“The SEO’s job today is more than keywords and backlinks. It’s more than metadata optimisation. It’s more than even content. It’s the assurance of a frictionless user experience while delivering the right information at the right time and in a timely manner.” — Dainius Runkevicius
Ah, SEO – how we’d all love to reap its benefits quickly and grow our businesses organically while we’re sleeping. But everyone wants to know, why does SEO take so long? When thinking about investing in SEO, every business should be aware that SEO inevitably takes time simply because of its nature and the many mechanisms it uses for a website to stand out from its competitors.
If you’re looking for a campaign that will have fast sales results, SEO is not the right marketing strategy for one-time investment results. However, if you’re looking to strengthen your website’s overall presence, visibility, authority, and traffic for years to come, SEO is your best bet – and from our own experience, truly worth it!
Having worked with a number of clients on their SEO campaigns over the years, one big expectation that always halts our progress is clients’ desire to see quick results with SEO. The good part is that any investment in SEO will never be lost and it will positively add to your website’s performance over time.
However, the longer you invest and don’t give up hope, the stronger performance outcomes you’ll see. And keep in mind that a lot goes into SEO and all the following components are highly strategic and require constant analysis and upkeep:
- Keyword research and content writing
- Content optimization and publishing
- Technical SEO
- Site infrastructure and design
- Offsite SEO link-building
- Measurement, analysis, and content improvement
Convincing businesses of an investment that may take years to produce results is an uphill battle, especially for those struggling with sales. So, it is very important to educate potential clients on how SEO works and what they can expect from the get-go. And if you’re a business owner that is thinking about SEO or is currently investing in it but not seeing any results, here are my top 9 reasons for one of the most popular questions from business owners once they start on their SEO journeys: why does SEO take so long?
I’ll also provide you with some personal tips on what you can do to expedite the process with advice on what to prioritize and what newbie mistakes to avoid. With that said, let’s look at why SEO does in fact take a long time to generate concrete results.
#1: Website Authority
A part of SEO’s mechanics is using a process called link-building that involves publishing quality content on other authoritative websites so that one’s website’s own authority is elevated through the “association osmosis.” The higher a website’s domain authority (Google’s metric of how trustworthy it is), the more elevation can another website experience by being associated with it.
However, the higher the authority, the more competitive it will be to get approval to have one’s blog or content published on that website. It involves alignment with values/work, the ability to contribute something unique to the linking website’s audience, and good reasons why the website should choose to collaborate with you over others.
Undoubtedly, link building is the hardest, costliest, and most time-consuming activity when it comes to SEO, but it is an essential way to increase a website’s authority and get ranked for keywords. In order to compete against competition with higher authority and be able to be found by your ideal audience on the first page of Google, prioritizing link-building is essential.
But link-building is a never-ending process. The more links you build pointing back to your website, the better. But, simply getting to collaborate with a decently ranking website can be difficult enough, and then writing content takes even more time and resources.
This makes link-building a slow-moving process with a lengthy investment that will inevitably build a solid foundation for your website and its rankings for years to come.
#2: Domain Age
If you’re just starting out as a business and had registered your domain name less than a year ago, chances are that SEO will take much more time to grow traffic, rankings, and revenue goals. There are many reasons behind this that are interrelated. One key reason behind this is that the website doesn’t have enough domain authority to rank against older websites with more content and backlinks.
Truly, the first few years of a website’s existence are the hardest when it comes to building the website’s authority, creating content on a scale, and measuring results to see what works and doesn’t. It is a time of plenty of effort, experimentation, and building – without seeing any profound results.
But don’t get discouraged! This is natural for all businesses looking to rank organically on search engines. Most give up, either because of time, resources, or preference for other forms of marketing, but those that stick by the SEO grind will find that the results will reap benefits for years.
When it comes to new websites, the outcomes of SEO are not necessarily contingent on the incremental age of websites per-se, but rather on how much can be done and optimized within a specific span of time that can elevate a business’ authority and rankings over its niche competition. And SEO results, like wisdom, are correlated with time.
#3: Content Strategy and Keyword Difficulty
Another reason why you may see delays in your SEO rankings or results is that you may be going after keywords that are too difficult for your domain authority. Whether you are just starting your business or have been in business for some time and are just starting with your SEO campaign, your keyword research strategy should always take your domain authority in mind.
