It is a question that customers often ask, but also a doubt that can arrovellare the same professionals: how much time does SEO need? How long will it take to see the results of the search engine optimization work that has just been started? An unambiguous and precise answer is impossible, because this activity involves a series of imponderable variables and, above all, we must not forget the similar efforts made by competitors: but there are still some considerations that we can make to determine how long we will have to wait to see the first concrete fruits of the work, in terms of improvement and consolidation of the ranking on Google.

SEO results, it could also take up to a year of work

We can then try to quantify the time needed to achieve results in SEO work by indicating a maximum range, that is from four months up to a year.

It is the theory of Jeremy Knauff, which explains that the definition of this range “is based on three key variables that determine how long the SEO will take”, namely:

  • Competitor.
  • Inbound link.
  • Contenuti.

In any case, despite having the data at the base of these variables, there is no formula to answer the question, because understand how long it takes the SEO “It first boils down to evaluating the data underlying these three variables, to starting work and evaluating the speed at which you begin to see the results, and then extrapolating these data to get an idea of how much time it might take to reach a particular position”.

How important is competition for SEO times

Who sells a product like “salmon breakfast cereals, probably will not face any competition”, ironically the author before clarifying that those who “sell products and services that real people will actually have to face varying degrees of competition based on demand”.

For example, a plumber who serves a small local market will face less competition than a real estate broker who serves a large city, which in turn has to face less competition than a national mortgage company.

SEO competitors and work times

It is easy to understand that “the more competing web pages you encounter, the more time it will take to get to the top of the search results”.

This situation follows a rather fixed pattern in which “it is easier and faster to overcome the bottom pages, but as you climb the search results each subsequent step will often require much more effort and time”.

Grafico sul rapporto tra difficoltà e competitor

This depends on both the volume of competitors and the fact that high-level pages tend to have experienced SEO professionals behind them: an often overlooked aspect of competition is in fact the “correlation between the volume of competition within a niche and the competence of SEO professionals behind the high-level web pages in that niche”.

Demand pushes companies into a niche, leading to more competition; such competition leads companies to offer more competitive deals, which means they have to gain more market share in order to remain profitable.

The environment thus created usually favours larger companies with larger portfolios, which can afford to hire the best SEO professionals in the industry; those faced with this situation, have a longer and harder fight ahead of them.

This means that we must not only assess all aspects of our competitors’ SEO, but also look beyond the point where they are today, namely to examine their activity in the previous months and then continue to monitor their activity in the future.

This is important because “to overcome your competitors you have to make a greater effort than theirs”.

The weight of inbound links for the measurement of SEO times

It is no secret that links still play a huge role in SEO, but their impact on the time it takes to improve rankings depends on several deeper factors.

The first is the volume of links to the website: in general, says Knauff, “more links will help you achieve SEO success faster, but it’s not just a numbers game”.

Other features also count, and for example “fewer high-quality links from relevant websites will have a much greater impact on results than a greater volume of low-quality links from unrelated websites”.

This is an important concept also because high quality backlinks are generally harder to earn, so they will be harder to replicate even for competitors; in addition, they tend to last longer, unlike links generated using automated methods.

But there are also other aspects to consider, especially the speed with which the site gains links and the speed with which it has gained links historically, which may be factors because, to simplify, “a sharp increase could indicate an unnatural attempt to manipulate the ranking”. Using methods that do not comply with the Google Webmaster Guidelines and getting a sharp increase in the number of backlinks can expose you to the risk of manual action and, in the worst cases, result in a Google penalty.

Speed in link building campaigns

The author also shows three sample charts to try to clarify when a backlink profile has a natural evolution over time.

Evoluzione naturale del profilo backlink

In the first case, the growth pattern is regular and rises over time – there should be no suspicious activity.Un ritmo di acquisizione backlink che può essere naturale

In this second case, the evolution appears as less natural, but the peak may depend on other factors – such as increased media coverage, the launch of a new product or an extraordinary content marketing campaign – and therefore this line could also be completely natural.

Profilo backlink non naturale

The last graph “seems natural as a spray tan”: there are large peaks of incoming backlinks alternating with periods of sharp decline, a sign of an activity carried out in the shoulders in an unnatural and unwise way.

According to the article, the faster the site gains relevant and high quality links, the faster it will rank, but without neglecting one aspect: the speed of backlinks, the pace with which the site gains links, should have a relatively stable growth.

