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How Long Does SEO Take

How long does search engine optimisation take to work?

One of the great debates we have heard for years is how long SEO takes to start working.

This post has been updated and turned into a page. Read.

“We’ve often seen SEO companies and other colleagues shake their heads and start muttering about how long is a piece of string.”

New or old website

The reality is often how old the website is and how long the website has been functioning in its current state and under its current ownership. Most websites rank somewhere for their core keywords. It might be on page 5 or 6 of Google. Studio Cotton write about SEO and new sites.

Just reading on Google and listening to what new clients have been told by their old SEO company, there is a common misconception that SEO takes anything from 12 weeks to 12 months to have any impact.


  1. It will take three-six months to see any results. “It typically takes between 3–6 months for SEO to show results. That’s according to the ~4,300 people who responded to our LinkedIn and Twitter poll.” See here.
    Just because a lot of people have the same opinion about something that does not make it true. Remember people believed that the world was flat!
  2. You must publish a new blog post every week.
  3. Google cannot be rushed.
  4. Links don’t matter.
  5. Links are the elixir of Google magic.
  6. Bad Reviews on Google. We have tested four websites with bad reviews and neither is adversely affected, and all rank on the first page of Google! Think of companies with the worst customer service; they still rank in Google. How would you write an algorithm that takes into account bad reviews? Do you reduce a website’s score every time it gets a bad review? What about 2? What about 1000 bad reviews?
  7. If you add too many pages or make too many changes to the site in one go, Google will know, and it won’t work.
    Google’s index is 100,000,000 gigabytes in size. Do you really think your one or two extra pages will make a difference? Your new pages are like a tiny spec on a single grain of sand on the largest beach in the world!
  8. Content has to be fresh to rank. Really we are writing news.
  9. Blogs are the only way of adding content once the main site is finished
  10. You must concentrate on a few keywords

The reality is that this is just not true

Google has visited most websites at least once in the last two weeks to identify page changes by comparing file sizes. See Google’s crawl capacity.

Google will crawl and index more and more of the website as it finds more pages that have been updated. However, from experience, this is not guaranteed.

Should a Webmaster submit a new site map or use other ways of encouraging Google to visit the new and improved SEO-ed website, this can be more controlled. Click here for more information on Google crawling times.

Google can easily be encouraged to reindex Your website at a click of a button through search consult.

Your website is now queued to be reindexed and RESCORED.

This takes seven days max. Click here for more on Googlebot and indexing (making a copy).

Google orders its index (Google ranking position) by scoring every website and web page with a numerical score between 0 and Infinity.

The pages are rescored when they have been newly indexed and applied changes. When SEO is applied to your website in a broad sense, multiple pages have been altered so of course, page scores will naturally increase or decrease.

The delay a lot of SEOs are talking about is the time it takes for Google to recalculate the score of your web pages and the web pages that are currently in the index for a keyword.

Often when clients see their webpage go down in Google,  it hasn’t actually fallen it is just other website pages have gone above it, ie have a higher score.

The time for Google to recalculate a page’s on-site SEO new index score is no more than 7 days and can occur much quicker.

“Websites that do not change are not restored. If you rank #1 for a keyword is it a good idea to hold off changing the website.”

So the amount of time on-page optimisation which can include several technical SEO improvements is under two weeks.

The actual scope of the improvements in a website’s entire Google rankings across multiple keywords would depend on the ratio between the number of pages optimised and the number of pages unchanged.

How the confusion happened

Where the confusion about timescales comes in is the difference in the time it takes for Google to react to on-site changes and optimisation and off-page optimisation.

Here we will refer to Off-page optimisation as backlinks. It can include other elements like reviews and social media ranking signals.

Building backlinks to a website means that the time to see improvements is longer as the strength of these new links (or link juice) is taken into account is longer.

The reason why is Google has to index these new websites with the newly placed backlink, identify that the links points correctly and legitimately to the client’s website and then recalibrate its algorithmic score for the website pages.

Google then needs to factor in the link strength of the backlinking websites.

When multiple backlinks have been created for a client’s website, again, all of these new sites have to be indexed, the new backlink scored and added to the overall algorithmic score of the domain.

Everything takes time.

Google’s algorithmic scoring for backlinks is nowhere near as fast as it on-page optimisation scoring, as there is more sites to index and calculate. There were 1.13 billion websites as of February 2023.

Sitewide technical changes, high ratios of pages optimised and other SEO improvements to the content and code of the website can have fast and near instance effects on the traffic gained from a higher position within Google’s ranking.

The idea of is backlinks then are drip fed into this equation, further increasing and strengthening the score of each individual page and hence increasing it Google ranking.

The time it takes for Google to recognise all of the new backlinks created and add them into its algorithm and then rescore the domain and the individual pages seems to take anywhere between two weeks and eight weeks. Why so SLOW? We don’t know exactly.

Other factors

A client’s competitors are not sitting on their hands. All of these websites are no doubt doing their own SEO and their own backlink building. This has the effect of damping down the improvements of the initial SEO work.

The hope is that the cumulative SEO improvements, both on-page and off-page are superior to competitors so that slowly the website supersedes their websites and ranks #1 in Google.

New Websites

Newly launched projects are different.

Where the website is brand-new, Google is particularly kind. They have admitted to giving new websites, i.e. websites they have not indexed before, an artificial boost within search results.

So new websites can see their rankings improve within 21 days of being presented to Google. Excellent!

However, after these three weeks the website invariably begins to slip down the rankings and then practically disappear.

The next stage of the project, where further SEO work is done and more content is added into the SEO mix, means that the website begins to transition from nowhere to page 3 or 4 slowly.

The problem here is that the overall score of the domain and the pages and blogs being presented for each keyword are so much lower than pages 1 and 2 of Google that the website gets stuck on page 3. Frustrating!

This is why you often see websites that occupy a number one position for a keyword remain there for years regardless of what the competitors do because the gap between the two scores is too great.

“Google also gives some websites and artificially high score to some government websites. Type rehab into Google and you will see the It is always there and will be for the next 5 years.”

This is where the real myth of SEO taking months and months comes from. New websites entering the market. If your website has history and some degree of ranking in Google then the process is much much faster.

One thing that takes a long time to work is poor SEO work.

This will in fact never work.

So in a sense, if your SEO company is talking about months then perhaps you may want to walk away and find a better SEO company, like this one.

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