If you’re just getting started with optimising your new website for search engines and are wondering how long it takes from start to finish to take your site to the top of search engine results, here’s the truth:
- There’s no finish. Search engine optimisation (SEO) is an ongoing process. This means that you need to optimise your site constantly, then review and optimise again and so on.
- The time it takes to start getting SEO results depends on many factors. We know that that’s a rather unsatisfying answer so in this post we’ll take a look at some of these factors and see if we can agree on something better than “it depends…”.
So if you’re just diving in, our advice is to think about a long-term strategy and be willing to invest time and resources into the process. If you’re patient and commit to doing the work, you’ll get great results.
New SEO vs old SEO
You’ve probably already read loads of articles and advice on how to get your site ranking high in Google and other search engines. But here’s the thing: with everything in the search industry continually changing, with Google rolling out new algorithms and updating old ones, if you think SEO will get you quick results, think again.
A while back, having more backlinks to your site than your competitors would have been enough for you to out-rank them, now it’s about much more than that. There are many more factors that influence rankings these days and it takes time to build a good SEO strategy that can increase your rankings over time. Creating unique, quality content that your audience is interested in takes effort. Plus, it’s no longer just about creating a page of content and optimising it with the right keywords. You now need to add to that some interlinking, backlinks, engagement and social interaction in order to make that page count for search engines and get it to rank higher.
Let’s explain. Years ago the key strategy was to cover the strongest keywords in your niche and to optimise the entire website using them. That was the old SEO. The new SEO focuses first on optimising a site for highly targeted keywords (also known as long-tail keywords) to help it build enough trust and authority so it can then compete for more generic keywords with a higher search volume. Individual pages on a site should cover a particular topic in-depth, so it can rank well for a variety of these long-tail keywords.
So, if you’re a new business, forget about stuffing your content with generic keywords like “professional hairdresser” and instead go with more specific phrases and words that your potential customers will be searching for. Use variations of your main keyword, synonyms, related terms and long-tail keywords. You should also consider mentioning your location as competition will be lower for keywords that include a specific city or neighbourhood.
For example, if you’re hairdresser in London, make sure to first target long-tail keywords like “London hairdresser” or “London wedding hairdresser” instead of just “hairdresser”. No one will search for “hairdresser” and expect relevant results, your users will most likely include details such as the location so they can find a nearby parlour they can get to, or the event they had in mind (such as a wedding) so they can find a hairdresser that does what they need.
The more specific you are with your keywords, the better the chances of attracting the right audience who is actually interested in your content and your business. However, it’s important to ensure that any content your create for your website includes copy that is targeted at a potential customers needs, and not just stuff with keywords. If you want to learn more about keyword research and how to use it to create content that users and search engines will love, then we recommend you take our free course on search engine optimisation.
Why small businesses should consider SEO
But why do you need to invest in SEO anyway? Is it really necessary if you’re a small business?
The answer is a resounding “yes”. SEO helps your audience to find you online and it also moves them through each stage of the buying cycle:
- It builds awareness. It’s through organic results that people find your site and become aware of the products and services you sell.
- It helps them with their research. The more information you provide through different types of content like blog posts, infographics, videos, the better your chances of attracting them to your site.
- It helps them to confirm their final choice and it entices them to purchase from you. You get to build their trust and convince them to buy from you.
In addition to these, here are some other important reasons why you should consider SEO:
- SEO delivers a better return than any other form of online marketing
If it doesn’t deliver, it may be because you or the SEO professional you’ve hired isn’t doing it right. When done correctly SEO can deliver nonstop organic traffic to your site. But don’t take our word for it. Here are some SEO statistics to prove it:
- 93% of online experiences begin with a search engine. (Source)
- Leads generated through SEO close at around 14.6 percent while leads from other channels close at an average of 1.7 percent. (Source)
- Search engine optimisation is the best driver of traffic to content websites, surpassing the effectiveness of social media by more than 300%. (Source)
- SEO will never go away
While SEO is constantly changing, it won’t disappear. And while Google keeps updating its algorithms to ensure people find exactly what they’re looking for, SEO is (and will continue to be) an important part of delivering the right content to the right people. So make sure you get involved now instead of sitting on the sidelines.
- Your competitors are doing it
Even if you put in the work and manage to get at the top of Google’s search engine results, don’t stop there because your competitors won’t either. They’ll continue to invest time and resources into improving their rankings, and so should you.
- Your prospects are searching for your business online
93% of all Internet traffic comes from a search engine. In other words, if you want prospects to find your business online, you need to show up in results so they know you exist. If you’re a small business, you can’t afford to be missing out on so many potential customers, can you?
Relinquish unrealistic expectations
If an SEO agency promised one or more of the following, run!
- That you’ll rank first in a very short period of time
- That you’ll get a huge amount of organic traffic overnight
- That they’ll do SEO once and rank forever
- A cheap service that delivers quality results
SEO is a process and it takes time and hard work to get your site to rank highly in search engine results. Don’t expect overnight success because that’s impossible, and those who promise you the moon (and for only £10) will only end up hurting your site. Usually the consultants and agencies that assure you your site will rank #1 for a keyword in a very short time frame are tricking the system. It won’t take long for major search engines to track you down and penalise you. This can damage your site and, more importantly, your brand in the long run. All the time and resources you will have invested will have been for nothing.
Now that you know how important SEO is and what to expect, let’s try to answer the question you’ve all been asking…
How long does it actually take to start getting SEO results?
SEO isn’t rocket science but it is a continuous process. While the basic principles of good SEO will remain the same, it’s important to also keep up with the latest algorithm changes and adapt your SEO strategy accordingly. Your competitors are on top of it, and you should be too if you want to stay ahead.
Now, if you want to get good results, you need to invest in quality work. This means:
- Relevant and optimised content that readers will find useful today and tomorrow
- A site that not only looks good but also works properly
- A site that loads fast and is easy to navigate
- A site that looks great on mobile
These are some of the most important elements you need to focus on when optimising your site. Want to know more? Check out our guide on seven simple yet vital SEO first steps for a new website as well as our Swift 6 video on SEO before buying a domain or launching your site. You can also get a free SEO report with the 123 Reg Search Engine Optimiser.
After you put in the initial work, while continuing to develop quality content and to improve your website, you can expect these results:
- About three months for initial SEO results
- About six months for noticeable SEO results
- About 12 months for impactful SEO results
Keep in mind that these are just estimates. Actual timeframes may vary depending on various factors including the quantity, quality and frequency of the content you publish, the overall quality of the website and more.
But there is research out there on this subject. A recent study by Ahrefs revealed that most of the pages that rank first in Google are at least three years old. And only 22% of the pages that rank in the top ten were created less than a year ago. In fact, 95% of new web pages take longer than a year to make it on to the first page of Google. Clearly, patience is key.
Even if it takes longer – don’t give up. And when you start seeing results, keep going to ensure you stay ahead of the competition.
Although SEO is an ongoing process, if done right the results will outstand any updates, and organic will become a reliable and constant source of traffic and sales.