If link building tactics follow Google’s guidelines, this should happen naturally, while when using black hat SEO techniques you may notice unnatural patterns that could damage your progress.

The value of site content to SEO times

Inevitably, even the content posted on your website has a role in the speed with which you can see the results and the first thing to know is that quality matters a lot.

We know that there is no correlation between quality and SEO word count and that there is no minimum or even ideal length: the content “must simply be long enough to solve a visitor’s problem“, Knauff recalls.

Moreover, the theory that no new content should be published at the same time has also been officially denied, because there is no reason, from the SEO point of view, to do so, although it is probably more profitable to maintain a consistent publishing program, rather than condense publications into blocks.

For the author, there are at least two reasons that make this editorial calendar logic preferable:

  • It shows Google that new content is added regularly to the site, which typically encourages its spiders to scan it more frequently and, as a result, can accelerate SEO efforts.
  • It encourages users to return to the site more frequently, which can help send positive user experience signals to Google and, as a result, can accelerate SEO efforts.

However, it is not just about creating content.

Learning how to manage content and delete the non-performing one

Content work should not only focus on creating and publishing new articles and pages, because content deletion can also play a proactive role in the time it takes for the EES to work.

The key is to determine which content to maintain, which to improve and which to delete; in particular, deleting pages with insufficient performance can help to improve the overall performance of the site in search results (and to optimize the crawl budget) since they leave room only for original and useful content that solves the needs of the public, continuing to improve them continuously.

In practical terms, “long-term and higher-quality content tends to gain more links than low-quality and /or shorter content”: according to a study by Backlinko on 912 million blog posts, longer content gains on average 77,2% more links than short articles.

Therefore, in addition to playing a crucial role in itself, content can also influence the efforts in creating links, so optimizing this aspect is doubly important.

In conclusion, how long it takes for SEO to work?

The SEO work “is similar to the one of meteorologists: despite all our knowledge, experience and tools, we often make mistakes,” says Knauff in the conclusions, pointing out that usually “customers are frustrated when they don’t see the results of their SEO campaign as quickly as they want”.

Part of the job of an SEO professional is also to manage the expectations of customers, an area where many fail.

Perhaps the most critical aspect is that of the times to see the positive effects of work and investment (also because often there are those who tell customers only what they want to hear, generating unrealistic expectations), and as a result, many people think that it only takes a few weeks or a few months to get SEO results.

This is only partially true: you can start to see improvements in organic ranking and an increase in traffic for keyword topics with little competition in a few weeks, but these are not consolidated increases and only for particular niches. Usually, moderately competitive topics may take months, while highly competitive queries may take up to a year or more!

For instance, “my team has been able to place a website at the top spot for the marketing company query that has produced a steady stream of contacts for several years, but despite our capabilities, manpower and resources, It took about a year of constant work to achieve this goal”.

Knauff himself recounts another episode: “A particular customer virtually devoid of digital presence came to us when a website had published some unflattering information about him, which had been completely out of context. Since he held the first position in Google for his name, this had cost him a considerable amount of business”.

Fortunately, the author says, “there was little competition for his name and that website did not have much authority, so we were able to fill the first several pages of the search results with pages we checked in a few weeks”.

Anyway, what we recommend is not to use tactics that violate the Instructions for Google webmasters in an attempt to accelerate the process: although this strategy can work in the short term, in the end “you’ll have to face a penalty and end up further back than where you started”.

SEO times, Google’s words

As anticipated, you have to consider waiting from several months to a year before seeing the results of SEO investments, but even in this case there are no certainties of being the overall winner.

To use Google’s words, “in most cases an SEO will need from 4 months to a year to help your business first implement improvements and then see the first benefits”: this is also confirmed by statistical analysis that report that only 5,7% of all newly published pages will arrive in Google’s top 10 within a year.

But even after reaching the first page is not the case to rest on your laurels “because your competitors – both current and new arrivals – will constantly try to take that position”.

In other words, the SEO is an ongoing effort that will never truly be complete.

So, in conclusion, it is not possible to accurately predict how long the SEO will take before it will work, but it is possible to make a highly plausible assumption based on certain variables and, in this way, have a better idea of how much time it will take within a particular niche against the actual competitors.

Call to action