Every single month, there are thousands of people searching for the services you offer on Google, Bing, and Yahoo. Therefore, Search Engine Optimization is one of the most effective strategies to drive targeted traffic to your site.

However, one of the most common questions I get is, “How long does it take for SEO to Work?”

And to be completely honest, there isn’t one definitive answer for everyone. There are hundreds of different factors that affect how long it takes to rank and can vary dramatically from case to case.

But the simple fact of the matter is that SEO is a long-term play. It could take anywhere from 6 months to a year of consistent SEO implementation and content creation before you start seeing significant results.

So don’t be alarmed if you’re not seeing an immediate ROI two weeks after you start implementing an SEO strategy. This is completely normal.

Though you may not get the instant gratification, it’ll all be worth it once you start ranking on Google, as your site will receive a consistent flow of targeted traffic for years to come.

Define Your Goals First

Before we can determine how long it takes for SEO to work, we need to define your goals first. It’s impossible to measure how long it will take for SEO to be effective for your business if we don’t set a clear goal that we’re working towards.

Is your goal to rank number one in Google for a single competitive keyword? If that’s the case then your SEO might take years to “work “and you still might not achieve it.

Instead, we should look to define goals that will actually accelerate the growth of your business and brand. For example, you could set a goal that’s geared towards increasing your overall organic traffic on your site, applications on your job board, inquiries on your contact page, etc.

Develop an SEO Strategy

Once we have a clear goal in mind, we can develop an SEO strategy that propels us closer to achieving this goal. For example, If our goal is to increase overall organic traffic to a site, then we could look to implement a strategy geared towards adding new content to the site. When it comes to SEO, content is king. If you want to start ranking in search engines, you’ll need to consistently add fresh, relevant content to your site.

The best way to consistently add content is through a blog. Blogging will allow you to start ranking for a wider array of keywords, ultimately driving more targeted traffic back to your site. Keep in mind that you’ll want to make sure that you’ve done your keyword research properly and optimized your content for on-page SEO.

How Long Does it Take to Rank in Google?

Now that you started publishing high quality, SEO optimized content to your site; you can finally start ranking in the search engines.

But how long does it actually take?

On average, you expect it to take anywhere from 3 to 6 months for your content to start ranking in Google.

And if you’re talking about ranking in the top 10 for your target keyword, it can take significantly longer than that. According to a study conducted by Ahrefs, only 22% of pages that currently rank in the top 10 were created within 1 year. On average, the pages ranking in the top 10 are over 2 years old.

Why Does it Take So Long?

As I’ve mentioned, SEO is a long-term process. But why the heck does it take a year to start getting results?

Whenever you post a new piece on content to your site, Google doesn’t immediately know about it the second you hit the publish button. It will naturally take some time for Google to crawl the web, find your content, and index it. This can take anywhere from 2-4 weeks assuming there aren’t any problems with your site that’s inhibiting Google’s ability to crawl it. And that’s just until it knows that your content exists.

Once your content is in Google’s index, their algorithm has to test your content against all of the other similar results in its database to determine where your content will rank. Due to the obvious volume of results on the web, this process takes a lot of time.

Factors to Consider

Google’s ranking algorithm is very complex. There are hundreds of different factors that it’s taking into consideration to determine where pages should rank. And more importantly, they are fairly secretive about it, never officially stating what their algorithm is looking for in order to defend against manipulation. There is not a single SEO expert out there that can definitively state every single ranking factor. But with that being said, through extensive testing, we have a pretty good idea of some of the major factors.

Quality of the Content

The quality of your content is probably the most important SEO ranking factor. You need to remember that Google’s primary goal is to serve the absolute best content to its users. Take a look at one of your blog posts and ask yourself, “Is this the absolute best resource on the entire web for this topic?” If not, then it’s highly unlikely your post will rank at the top of Google regardless of how long you wait.

Domain and Page Authority

Domain authority and Page authority is a score that helps determine how trustworthy a website is based on its backlink profile. Google tends to rank sites that are more trustworthy at the top of the search results more quickly. This is because they are typically proven websites that more likely to serve the best result.

Competition

Competition is the major factor that determines how long it will take for your content to rank. If the keyword that you’re trying to target is very competitive, it will naturally take a lot longer to rank for it. If you think about it, if you want your site to rank to rank at the top of the search results, it means you’ll have to unseat the rest of the competition that already holds the spot. When there are a lot of competitors targeting the same keyword, it’ll take much longer rank.

Social Signals and Engagement

Google is constantly paying attention to certain signals to determine if your content is high quality and that people are enjoying it. Analyzing how users are interacting with your content allows them to determine where it should rank. If your content gets shared a lot on social media, has a high click-through rate, and users are spending a lot of time on the page, it’s a strong signal to Google that your content should rank at the top of the search results faster.

How to Speed Up the Process

Though ranking on Google will naturally take a long time, there definitely some techniques you can implement that will help speed up the process a bit.

XML Sitemap Submission

I previously mentioned that when you first publish a piece of content to your site, it takes anywhere from 2-4 weeks for Google to find and index it. However, you can create an XML sitemap and submit it directly to the major search engines to speed up the process. Sitemap submissions basically make it easier for Google to find and crawl your content. The faster Google indexes your content, the faster it can start ranking.

Target Less Competitive Keywords

Competitive keywords are naturally more difficult to rank for and take much longer. There’s also a possibility that you’ll never rank for a particular keyword depending on how authoritative your competitors are.

Instead, you could focus on targeting less competitive long tail keywords. Since these topics are typically underserved on the web, you can rank on the first page fairly quickly. Though these long tail keywords won’t drive as much traffic as a competitive keyword, the strength lies in the numbers.

There are tons of long tail keyword variations that you can rank on the first page for that will ultimately drive more traffic back to your site. Remember that ranking on the first page for 100 keywords that are less popular will bring in a lot more traffic than ranking on the fifth page for one popular keyword.

Link Building

Google pays close attention to other websites that are linking to your website to determine how trustworthy your site is. Implementing a link building strategy to acquire inbound links from reputable sources will boost the authority, or trustworthiness, of your site. As a result, Google will be more inclined to your rank your site high in the search results in a shorter amount of time.

Implement a Social Media Strategy

Social media goes hand in hand with search engine optimization. Implementing a social media strategy is a great way to get more eyeballs on your content. If your content is getting a lot of engagement and social shares on social media, it’s a strong signal to Google that your content is helpful and should rank.

In addition, the more people see your content on social, the more likely you are to receive inbound links from them, which will, in turn, improve your rankings.

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