How long does SEO take to show results? What does Google say? And what factors impact how effective SEO measures are? This article provides some of the answers to these questions.
What factors determine how long SEO takes to work?
Whether a page can make Google’s Top10 or not depends on a number of factors. The first distinction that is made is whether your SEO is for an existing domain or whether the SEO is for a new website that you’re hoping to get into Google’s top rankings. Whatever the case, there are a number of key points that may affect how successful your SEO is:
- Technical basis: There can’t be any crawlability and indexability issues; the sitemaps and robots.txt have to work properly. A good technical basis with good page load times and a stable server is crucial to get good rankings. Just as important are internal links — the relevant pages of a domain should be easy for the crawler to reach, ideally directly from the homepage. It’s also important to add the top keywords you want the landing page to rank for into the meta tags (title and description) on all the indexed pages. When it comes to the page topic, having clear and precise title tags and meta descriptions — ideally ones that encourage click-throughs — is also important.
- Content: For a website to get a good SEO ranking, content is everything. The internet is swamped with websites. With a good USP and excellent content it should be easier to get good Google rankings. This is why, before you start with SEO, you should ask yourself why the website you are optimizing for SEO deserves a Top 10 ranking: What sets your site apart from the competition, what topics does your site focus on, how can content be made unique and as user friendly as possible? Google has a tendency to prioritize domains with a specific focus over general product websites.
- E-A-T: Only those who are well positioned as experts in their field stand a good chance of getting to the top of the rankings. Google refers to this quality standard as E-A-T or Expertise–Authority–Trust. This applies, in particular, to websites that provide sensitive information on finances or health but can essentially apply to any domain. A website can build trust by having a clear topic focus, by paying attention to content quality and relevance, and by providing author transparency; other important factors are a confidence-inspiring web design with HTTPS, a site legal notice or a quality seal from a recognized organization or Trusted Shops guarantee. Inextricably connected with E-A-T is brand building, be it through mentions, backlinks, or direct traffic. To find out more about this, see E-A-T as a Ranking Factor.
- Backlinks: A much debated question is how important backlinks are for SEO success. The more competition there is in a particular topic area, the more important it is to build high-quality backlinks. A good starting point for backlinks is blogs and forums related to your topic focus.
- Domain age: Within the first year any new website will struggle to make page one of the search results. Older sites definitely have an advantage. According to studies, most domains that rank in the Top 10 are at least three years old, while 95 percent of new websites do not manage to make the Top 10 search results in the first year. The older a domain is, the more trust it can earn in the eyes of the Google algorithm.
- Competition: The more competitive the topic is, the higher the search volume; and the more general the keyword you choose, the longer it will take for an SEO strategy to be successful. This is why it makes sense to focus on subject-specific content silos in a specific niche where there is not so much competition, as doing so will help build authority and improve rankings in a specific area — and concentrate on topics where there is more competition later. Often the rule of thumb is: The more competition, the more turnover can be generated.
How long does Google need to index new sites and list them in the Google search results?
It can take anything from a few hours to several weeks for Google to index a new website successfully. On average, however, most good content will be picked up and indexed within a week. Google’s John Mueller describes this in the clip below:
This is what matters: Ensure that the most important URLs of your website can also be reached from the homepage. At the same time, make sure the crawler isn’t bogged down with unnecessary URLs, such as dynamic URLs or tags with too much information that are difficult to index. In other words, ensure your site has good internal links and is easy to reach, an important fact that will make it easier for the crawler — and hence the Google index — to identify your site. In addition, hard, keyword-rich anchor texts should be used when building internal links.
Another important step is to ensure your sitemaps are set up properly. The Google Search Console is a great tool that can be used to tackle individual URL indexing directly.
How long will it take to see the benefit of SEO? Here’s what Google says…
It can take some time to see the results of SEO. According to Google, it can take up to 12 months. “In most cases, SEOs need four months to a year to help your business first implement improvements and then see potential benefit,” explains Google’s Maile Ohye in the clip below:
It can, of course, take less time. In fact, sometimes you might only have to wait a few weeks to see the first results. SEO success depends on many different factors, as outlined above. You can expect to see faster results, however, if your SEO is centered on a topic where there is not so much competition or if you enlist the help of an SEO agency or a holistic online solution provider like Searchmetrics that has the power and expertise you need.
