1. The role of competition in the duration of SEO
  2. The role of inbound links in SEO duration
  3. The role of content in the duration of SEO
  4. So, is it all just an educated guess?
  5. From the horse's mouth (Google)
  6. Conclusion

One of the most common questions I get as an SEO professional is "How long does SEO take?"

This is also one of the most frustrating questions as customers understandably want a definitive answer, but due to all of the variables involved, there is simply no way to provide an answer.

This is because, in addition to all of the variables involved in optimizing your own website, you also need to evaluate these variables in your competitors' optimization efforts.

This can make answering an already complex question infinitely difficult.

To steal a line from Pawn Stars:

"The best I can do is …"

The best I can do is give you a range from four months to a year.

This area is based on three key variables that determine how long your SEO will take:


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  • competition
  • Embedded links
  • content

It is important to note that despite the data behind these variables, there is no formula to answer this question.

However, the answer is much more than just guesswork.

To find out how long your SEO will take, you need to first evaluate the data behind these three variables, start working and evaluate how quickly you are seeing results, and then extrapolate those to get an idea of ​​how long it will take can position until a certain variable is reached.

The role of competition in the duration of SEO

If you're selling something like salmon-flavored breakfast cereal, you probably won't face any competition.

However, those of us who sell products and services that real people actually buy will face different levels of competition based on demand.


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For example, a plumber serving a small local market would face less competition than a real estate agent serving a large city that would be less competitive than a national mortgage company.

As you can imagine, the more competing websites you have, the longer it will take you to get to the top of the search results.

This follows a consistent pattern where it is easier and faster to beat the lower sides. However, as you climb up the search results, each subsequent step will often take significantly more effort and time.

Difficulty against competitive curve

This is due to both the number of competitors and the fact that the top ranking pages usually have experienced SEO experts.

An often overlooked aspect of competition is the correlation between the volume of competition within a niche and the competency of the SEO experts behind the high-ranking websites in that niche.

Think about it like this:

Demand is driving companies into a niche and leading to increased competition.

This competition forces them to offer more competitive offerings, which means they have to take a bigger share of the market in order to remain profitable.

This is an environment that usually prefers larger companies with deeper pockets – and that can afford to hire the best SEO professionals in the business.

When faced with this situation, you have a longer and tougher battle ahead of you.

So we need to evaluate all aspects of our competitors' SEO, but we need to look beyond where they stand today. That's just a starting point.

We also need to look at their activities over the past few months and then monitor their activities in the future.


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This is important because in order to outperform your competitors, you will have to put more effort than them into if you are to pass them.

The role of inbound links in SEO duration

It's no secret that links still play a huge role in search engine optimization, but how they affect how long it takes depends on several deeper factors.

The first is the volume of links to your website.

In general, more links will help you get SEO success faster, but it's not just a numbers game.

In general, less quality links from relevant websites will have a far greater impact on your results than a greater number of poor quality links from irrelevant websites.

This is also important as high quality links are generally more difficult to earn and therefore more difficult for your competitors to replicate.

And they tend to last longer than links created using automated methods.

However, the rate at which you are earning links and the rate at which you have earned links in the past can also be factors, as a sudden increase can generally indicate an unnatural attempt to manipulate the ranking.


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Using methods that do not follow Google's webmaster guidelines and the number of inbound links that trigger manual review increases abruptly could result in a penalty.

That looks natural:

natural link growth pattern

This looks less natural, but depending on other factors like recent media coverage, a new product launch, or an amazing content marketing campaign, it can be perfectly natural:

some natural link growth pattern

This looks about as natural as a tan:

unnatural link growth pattern

In general, the faster you can earn relevant, high quality links, the faster you will get ranked. There is one limitation to this, however.


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Your connection speed – the speed at which you earn connections – should be growing at a relatively stable rate.

Of course, if your link building tactic follows Google's guidelines, it should be.

Only when using black hat tactics do you usually see unnatural patterns that could affect your progress.

The role of content in the duration of SEO

The content published on your website also plays a role in how quickly you see results. The first thing you need to know is that quality is very important.

