How Long Does SEO Take To Start Working in 2021?

This is the quick answer on how long SEO takes to start working in 2021:

At least 6 months. It a considerable amount of time to notice good results from your SEO efforts (if you’ve done it right!). However, 6-12 months is the ideal time frame as you will see positive gains from your SEO strategies. Always remember that SEO is an investment that requires consistent work and maintenance to see sustainable growth in results. 

Looking for a complete answer. Keep reading.

How Long Does SEO Take To Produce Results?

There is no correct answer to this question. Various factors influence the result you get from SEO efforts. It is common to see results within the first 6 months if you’re working with an experienced digital marketing agency or SEO freelancer. If you hired a newbie, you have to wait longer. We’ve seen sites see results within 3 to 4 months as well. And we’ve seen some people claiming to see results within 1 month (should a non-competitive niche with low search volume). 

Most of the businesses we’ve worked with often notice large gains from SEO after 6 months of consistent SEO work. 

We agree that there are methods to help your site gain quick results. But those methods do not help you achieve sustainable growth in the long run. These tactics are defined as “black hat tactics”. Google easily notices the activities in your site if you start ranking high for competitive keywords within a short time. 

Some critical factors can either help your site perform better on search engines or get penalized for implementing unethical SEO methods. 

Note: SEO is for the long-term. If you’re looking for short-term gain, it’s better to focus on other digital marketing disciplines especially paid search or social advertising. For achieving great success with SEO, you got to play the long-term game.

Let’s admit. Everyone wants quick results. Even if you ask us, if there are possibilities for quick results with SEO that are perfectly ethical in the eyes of Google, we don’t mind doing it.

But SEO only works with consistent work. You can compare it with losing weight. We want the easiest and quickest way to lose weight. And you know it never happens. It requires consistent workouts and diet plans to lose weight. You won’t be able to lose with within 1 or 2 months. You will see the changes of course. It’s the same with SEO, you will see small gains from your efforts every month.

The problem here is that business owners have unrealistic expectations from SEO. They are looking for instant results when they start with SEO right away. SEO takes a lot of time and consistent work. Stay assured that your efforts will be fruitful if you have the patience to see the results.

SEO is not a one-time thing. It’s a long-term investment that will generate results for years to come if you provide on-going attention to the strategies implemented. There is no special secret about SEO. It’s a digital marketing strategy that ranks your site on search results for relevant keywords searched by users.

As we’ve mentioned earlier there is no straight answer to how long SEO takes to work. It depends…

So, let’s get started with the factors.

Website Authority and Domain Age

Although Google has once announced that there is no correlation between domain age and SEO, but it still matters with how long your website has been around on the internet.

When Matt Cutts leading the search team, he claimed that domain age has little to do with ranking. He mentioned that “there is no significant difference between domain that’s six months old and domain that’s one year old. As long your site has been online for a couple of months, your site will show up on search results as long the site and pages are indexable”.

However, we have encountered many recent SEO case studies that show that older domains gain benefits from SEO faster compared to new domains. Even some of our clients with old domains tend to see an increase in search traffic within 3 to 4 months.

There are several reasons for old domains to gain quick results.

Old websites naturally have more backlinks compared to new domains. It shows that the website has authority and trustworthiness. It takes time for new domains to acquire backlinks although there are ways to get links quickly (you should avoid them).

As the domain ages over time, the backlinks occur naturally as the site owners will do things like submitting their site to local directories, create quality content, and promoting their site. These activities indirectly generate more backlinks for the site as time passes by.

But it’s not about the links alone. You need to realize that, old domains often have a huge number of content assets that consist of articles, blog posts, images, and even videos. Even if the site never attempts to implement any SEO strategies, they’re able to get clicks from search engines naturally due to their business recognition. As Google uses content as one of their ranking signals, aged sites naturally rank for certain keywords.

You should not get discouraged if you’re just starting your digital marketing journey with a new website. It will take a slightly longer time for new domains to gain a competitive edge on search engines. And the best way to do it is by applying the right SEO practices.

Link building is one of the best SEO methods to increase website authority. But it is time-consuming and requires creative outreach methods to acquire links from other sites. Despite many SEO claims that you should focus more on on-site elements, links still play a crucial role in competitive niches like finance and healthcare.