As a general rule of thumb, if your domain authority is 30 or less, going after low competition keywords is ideal. For domain authority range of 30-60, both low keyword difficulty and difficulty in the same range (30-60) are recommended. And for domain authority above 60 (especially 70+), a very strategically put-together content plan can ensure that you can rank very well for most keywords.
If you believe that your keyword difficulty is just fine and you already have some domain authority with a link-building campaign, then it is time to analyze other aspects of your content. In order to see why it isn’t performing as well as it should, make a list of blogs that don’t rank for any keywords and research the top 10 results for each of the topics to see what the competition did that you weren’t able to accomplish.
If the length of the blogs is longer, the blogs use more images and infographics, and they link externally and internally, then it is time to revise your blogs and make them even better than the competition. And if you can’t make them better, at least make them more unique with a tinge of your own personality.
Also, ensure that all the technical aspects of the blogs are in place, such as optimized headings, title tags, meta descriptions, URLs, alt image tags, and CTAs.
As discussed, when it comes to rankings, it is always important to check which types of competitors are ranking on the first page of Google for your chosen topic. If you notice very high authority websites like Healthline or CNN, chances are that it will be hard to rank the article amongst them.
However, if you find that other blogs and small businesses rank highly, simply check their domain authority, and depending on your own authority if they rank close to your own ranking, you have a great chance of ranking among them if your content is of high quality and looks even better than the competition.
I find that checking Google’s first page for a researched keyword is a great strategy – one that saves a lot of time and effort – before starting to write content, as there can be some incongruence between the keyword difficulty number and the type of websites and content found ranking on the first page of Google.
I always ask myself, “do I have enough domain authority to compete with this big shot competitor even though I can write content that is more valuable and unique”? If I feel that I can’t offer anything more authoritative to readers than my competition which has better authority and great content, I decide to skip writing content for that keyword.
Overall, even if you have a well-researched content strategy in place and can write a great article of 2,000+ words, that doesn’t mean that you will automatically get ranking wins. Depending on the competition for those keywords, it may take time as you build more links and strengthen your domain authority. But, even then, there are no guarantees. Thankfully, you can always revise your content so that it has more leverage and performs better over time.
#5 Content Quality and Quantity
Undoubtedly, creating quality content for SEO and optimizing it for performance is the foundation of your website’s success! The other SEO techniques simply focus on improving the technical aspects of the website so that your content has the best chance to rank well and attract leads.
If you skim down on quality because you trust optimization will simply be enough, this decision will prove to be costly over time as you discover your rankings perform worse as more businesses capitalize on the same keywords. Your efforts will then have been in vain and the SEO return on investment will not be worth it.
Instead, focus only on writing articles with which you have something new to add in terms of value and that you feel will deliver information that is lacking in other articles on the same topic. If you can be confident that you can write a winning article, definitely go for it! But if you think your article will not have anything valuable to contribute that stands out, then do start thinking about engaging other topics.
Overall, the best ROI for SEO is quality content that can rank on top of search engines, so make sure to study which articles make it and only invest the time and energy in researching and writing if you believe your article is original and exceptional.
Another important factor when it comes to search engine algorithm content scoring is the frequency of posting. If you post once in a while whenever you get the chance, it will measure this inconsistency as “untrustworthy” of an authoritative site, and may take that into consideration when it comes to rankings. Instead, stick to a schedule that you can keep – whether that is blogging once a week, once in two weeks, or every month. Consistency truly matters!
#6: Social Engagement
Although adding one’s website and blog links to social media will not garner any SEO link juice that builds a website’s authority, it will signal to the search engine algorithms that your content is promoted and that users are engaging with it.
Not only this, but users that find your content on social media can engage with your website directly, leading to rewards that come from another SEO algorithm signal – greater engagement and lower bounce rates. The more interesting and compelling the content on your website that keeps visitors interacting with it longer or coming back to it, the greater the engagement score will you receive from search engines, which will improve your rankings and traffic.
Inevitably, the more time a reader spends on your website page, the greater the signal that this page is valuable. By sharing your content on social media and with your network, you can ensure that more individuals are interacting with it, helping you rank faster and achieve more traffic.
#7: Budget and Investment in SEO
Undoubtedly, SEO, as anything with life, works under the principle that what you invest in grows over time. If you’re looking for big results but only spend very little time creating content and backlinks, your ROI will not be as impressive as companies that prioritize SEO as their main marketing strategy.
