It’s one of the most important and effective ways of getting your business noticed online, but is search engine optimization (SEO) worth the significant investment of your time? If you’re looking for overnight success, SEO may not be the best approach. Changes you make today may have little to no impact on your website or company until much further down the line, but if done correctly, they will be beneficial in the long run.

Understandably, if you decide to invest resources into SEO, you want to have an idea of when you will start to see a return. Here, we highlight some of the key factors determining the time frame of an SEO campaign, what success looks like, and ultimately how long it is likely to take.

How long will it take?

With so many different variables affecting the outcome of your pursuit of SEO perfection, unfortunately, there is no universal time frame when it comes to seeing results. However, experts suggest that you should expect to see results within 6-12 months of starting your campaign. In this case, ‘results’ refers to an increase in traffic and conversions or leads on your site.

Unfortunately, when you start to see a return on your investment, this is far from the end game when it comes to SEO. It is important to keep regularly updating your website with relevant and accurate content, as well as identifying new keywords, whilst also removing any broken links. All of these processes will help to keep your business on top of SEO, and hopefully on the coveted first page of Google.  

What does SEO success look like

When used correctly, SEO can be a priceless tool in drawing more attention to your business’ online presence. The ultimate goal of any SEO campaign is to move your website higher up on the search engine results pages (SERPs). This has the effect of generating more organic traffic to your site, since 75% of users only look at the first page of Google when making a search.

However, the success of an SEO campaign isn’t solely measured by where you end up on Google’s rankings. There is little use in being the top query if when people visit your site, they aren’t interacting with it as you’d like them to – for instance, not viewing your product pages. Another measure of success is your website’s bounce rate, which refers to the number of people who visit one page of your site and then leave without any further interaction.

Generally speaking, for most websites, a high bounce rate is a bad thing, if you are looking to encourage visitors to look at products or use an online checkout tool. However, some company’s may have a one-page site, like an informational blog, in which case a high bounce rate can be considered normal.

What affects how long it takes to see results?

Time invested in your site

There are many factors that can affect how long it will take for you to see success in this department. One of the biggest determinants is the amount of time you invest engaging with your website.

When you’re eager to see success from your SEO efforts, it can sometimes feel like resources are being wasted, since the returns can happen much further down the line. However, typically speaking, the best way to speed up the process is by investing more resources into your SEO campaign, the most important of which is time.

It is always advisable to plan your SEO strategy around seeing long-term results. This is the most effective way to secure a consistently high ranking on SERPs. If you don’t have the resources yourself or within your team to commit the time to your site, it could be worth hiring an external SEO professional.

If you’re considering employing an expert, consider first just how you would like to utilize their expertise. For instance, you could be looking for a one-off service, where a professional can analyse your website, finding opportunities for optimization. Alternatively, you could hire a designated in-house expert, who solely works with your company, helping with all ongoing aspects of the website, including tracking its success using analytics.

The role of inbound links  

Acquiring links from other websites is a lengthy process, and Google knows this. If your website was to suddenly gain a large number of links in a short space of time, Google would likely think black hat techniques have been used, such as buying links or hiding links on your site. As these methods go against Google’s guidelines, if caught, your entire website could be compromised.

However, a healthy backlink profile can go a long way to improving the efficiency of your SEO campaign. It will signal to Google that your site can be trusted, which scores major ranking points on SERPs. One of the most effective ways to improve your backlink profile is through posting authoritative, high-quality content that other sites will want to link to. Be sure to keep any content on your site up to date, as this will help to add more backlinks to your profile.

How does competition affect your site’s progress?

With older, more established sites likely to have a far more extensive backlink profile, it can be difficult to rank alongside them on SERPs as a new website. At times, it can feel like you’re always playing catchup with your competitors.

However, the best way to be noticed by Google is to employ good SEO practices, from generating quality content to using internal linking within your site. Whilst you may not be able to catch up with your competitor’s content library or backlink profile overnight, maintaining these best practices will give you the greatest chance of ranking alongside them in the future.