How long does SEO take to get results?

From the SEO mailbag…

QUESTION: “I’m looking for SEO, how long does SEO take effect and get results?”


Your question is a lot like how deep is a hole? How high is up? SEO is like a sport, and you are competing for various positions with others. Results could be a top 10 ranking for one search term. It could be a #1 ranking for three search terms. It could mean hundreds of things for any given site.

Even if you determine exactly what you mean by results, so much depends on exactly what the search terms are, how much money, time, effort and cleverness you put into the campaign and exactly what the search terms are, how much money, time, effort and cleverness each of your competitors put into the campaign.

Even if you can define all these things, the answer still would be a combination of “it depends” and “I don’t know”.

For certain, don’t expect to see any significant results before six months in a tourism niche. Your competition are already way ahead of you, and they are probably not just sitting on their duffs waiting for you to catch up.

(Related post: SEO FAQ)


Would you have answered differently? Would you have answered the same? What are your thoughts. Please comment below. And please share on Twitter and FaceBook so we can get more perspectives.


  1. Good answers to a question that is vague and often asked by someone more concerned with price than results. I like to answer that question with a question like: What makes SEO a priority for you right now? Where is your site at right now and where do you want it to be in the next year in terms of conversion?

  2. Good conversation starter. The post touches on the vagaries of SEO. On the other hand, if a SEO agency/marketer/expert, or anyone for that matter, approached my business with answers of “it depends” and “I don’t know”…then I would know I would not depend on them for results.

    I love Tom’s answer, especially the last question:

    “Where is your site at right now and where do you want it to be in the next year in terms of conversion?”

    That last word, conversion, is where…pick your metaphor, the rubber meets the road, the conversations and clicks become, well, meaningful and real as they convert into sales and revenues and cash-flows and profits.

  3. Having a clear bright vision of what defines our basic aspirations of where ones would like to be. How long is a piece of string and where we would like to be with cyberspace is really up to the induvidual. Ambitions to be a capitol venture or with some it may just remain a creative outlet.
    Address a needs based system and one should do well, if its a need for knowledge the hope is you are talking with the right people. As always proof is in the pudding.

  4. It’s not an easy job to do SEO and expect result in just a short period of time. You’re right, considering competition and niche is such a big factor that varies SEO result. It’s a long term online work and you have to be patient and do thorough research to be able to make it work, and I don’t think that paid SEO is advisable.

  5. Really SEO is not an easy job like some self acclaimed guru make it to seem. Many newbies are buying ebooks that teaches them are to be on Google’s first page in three days… Is this really possible? I don’t think so. I do my SEO myself and it’s really not that easy.

  6. David,

    GREAT answer. I love the “how deep is a hole, how high is up?” response. I teach an SEO class in San Francisco and had a student ask how long it takes changes on a site to index, as well as how soon to expect to see rankings. I always give the “it depends” answer, but this is much more hilarious.

    I’ve seen no-name blogs index (via wordpress and pingomatic) in under 2 hours. I’ve seen the same blog take a week to index the very next post. I also do in-house SEO at the enterprise level, and have seen pages do the same kind of unpredictable indexing. On-page changes and indexing simply takes time.

    Great site by the way!

    – Tommy

  7. Doesn’t take long at all if the client has been in the business for a reasonable amount of time. Brand new sites are going to be tough to rank, but all of these “take it slow easy and natural” guys don’t know what they’re talking about.

    There is no link velocity profile that is natural to google, no it doesn’t have to take 6 months to rank in a tourism niche. I did a client’s site for luxury trips to thailand which had not seen first 10 page rankings for their site, and I got it to page 2 in a matter of days. It’s all about how and where you build your links and to some degree the anchor text/social signals you use and that are typical in the niche.

  8. Yeah, I agree this is a question we find hard to answer. I think for many SEOs it brings up a moral dilemma because plenty of SEO companies would say within a month or whatever to get the client. Should we be honest and say ‘it depends’ and risk losing the client to a company who ‘makes up’ a time?

    This also makes me think of the whole question about why, at our company, we don’t provide wonderfully exciting guarantee about getting a site to the top of the search engines as it is such a gray area. What we do is basically gaurantee an improvement in search engine traffic and also provide the client with detailed reporting and stats to really educate them.

    On top of this, they see we don’t give them answers that are as attractive as the amateurs down the road which means more educating and convincing. Sales for an SEO company can be hard work but our secret weapon is genuine references from very happy committed clients ;-D