It is important to foremost understand your long-term goals with SEO and what you’d like to achieve even before you initiate your SEO campaign. If you have a marketing plan in place, it is inevitable that you’ll understand how much time and funding you have to invest in which area of marketing to reach your revenue goals.
But, SEO is a bit trickier than that, since its return on investment is correlated with time and many factors in control and even out of control of the SEO campaign. Although SEO cannot foretell consumer trends and seasonal behavior, it will at least cover all the corners of organic search optimization to ensure that you are right in front of your customer when your ideal customers are ready to solve their problems.
Inevitably, if you learn and do SEO all on your own, it may take time to see real traction and tangible results. SEO is simply too time-consuming and there are too many tasks to accomplish to do it quickly and efficiently. If you hire an expert SEO agency, on the other hand, you will be able to see progress and tangible results much more quickly but with a sizable cost to your wallet.
Depending on your goals and how serious you are with growing your business using SEO, your budget and time allocation to the project will be the precise ingredients that will determine how quickly you see results and grow your business.
#8: Site Design and Infrastructure
One of the least understood factors and the most “lethal” in terms of rankings is not understanding that one’s website design and infrastructure can cause the Google algorithm to not read it properly, which will contribute to crawlability and indexing issues of your content. Inevitably, this will delay how fast your content is ranked, the number of visitors your website gets organically, and even how users interact with your website (engagement and bounce rate).
Aside from site errors, site design and infrastructure errors are major contributors to silently slowing down an SEO campaign’s performance. This is the worst kind of SEO hit to take, since you may think you’re doing everything right by the book and not even notice any traditional indications that something is wrong and is causing a delay.
Some major ways you can improve your website’s design and structure include:
- Making sure that your WordPress theme is not glitchy and full of coding errors
- Simplifying your URL structure (the fewer words and the more logical the hierarchy of pages, the better)
- Ensuring that each page of the website links to other internal pages that correspond thematically (internal links indicate to search engine algorithms how best to read and understand your website, which helps with SEO and rankings)
- Changing your website security from http to https, which signals that your site is safe and trustworthy
- Eliminating duplicate content (while it is up in the air whether Google actually penalizes sites that share the same content on their pages, it is best to keep it to a minimum or better yet, reword the content)
- Ensuring that your website is mobile-friendly
- Checking that none of the blog guest comments are spam (this can impact SEO)
- Improving the speed and performance of your website
#9: Errors and Penalties
SEO is equally about content and technical performance. One is dependent on the other for optimum results. Therefore, keeping an eye out for your website’s technical issues regularly is a way to minimize delays in results and ensure that your website is set up for search engine success. If you are not technically savvy, the best thing to do is to analyze your website’s technical progress by requesting a report from Ahrefs or any other SEO performance-enhancing platforms.
Next, if you don’t have a WordPress developer and tend to go at it alone, it is advisable (at least in the beginning while you’re learning the ins and outs of SEO and your website) to hire a quality freelance WordPress developer that can help you fix major issues listed on the report. To make sure that all the issues are fixed, run another report a few days later.
If you decide to use Fiverr or Upwork to hire talent for your website, do ensure that the developers have actually worked on the same type of projects before and have solid proof of success. If you want the best quality, it will be difficult to find true gems on these platforms, as many developers in training are looking to build their experience and make money by falsely advertising their abilities.
Instead, if you want fewer headaches and peace of mind, my advice is to hire an experienced WordPress developer with a solid reputation or even better, an SEO agency that offers a technical service package.
And if you happen to be penalized for errors, don’t feel recovery will be difficult! Once you request a rebuttal for your penalty on Google Console, the time it takes to recover and see your analytics get back on track should be no longer than a few weeks.
How to Measure SEO Success
To really see if SEO is taking effect, you can track a few metrics that will show you the overall progress of your campaign. Keep in mind that your results will correlate with the amount of time and resources you devote to SEO. Foremost, make sure you have access to your Google Analytics. They will show you precisely where your traffic comes from, how long a user stays on your site, the most popular pages, the overall trend of your traffic growth and so much more. These highlights can truly inform how you structure your ongoing content strategy and what you can tweak to improve your traffic and conversions.
