How Long Does SEO Take To Start Working?

In my line of work, it’s common to get the “how soon can I expect results?” question from new or prospective clients. Many SEOs say that it takes a few months to many months to really start seeing results. And whatever you are seeing after 2 to 3 months pales in comparison to what you will see at 12 months if you are doing SEO right.

I’ve always struggled to pitch the longterm value of SEO and that it takes time for many reasons:

  • You need to allow time to do the audit
  • You need to allow time to get the work implemented
  • You need to allow time for Google to recrawl everything
  • Building links takes a lot of time if you’re doing it scalably as you build the rest of your business

One of the reasons why I love having my own site(s) is that I can show specific case studies.

This is a real screenshot of’s Google Analytics from January 1, 2015 (8 months before I began working on Credo fulltime) to this past Saturday, the 18th of March.

Credo Organic Traffic

You want to know how long SEO takes to work? Check out the above. You can clearly see:

  • A bump around November 2015 when I started working on the site fulltime and it got a bunch of links
  • That traffic steadily grew throughout 2016 as I worked on content, creating pages that are valuable for the search engines, and more
  • A dip around November/December which is seasonality

What you don’t see is that I had to move to a new domain in January of 2016 (I did the migration seamlessly I think, and didn’t lose traffic though traffic did flatline for a bit) and then moving to HTTPS somewhere around May 2016.

You also don’t see the hours and hours and hours of content and literally thousands of lines of code that I wrote to take it from almost nothing to now a decent amount of traffic every week and growing (hockeysticking, if I may be so bold).

After I tweeted this out on Sunday March 19th, I got so many questions (from SEOs especially!) asking what I did that caused this step-change in traffic in recent months.

The answer is I did not change my strategy one bit. I’ve kept doing all of the following:

No my rankings are not at #1 yet for key terms. But I’ve kept cranking away at the site, fixing technical and architecture issues (and there are more fixes rolling out soon), and continuously keeping at my site’s SEO as I’ve been doing sales, building the product, and more.

SEO is not overnight. Sometimes, sure, you can find low hanging fruit that can show quick traction.

If you want my honest opinion though, those do more harm than good because then your clients come to expect that. You and I (if you are an SEO, and if you’re reading this then you likely are) both know that this isn’t the case, but do they? And even if you tell them, will they understand?

Going back to my post last week, if I had stopped and given up in mid-2016, I would’ve been here:

Screenshot 2017-03-19 21.11.10

Yeah I was reasonably happy with that, but I would’ve missed out on so much if I had given up!

So take it from me – SEO takes time and consistency and doing all the things right – keyword research, content marketing, technical SEO.

Don’t give up. Don’t fire your SEO agency after two months because you’re “not seeing the results”. SEO is patience and consistency and sticking to your strategy.

Good luck.

37 thoughts on “How Long Does SEO Take To Start Working?

  1. Good post! In my WebMD days (after much time testing) I didn’t do much looking into “where do we rank now?!” until several months in and nothing official until 6 months afterwards. Usually longer than that for “final” results. The trick is explaining that to clients now =)

  2. Great work John! Love seeing case studies where consistency pays off – makes for an interesting showcase for potential clients!

    1. Yes and no. Sometimes you can for sure, but others are going to take longer. Now, targeting a longtail keyword and building just a couple links to it can often go a long ways.

  3. Thanks for sharing John. I’m with you when you say that you didn’t change your tactic at all. If anyone implement a good strategy, based on what company’s target are looking for, great results will appear.


  4. Really nice and informative article. The reality is that marketing isn’t a quick fix, nothing happens overnight, and equally, not much lasts forever without constant care, maintenance and attention. The problems arise when we find the “one time” that something does happen instantly and the customer comes to expect those type of results over and over again.
    Thanks for sharing!

  5. Excellent post John and I guess i can forward this to many of clients who see SEO as some rocket science that you implement and start getting results right from day one.

    1. Mike – thanks for stopping by. Don’t think of it as “slow results” though. As you know this stuff takes time. Keep following your strategy/path and you’ll see the results if you’re doing it right. This is part of what makes SEO so tough!