You can’t rely on black hat link building tactics anymore. Rather than having a cheap link building solution that will cost even more money once you get hit by Google penalty, it’s better to build links ethically. 

The best technique to build quality links by creating high-quality and engaging content regularly. Use social media networks to share your content and attracts the right audience to engage with your content. There are various ways to re-purpose your content. If you’ve written a blog post, try to convert it into a video or audio. Consistently share them on the platforms where you can find your target audience. By doing this, the sites and blogs that come across your content will more likely share them with your following or mention it in their next content.

If you’re in the SEO industry, you might see most blogs will consistently mention blog posts from Backlinko. This is because Brian Dean from Backlinko publishes amazing content that is worth linking to.

Remember we’ve mentioned earlier that old sites have an advantage when it comes to getting results from SEO efforts. Links are one of the reasons. Many new business sites try to beat their competitors with quick solutions like acquiring spammy paid links from link farms. It can hurt their website badly in the long run.

It’s not the numbers that matter, it’s about quality and relevancy when we talk about link building. A unique and creative approach can help you build a legitimate backlink profile that will exhibit your authority on search engines.

Technical Issues with Website

Sometimes it’s not about your SEO strategy. It’s all about your website. Many technical issues can damage your site. Without rectifying those issues, there’s no point in focusing on your SEO efforts.

These are some of the common technical issues you may encounter:

  • 404 errors
  • Broken links
  • Cheap and unreliable web hosting
  • Accessibility and indexation issues
  • Page loading speed
  • Meta descriptions that don’t make sense
  • Sitemap errors
  • .htaccess errors
  • Poor website architecture
  • Robots.txt issues
  • And many more

Resolving all these issues will consume time (expect 7 to 14 days depending on the complexity of the issues encountered). On the other hand, search engine bots do not crawl and index your changed site spontaneously. You may see some issues get rectified quickly, but most of them will take time.

And the worst thing is when your site gets hit by Google penalty. One of the clients we worked with took almost 3 months to recover from Google penalty due to malicious codes in their site. They used nulled plugins for their WordPress site.

If you’re just starting with SEO, most likely you won’t encounter these problems unless you’ve purchased expired domains. New domains are fresh and won’t have any history of SEO issues. Be careful when you decide to purchase an expired domain. Check their backlink profiles or check their site using Wayback Machine before purchasing.

When you hire an SEO freelancer or agency, they will start with a complete website audit to identify technical errors with your website and make sure your site is ready before implementing any SEO strategies.

Website Design, Structure, and Architecture

The elements that revolve around User Experience (UX) has become more important than ever. With the recent launch of Core Web Vitals, the performance of each important page on your website matters.

The experience you provide your visitors sends an indication to Google whether your site fulfills the search query of your visitors. 

You want to provide your visitors with easy navigations, responsive web design, and easily scannable website structure. More than 72% of people are making searches using mobile devices. So, you need to make sure your site is responsive and mobile-friendly. Moreover, Google has started to index mobile pages first before indexing desktop pages. If your site provides a poor mobile experience, your site will have a tough time ranking high on search result pages.

As most sites are built using CMS, make sure to get with the ones that are search engine friendly, and offer flexibility in making SEO related changes.

When you focus on getting your website design, structure, and architecture in place, you’ll start noticing a slow but steady growth in your search rankings and organic traffic.

Keyword Research and Competitor Analysis

There are a lot of things that you can uncover by performing keyword research and competitor analysis. You don’t want to jump in and compete with your industry rivals without the right plan. You need to know what they are doing to dominate the search results. 

Although it is impossible to find out what they are exactly doing, you will get valuable insights about your competitors which will help you devise a good SEO strategy. You can uncover things like keyword selections, content structure, and link profiles which are some of the critical ranking signals used by Google to rank sites. This process does take time, but you should be relieved as it will save you time in the long run. You don’t have to worry if you get them to sort out initially.

Competitor analysis gives you a huge advantage. You don’t have to start everything from scratch. You just need to reverse engineer what your competitors are doing and add things that they are missing out on.

You don’t have to crack your head on how to analyze your competitors. Use tools like SEMRush and SpyFu to get SEO insights of your competitors.

