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How Long Does It Take for SEO to Work?

By Snap Agency December 17, 2019

Once upon a time, keywords ruled the world—the search engine optimization world, at least. A few painstakingly researched terms were enough to bring in organic search traffic. Today, the focus on keywords has lessened, and SEO strategy has evolved. The increase in mobile searches and voice searches, for example, has sparked a shift towards keywords and phrases that reflect people’s natural speech patterns.

If your team is still wondering, “How long will it take for our keywords to rank well?” then you’re asking the wrong question. Landing at the top of a search results page is awesome, but you’ll only see actual ROI when your SEO work begins to produce conversions. So, how long does that take?

While there’s no exact answer to this question, we can make some inferences based on several factors. Your existing SEO strategy, previous SEO work, website, content, and keywords (yes, they are still valuable!) all play a crucial role in maximizing your digital presence. To help you make those educated guesses a bit more concrete, we’ve laid out some practical ways to establish a reliable SEO timeline, as well as a few tips to make sure your SEO strategy works as quickly as possible.


Many marketers have strong opinions on whether SEO or PPC is better for business, so before we dive into SEO, we want to point out to you PPC advocates that this post is still worth your time. While you could allocate your full budget towards one strategy or the other, we’ve learned from experience that using SEO and PPC in conjunction is usually the most effective way to create a well-rounded digital marketing strategy and guarantee a healthy ROI. Additionally, both approaches take time, careful strategy, and strategic budget allocation to be successful. If you’re still not convinced, we’d love to connect with you. For now, though, let’s refocus on SEO.

Establishing an SEO Timeline

Seeing significant ROI from a targeted SEO strategy can take anywhere from three to six months. No business owner likes to hear that they’ll have to invest in a service for that unknown amount of time before seeing a return. It’s helpful to create an SEO timeline in order to understand exactly what to expect during this period. We’ve found the below tools to be extremely helpful in building this kind of document.

Free SEO Tools

Use Google’s Keyword Planner to understand the search volume and competition for your keywords and phrases. Ideally, you’d be able to identify relevant terms with high search volume and low competition, but this is rarely the case today. It’s also useful to explore the websites of your highest ranking competitors so that you can understand how effective their digital strategies are. If their website and other online channels are seldom updated, and you’ve been creating a steady flow of fresh content, your SEO time frame can be optimistic.

Case Studies

Case studies of businesses similar to yours can be quite helpful in creating realistic expectations. Use these to understand which SEO strategies produce results and how long it took to achieve those results. Digital marketing agencies often post in-depth case studies to showcase their success, so take a look at the websites of any agencies that work with companies in your industry for some insight.

Competitor Success

Your direct competition probably won’t be willing to share the results of their SEO efforts, but businesses outside your service area or industry niche might. If you’d rather not reach out, just take a look at their websites and see where they’re showing up in the search results compared to you. Searching their sites and content for results or new approaches provides a comparison that can help you identify strengths or weaknesses in your own strategy.

How You Can Make SEO Work Faster

With only 5.7 percent of all newly published pages making it into the top 10 Google results within a year, the numbers aren’t necessarily in your favor. But there are a number of strategies you can employ to ensure that your content and website are fully SEO-friendly. Our Snap blog also offers a wealth of information about smarter digital marketing and how to rock your SEO strategy. 

Here are some tips:

  • Use reputable links
  • Publish high-quality content
  • Think mobile-first
  • Integrate emojis into your content
  • Launch a progressive web app
  • Make sure your linking structure makes sense
  • Test and maximize your site speed
  • Get on social media (if you aren’t already)
  • Optimize your photos and videos
  • Be wary of duplicate content

Ready to Play the Long Game With SEO?

Even with the knowledge that developing a quality SEO strategy takes time, many companies expect near-instant results and ROI from a digital marketing plan. When it comes to SEO, though, time, a dedicated budget, and a smart team are essential to success. This method of increasing organic traffic to your website is a long game, and your company deserves a partner with the strategy and expertise to get you where you want to be. Contact Snap today to learn more about how we can help you make the most of your digital marketing budget.