What is important to know is that SEO often means that Google will analyze the new domain or new URLs on the basis of different core patterns:
- The new site starts at a lower position before slowly moving up the rankings.
- The new site gets a slight ranking bonus from Google and hits the Top 20 relatively fast before slipping down the rankings again. Google tests concentrate on the initial phase in particular, analyzing the user signals based on different search engine positions.
- This means that greater volatility in search engine positioning can be expected in the initial phase, after which the rankings will start to stabilize.
What can be done to speed up SEO?
Much of the SEO work is done before a new domain is launched. A well thought through SEO strategy — i.e., a proper analysis of the (target) keyword sets the domain wants to rank for, including an analysis of the competition and potential ROIs — can help prevent later disappointment. It’s also important to have a clear content structure from the start: What content, what landing pages are needed to accurately reflect the topic clusters? Software solutions like the Searchmetrics Suite can help with this.
One thing that is important, however, is that you do not try to tackle every topic in one go but focus on one area, perhaps even a niche topic. Google’s John Mueller elaborates on this in the SEO Office Hours session below:
A clear topic focus makes it easier for Google to identify the focus of a new website. The site can build its authority slowly before moving into other topic areas later that may have a higher search volume and that offer more opportunity to monetize the website.
How many landing pages are needed for this, and how many subtopics have to be combined on a landing page depends on the given topic. For this reason, when creating content it makes sense to use software-supported content creation that includes all the important SEO data as well — one like the Searchmetrics Content Experience. To begin with, the topic clusters could be defined, for example. Then, optimized data-driven content can be created that covers all the relevant (sub)topics, includes all the main keywords, and is an appropriate length and complexity for the topic at hand.
What SEO measures make sense?
Before: It makes sense to plan your SEO measures in advance, whether in your own team, with the help of an agency, or using a holistic provider like Searchmetrics. When it comes to defining aims, requirements, and the requisite tasks, it is important to consult with all the stakeholders involved.
After: Once SEO has been implemented, it is crucial that you monitor your own SEO performance, using the Searchmetrics Search Experience, for example. This is important to gauge the impact of the SEO measures. User signals like click-through rate or time on site, which can be found in the Google Search Console, can provide valuable data on user acceptance. Technical aspects such as crawlability and indexability, internal and external links, and potential mistakes should also be analyzed, for instance using the Searchmetrics Site Experience.
The following points can speed up SEO success:
- Checking and optimizing titles and descriptions: How can the SEO title be unique enough to set it apart from the competition and convey the USP of the website?
- Checking and optimizing page load times and technical performance: Is the site properly configured to be indexed and crawled? How is the site performing in the Core Web Vitals?
- Checking and optimizing the internal linking structure: Can relevant URLs be easily reached, preferably from the homepage? Are you using hard, keyword-rich anchor texts in your internal links?
- Developing new content pages: What topic areas can still be tapped into? What content is needed and how can this be integrated into the existing topic cluster?
- Updating existing content: Content can be adapted, especially for seasonal offers, demand peaks, or changes in supply or pricing.
- A/B tests: Split testing, e.g., on your call-to-action buttons or analysis of clickstream data to provide insights into user behavior, can be very useful, especially when it comes to user funnels or monetization/lead generation strategies.
- Backlink building: Topic-specific blogs or directories are a good starting point. When evaluating backlinks, Google now places a lot of emphasis on backlink click-throughs.
- Brand building: Press releases and social media can help generate initial mentions and direct search queries for a brand. A free e-book for download might also make sense here. Another good way to build your brand is to create your own exclusive surveys and studies, ideally ones that will be picked up by publishers, too!
So how long does SEO actually take?
Those looking for quick results will have to invest in SEA, while those wishing to grow their traffic over the long term should focus on SEO — but this will take time and patience.
Depending on the domain, topic, competition, and, of course, SEO budget, the first benefits may well be seen after just a few weeks, although it can often take as long as several months to a year. In other words, once the domain has launched, the content published, and the first SEO tasks completed, time and patience are needed to continue to optimize and grow your domain and monitor the rankings closely.
Ultimately, SEO is and will continue to be something of an endurance sport that requires a lot of stamina. And that is not just down to the Google Updates, which can sometimes really throw a curve ball at the search results. To get stable rankings and steady growth for your site, SEO has to be an ongoing process. This means updating and adapting your content, constantly building backlinks and your brand, and continually developing the thematic focus of your page.
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