As any good SEO knows, this is one of the most impossible questions to answer when asked this “million dollar question.”  

Nevertheless, the people want to know! (Check out Answer #1!!!)

So, the answer is…

OK, we need to keep you waiting just a tad…

Before we get to the highly sought out answer(s), let’s briefly understand “why” it is one of the most impossible inquiries an experienced and effective SEO must take on.  Frankly, it’s because (AND AS MANY OF YOU HAVE PROBABLY HEARD BEFORE) it truly depends on so many factors including:

  • where was the website before the work began?
  • how competitive is the vertical or industry that you are trying to improve within?
  • are you going for phrases that are competitive or NOT competitive?
  • what does “results” mean to you? what are the conversions you might consider valuable?
  • how do you measure the results geographically?  locally? nationally? internationally?

And there is so much more!  However, you want the answers. There are also many marketing techniques that you can use and some of them are really interesting, look at this competitor review by Nameperfection.

The most popular answers to one of the most challenging questions in marketing (without the 5 larger points above+:

While we know what we’ve seen in many websites we’ve worked with, we thought we would share as many perspectives as possible to give you the most objective advice to this highly demanded inquiry. Is important to know that many web designers use black hat techniques that you want to avoid for  your business.

How long for General/National/International SEO Results?

Answer #1: Within 24-48 hours if…

The truth is that you can see immediate (within 24-48 hours) benefit in terms of increased traffic from search engine optimization if you:

-Publish new URLs

-Substantial indexable content on each new URL

-Ping major ping services such as Ping-o-Matic

Who says this?  And why would they may such a radical claim?  Well, it’s because it’s an excerpt from a longer piece which tries to explain how long it really takes by Michael Martinez @ Reflective Dynamics.  He continues to say that:

That’s about all it takes. Then again, most people seem to be disappointed with the small number of new visitors they acquire when they publish a new article. If you can only count on 1 new visitor for each new article, then it doesn’t seem like you have much to gain from publishing new articles. On the other hand, if you do this 250 days a year you should be able to build substantial traffic over about … 1 year.

So, realistically, the “true results” occur after a much longer period of time.  “24-48 hours” is really more about how a site can be indexed and possibly “change” in terms of its visibility for a particular phrase or set of phrases.

We’ve seen at Seattle Organic SEO with many clients that a page or the site is indexed (with websites as young as a few months old) in a matter of days — if correctly optimized.  However, will they generate the appropriate traffic that a client is expecting or hoping for in that same short time period?  Most likely not.  The results that they are looking for usually take longer as you’ll see in the this deeper examination of the question.

Answer #2: “TWO WEEKS MAX

So, how long does it take to start seeing SEO results? My answer is TWO WEEKS MAX.

David Melamed made this claim here.  He made this somewhat extreme postulation back in 2013.  Here’s how his site has performed during it’s time available with our SEO Tool:

seo case study by extreme claim

I’ll just let these numbers sink in and let the reader be the judge.  On the positive notes, he’s an accredited google partner, bing ads professional and hubspot certified.  I couldn’t find a case study on his site, nor any clients to see how he’s generated the “2 week” SEO results.

Before 2011, I would say “very possible.”  Before then and before the many algorithm changes at google, you were able to manipulate results VERY quickly.  I would say more like in a month.  Since then, however, I would say “2 weeks” is a bit outlandish.  I hope he updates the site to at least backtrack or clarify today is different.

I will give him some credit in that his additional point is that people shouldn’t be manipulated into signing long term contracts with SEO’s because there is no minimum period necessarily.  This is very true on the other end.

Regardless, google is giving him a chance to convince many people that their own search engine can be manipulated in such a short period of time.  He shows up on the first page of results for the phrase asking the question:

how long does it take for seo results SERP top 10

Answer #3: “Less than a month

When we take on new clients at SEO Sherpa, we usually expect to move them significantly (our average is 184 places) in less than a month.

Well, we decided to head over to their client list and see how their primary case studies or portfolio have performed.  The only two examples they had at the time were:

  • a company using the “Hypoxi” brand and based we believe in the Dubai
  • real estate firm called “Damac Properties” — also in Dubai

The first company was profiled with a nice video on the case studies page and the proprietor says results occurred “within 6 months” shortly before the 1:30 mark of the video.

seo case study by seo sherpa #1

The second case study was very nicely documented.  They stated:

We were able to increase the organic search traffic from 14,544 visits in October 2012 to 69,920 visits in January 2014.