  6. Great article! We’ve seen the same results ourselves, but are constantly running into clients not wanting to invest the money. It’s always great to have more evidence that this works!

  7. Great article John. Thanks for sharing. I’d also like to hear more about your mix of tactics and tools you used. Maybe another article?

    1. There’s a plethora of stuff out there about how to grow a business, and each business is different. I’ve noted this down as an idea to talk about the specific things I’ve done, but as with all of this stuff your mileage may vary if you do it on your own site.

  8. It’s difficult to estimate when SEO will kick in… clients are so weary, then it hits and they’re overjoyed. Just have to get over that hump of frustration. Great tips, John. Thanks for the info and encouragement!

    1. Yep, that’s the magic moment! I’ll be honest that sometimes I get frustrated and impatient as well but when that moment hits…oh man that’s fun.

  9. John very well said.
    I always try to inform clients it’s not going to happen overnight. Low hanging fruit can be extremely helpful if making a subdomain into a subfolder like you have proven to work in the past (as you have shown)

    I have a client that’s that has new people at the top. They are now hesitant to make a 70,000+ RT domains from a subdomain into a sub folder.

    Thanks to your showing what is possible via a photo of what you accomplished in the past I was able to persuade them.

    So thank you and I agree you need to explain to you in the beginning everything needs to be explained very clearly to them so they are on the same page.

    All the best,

  10. Great post! According to me, it will depend on your niche and your competition.

    If your competition is very high definitely it will take times to rank on Google.

    I have seen growth of my website after 8 months. It took long time and now since 10 months I didn’t touche my website and traffic steadily growing.

  11. Good Article! I have been working seo ” Magic” for several years and I am still amazed at how one thing will work in a few days and then something else will take months to show up. Who knows? You just have to keep at it. That is the key. Anyway Thank you for the intel.

  12. Some clients will start getting on your nerves when you they wait for one or two months without seeing the results….. Wish the workload invested in doing SEO takes less time to show up, well it’s a long term plan for the patient ones.

    Thanks for sharing John

  13. Hey John, this is one of the best posts on SEO I have come across. The same doubt – “how long does seo take to work” keeps popping up in my mind as I too have my own website and that too in a very high competitive market. Everyday I keep checking for my ranks for all the keywords I have targeted for. The Google Analytics – All Traffic screenshot gives very good insights. This was a much needed post & am sharing it with all my connections. Thank you!

    — I am subscribing to your blog posts and look forward to have a great learning time!

  14. Thanks for this article, John. I know first-hand from my previous business venture how well SEO works. But now that I started a new venture last year, I seem to have forgotten that time, well, it takes time! Your article reminded me to be a little patient. Just the nudge I needed.

  15. Good things take time and so does SEO. Also, if everyone will start getting easy traffic in quick time by Googling/Practicing basic SEO activities then this industry wouldn’t have have lasted this long.
    SEO has evolved over the years and it requires patience and sound strategies to bring fruitful long-lasting results. Its a race that is marathon not sprint. 🙂

  16. If you allow me, I think I’m going to paraphrase you in our company blog. We’re a Spanish digital agency and we face this question very often.

  17. Hey John,

    You have emphasized on content marketing which seems like a great tool for SEO. Indeed SEO is a long term process and is not for someone impatient. Any agency or consultant offering quick SEO scheme is actually lying and cant be trusted.

  18. good piece of content, SEO is pure organic process which can’t be accelerated however in some industries you get chance to accelerate it by news jacking but not in all industries. Accelerating SEO or linkbuilding process usually lead to the penalty, so any business owner reading this blog and this comment should accept it SEO is not a design its a part of marketing that can make your business successful so be patient, invest and stick to one consultant and strategy.

  19. Ohhhh John what a great post you’ve done, you don’t know how much it is difficult to explain the clients about SEO long term results, somehow people who will read your post may try to understand. Thanks for understanding our problem and giving them your wording. Thanks dude.

  20. another awesome article John. i’ve long been a fan of having a sandbox of your own sites for testing and casestudies. whatever digital strategy, whether search, socia, paid etc. having a couple sites that you can control the long game on, so to speak, and reference results is always a nice foundation in new business conversations, client renewals and for managing expectations!

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