SEO · Growth

How long should you give for SEO to begin "working?"


April 18th, 2015

One of the big problems with SEO-driven initiatives is that SEO can take a long time to bear results and so you don't know if you should keep spending resources on it - especially an issue if you're an early stage startup. Are there early key measures to look for or a certain amount of time by which you think you should see results or stop?

Richard Li Digital Marketing / SEO Consultant and Growth Hacker

April 19th, 2015

Jeff Whelpleyoffers some great advice. Most advice will be an overview and "theory" based, I will try to provide more application.

When you look at SEO, try breaking it down to 3 difficulty categories.

A. High Competition

B. Medium Competition

C. Low Competition

Amount of time required to rank depends which category this falls into. For the majority of keywords and niches, Google has a different rankings signals depending on difficulty. I will give a general breakdown.

Low Comp - Google relies heavily on links, on-page, user metrics and on-page. If optimized accordingly, you should be able to rank for low comp in 1-4 months. 1-5 links go very far here.

Medium Comp - This is where it gets a little a tricky. There's a lot more factors in play. If your website is new it will take at least 6 months to have a shot at top 5 in medium comp. If your website is aged, has some authority it can be done relatively quickly.

For a lot of medium to medium-high keywords, an invisible "authority wall" exists. What this means is that your content looks good, site looks good but its not "authoritative" enough to be placed on the first page. Your keyword will sit on the 2nd page, roughly around 15-18 and will seem to just stabilize around there.

Once you smash through the authority wall (Get some authority links), you will land at the bottom of the first page or top of the 2nd. That's when you know you have a shot at the top 3!

High Comp - This is an area where very little expertise exists. It's an entirely different beast to rank and there's even specific algorithms for high comp niches. The key here is user-engagement combined with links/social signals. User metrics trumps most other signals in the high comp keywords once you break onto the first page. Links are weighted a lot less in most cases.

Getting into the top 3 of medium-high to high competition keywords relies heavily on user-engagement. The trick is to really focus on getting to 7-9th then focusing on user-metrics (bounce rate, time on site, CTR etc) while steadily building a flow of links. This can take some while, as little as a 2 weeks to as much as 6-12 months.

To go back to your original question.

Where is your site currently ranking for your target keywords? Is it on the 3/4page or is it not even in the top 500?

For example:

If your site is currently ranking 3 / 4 page for your main keyword, this is a typical timeline I use for my clients.

Low comp = 1-3 months for top 5

Medium comp = 2-6 months for top 5

High comp = 6+months and unable to gauge.

Feel free to mail me your site/keywords and I can take a look for you.

Hope this helps,

Jeff Whelpley CTO at

April 18th, 2015

You should not be dedicating any resources purely on SEO. If anything, SEO is a design consideration and part of your marketing efforts, but from a product standpoint your entire focus should be on creating a great user experience. 

As someone that has worked on highly ranked SEO websites for the past 10 years (just try googling customer service {any big company} and you will see GetHuman), I can tell you that trying to rank higher just by tweaking keywords on pages, URLs, building links, etc. hardly ever works. Don't get me wrong, you do need certain things in place just to make sure you site is indexed properly, but after that, you should be pouring almost all your resources into tracking user satisfaction and creating a great user experience. 

I know SEO "experts" will give you all sorts of tools to track individual pages, tweak keywords, etc. but my point is that any gains you get from that are minuscule compared to improving your product. If your bounce rate is extremely low and your conversion rate is very high and you are still not ranking well then there may be some sort of SEO related issue you need to address. Otherwise just focus on your users and your ranking come naturally.

All that said, hopefully you know that the biggest on page SEO factor is initial page load speed. If you aren't close to 250ms TTFB (time to first byte) and 1s document complete, it may be worth it to spend time resources on that (though, again, not as important as user satisfaction).

Michael Laiken

April 19th, 2015

Any company selling you SEO services that claims quick results should be avoided at all costs; years ago you could game the search engines and get great results quickly, but that is not the case anymore and if you try to game the system you will get black listed and it is very hard to return from the black list.  SEO done right is a long term strategy that begins with a well optimized site for both keywords, text, and performance. That is the only part of the process that can be done fairly quickly but tends to have minimal immediate results.  As mentioned previously, great SEO success comes from running a successful business that others want to endorse (via links). Reputable SEO companies can assist by marketing and promoting your website for you but it can take many months and sometimes years to see great results, especially if you are going for competitive keywords.  

My advice... take a long term approach to SEO.  Put in the time and do it right, don't look for shortcuts. Eventually the results will come.  If you want faster results try creative social media campaigns and get active on blogs in which you have expertise.  These will actually end up helping your SEO efforts as well.

Heidi Hutchison Managing Director, Tau Consulting Group ❖ Outsourced Marketing Expertise ⇨ Driving Business Growth

April 23rd, 2015

I will be attending a conference in Atlanta from Wednesday, April 22 to Saturday, April 23. I will have limited access to emails. If this is urgent, please call me on my mobile or text me at (858) 245-7003. I will be back in the office on Monday, April 27. Cheers, Heidi

Anil Gupta

May 7th, 2015

IF you want immediate results, go for PPC campaigns. Linkedin provide you sorting your targets as per country, industry and seniority level. 

Google can help you if you select the industry specific keywords while designing Google Adwords campaigns.

In organic SEO, usually it takes considerable time. However you need to understand the talent level or approach / strategy for SEO. Usually it takes somewhere from 3-6 months. The DigitalSalesMen.Com generates a FREE Digital Performance Report which provide you the idea about current strength / weakness from Search Engine Readiness perspective. Your score in that report and market competitiveness will determine the time expected for SEO Results. Mr. Richard has given a very detailed and practical information on this subject.

Craig PMP Uconnect Strategic Planner – Connectivity, Mobile and Apps

April 19th, 2015

Great question. AptoLink-PRO will soon launch its mobile enterprise solution and they're putting together a go-to-market plan. SEO is one channel using key words, press releases for various features (and additional features introduced) is another channel. Since they're looking to acquire customers in a niche area, are there online services that provide names of companies for lead generation, such as, delivery companies, for example: liquor to stores, pharmacy products to outlets, etc. ?

Michael Laiken

April 19th, 2015

For SEO the best is to get links back to your website from other websites that are reputable and preferably in your industry. Getting mentioned on social media helps as well but links using the actual keyword as the anchor text are the best for SEO but they are also the hardest to come by. As others have mentioned it usually comes easiest by building your reputation and thus other sites link to you because you are a good option for their users/readers. You can also reach out to web masters or business owners and see if they will link to you or if you can swap links with them as every reputable link to your site is very helpful. These jobs can be done by an SEO company but it takes a good deal of time and time usually means $$$. Good Luck. -Michael

Craig PMP Uconnect Strategic Planner – Connectivity, Mobile and Apps

April 19th, 2015

Hi Michael,

When you say that "others want to endorse (via links)", how is this done? Via LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, on the company's website? Or do you send an email to people that you've done business with asking for "thumbs up"? How do those links get replicated or shared in the SEO process throughout  the Web?

Arnel Tanyag Business Advisor, Business Consultant, Business Development Expert, Connector, and Giver

April 19th, 2015


I have clients who offer SEO services. Normally, it can take about 3 to 6 months. The question is your SEO company reviewing their efforts with you on a monthly basis to show you their progress and what adjustments they are making to get you the results that you are looking for. I hope this help.

Anthony Zeoli Digital Strategy and WordPress Consultant and Trainer

April 19th, 2015

I 100% agree with Jeff Whelpley.