Many people ask this question often: how long does SEO take? In other words, the question seeks to know the time it will take for a website to appear on the first pages of Search Engine Results Pages (SERPS), especially for new websites.
It is very common for clients to ask , “when exactly will my website appear at position #1 on Google?.” There is no right or wrong answer to this question. However, the best possible answer to give is : “between 1-6 months” — it all depends on factors such as :
- The keyword difficulty level
- The Competitive cloud (the competitors)
- The site health/structure
- The server the website is hosted
- The existing content on the site
- The backlink profile of the site
How Long Does SEO Take?
Nearly every SEO experts knows that, SEO is a long-term journey especially for new sites or or websites lacking authority. It can take up to a year before a website starts to gain tangible traction on SERPs, during an SEO campaign.
If a SEO specialist tells you he or she can rank a website in a month, you better Run!
I am not saying, It is not possible for a brand new website that is optimized and has high-quality content rank on the first pages of SERPs within a month. Some SEOs use black hat techniques to rank websites — the problem with this tactics is the fact that your website risk getting penalized by search engines i.e. Google. If your website is penalized, it means it will be deindexed ( taken off the search engine).
SEO is all about patience
Getting on the first page of Google for your niche keywords is all about patience. It takes time and effort to get there. Follow the Google best practice and give it sometime to take effect.
How long before seeing results after starting SEO?
Like i said earlier, there is no straight answer to this question — it all depends on certain factors or variables that have been tested and proven to work. Some of these factors includes:
Site health / Site structure
The way a website is designed or created is crucial, as it determines whether it can be optimized or not. The over health of a website also plays an important role in ranking a website. If the health of the website is poor, it may affect the ranking of the site. Factors such as Site Speed, URL structure, Sitemaps, Title, Header tags, HTTPS, Server response time, Team / Employee Profile, Portfolio, etc all falls under Site health and structure.
Ideally, search engines like Google rewards website with good User Experience Design (UX) and User Interface Design (UI). Learn more about UX and UI.
How to check your site health?
The first thing most SEOs do is to audit your website using tools like Screaming Frog, Ahrefs, SEM Rush etc before they strategize an SEO campaign for the site.
However, you may use the aforementioned tools or alternatively use any site health checker online to check your website health score. The better health score your website has the greater the chance your website will do well on SERPs considering other factors too.
See an example of how a website health checker work below.
After checking the health of your website, it is also recommended to check for duplicated content (see if the content on your site completely matches with other sites). Use Siteliner to check for duplicated content. The idea here is to make sure your site is unique. Even though Google doesn’t penalize your website for duplicated content, however, it may still affect your website ranking.
This is one of the most important factor that determines how long it will take for a website to start ranking on SERPs. Knowing the difficulty level of a particular “keyword” or “keyword phrase” in a specific industry is very important before you start to optimize a website. Hence, why keyword research is an important aspect of SEO.
Keywords with low competition rank faster compared to highly competitive keywords. Why? because most low competitive keywords have have little to no monthly search volume.
Some make the mistake of jumping straight at a competitive keyword (due to it’s high search volume) in the beginning of their SEO campaign. And when they don’t rank after 3-6 months, they wonder why.
It is highly recommended to optimize your website for low hanging fruit or long tail keywords in the beginning of your SEO campaign even though the search volume of that keyword is low.
If a website ranks for a low competitive keyword, it is only a matter of time before the same website ranks for a high competitive keyword in the same niche. It usually takes 1-2 months for a website to start ranking for low competitive keyword assuming the website is optimized.
Note: Every keyword or phrase started from 0 monthly search volume and increased over time. A keyword may appear as 0-10 average monthly search volume today, but after 30-60 days, the same keyword may appear as 100 average monthly search volume.
How to check the difficulty level of a keyword
There are many tools online you can use to check how difficult a keyword is i.e. Ahrefs, SEMrush, KWfiner, UberSuggest, CognitiveSEO etc Some of these tools are premium tools (paid). Thus, you might have to sign up and pay a monthly or yearly fees to use them.
For the purpose of this article, i will use Ahrefs to show you how to check the difficulty level of a keyword.
Sign up to access the Ahrefs dashboard and follow the steps in the video below.
Note: These tools are 99% and not 100% correct all the time.
The Competitor cloud
The competitor cloud is another factor that determines whether a site will rank on the first page of SERPs. If your website competitors are authority sites in your niche, it will be difficult to outrank them for your niche keywords. Authority sites (sites that have 50+ Domain Authority (DA) metrics) such as i.e. Amazon, Walmart, Entrepreneur, Forbes, Huffington Post, just to mention a few, rank for so many keywords.
In other words, if the DA of your website is around 1-20 and the keyword difficulty level of your targeted keyword is 40-100. It may take longer or may not even rank for that keyword.
How to check your Domain Authority (DA)
You can use any DA tool online to check for your site DA. I have used a Free online tool to check for my site DA below. Alternatively, you can install “SEOquake” plugin on your chrome browser to check for a site’s DA.
Analyzing your website’s backlink profile and that of your competitor will give you an insight as to how you may go about ranking a website for a specific keyword.
If your competitor’s website is on the number one position of your niche keyword on SERPs, it is possible that your competitor’s website has links from “niche-authority websites” (pointing to their website in reference to a keyword) — this means that other websites are voting for your competitor’s website in reference to a specific keyword— be it topic, subject, service or product related.
Once you have information of which and how many websites are voting for the website on the first, second or third position. The ideal thing to do next is, get those links to vote for your website too. It is as simple as that.
How to check the backlink profile of your competitors
You can use other premium tools online to analyze your competitor’s backlinks. However, I have used Ahrefs to check the backlink profile of a competitor below.
Note: The whole purpose of analyzing your competitor’s backlink is to go after the sites that are voting for your competitor. Don’t just go after every referring link, always ensure that the links you decide to go for are quality and related to your niche.
You may also high a link building expert to research for niche related websites that may accept to link to your site or any of your web pages.
You may have heard or come across the phrase “Content is King”. This is true indeed. Google and other search engines feed on contents. Without contents these search engines would never have existed. And this explains why search engines reward websites (with the first page position) for having “high quality contents” — contents that are relevant and valuable to a specific “search term” ( topic, product, or service).
Consequently , your website will improve in ranking if the content on your website is well optimized (adds value, unique and relevant) for your targeted keyword.
Rather than worrying much about “How Long Does SEO Take”? Instead worry about how to improve on the factors mentioned above.
Your website will rank on the first pages of SERPs 1-6 months if you follow best practice i.e. Improve your site site health score and structure, Research for low competitive keywords, Get other sites to vote for your site (acquire quality backlinks), and generate high quality content relevant to your targeted keyword(s).