SEO – How Long Does It Take?

By June 24, 2020July 10th, 2020No Comments

SEO, Melting Point, and the Flywheel

SEO can be a vital part of your digital marketing strategy, but if you don’t have patience and don’t plan accordingly, you could set yourself up for disaster.  We wish it were different (and it was different 15-20 years ago), but SEO is a marathon, not a sprint.

If you plan for the long haul, it can be a VERY profitable sprint.

The beauty of SEO is that when you rank in search for a handful of good keywords, you continue to get traffic over and over without having to pay for every click.  The downside is that it does take some initial time and effort to produce results (which is why we typically suggest plans that have a mixture of different tactics, specifically SEO and Pay-Per-Click for search marketing).

So how much time does it take to benefit from SEO?

Timing for SEO Initiatives

First, it’s important to understand that SEO isn’t just a one-time initiative. It’s something you invest in for the longer term, over time – kind of like a diet.  If you try dieting for a week, you probably won’t see much in the way of results (and will likely lose the results over time).  It’s when you commit to a lifestyle over a period of time that you see results.

SEO is similar.

If you try to take on SEO for a month or two, or just “incorporate SEO” as you set up your website, you’re very unlikely to see results.  It’s just not enough time to develop the authority your website needs and to make a dent in the search rankings.

Should you make sure you incorporate SEO when you’re building your website?  Of course you should (and here’s a really good case study that shows why!).  That sets up the foundation for future success.  But you can’t expect it to be the silver bullet that skyrockets your website to stardom.

How long does it really take? We typically tell clients 4-6 months to start seeing some results. Yes, that is a bit of a long-term investment.  Yes, you can see results more quickly depending on your industry and what has already been done. Recently, we were able to increase a large specialty medical practice’s (60+ locations) organic traffic by 49% in 2 months, but these results aren’t typical.  There are a lot of factors at play.

But if you’re patient, and you do things well, you should see results. You just need to hit the breakthrough point.

32 Degrees and “Wasted Effort”

If you’re new to SEO, it’s going to feel like there’s a lot of wasted effort in the beginning.  There’s time writing articles, promoting the website, and trying to get Google to notice, but there is very little traffic coming in.  But that work isn’t wasted.  It’s needed to build the baseline.

If you put an ice cube in a freezer and keep it at 25 degrees, it will stay frozen. If you turn the temperature up to 26 degrees, no change.  Same at 27, 28, 29, 30, 31.  Still frozen.  Then at 32 degrees, something changes.  The ice begins to melt. The minor changes in temperature weren’t for nothing, they were necessary steps in the process until the temperature hit the breakthrough point.  That’s when change was noticed.  (Credit to James Clear for the ice concept)

SEO needs a 32 degree point.

The early effort isn’t wasted, but in time the depth of quality content on the website and the authority from external links hits a breaking point where you begin to see results.  And that’s where the magic happens.  The site begins ranking.

Even better, in SEO that’s where things compound and accelerate.

The Flywheel

If you’ve ever read Good to Great (and most people in business probably have), you’re familiar with the Flywheel principle.  Essentially, it takes a lot of work to get momentum, but once you do, keeping momentum going gets much easier.

SEO is like that.

There is a lot of talk in SEO about “correlation” and “causation” and how they’re not the same.  Sites with a lot of social media shares tend to rank better.  That’s not because social media is a ranking factor, it’s really more likely that the content is ranking and found more often, and then is likely more often shared on social media (and maybe because the site is shared so much that it is acquiring more links).

But, there is an element of causation why sites that are doing well continue to rank well and grow faster in rankings.  Basically, the sites that are doing well can get extra advantages with less effort.  Here are two quick examples:


Links to your site from a 3rd party website are significant factors in ranking in search results.  It can be tough to get new links, but once your site starts ranking well, the links can naturally compound themselves.

When you have a site that ranks well in search, the page is more likely to get traffic.  The fact that it is seen more often also makes it more likely to receive a link from another site, usually citing it as a reference point.  Those links make your page/site in the search results even stronger, and more likely to appear high in the results, and then more likely to get additional links.


Google will look at the depth of your content, which makes sense.  If I have a query about prostate cancer treatment, which site sounds like it would be a better match: a site that has a page about prostate cancer treatment, or a site that has 5 pages about prostate cancer treatment methods and 20 other posts about related urology issues?

Clearly there are many other variables, but all other things being equal, one of these results is probably better than the other.

So as you develop more content on your site, each new piece of content also becomes more valuable.  A new resource from a site that has a lot of resources already is probably going to have an easier time ranking.

The Long Haul

In short, yes SEO is a long-haul proposition.  But, if your traffic converts into paying customers, it is significantly worth the effort.  Just be patient, find someone you can trust that you can work with, and be diligent.  Nobody can guarantee results, but in our experience if you have realistic expectations (you’re not going to rank for the search term “Facebook) results and revenue are very attainable.

Need to talk?  Send us a question and we’ll be happy to help where we can.



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