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A fair question to ask, you’re paying for a service and you want to know how long until there will be some tangible results.

With SEO sometimes it is very difficult to provide a straightforward answer because there are just so many variables. SEO is forever changing and evolving and it is part of our job as SEO-ers to stay on top of the latest trends and updates.

We have come up with some scenarios to try to help provide some insight into ‘how long’ SEO might take to work. But at the end of the day, this isn’t something that is easily answered by a single blog post.

“I’ve hired an SEO company, but it’s making no difference to my rankings”

To begin with: look at how long you have been using your SEO company and what sort of state your SEO was in before you started working with them. SEO is not a product that you buy, switch on, and hey presto your website is top of the rankings. SEO takes time and can depend on the state of your site to begin with. Websites pick up bad links, poor content and bad keyword strategy over time which will take your SEO company a while to sift through and sort out.

“Why am I not ranking #1 for my keywords, should I stop paying for SEO?”

The concept of the ‘keyword’ is somewhat outdated, while keywords are still important and are good indicators of site health in general, they are no longer the holy grail they used to be.

Building rankings will take some time, in addition to this, keywords are not the be all and end all for your SEO. The focus in no longer on your traditional ‘golden keywords’, but instead on long tail keywords. Sure, your keywords can still be used to monitor your campaign, but search visibility has become much more complex over the past few years.

A key point to make is that semantic search, released as part of the Hummingbird update derives meaning from a search query, means you don’t necessarily have to have the exact keyword on your site to rank well if your content is relevant.

You need to give your agency or in house team time to work with your business and fully understand the website, even then changes that they implement take time to show visible results, things like trust and links have to be built up gradually.

“When can I stop doing SEO?”

The answer to this is fairly simple, you should not stop doing SEO, it’s not a one-time job. Your strategy might change but SEO should be a constant, if you do cease all SEO efforts you will notice that in time, your rankings and traffic start to decrease.

“We can’t justify a budget for 6-12 months SEO, but we could pay for 3 maybe”

If you can’t budget for SEO long term, there isn’t much point in paying for it short term. SEO efforts take time to show results and you might only start to see results after 6 months. Expecting to see results straight away is an unrealistic expectation.

If you have a limited budget you should perhaps look into investing it elsewhere. Unfortunately having a restricted budget will impact your SEO, you really need to be able to afford the time to let SEO work on site.

“We’ve been using an SEO company for months, but we don’t really talk that often, we just let them get on with it”

This could be an indicator as to why you might not be seeing the result you want. There needs to be some communication between yourselves and your SEO agency, although to an extent they can ‘just get on with it’ you will see better results if you work with your agency, with regular catch ups and ideas sessions.

The overriding factor here is clearly, give it time. SEO takes time to work and if someone is promising instant results, they aren’t going to be genuine, and are more likely to damage your website in the long run.