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How Long Does It Really Take to Get Results

woman using computer with chart

Instant gratification. We’re living in a time where nobody really wants to wait too long for anything. We’ve been conditioned to believe that faster often equates to better. We want instant food. Instant miracles. Instant salary. Instant job titles. Instant results. Instant everything.

Let’s take food. You can open up a can of soup, heat it up in the microwave and within seconds you can be eating your lunch. It’s delicious, quick and provides you the sustenance you need to get through the next part of your day. Sort of. It’s filled with salt and preservatives. And, in many cases, the nutritional value can be lost.

Now, think of that homemade turkey soup you cooked right after Thanksgiving. You created a broth from the bones that you let simmer for hours in order to extract every ounce of natural flavour. You added in your fresh vegetables and herbs. It might have taken all day (not to mention the day it took to cook the actual Turkey) but the result was the perfect bowl of homemade soup that was chock-full of goodness and taste.

It took time, but it was worth it.

The same can be said for Search Engine Optimization.

Almost every single client will ask the all-important question: how long will it take to see results. The industry-standard answer is 4-6 months. You can find hundreds (thousands) of articles on the Internet that agree with this consensus. And you can say that to every-single-client but somewhere within the first week or two, they’ll call you up and ask if it’s working yet.

Clients are excited. They’re nervous. They need to account for their spend. You’ll remind them that you ensured they’d start to see some results within 4-6 months, but at some point, they’ll begin to get impatient. It might not happen every time, but it happens enough that we’ve concluded there is a far better answer to the question “how long does it take to see results?”.

After all, results can take a day. They can take a year. They can take five years. It all depends on the goal, the KPIs, the competition and the industry.

How Long Does It Take To See Results?  Let’s Determine What The Results Will Be!

Instead of providing the generic four-to-six months answer, we find it can be far more beneficial to outline what our anticipated results will be.

Key Performance Indicators – KPIs

KPIs are objective, tangible metrics that are used to measure the success of a campaign.

In the realm of SEO there are several KPIs that can constitute successful results.

1. Growth in Organic Sessions– Tracking traffic from organic search is a measurable KPI. Growth can be slow going as it does take time for pages and websites to make their way up the search engine results, especially in competitive industries. It is the objective that lies at the heart of any SEO campaign. More targeted traffic from search engines is an easy result to share with clients, too.

2. Increases in Keyword Rankings – Back in the day, SEO companies would provide clients with spreadsheets outlining keyword results for targeted keywords. It was a metric clients loved. But, with the growth of localized and individualized search results, it became more difficult to provide an accurate measure of keyword rankings. A website could be sitting at #1 for one user but #4 for another. Now, SEO companies might provide a more generalized average for keyword rankings.

Keyword ranking isn’t the be all, end all though. Going from spot number 50 to result number 8 might not make a huge different in traffic; however going from number 8 to number 4 likely will. This is because most users will click on the first few results, but not wade too much further down the list.

3. Leads & Conversions – What good is all of this extra traffic if they are converting into leads? More and more companies are getting savvy with the results they expect to see and leads, orders and sales has become a valuable KPI for SEO campaigns. On average, the best results for a website come from organic traffic results. After all, this traffic is highly targeted for specific searches. If a person is searching for the best place to wash their car, it is likely to assume they are further down the path-to-purchase than a person who gets advertised to with a car-wash display ad or social media post. They’re already searching.

4. Session Duration – Generally speaking, once you implement an SEO campaign, you will likely start to see an increase in session duration. This is because the quality of traffic is highly targeted which means the user would likely be more genuinely interested in your website and information.

Targeted Traffic vs General Traffic

If you look at just numbers, one might think that having 10,000 visitors a day vs 5,000 visitors a day is a win. But, if the 10,000 visitors who are coming are more general in nature, is it really? They’re likely not spending as much time on the website, or they’re browsing without intent to purchase, contact or convert. They take more effort to convert or bring back. So, if you can get 5,000 visitors who are searching for one of your particular products or services, they’re more targeted. They’re likely more ready to convert or purchase. Those 5,000 visitors are more valuable than the 10,000 generalists.

The Tactics Play A Part in The Time It Takes to See Results

Depending on the industry and the competition, an SEO professional will undertake a variety of tactics to achieve results. Think of it like growing a garden. Some plants, fruit and vegetables take longer to bare fruit or flowers than others. In addition, you can’t quite ever predict how long it will take before the tomatoes are ready to be picked.

An SEO plan that is really content-driven can take a lot of time; however, the results might come in spurts. The SEO professional will target a keyword, have a piece of content written and published, and depending on how competitive the keyword is, results may start coming within a week. It could also take six months. In the meantime, with each new piece of content, results will start to build.


Nobody wants to admit that the more you pay the better results you will get; however, budget equals time and resources. So, the more you put into it, the more you should get out. Three team members spending six hours should see results faster than one team member sending two hours.

At the end of the day, SEO is not a quick-fix for a business that requires results immediately. It’s a long-term process that requires a strategy. It is a process where every step builds upon the one before it. Today’s results are likely built upon the effort from six months ago.

So, while you’ll likely find it takes four-to-six months to start seeing results, it isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Instead of offering a timeline, it can be more beneficial to offer education on the KPIs. That way, you can start celebrating the little wins along the way.