When it comes to rankings, you can use Google Console or other SEO tools such as SEMRush or Ahrefs to see if you’ve started to rank for keywords. However, keep in mind that just because you haven’t started ranking yet doesn’t mean your SEO efforts are in vain.
Perhaps you’ve only concentrated on creating quality content without simultaneously building links. As a result, you may not get any keyword rankings, since your website is still too unauthoritative to compete against other websites that are writing about the same content. This simply means that you should shift your focus on link building and not throw in the towel on SEO.
Overall, keep in mind that any work on SEO will be beneficial down the line but that a holistic effort in content creation, link building, and technical optimization is necessary to truly see SEO traction and get a sizable ROI on the campaign over time.
SEO is all about compound interest! You can think of it a bit like a formula:
initial investment + steady momentum over time = traffic and conversions for years to come
The missing ingredients in this equation are patience and trust. Unfortunately, SEO will not work the same way for all business models. Undoubtedly, seasonal and very niche businesses cannot compete against trendy global businesses. Narrowing down your expectations to what is possible for your business is incredibly important as is understanding the overall role of SEO in your business marketing objectives.
Here are just a few of our additional resources that will prove helpful for both new or existing websites looking to succeed with SEO and grow their traffic organically:
What You Can Do to Speed Up SEO and Grow Your Traffic Faster
If you’re starting on the SEO journey and you’ve yet to see results, you may wonder how long does SEO take to work. If you are just starting out with your business (have a new website), it may take a year or longer to see results. However, if you’re a business that has been around for years, you may see results anywhere from a few months to six months.
But, here are some tangible ways you can speed up your SEO results! Remember, there are no shortcuts to SEO – doing things right and taking the high road will always pay off in the long run (you will also have less likelihood of being negatively impacted by Google updates). So how can you speed up SEO by investing in quality and doing things right the first time?
- Invest time in researching keywords and creating a winning content strategy. Sometimes, we can get way over our heads by going with keywords that seem right on paper without doing more due diligence and investing time to research top competition’s content first. Likewise, concentrate on long-form content (preferably that is over 1,500 words) that delivers an engaging, unique, and valuable perspective on a topic.
- Check and ensure that all elements of your website are properly optimized, including image alt tags, headings, CTAs, schema, titles, meta descriptions, anchor text, and URLs.
- Make sure your backlinks come from reputable websites with high authority. If your website backlink profile is marred by toxic links, spammy links, and low authority links, this will have a negative impact on your overall website rankings and authority. In fact, a Backlink study concluded that the quantity and quality of domains linking to a website correlated with rankings more than any other single factor.
- Promote your content high and wide on your social media and share it with your friends and family! The more eyes and interactions with your website, the better. You can also create and distribute press releases that introduce readers to your products and services. This is not only great for your backlink profile but also a wonderful strategy for generating more brand awareness and website visitors.
- Improve the speed of your website. Yes, as already stated, speed really matters. And, it happens to be one of the easiest SEO metrics to improve for faster SEO ROI. In fact, a Kissmetrics study found that 40% of people expect a site to load in 2 seconds or less, and that 47% will leave if it takes more than 3 seconds to load.
- Since over half of search queries are conducted on mobile, make sure that your content is both visually and technically optimized for mobile.
Why does SEO take so long and is it still worth it despite the investment? Overall, SEO takes time because it is not a “put it out there into the universe one time and results will arrive quickly” type of deal, it is a consecutive investment that will take years of effort, revisions, tweaking, maintenance, and monitoring. Despite this, it is absolutely worth it! According to SEMRush, for every $1 you invest in SEO, your return on investment is 400%, or $4.
As I’d like to say, it is like investing in your education to then get your diploma that will help you find a job with a steady income. You have to show up to class consecutively, do the work, study, and learn from your trials and errors before you can succeed.
It is easy to give up too early with SEO. But even if you do, know that any investment you make in SEO will help to elevate your business’ search visibility. Even minimal investment will never be in vain and will help your business get in front of your ideal leads for years to come. But just imagine how far you can grow your business by sticking with SEO for the long haul!
A report by Fleishmann-Hillard has shown that over 89 percent of consumers use search engines to find information on products and services before they make their purchases. And if you are right in front of those that are searching for what you have to offer, just imagine how your business will continue to grow for years to come.
And if you need a bit more help with your content and SEO strategy and execution, our boutique digital marketing agency offers various content and SEO service packages to get you started on your path to success!