Business owners who are new to SEO often ask their SEO professionals how long it will be before their search engine optimization works, and when they can begin to rank #1 for the best keywords for their industry. Before an answer can be supplied, however, SEOs need to correct the question. The idea of ranking at the top for a handful of important generic keywords is a holdover from years ago when SEO worked differently.

How long does SEO take – Comparing new SEO to old SEO

A long time ago, SEO used to work something like this: you would identify a handful of keywords to do with your industry that didn’t have much competition. You would decide that those keywords would bring in most of your traffic, and try to rank for them.

Today, however, such a keyword strategy would be all wrong. This is because in most cases, there is no small set of keywords that can bring all the traffic that you need. Instead, there is a long list of multiple-word phrases called longtail keywords that you aim for. If you attempt to rank for just a few generic keywords, most of the people looking for you probably wouldn’t find you.

In SEO today, a significant proportion of searches is conducted using natural language. People use speech recognition engines such as Siri and Google now to speak in natural sentences as they look for search results. These multiple-word search phrases usually have very little competition, making them easy to rank for when your website contains them. Since these keyword phrases contain greater detail, they attract people looking for very specific things. Such searchers are more likely to convert when they arrive on a website. The aim then is to rank for a large number of long, natural-language keyword phrases.

It doesn’t matter as much whether you rank or not

Some SEO firms like to get their clients to focus on ranking high for specific keywords because it’s an outcome that’s easy for them to sell. For the client, however, ranking high isn’t the ultimate aim. What they really want is to have their SEO efforts bring them leads and sales. Rather than ask an SEO provider how long it will be before SEO delivers your company to the top of the rankings for a given keyword, then, you should ask how long it will be before it is able to deliver leads and sales.

How long does it take to come by those leads and sales via SEO?

If you want to know how long your SEO will take to bring in leads and sales, the answer can depend on a number of variables. It depends on how many years your website has been around, how much optimization has been done on it, how much content it holds, what kind of link profile it has and so on. What follows is a roadmap that can show you what the first six months of your company’s SEO involvement are likely to look like.

The first month: The SEO company researches your website, audits it, and comes up with a keyword strategy. In some cases, research of your website can complete in a week, leading to technical changes to your website. In other cases though, thorough website research can take over a month.

The second month: In some cases, a website will need nothing more than a few tweaks. In others, a major overhaul may be called for. Rebuilding a website can take months. You won’t see any improvements to your SEO situation over the time that it takes to build your website.

The third month: If the basic structure of your website is in place by the end of the second month, you should be ready to create content by the third month. A blog, articles, an About Us page, and a FAQs section, among other content, should begin to populate your website at this time. Often, budgetary concerns can limit how much content can be added to a website. Nevertheless, rankings should begin to improve by the end of the third month, even if those rankings don’t translate to better sales.

The fourth month: Content creation continues in the fourth month, along with technical improvements to the website. You should expect a better link profile by this time, and to see some lead generation from your SEO efforts. It won’t be as impressive as what you’re likely to see a year later, but it should be good enough for you to realize that your search engine optimization efforts are working.

The fifth month: Your SEO company will start bringing social media management into the mix in order to boost traffic. Building your profile on social media should begin to help you develop a good link profile for your website. You should see your lead generation improve further.

The sixth month: The average small business website is likely to see 6,000 or 7,000 visitors a month with 6 months of SEO. You may begin to see conversion rate optimization added on at this point, to improve the conversion rate of the traffic that comes to your site.

It usually takes small businesses 6 months of SEO to begin seeing improvements to their bottom line. Past 12 months of SEO, your gains should begin to level off. From that point, your SEO efforts will be about maintaining the benefits that you get from the activity, rather than growing them.

It’s important to not give up

Businesses often underestimate how hard it is to come by results with SEO. Even when you do work with a generous SEO budget, significant results rarely show up before 6 months. Unfortunately, many businesses try SEO for 3 months, grow impatient, and give it up because they don’t believe that it justifies the expense. It’s important to understand that SEO is a long game. If you’re willing to stick with it, you will reap the benefits.