For example, if you’re using SEMRush, just click on Domain Overview on the left menu. Insert your competitor’s URL. You will be taken to a page that shows you the organic keywords, paid keywords, backlinks. Etc. Check out each one of the elements and you will get a complete idea of what your competitor is targeting and the type of content they are getting ranked on the search results.

It will help you to get ideas on how to craft content better than your competitors and have leverage on the search result pages. But you need to understand that it can’t be accomplished in a few months. 

You need at least 6-12 months of content marketing planning to make it work. And your content needs to be better than your competitor. If you’re in an ultra-focused niche that has low competition, it will be easy to rank within a shorter time frame.

Let’s say you’re an accounting firm and looking to rank on local search. There might be hundreds of accounting firms in your city. The fierce competition will take a longer time for you to see results from your SEO efforts.

Keyword research and competitor analysis will provide a clear indication of how long it will take for your SEO efforts to generate amazing results. Don’t miss out on this important part which is extremely important to determine how much efforts you need to put in to beat your competition and generate long-term results.

Content Marketing Strategy

There are so many research studies related to content marketing that shows that businesses that incorporate content marketing strategy see exponential traffic growth. 

SEO need quality content to produce results. Content marketing plays a vital role in increasing search ranking and organic traffic. We are not talking about 500-600 words content here. We’re talking about epic content that stands out from the crowd. Something that you potential customers can’t find anywhere else.

If you don’t publish authoritative content on your website, be ready to see your organic traffic tank. Moreover, you need to publish content consistently to show both search engines and users that you care about your customers and want to provide the best content to help them out with their problems.

You can’t create content for the sake of SEO. You’ll need to consider the criteria Google uses to evaluate your content. EAT and YMYL in Quality Rater Guidelines can help you create the right content for your industry. You also need to stay updated with the current trends and happenings in your niche to develop a successful content marketing strategy.

Again. This isn’t something you can do within a short period. It will take months to get the momentum of publishing quality content. You will get excited to see the results it will provide for your business once it starts attracting thousands of visitors to your site.

Do you want to see some quick changes in your website performance?

Note: You can try these techniques, but we do not guarantee amazing results because it depends on several factors.

On-Page SEO

Making some changes to your on-page SEO elements can get you quick results.

When you make changes to your title, meta descriptions, headers, image alt tags, you can see the results within few days or few weeks. That’s why you should focus on optimizing your on-page elements first before moving on to other SEO strategies.

Even if you’re not ranking high on search result pages initially, making changes to your titles and meta description can help you get visitors. Your title and meta description should be relevant to your visitors’ search queries. 

SEO Scenario

Here is the scenario of what your SEO efforts might look like on monthly basis and the type of results you can expect:

1st month: Research and analysis, complete website audit, keyword research, and SEO planning are some of the activities you should be doing in the first month. If you manage to finish the research and analysis part quickly, you’ll be able to start fixing technical issues with the website within the first month. If you’re working on a large website that requires more work, the research and analysis part can take more than a month to accomplish.

2nd month: Sometimes you might need to continue with the technical SEO work in the second month and make changes based on the website audit results. In some cases, you need to completely overhaul the website which can take a few months. However, you can still work on other aspects of SEO like creating content and evaluating backlink profile. If you’re making a complete “overhaul” for your website, you’re still optimizing your site but you won’t be seeing any significant results. Once the changes are complete, you will start to see slight changes in the results.

3rd month: In the third month, you need to level up your SEO game. You should start creating high-quality content for your site. Create different types of content like articles, whitepapers, FAQs, product descriptions, etc. You might already start with the content creating process after the research and analysis phase. You might have face budget restrictions if you choose to do technical fixes and content creation at the same time. Once you’ve started with your content marketing efforts, you’ll start seeing improvements in rankings and traffic by end of the third month. Sometimes that traffic will convert to leads and sales which will be better, but we would suggest not to put a lot of hope in them yet.

4th month: You should continue with your content creation effort and make technical changes if you encounter any errors (Google Search Console will notify you of there are any technical issues with your website). You can also start with your link building efforts. If you have enough resources and budget, you can start the link building process earlier on the 3rd month itself. You will see significant changes in rankings and organic traffic by end of this month. Although it is not close to what you will be seeing in 12 months, you will know that your SEO efforts are working.