Days of bringing out hundreds of 300 word articles ordered from Fiverr are not going to move the needle in terms of your ranking.

Do not interpret this to mean that every piece of content you post has to be a 4,000 word beast.

In fact, there is no minimum or even ideal length – content just has to be long enough to solve a visitor's problem.

Twitter thread

There is a myth that new content should be released slowly. This arises from the theory that publishing a lot of new content at the same time could look unnatural to Google and thus affect your ranking.


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It's understandable how people might believe this myth, but it has been officially debunked by Google.

When you have great content ready, from an SEO perspective, there is no reason not to post it right away.

The sooner you get it out, the more likely it will have a positive impact on your ranking.

The wait will only make your search engine optimization take longer.

It's worth noting that a website's ranking correlates with its age.

In other words, newer pages are usually not as good as older pages, but that's because of other factors, not age.

With that in mind, instead of posting in an ascent, I recommend sticking to a consistent release schedule for two reasons:

  • It shows Google that new content is being added to your website on a regular basis, which generally encourages the spiders to crawl it more often. This will help speed up your SEO efforts.
  • It encourages users to return to your website more often. This can help send positive user experience signals to Google and thus speed up your SEO efforts.

It's not just about creating content, however.

Deleting content can also play a positive role in how long your SEO will take.


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The key is to determine which content to keep, which to improve, and which to delete.

Danny Goodwin hosted a webinar on the subject where he explained how the Search Engine Journal used this approach to remove a number of poorly performing pages, which helped increase the website's overall performance in search results.

Ultimately, the key is to create original, useful content that meets and continually improves your audience's needs.

And unless you need another reason, higher quality long-form content tends to get more links than poor quality and / or shorter content.

In fact, Backlinko's Brian Dean analyzed 912 million blog posts and found that long-form content earned an average of 77.2% more links than short articles.

While content in itself plays an important role, it also affects your link building efforts.

So, is it all just an educated guess?

Our job is very similar to that of meteorologists, where, despite all our knowledge, experience and tools, we often get things wrong.


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And just like my local weatherman, whom I want to choke until he turns blue when my beach plans are ruined by the rain that he promised won't come, our customers are often just as frustrated when they see no results your SEO campaign as fast as you want.

Part of an SEO professional's job is to manage customer expectations.

This is an area where many fail.

Many clients today have unrealistic expectations because they were told what they wanted to hear from far too many practitioners. As a result, many people think that this will only take a few weeks or even months.

In just a few weeks, you may see improvements in organic rankings and an increase in traffic for low-competition keyword topics.

On the other hand, moderately competitive topics can last for months, while highly competitive phrases can last as long as a year or more!

For example, my team was able to rate a # 1 website for the term “marketing company” that had generated a steady flow of leads over several years.


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Despite our skills, manpower and resources, it took us about a year of consistent work to achieve this.

On the other hand, a certain customer came to us with virtually no digital presence when a website posted some unflattering information about them that was completely taken out of context.

Since it held the first position on Google for its own name, it had cost him a considerable amount of business.

Fortunately, there was little competition for its own name and this website didn't have much authority, so we were able to fill the first few pages in search results with pages that we controlled in just a few weeks.

I've also seen cases where clients and even agencies have used tactics that violate Google's webmaster guidelines to speed up the process.

While this can work in the short term, at some point you will face a penalty and land further behind where you started.


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From the horse's mouth (Google)

You have to be willing to invest several months to a year before you can see the results of your SEO efforts, but even then you won't be the king of the hill.

Here's what Google said about it.

Google Statement SEO Efforts

According to a comprehensive statistical analysis by Tim Soulo, only 5.7% of all newly published pages will make it into Google's top 10 within a year.


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And even if you do, you cannot rest on your laurels as your competitors – both current and new – are constantly eager to take that position away from you.

In other words, this is an ongoing effort that will never really be complete.


You can't exactly predict how long SEO will take to start working.

However, you can make an educated guess based on certain variables. Then, over time, you can get a better idea of ​​how long it can take against your competitors in your particular niche.

Selected image source: Paulo Bobita


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