Why Does SEO Take So Long?


SEO can be one of the most important and impactful investments a company can make. Traditionally, it ranks among the top ROI producers across all platforms.

There’s a reason why it continues to be an integral part of most marketing plans, but among the smorgasbord of arrows in a company’s marketing quiver, SEO can be unique in one key category: timing.

Unfortunately, most of the time SEO takes a while to produce direct and measurable results. In fact, our recent guide on how long SEO takes discusses the factors that cause the process to take at least 4-6 months, sometimes even up to 12 months, to generate results. Most other marketing efforts produce relatively quick returns. PPC, for example, can start yielding results almost instantly. Direct mailers or other forms of ads often find fast returns as well.

This begs the question: Why does SEO take so long?

Why does SEO take so long?


When we educate companies on the variety of factors that go into SEO, they begin to understand why it can take so long. No matter the stage of your business or your website, there are bound to be a number of things that could use some TLC, especially in the eyes of Google. These include better keyword targeting on your titles and content, restructuring the format of your pages, and expanding your link profile, to name just a few. Another element many newer companies don’t consider is the age of their domain. If you have a brand new site, it simply takes a while for Google to start trusting you.

When a company comes on board with us, we develop a game plan. After auditing the site, we get a much clearer picture of how long it will take to fix the errors, and move on to the optimization of the individual pages themselves. The scope of this effort varies from website to website.


A major factor in why SEO can take so long revolves around what your competition is doing. In most cases, your company’s competitors are actively working on SEO as well. While the extent of their efforts will differ for each company, this means that achieving first page rankings is going to be a moving target. Think back to those classic high school math problems: A blue car is 5 miles ahead of your car and is traveling at a rate of 60 MPH. How far down the road will you catch the blue car if you are traveling 70 MPH?

We need to determine two things: First, how fast is your competition “driving?” Second, how long will it take us to catch up based on the budget you’re allocating to SEO? Unfortunately for us, SEO isn’t as linear as this math problem. Algorithm changes could take place, your competitors may accelerate their SEO efforts, or maybe you produce a tremendous piece of content that helps you accelerate yours. The point is, no matter which way you look at it, the fact that your competitors are likely doing SEO means it will take some time to catch up.


One of the classic analogies explaining how SEO works is that of getting in shape. If I’m 50 lbs overweight and need to make some changes, how much of an impact will going to the gym for one incredibly challenging workout have? Little to none. On the other hand, if I can set a goal to go to the gym 4-5 times per week, make some simple diet changes, and take it one step at a time, we’ll start seeing results. I won’t lose 50 pounds in 1, 2, or even 10 weeks. However, over the course of a few months, a complete transformation will take place, and it has nothing to do with 1 or 2 huge workouts. It has everything to do with regular, sustainable efforts over the course of a long period of time.

We are often asked by companies across the nation to do a one-time optimization project for them. While we are happy to do so, our conversations always come with educating and advising the client that a one-time optimization will give them a nice little boost, but it usually isn’t enough to get them to where they want to be.

The reason is exactly what we stated above. SEO is truly a process of accumulation. Search engines want to see regular content updates, link acquisition, and on-site optimization. That is how you build their trust and get rewarded with better visibility. This is why monthly SEO services are so crucial to your success.  Having an intentional and targeted approach to ensure you are not only doing these things but doing them well will put your company in good faith with Google.  Once you have a good foundation built up, it is far easier to see results from a new page addition than it would be in the infancy of a website.


At the end of the day, success in SEO is a slow climb. It takes consistent effort, gradually building up and accumulating momentum over a series of months.  However, when you’ve finally built it up and made it to the top the results are more than worthwhile. Your online visibility will have a lasting impact on your business, generating quality leads and growth for months and possibly years to come.

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