How long does SEO take to show results?

It typically takes 3 to 6 months for SEO to show results.

This is according to the approximately 4,300 people who responded to our surveys on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Pie chart showing how long SEO takes to show results

Side note.

We also interviewed our customer-only Facebook group, Ahrefs Insider. Only 82 people responded there and 6-12 months was the most popular response.

But the reality is that there is no definitive time frame. It depends.

Why does SEO take so long?

SEO is not advertising. You can’t pay your way there. So, if you want to rank first for a keyword, you need to prove to Google that you are the best performer.

Google has two types of results: organic and paid

This means that the time it takes for SEO to “work” depends on many factors. Here are some factors to consider:

1. New and old website

In general, since they’ve been around the longest, older websites tend to have more backlinks (and, therefore, more website authority), more pages, more content, and rankings for more keywords.

On the other hand, newer websites require more effort and resources to get off the ground. In fact, some SEOs even believe that Google has a “sandbox” that prevents new websites from ranking.

So, if you’re working on a new website, SEO may take longer to show results.

2. Competition

SEO doesn’t exist in a bubble. Your competitors are probably doing SEO too. If the keywords you are targeting are highly competitive, it will take you longer to rank.

For example, we would like to rank for the keyword “seo”. But the pages that rank for this keyword have tens of thousands of backlinks:

The SERP overview for the query "seo," via Ahrefs' keyword explorer

In fact, the keyword difficulty score (KD) for this keyword is a whopping 97:

The keyword difficulty score for the query "seo"

If we want to compete, it will take a lot of time and effort. On the other hand, it is much easier to compete for “SEO for startups”. We did it and now we are in first place:

The SERP overview for the query "seo for startups," via Ahrefs' keyword explorer

For reference, “SEO for startups” has an average difficulty of 22:

The keyword difficulty score for the query "seo for startups"


Here’s how to find the least competitive keywords:

  1. Enter a relevant keyword in Ahrefs’ keyword explorer
  2. Go to Corresponding terms report
  3. Set a KD filter up to a maximum of 20 (or a number you feel comfortable with)
The match terms report, with keyword difficulty filtered, via Ahrefs Keyword Explorer

3. Your resources

The more resources you can devote and invest in SEO, the “faster” your results will be.

For example, you could hire multiple content authors to create high-quality content for you. Or you could invest in SEO tools and make your job easier, faster and more efficient. You may also be able to build a link building team to actively build links for you. The possibilities are endless.

4. Your strategy

A good strategy is half the battle won.

If you have a detailed plan on how you’d like to address your target keywords, you’ll have a better chance of getting faster results.

For example, you may have a lot of important keywords that you would like to rank for. However, they are all super competitive. So, if you’re putting all of your resources into trying to rank for these keywords, it may take months or even years before you see results.

Alternatively, you can slowly create your most important keywords first targeting low-competitive topics that have business value. This way, you can still generate organic traffic to your site, accumulating links, website authority, and more for the future.

Recommended reading: The Incredibly Simple SEO Strategy for 2022 (The Orchard Strategy)

5. Your execution

To win the other half of the battle, you will have to do it in reality to execute.

There is no point in inventing the best SEO strategy in the world if nothing is done. Likewise, if you have to constantly justify to internal stakeholders whether SEO is worth the effort, that could hinder your efforts to execute.

So, the more consistently you perform, the “faster” you will likely see results.

Recommended reading: How to set the right SEO goals with 3 examples

Find out more

Do you want to know more about SEO? Check out these resources:

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