Why does SEO take so long?

By: Richard Michie

Any SEO agency with real experience will tell you the same thing, SEO takes time, patience and great content.

SEO agencies who claim to be able to fire your site to the top spot on Google in a matter of weeks, are seriously overpromising or dare I say – lying. If they are very cheap, they are almost certainly lying.

But why does SEO take so long?

SEO rankings take a good while to settle. Results can happen fast, but it takes time to see settled, consistent results (or rankings) you can trust. But, the beauty of SEO, is that the results are far more sustainable than PPC, which, while effective in getting your website to the top of the rankings quickly – stops working the instant you turn off the budget.

There are no hard and fast rules, but it takes around 6 months for an SEO campaign to take effect, and 12 months to fully realise the benefit. After that, it takes constant work to maintain and build on those results, to ensure that you control your search landscape.

This unavoidable technical hold-up is only one small part of a larger, more detailed answer to the question “why does seo take so long to take effect?”

Why does SEO take so long to take effect? – The extensive answer

To get to the point where you’re tracking key terms for your optimised website pages, the process we go through between is also highly detailed and time consuming.

It’s also important to understand what google and search engines are really doing, and what they’re looking for, in terms of optimisation, to appreciate the time frame involved in SEO projects.

Google and the internet

  • According to Netcraft’s July 2022 Web Server Survey, there are 1,139,467,659 websites in the world.
  • 17% of these websites are active, 83% are inactive.
  • Roughly 252,000 new websites are created every day.

That is a lot of websites, and those figures don’t account for how many pages are on each site.

Google’s job is to look through all those websites, and work out which page on each website it should show you, to answer the question, or speak directly to the term, entered in the search bar.

Somewhere in that lot, is your business’s website, along with all your competitors, people with an opinion on what you do, and also websites that do something similar to you.

Basically, you are in an arms race to ensure that your website provides better content than competitors in your search landscape. That’s where Search Engine Optimisation comes into its own.

When you think about it, the work Google does is mind-blowing! So, next time you’re frustrated, wondering “why does SEO take so long to reap results?”, consider the enormous feat of technology that’s happening behind the scenes.

Not to mention the processes we at The Marketing Optimist go through as SEO managers, to get to this stage, which we’ll dive into now.

SEO takes a lot of preparation and research

The first job an SEO agency needs to do is to get to know your business. I don’t just mean your products or services. At The Marketing Optimist, we delve deep into your operations, processes, and brand.

  • We need to know:
  • Your goals and plans for the future
  • How the business works
  • What the overall strategy is
  • How do you solve your customers’ problems
  • What your culture is like

As I’m sure you’ll appreciate, this takes quite a lot of time and work. But it’s all worth it, because once we really understand what you want to achieve, we can create an SEO Strategy that really makes a difference, and helps your business achieve these goals.

Once we have a handle on your business, then we can get down to the detailed and extensive work we do, which as you can see, contributes significantly to the timeframes associated with SEO projects, and more completely answers the question “why does SEO take so long?”.

  • Audit your website
  • Review your user journey through the site
  • Carry out keyword research
  • Analyse any penalties affecting your site
  • Analyse your internal and external link profile
  • Review the optimisation, and quality of, the existing content on your website,
  • Start writing all the copy we need to optimise your site for the key phrases we chose
  • Deploy page optimisation (links, image alt tags, SEO titles etc), and other technical SEO tasks, to ensure website pages are fully optimised, and to maximise load speeds.
  • Create new content on a regular basis. This includes new pages as well as well-written blogs to support optimised website page content.
  • Build links with external websites. This is where digital PR can come in.
  • Monitor and report on the results of your SEO campaign, and propose the improvements and content required to increase your rankings, and strengthen optimisation.
  • Repeat this process taking what we’ve learned and making improvements as we go

One of the longest parts of the process is writing the content. Crafting copy for pages, so they are optimised for search engines and, more importantly, speak to your customers, takes time and skill. For many businesses, this essential task is not only one likely outside the skill set of employees, but one that presents a mammoth investment of time.

Your website needs to be trusted and have the authority to rank.

Why does SEO take so long?

Picture Google like an enormous library.

When you visit a library looking for information, you want to find the best-written, well-researched, authoritative book on the subject you are interested in. You’re going to be far more likely to trust the information you find in a well-written book, than what you may get in a pamphlet.

That’s how Google delivers search results. It looks in the library, and returns the best results it can find based on lots of factors, some of which include:

  • If the website is based on an interest or industry
  • If it has lots of supporting content around the subject it’s based on
  • Domain authority (how long the website has been established)
  • If the website is structured properly
  • If the site is secure
  • How many websites link to it
  • If the site links out to other authoritative sites
  • The speed of the site
  • How it displays on mobile as well as desktop

This is not an exhaustive list. Google never tells us all the things that make a website rank well.

Why does SEO take so long? – Question Answered

When you take all these factors into account, I’m sure you can see that there’s a lot of effort required, and some extensive processes involved, to rank highly in search engine results pages (SERPs),

Now take the leap with me, and remember, all your competitors are trying to rank for the same terms as you, they are already doing this work, and have been doing it for a long time. They invested in SEO and they are reaping the rewards.

So, if you want to have a part in that, you need to join the arms race and compete with them.

QUICK MYTHBUSTER – Google Adwords (PPC) or social media campaigns do not help your website rank at all.

We can help you improve your SEO results, or help you get started in dominating your search landscape. Give us a call on 0113 477 1210 or fill in the form to arrange a meeting.

Interested in speaking to The Optimists?

Right from the beginning of our time working with The Marketing Optimist, they’ve taken the time and effort to get to understand Sharp Consultancy as a business and not just a client. We’ve seen a huge increase in the effectiveness of our social media strategy, particularly on Linkedin and we’re delighted with the impact it’s had on the business.

Jamie Caulfield

Regional Director, Sharp Consultancy

It was a pleasure to work with The Marketing Optimist on this project. It felt like a true collaborative effort on the day and they made the interviewee's feel at ease whilst talking about their journey on our RISE programme. The final video was professional and engaging, we have received great feedback around the quality and creativity of the case study. Including the video in our presentation made it come to life, with real humans sharing their stories, so thank you to the Marketing Optimist!

Hannah Prole

Impact Manager, Better Connect Limited

Case Studies


Marketing for Local Government

Moresby Hall Hotel

Hotel Rebranding

Sharp Consultancy

B2B Social Media for recruitment

The Edit LDN

Managing advanced eCommerce SEO

Better Connect

Digital PR and video production for events

Tango Networks

Marketing support for a global telecoms business

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