Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is a key element of any effective digital marketing strategy. Done well, it will improve a website’s visibility in the search engine results (SERPS). But why does it hold such value for businesses?

It’s simple; Trust.

Organic results are trusted more than other forms of advertising, because they are legitimate recommendations made by Google. Chosen because they are the best solution for your search query. The top positions can’t be bought, and they can’t be conquered overnight. It requires effort and time to reach the top, so when you finally do, the reward is a steady flow of customers who already believe you must be the best at what you do.

Put simply, SEO is the most valuable digital marketing service you can invest in.

So, how long does SEO take?

Firstly, let’s be clear on what you’re asking:

  • How long will it take to for your site to reach the first page of Google?
  • How long will it take for search engine optimisation to be completed on your site?

They are two very different questions with two very different answers. So, let’s answer them individually.

How long will it take to for your site to reach the first page of Google?

Let’s be clear that no one can give you an absolute answer to this question, but we can give you our own experience. If your domain has some age (at least 2-5 years) and is only held back by a site that needs some love; you are in luck.

Once an SEO specialist has made some adjustments to content, you might see results faster than expected. Just know that no matter how old your site is, if it needs a lot of work, or if you are in a digitally competitive industry, you still need to be realistic with your budget. Testing needs to be done and content must be written.

Here are some estimates of timelines to rank on the first page based on our experience with around 80 different businesses over the past three years:

For a low competition, highly specific keyword (e.g., Electrician Thornlie: 50 monthly searches)

  • First page of Google in as little as 3-6 months.
  • Top 5 spots on Google in ~ 1 year.

For a medium competition, broad keyword (e.g., Remedial Massage Subiaco: 800 monthly searches)

  • First page of Google in ~1 year.
  • Top 5 spots on Google in ~1.5 – 2 years minimum.

For a high competition keyword (e.g. House and Land Packages: 9,900 monthly searches)

  • First page of Google in 1 – 1.5 years.
  • Top 5 spots on Google in ~2 years.

The problem with this estimate is that the first page of Google is different for Every. Single. Search.

If you would like a more detailed estimate of how long SEO might take for your business, reach out to us and we will give you a more tailored review of your situation.

How long it will take for search engine optimisation to be completed on your site?

Now this is a question we can answer more accurately because the process of on-page SEO optimisation is straight forward at a high level. Just remember that on-page optimisation is not a one-and-done situation, an SEO specialist will initially update your content based on initial research, then they will observe how Google responds to changes and make further optimisations.

To estimate how long search engine optimisation will take, let’s use the example of one single web page. The amount of time it would take to optimise an entire website depends entirely on how many pages your site has.

Here is how long it would take for an SEO specialist to optimise one typical service page (e.g. a page on Dry Needling):

  • Keyword research: 1 hour.
  • Content writing (brief, copywriting, page structure): 6 hours.
  • Writing meta title and descriptions (the blue text in Google search results): 30 minutes.
  • Selecting and optimising images: 30 minutes.
  • Population (putting everything on your site and making it look nice): 1 hour.

Total = 9 hours to optimise a single page of your website for Google.

So that’s it? Your website is ranking in Google in less than a day?

Sadly, no.

Google doesn’t update its search results whenever someone makes a change. It takes time for it to understand any content you post online, in-fact from the moment you launch a new webpage, it can take up to a week before Google even notices it.

Once it sees your page, it will still be a little longer before it decides where to place you – and you should be thankful for this, here’s why:

The reason it takes time for Google to rank your site

Google meticulously reviews your site before jumping to conclusions but rest assured, your competitors undergo the same scrutiny. After all, it wouldn’t be beneficial for users if search results fluctuated constantly. Or if Google immediately showcased every new business with stellar content without first assessing the quality of its service.

Instead, Google uses a complex algorithm to evaluate your business and determine its ranking position.

For your site to rank in the search results, the following steps need to take place:

  1. You upload your content to the internet.
  2. Google finds and reads your content (a process called crawling).
  3. Google spends time understanding your content and storing it in its database (a process called indexing).
  4. Google scores your content based on a range of metrics called ranking factors:
    a. Domain authority (the amount of trust Google has for your site).
    b. Page authority (the amount of trust Google has for the page in question).
    c. Backlink count and quality.
    d. Content relevance, quality, and depth.
    e. Accessibility: Page speed, mobile usability and much more.
  5. Google observes how users interact with your site, with more positive engagement being rewarded with higher rankings.

Over time Google will better understand your site, what you do and how well you do it. And sure enough, you will climb its rankings.

What to do if SEO isn’t working quickly enough

If your patience is wearing thin, consider Google Ads as a short-term supplement while your SEO efforts gain traction. The benefit of this is that you can test out different keywords and do some reconnaissance before committing to a search term. You can also enjoy the synergies between Google Ads and SEO as they are both targeting customers with a specific problem.

Your ads will get cheaper when you have optimised your landing page to better answer your customers intent (the entire goal of SEO). However, if you can, it is always worth continuing SEO. The best time to start was yesterday. Your goal might be to eventually reduce or end your paid advertising so you can enjoy more profits.

Setting realistic expectations for SEO

At the end of the day, you should be satisfied that your marketing investment is giving you a fair return. Everyone has limited patience and a finite amount of effort and time. If you are getting to the end of your tether, the single best piece of advice we can give you is to avoid shortcuts and black hat SEO practices as these can result in penalties.

Remember, like a marathon, SEO isn’t about the sprint start. It’s about maintaining a steady pace, adapting to challenges along the way and staying the course to reach the finish line and beyond.

If you want the best chance at 1st place in the Google search results, you should start by selecting the team that supports you from start to finish.

Alistair Hinchliffe

SEO Specialist