Trust

Search engines, particularly Google, are trusted by users to deliver relevant and reliable results. 

A high ranking signals potential customers that a brand is a reputable authority. Investing in SEO helps build trust and credibility, which is not easily achieved through other marketing channels.

Holistic Improvements

SEO isn’t just about improving rankings; it involves enhancing the overall quality of a website. This includes optimizing content for user experience, increasing site speed, and making a site easy to navigate. 

These improvements benefit all site visitors, regardless of how they arrived, thus enhancing general user experience and potentially increasing conversion rates.


SEO is often more cost-effective in the long run than other marketing strategies. While upfront costs can be significant, especially for extensive site overhauls or competitive keyword targeting, maintaining SEO costs are generally lower than the continual spending required for pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. 

Additionally, SEO’s return on investment (ROI) can grow over time without proportionately increasing costs.

Integration with Other Marketing Efforts

SEO seamlessly integrates with other marketing strategies, including social media, content, and email marketing, creating a comprehensive digital marketing ecosystem. 

This synergy enhances SEO’s effectiveness and boosts the overall digital marketing strategy, driving further value.

By investing in SEO, businesses are not just buying visibility but building an asset. 

This asset increases in value over time and supports and enhances other marketing efforts, making it a cornerstone of a robust digital marketing strategy.

With the right team and plan, you can find quick-win opportunities throughout the process. Here are some tips to speed up SEO.


Fast SEO: How Can I Speed Up SEO Results?

Fast SEO: How Can I Speed Up SEO Results?

Accelerating SEO success doesn’t mean cutting corners; it requires an innovative strategy. 

A standout approach, like Stellar SEO’s, hinges on a paid SEO audit and comprehensive roadmap provided upfront. This pivotal step ensures that businesses have a clear strategy, understand the cost and effort needed to meet their goals, and make informed decisions before spending time and money on an ongoing campaign.

Contrast this with the conventional free audit, often little more than a sales pitch for retainer services, and the value of a paid, detailed analysis and SEO strategy becomes crystal clear.

If you aren’t in a position to work with an agency or prefer the DIY approach, here are some tips to help you speed up your SEO results.

Develop a Clear SEO Strategy and Goals Upfront

An initial, clear SEO strategy, including setting achievable goals, is essential. This involves understanding your market, defining your target audience, and mapping out a content strategy that aligns with user intent. 

Setting these parameters early allows you to streamline your efforts and focus on activities directly contributing to your objectives.

Address Any Technical Issues

Technical SEO can often be the make-or-break factor in your site’s performance. Ensure your site is mobile-friendly, has fast loading times, and has a logical structure. 

Regular audits help identify and rectify any technical shortcomings hindering your site’s ability to rank.

Target Low Competition Keywords

While it’s tempting to aim for the most popular keywords in your industry, targeting lower competition keywords can provide quicker wins. 

These keywords often have a dedicated search audience, offering a clearer path to ranking higher. Use comprehensive keyword research services or tools to uncover these gems.

Create Quality Content That Is Unique and Engaging

Creating high-quality content isn’t just a tip; it’s a fundamental principle. Engaging, informative content attracts visitors and encourages them to stay longer, reducing bounce rates and increasing the likelihood of conversions. 

Aside from engaging, taking the time to study your competitors when optimizing the content will help you maximize your SEO efforts. 

The competitive analysis process will help you identify relevant content that is performing well and find areas where it could have been better, and implement them into your content.

Link Building

Link building remains a cornerstone of SEO. However, it’s quality over quantity. Focus on earning high-quality links from reputable sites within your industry. 

A clear strategy behind your link-building plan will allow you to select the most effective tactics to reach your goals. 

Many people who run their SEO campaigns still outsource their link building to an agency since it is the most challenging and time-consuming part of SEO. 

At Stellar SEO, we offer custom outreach link building services, including strategy development, competitive research, and consulting.

For those of you who already have the overall strategy in place, we also offer a la carte options such as blogger outreach, guest posting, and niche edits to help you secure relevant and high-quality links at any scale.


The Best Way to Get SEO Results Sooner is to Start Now

The Best Way to Get SEO Results Sooner is to Start Now

Whether you ultimately decide to go the DIY route, hire a full-service SEO agency, or do a hybrid of the two, taking the time to establish clear goals and define a strategy to achieve them will allow you to get better results in less time.

So, how long does SEO take? That all depends on your next move.


Travis Bliffen is the founder of Stellar SEO. His background as a U.S. Army combat veteran and a dedicated business owner has shaped his approach to SEO, blending discipline, thorough research, business acumen, and a deep understanding of the evolving SEO landscape.

Travis Bliffen's expertise and contributions in the field of SEO have earned him recognition and features in several prominent publications, such as Search Engine Journal and SEMrush, where he has shared his insights and strategies for effective SEO practices. Since launching Stellar SEO in 2012, he has been committed to crafting tailored link-building and SEO campaigns for clients across diverse niches.

Need Help? Get in Touch Below!

From Our Blog


Achieving an exceptional digital presence requires experience, careful planning, and creativity.