So, we tried to see if the patterns matched.

seo sherpa case study #2

Unfortunately, we were a little befuddled at first with this graph.  However, we soon realized it was in the UAE possibly that we should examine this:

seo sherpa case study #2 - part 2

Unfortunately, our SEO tool may have not have indexed for the UAE as long as it has for the US.  We could only see data from Dec ’16.

Anyway, the period given on the website though is a 16 month window of growth.  So, we’re going to say approximately 6 months to 16 or so months instead as a more empirically proven estimate.

Answer #4: “2-6 months”

The majority of them managed to achieve that in approximately 61 to 182 days.

This is a quote from Tim Soulo, Marketing & Product Development guy over at the very popular SEO tool Ahrefs.  They did a study where:

[They] took 2 million random keywords and pulled data on the Top10 ranking pages for each of them.

They found that sites with an 80 or higher DR (a metric they produced) tended to perform within the period range stated above.  And do note, this is basically obtaining a top 10 result for the randomly chosen keywords.

However, with their study, you can also see that there were some lucky ones along with some less lucky websites:

ahrefs ranking study

  • Low DR sites even managed to get into the top positions within 2 months at approximately 8.7%, but their point obviously is that the majority take approximately 2-6 months.
  • However, approximately 37.7% of those low DR sites didn’t even make the top 10 within one year
  • Whereas, 100% of the high DR sites got into the top 10 within the year

Answer #5: “Small results after 3 months & it could dip back down” 

you should start seeing very small results after 3 months. However, you should really be evaluating it thoroughly after 5 months. Remember, my results dipped in month 3 and came back with a vengeance later on.

This is based on two case studies by a firm which seems to be focusing on the legal sector.  However, one of the two case studies isn’t up anymore and the other is in real estate.  They also identify that the work happened around March 2013 on the site that is still up.

real estate seo case study results

And it appeared to peak around May 2013:

seo real estate case study pic2

with it dropping the month after and only having lingering effects until Oct of that year.

Regardless, they did see the grow in the relatively short period they talk about.

Answer #6: “4-6 Months is when you start seeing results for search engine optimization”

“Many SEO firms will tell you that it takes 4 to 6 months to start seeing results. That’s generally accurate, but bear in mind this is when you start seeing results, and SEO results grow over time. Whatever results you’re getting at 6 months should be considerably less than what you’re getting at 12 months. At some point, you may see your results taper off, and then it may be a matter of maintaining results rather than growing them.”

~Josh Steimle, Owner of a digital lead generation firm, wrote in Forbes, FEB 7, 2015, and currently shows up very high for searches like “how long do seo results take?”

Josh has possibly one of the most visible posts/articles on the topic.  He also explains just as we would for most folks asking the question.  He says, “…it depends.”  He is realistic and deserves credit for that.

Check out his own client’s results to see if he’s right:

MWI SEO Case Study #1

His agency has shown decent results as well.  Going to his agency’s client list and randomly picking out a somewhat smaller brand, you can see success in growth organically like this client they list:

seo growth case study

Up through December 2015 (from their starting points in 2013), you can see gains and plateaus at approximately 12 months as the general range the client’s site experiences somewhat significant organic growth in search engine optimization.

more results from the seo case study

Minus the early stages, you start to see shorter ranges appear in the growth of the organic traffic.  While it’s hard to say when the agency engaged with them, it does appear at least the client experienced growths in their organic traffic in shorter intervals.

Rarely ever in the first 3 months after optimized

Success by any standard rarely comes within the first 3 months, even with a healthy SEO budget.

And Josh identifies 4 levels of spend for monthly retainers in another piece where he summarizes the results from an industry study on rates which highlights $2000-10,000 USD/mo as the upper end of the range.  So, if the adjective “healthy” is accurate, we are assuming he doesn’t mean the $250-$1500 USD/mo he shares at the bottom end.  For just project based audits, he summarizes that they can range between $600 to $20,000 USD for simple 5-10 hour audits to detailed ones — again, JUST the audit.  And hourly, he tells us the range is about $76-500 USD/hour.  We’ll let you interpret what “healthy” is from the latter two ways of pricing SEO work.  The study is also from 2011/2012 which means the rates most likely are higher than today’s rates — given the escalating costs of trying to reap the benefits of “organic SEO” traffic.

