How Long Before Your SEO Service Improves Your Rankings & Traffic?

If your business is looking to invest in a new Search Engine Optimisation campaign, there’s probably one question on your mind: “how long before I see results?” 

This isn’t a simple question to answer and it depends on several factors. While you can do SEO yourself, there’s a reason it’s an $80 billion industry, it’s not easy. We’re going to take a closer look at some of the key SEO factors that will affect your campaign’s success. 

Taking these factors into consideration will help you to avoid hacks and loopholes that could do more harm than good to your rankings, and show you why patience and the right approach is the only way to sustainable, long-term rankings. So if you’re interested in learning how long SEO takes, keep reading!

How Long Does SEO Take to Show Results?

Unfortunately, there’s no simple answer. According to leading UK SEO Agency Grapefruit SEO, an SEO campaign can take 6 months or more before you start to see some benefit from it. Some campaigns may make progress a little faster, others will take a lot longer. So why is there no simple answer?

SEO is a process, with a lot of the success of any project depending on where you are starting from, and where you are looking to get to. This means every project is different, but there are some fundamental factors that will influence the timescales for your campaign.

Authority & Credibility

The one thing you need to understand about search engines like Google, is that their primary aim is to show the webpages that they believe best provide the user with the product, service or information they were looking for when they typed in their search terms.

The aim of every SEO project is to convince Google that your webpages are the ones it should be showing for the search terms you are targetting.

The challenge with this is that it isn’t simply a case of having the most relevant information on your page – other factors come into play. Considerations like your website’s credibility, authority and expertise regarding the topic your pages are focused on have become increasingly important.

These factors are typically measured by how long your website has been around, how focused it is on a particular topic area, and whether other, respected websites in the same or similar niches think you are adding value with your content, which they acknowledge by linking from their sites to yours.

Becoming established in a market, earning the trust of other sites (and Google) in that niche, and building your authority as one of the leading sources of products/services/information in that sector all take time – the more crowded and competitive that market, the longer it might take.


Of course, Google doesn’t consider your website in isolation. The search engine wants to display what it thinks is the most relevant information based on the search terms used. In order to do this, it needs to consider all of the different webpages that might be relevant for that search, and then show those it thinks provide the best ‘answer’ at the top.

So you can see, it’s less a question of how well your webpages answer a particular question or need, and more about how well it does this in comparison to all the other, similar webpages – your competition.

The more competitive a market and the greater the number of websites looking to rank for the same keywords, the better your site will have to be in order to be considered the best – and the longer it is likely to take to achieve this.

This is why a scaled approach is best for most SEO campaigns, especially those that are in competitive markets. Instead of simply focusing on the challenging, marquee term you want your site to rank for, starting out with a focus on what are called ‘long-tail’ variations of your main terms will allow you to gain traction in the short to medium term, while still working towards your long term objective.

Finding these less-competitive opportunities to gain rankings that will drive relevant traffic to your website, even in typically very competitive sectors, will help to ensure you see beneficial results from your SEO campaign without having to wait years.

Site Content – Quantity & Quality

We’ve already mentioned how backlinks – other sites linking to your site’s pages – is one way to build your authority and credibility in a sector, and one of the best strategies for achieving more, high-quality backlinks, is to create more, high-quality content for your site.

Adding content to your site not only helps to establish your relevance and authority with Google, (if it sees two sites, one with 10 articles on a specific topic and the other with 50, which do you think it will rate as a better authority?), but it also provides more content for other websites in your sector to link to as well.

Again, the more competitive your niche, the more content you might need to be adding to your site on a regular basis to stand out in the search engines’ eyes – all of which can add to the time your SEO project might take.


The final consideration, as with a lot of things in life, comes down to money, i.e. how much budget you have to spend on your SEO project each month.

As a general rule, budget and timescales are inversely related – if you can spend more each month you can do more work, which should reduce the timescales for achieving your objectives. If your budget is limited, your efforts will be too, and the timescales for success will therefore be longer.

It’s worth noting, however, that it’s not just a case of throwing cash at your project to guarantee fast success. SEO needs to look natural and work in harmony with the search engines – so building hundreds of backlinks in the first month of your project because you have the budget, is likely to do more harm than good.

You need to take a balanced approach, both in terms of how you build up your SEO efforts during the initial months, and also in terms of the budget you are able to sustain for the average lifespan of an SEO project. 

There is no point spending thousands a month at the start of your project, if that means you’re going to struggle to maintain the project if you’re not seeing a return on that investment in the first 6 months. Far better to budget what you could spend for 12 months (or more for a competitive campaign) and plan out a more sustainable, balanced approach.

Typical Timescales for SEO Campaigns

So what are typical timescales for your SEO campaign? Every project is different, and the current state of your site’s optimisation and your competition will have a huge bearing on the timescales you should be considering, but here are some generalisations to give you an idea.

Around 4-6 Months

If you have a local website and are focused on trying to rank in the map-pack in a sector that isn’t very competitive, you could expect to see positive results that drive traffic to your site in just a few months, with organic search result traffic starting to build in the later months.

Around 6-12 Months

If you’re not focused on the map rankings and are looking for the traditional search results to send you traffic, as long as your sector has medium to low competition, you should start to see some benefit from your SEO project in the second half of its first year.

12 Months +

Ranking in a competitive market, or operating on a smaller than average budget will mean that your SEO will take longer to bear fruit, with project timescales of more than a year not unusual. 

Be Wary of Companies Promising Fast Results

If an SEO company promises you results in faster timeframes, especially in very competitive niches or with a low budget, alarm bells should be ringing in your ears – especially if they are cagey about how they will achieve these results. Good SEO can deliver results in a few months, but if it sounds ‘too quick’, make sure to ask plenty of questions.

SEO is Not a Quick Fix

SEO should be seen as an investment, and like any investment that pays off well, it can take time. Your Search Engine Optimisation shouldn’t be seen as some fast way to improve your website’s standing and get traffic quickly. Because of the way Google works these days, it takes longer than it used to and you should be prepared for that. 

If you need quick results, perhaps consider a Pay Per Click Adwords campaign instead – you will see traffic almost instantly, but it will only last as long as you keep spending on your campaign. The benefits of an SEO project are long term, and with the right investment and mindset, you could be reaping the rewards of a successful project for many years to come.