How Long Does SEO Take to Show Results? (Updated for 2023)

Many moons ago, when I was fighting the good fight to establish myself as an SEO professional, a prospective client in a sales conversation asked me how long it would take to show results.

Naively unprepared for the dreaded question, I froze like a deer in headlights and stammered out a mostly unintelligible response with a lot of hemming and hawing.

I honestly had no idea how long it would take, but I was nervous to say that.

Suffice it to say I did not get that client.

Fast forward 12 years, and if you ask me the same question today, my approach to tackling that question comes from much more wisdom along with a boatload of areas I need to assess before I can give a data-driven educated answer.

TLDR: Will You Get SEO Results in a Reasonable Amount of Time?

TLDR: Will You Get SEO Results in a Reasonable Amount of Time?

A variety of elements come into play when addressing this question that unfortunately doesn’t have an easy answer. The best way to answer may be to see which scenario you most closely identify with:

The Best-Case SEO Scenario for Fast Results:

Your organization:

  • has established expertise in your corner of the world and also has established brand trust
  • has a built-in culture of content creation
  • believes in educating your audience and knows how to move them through the funnel due to a deep understanding of what motivates them to buy and what they need to know
  • You have in-house or external resources you can tap to implement and resolve issues; you have resources (budget or time) dedicated to these efforts over the long haul

The Worst-Case Scenario for Fast Results:

Your organization:

  • has only ever had a brochure site that only talks about your business using lots of jargon, and has not invested in technical performance optimization
  • has little to no brand reputation as an expert and prefers to cast a very wide net going a mile wide and an inch deep
  • has a tough time making decisions and sticking to them, and your marketing and organizational priorities change every week
  • is constantly putting out fires and has no time or regard for regularly creating content and educating your audience

Understanding how long SEO takes is something I’ve talked about here and here and even here – but the conversation continues as the answer “it depends” doesn’t often cut it (understandably. It’s annoying).

How Long Does SEO Take to Show Results?

Let’s revisit this age-old question and explore how my answer has changed from past answers. Factors to consider:

SEO and Keyword Strategy:

  • Does your website have historical and current ranking performance?
  • How competitive are the keywords you’ve selected?
  • Is your SEO strategy/objective casting too wide of a broad net, going a mile wide and an inch deep (due to not being able to make keyword decisions), or have you adopted a Pillar page approach to targeting and pursuing a Pillar Page approach targeting a specific keyword family?
  • If your initial efforts aren’t moving the needle, how quickly can you put Plan B, Plan C, Plan D, into place?
  • Are you pursuing informational or transactional terms? The closer your chosen keywords are to reflect “buying intent,” the closer to the conversion. You need a mix of keywords up and down the funnel.

Conversions and Site Readiness:

  • How “Ready” is your site? Meaning how is site speed, load time, and how many technical issues do you have that may be holding you back? Every website has technical issues (even top-ranking ones); what matters here is how glaring or severe they are and how quickly you can address the most significant offenders and dedicate resources to resolving them.
  • Does your site have a history of micro-conversions and the ability to move leads into a sales and marketing funnel?
  • Do you have established KPIs that show you’re moving in the right direction? Seeing small signs of success is critical to long-term efforts, momentum, and drive.

Brand Reputation and Understanding the Audience:

  • How strong is your brand overall? How reputable, how trustworthy? Are you the giant in your space or the new fish in a big pond?
  • How well do you know your audience? The better you know them (what makes them tick, what makes them convert, what information they need to know before purchase), the faster the results.
  • Does your brand believe in educating your audience and staying relevant? Is there an existing process of on-site and off-site content creation?

Organizational Support and Resources:

  • If your initial efforts aren’t moving the needle, how quickly can you put Plan B, Plan C, Plan D into place?
  • Can you consistently make time to work on your SEO initiatives in the midst of the whirlwind? Unfortunately, SEO is not something you sit down at once and complete.
  • Are you in maintenance mode or growth mode? Are you barely able to maintain, or do you have the ability to ramp up with a strategic campaign initiative?
  • When you get stuck – and you will – do you have resources, people, and a like-minded community you can brainstorm solutions and ideas with?
  • Do you have stakeholders who understand the value of SEO? Do they communicate that up and down the ladder? Are they willing to invest time or resources? SEO must be a top-down organizational priority.

3 New SEO Factors to Consider and Assess In 2023:

Here are three of the newer factors that need to be assessed in the timeline:

  • How much “E” – Experience – are you lending to your content repeatedly?
    • The acronym “E-E-A-T,” stands for Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness.
    • It is a criteria Google uses to assess the expertise of content creators.
    • In the days of duplicative, generic broad AI content, is your content going to stand out and make it over the long haul
    • PS – soon I’ll be providing training about how to use ChatGPT and AI tools to improve your content and still maintain E-E-A-T
  • How well do you know your post-COVID audience?
    • How are they different now? What channels are they on and where do they spend their time?
    • What makes them tick, and especially what triggers, messaging, and emotions will make them convert?
  • And, of course, the obligatory AI prediction factor:
    • We won’t know how SEO traffic will be impacted until generative AI gets integrated into search engines and universally rolled out. Oh boy – that will be a fun ride! I have so much to say on this, more soon.

Can You See Results Sooner?

Can You See Results Sooner?

About 6 years ago, Google produced a video about Hiring an SEO professional, and estimated results take several months to a year.

However, when you want to be more aggressive and quicker to achieve results, there are certainly ways to turn it up. SEO is a marathon, but there are also ways to sprint.

When I encounter a client who is ready to get fast results, it takes buy-in from the top down and gathering the troops: a copywriter/content writer + a developer to make technical optimizations + a strategic niche focus on attainable keywords + a concentrated time period to gain quick momentum.

Can You Champion the Importance of the Long Game?

As evidenced by the inputs and variables above you have to factor in and assess to answer the question— how long does SEO take to show results?—it just takes time to come together.

But it IS worth it.

SEO is the best digital investment because results compound. Like weight loss, SEO results comes sloooowlllly. And then, suddenly.

Every brand needs to invest in always-on marketing. Does your organization have the wherewithal, the foresight, the growth mindset, and the commitment, to go the distance?

ChatGPT for SEO Content:

Get this free resource - ChatGPT for SEO Content Cheat Sheet and learn how to maximize output and not get penalized in the process.

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Jenny Munn

Jenny is an independent Digital Marketer and SEO Consultant with more than 10 years of experience helping companies and content creators generate brand awareness, traffic, and conversions with SEO. She is a frequent speaker and is on the faculty for the AMA (American Marketing Association) and has taught SEO to thousands of marketers over the past 10 years.

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