5th month: By this month you should be actively promoting your content on channels where your visitors spend their time. It can be social media networks or forums. You can also amplify your content promotion by incorporating social media marketing to generate social media and direct traffic. This will help your site acquire links naturally and it’s cost-effective compared to the outreach link building method. You should be consistent with your content creation process and engage with media outreach if you have the budget. You should be seeing more traffic coming from search engines this month. The number of leads and sales should start growing at this point.

6th month: Depending on your niche, your organic traffic should have reached at least 2,000 – 3,000 visitors per month by this point. You should make some conversion optimization tweaks to your landing pages and content to improve the conversion of the traffic you’re getting. From the 6th month, your focus should be on producing content consistently. Start repurposing your content in different content formats. Continue with your link building process as well if there is a lag in acquiring links naturally with your content marketing efforts. After the 6th month, you should revise your site performance and come up with a strategic SEO plan on what you’ll be doing for the next 6-12 months to amplify your organic search traffic.

Many SEO freelancers and agencies will tell you that it takes 4 to 6 months to see results from SEO activities. Well, it is somehow accurate, but always bear in mind that SEO is a continuous process and the results often grow over time. Even if you’re not getting expected results within the stipulated time, the results you’ll be getting at 12 months will be considerably more compared to 6 months. Sometimes there are limitations for certain niches on the amount of search traffic they can generate. At that point, it’s better to focus on maintaining the results rather than growing them.

Do you know why some companies fail in SEO?

Because they underestimate and clueless about the time and money required to be successful with SEO. 

Let’s put it this way, you’re starting a new business, and do you become successful within 3 months or 6 months?

Sometimes yes depending on your business nature. But most of the time it’s not realistic to be successful within a short period. And it applies to SEO efforts as well. 

Over the years, we’ve seen so many companies give up and quit after 3 to 4 months. This is the common thing we hear from them “We’re not getting enough results that justify our investment”. This is what happens when you start doing something without a plan and realistic expectations.

If you can’t allocate a budget for 6 to 12 months for SEO, it’s better to invest in some other digital marketing channels like paid advertising or social media marketing. 

SEO is a long-term digital marketing strategy and you shouldn’t expect to generate sales right away. 

SEO is for those businesses that have proper planning, the right budget allocation, and ready to focus on long-term benefits. No matter what digital marketing strategies you use, SEO is one of the best digital strategy that offers the best ROI.

Final Thoughts

Again. 

How long does it take to see SEO results?

Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer to it. As search engine algorithms are constantly changing, it requires more effective strategies to generate organic traffic.

On the other hand, each site is different. You can’t simply measure your SEO efforts and determine how long it will take to show results. And you can’t rank high or generate organic traffic quickly (you can if you choose to use Blackhat SEO methods for short-term gains). 

You need to have the right SEO plan and put in the right work to see results. We promise you will surely see results and exceed your expectation if you have the patience to continuously put in the required work.

FAQs

How Much You Should Pay for SEO?

In 2021, SEO services will cost anywhere between $750 (RM3,000) – $2,000 (RM8,000) per month. The pricing differs by country and the quality of service provided.

An SEO expert charges between $70 (RM280) – $200 (RM800) per hour. 

For one-time project, it can be slightly expensive with an average cost between $5,000 (RM20,000) – $30,000 (RM120,000)

Is it worth investing in SEO?

Yes. Whether you’re a startup or a large corporate company, SEO is the best digital marketing investment.

If the scope of your SEO need is small, you can either perform SEO tasks on your own or you can hire a freelancer to work on the. You don’t have to spend a lot by hiring an agency.

You need to understand the fundamentals of SEO and decide what kind of SEO services you need and allocate the right budget for it. Ask yourself to what extend you’re looking to grow your business before investing in SEO.

Why SEO is important in 2021?

SEO is important for every business with a website. You need to provide information about your products and services for people actively making searches related to your business. 

Without SEO, you’re letting your competitors take away your potential customers. If you have a physical store, you need to know that almost 80% of Google Map search leads to offline conversion. 

When you update your old content can improve your organic traffic by at least 80%. A business without SEO is like a ship without a captain and crews in the sea. You won’t head to your destination in this digital age without SEO

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