(SEO) Proof is in the (website) pudding

As shown by the above single example from Josh’s agency, we can see with other clients they list in their portfolio as experiencing intervals greater than 3 months:

MWI SEO Case Study #2

mwi seo case study

The intervals are more than 5 months, from what we could see.

MWI SEO Case Study #3

mwi seo case study number 3

We are guessing, but we believe the initial runup wasn’t due to hiring MWI, but the latter stage possibly post January 2014 which definitely indicates much more than 3 months — and as much as a year to more than 2 years.

Answer #7: “4-8 Months”

Generally speaking websites can see results in 4 to 8 months.

Who’s saying this?  An SEO agency that is leveraging “17 years of experience.”  Most likely, it means their experience all added on top of one another.  And they have to make a disclaimer they are “real people.”

Are these guys believable?  Well, taking one of their clients, you could say so.  However, it’s hard to see when you look at the entire history available:  seo mechanic case study for how long it takes to get results #1

It barely looks like they gr.w.organically after March 2013.  However, if you look closely, the graph actually rises to 4896 from the earlier point of 1,770 users expected to visit the client website after 4 years.

seo mechanic case study for how long it takes to get results #2

  • March 2014: 2801 (growth of 58% year over year)
  • March 2015: 2431 (yes, a drop yoy)
  • March 2016: 3579 (a nice bounce back -> +47% approx. yoy)
  • March 2017: 4896 (a growth of approximately 75% yoy)

Answer #8: “6-12 months”

This comes from a highly profiled SEO agency I’ve seen a bit in recent months.  They do a decent job in explaining it in a video on the page where they talk about it.

Also, they continue to explain it can take longer:

1+ years

If the site starts off with a negative SEO situation where they explain it has:

  • Brand New Website
  • 1+ Google Penalties
  • No Blog
  • No Article Templates
  • No contact/sales page
  • No ecommerce functionality
  • Unsecure site

Answer #9: “1 Year” (or 3-12 months, depending on your goal)

1. About 3 Months For Initial SEO Results

2. About 6 Months For Noticeable SEO Results

3. About 12 Months For Impactful SEO Results

That’s right — it can often take up to ONE YEAR before you start to see a major impact on your business from your SEO strategy.

This advice comes from a blogger here.  For his own site, he does seem to be doing well organically in these time periods:

convert with content seo case study

Answer #10: “1-2 Years

Again, not to put too fine a point on it, but within 1 to 2 years, I typically see clients start breaking even and seeing a positive ROI. This can be accelerated by adjusting the variables I outlined previously.

This comes from a CEO of a link building company.  He wrote his piece in Inc., a very reputable publication — both on and offline.  And he shares the general sentiment about how things work in terms of timing: you basically don’t know and it depends on so many factors.  Nevertheless, he throws out a number simply because he’s forced to like most in the industry. It all depends of the methods you use and the services too, for example you can use helpful sites like https://dominatewithseo.com/minneapolis-seo/ to help you with.

Obviously, what Demers talks about requires knowledge about the exact financial metrics that would clarify true ROI.  It’s not just talking about “SEO results,” but larger impacts that a client may want.

So, how long do SEO results truly take in 2017?

From our experience and from what has been published above as you can see, we would argue it takes approximately:

  • 6-12 months when you’re in a relatively good position from the start; and possibly earlier if you’re doing many things right and fortune is at your side

  • 12 months or more, if you’re aiming VERY HIGH or have conditions that may be preventing you from growing immediately or requiring “fixing” or “remedying” past issues (or even current ones)

and…

What are “results”?

Results are incredibly subjective.  They could be:

  • showing up for uncompetitive terms
  • showing up for the most competitive terms
  • increasing your website traffic by 1%
  • increasing your website traffic by 100-10,000+ percent
  • increasing your revenues by similar metrics on either end of the scale
  • increasing your conversions by again, either end of the scale
  • simply showing up for one single dream phrase
  • securing conversions in ways that haven’t happened before
  • or simply just growing your visibility
  • along with simply even seeing how your metrics are measured
  • and we believe ultimately, beating your competitors and sustaining your business to attain the goals that will make you and your family happy

Regardless, these are very subjective and again can expand the timeframe expected to deliver the “seo results.”