If you’ve landed here, you’re probably aware that search engine optimization — aka SEO — is an integral part of any marketing campaign. But maybe you’re not yet convinced it’s worth the investment.

Does SEO really work? More importantly, how long will it take to work?

We’re unpacking it all below. So get a beverage, get comfortable, and let’s dissect the ins and outs of search engine optimization and discuss how long it takes to turn things around.

What Is SEO?

Before we get into how long it takes for SEO to work, let’s quickly review what search optimization entails. How does it work? What are the benefits?

How SEO Operates

Search engine optimization is the process of getting a website to the top of inquiry results. For example, if you’re a chiropractor in Denver, showing up on the first page of the search engine result pages (SERPs) when someone types in “best chiropractor in Denver” or similar keywords is the goal.

So how do you do that?

Broadly speaking, there are two categories of SEO: on-page and off-page. The former focuses on aspects of your digital real estate; the latter deals with link cultivation, guest posting, and other off-site activities.

On-Page SEO

The main components of on-page SEO are content creation, internal linking, and clean coding.


Regularly publishing relevant, engaging content is the backbone of all SEO campaigns. Successful websites publish two types of content: pillar and blog.

Pillar content sits on the main pages of the website, including:

  • Homepage
  • About page
  • Contact page
  • Services page
  • FAQ page
  • Personnel Page

It’s also smart to include testimonials, the modern equivalent of “word-of-mouth advertising.”

Blogs, on the other hand, can be evergreen or topical. Use them to explore nitty, gritty questions. For example, our hypothetical chiropractor may publish a blog post answering the questions: What are the benefits of seeing a chiropractor after you’ve been in an accident? and Can I go to a chiropractor if I’m pregnant?

Click here to read more about SEO blogging for a chiropractic office.

Extra Credit Reading: Content and Blogging for SEO Purposes

Internal Linking

We’ll get to external linking below, but first, let’s cover internal linking — the connections you build between your website’s pages.

While these types of links aren’t as powerful as external links from high-quality sites, they’re crucial to the success of your SEO campaign.

The key is to keyword link relevant pages on your website. For example, if you’ve published an article about the history of digital marketing, link it just as we just did.

Extra Credit Reading: Linking

Coding Structure and Hosting

Your site won’t get far if it’s not coded correctly. It should be lean, clean, and lightening fast.

Using a seasoned developer is wise. Beginning coders may understand the technicalities, but their lack of experience often leads to bulky code that’s not optimized for the SERP battle trenches.

And don’t forget about hosting. Too many people choose the cheapest option, which is the opposite of a good move. Unless you have a full-time IT staffer on your team who understands digital security and network programming, go with a hosting company who provides support and handles all server-side updates, patches, and security issues.

Extra Credit Reading: Coding and Hosting

Off-Page SEO

Off-page SEO involves external linking, guest posting, and social media.

External Link Building

External link building is vital to the success of search engine optimization campaigns. It’s the juice that lets search bots know your site is good enough to attract attention — which is a huge ranking component.

But quantity doesn’t outweigh quality. Five linkbacks from .gov, .edu, and .org domains are much more powerful than ones from spammy platforms.

Guest Posting

Guest posting is a great way to get your name out there. Speaking engagements and panel discussions are another way to increase exposure.

Social Media

Not every business and organization needs a hyperactive social media account. But it can work wonders for certain brands.

Before deciding whether to launch a full-scale social media campaign, talk to a digital marketing expert. They’ll assess your niche and determine the best course of action.

How Long Does SEO Take To Work?

It’s the question every person who’s ever invested in an SEO campaign asks: How long is this going to take?

And the answer is always the same: It depends on various factors, including time, links, competition, age of the website, quality, and content.

How Does Time Affect SEO?

The longer a website is live, active, and regularly updated, the more trust it earns.

If your domain is brand new, it can take over a year to make a dent in the SERPs. Nevertheless, investing in a great website from the start will be one of the better business decisions you make. After all, over 90% of adults in North America use the Internet to research goods, products, restaurants, stores, and services.

Or, to put it more bluntly, the “Yellow Pages” days of yesteryear are well and truly gone for good. We live in a digital world, and the chances of that changing are between slim and none.

However, be aware that links and activity from old SPAM mills can drag your platform to page 1,077 of the SERPs — or even get you booted from the search index for good. So before buying a domain, check its history.

How Do Backlinks Affect SEO?

Quality backlinks are imperative. Notice we said “quality”.

Spammy and low-quality links have the power to harm your site, which is why you must be careful when “buying links.” Most search engines ban pay-for-play links that artificially inflate a website’s rank. We’re not saying that digital marketers never do it; we’re simply explaining that doing it right is essential. For example, it’s not smart to acquire thousands of new links in a matter of hours. It’s a signal that something is awry.

As you have probably already guessed, the more quality backlinks you have, the better.

How Does Competition Affect SEO?

Competition is a significant factor in SERP rankings. If 20 people are trying to capture the same audience as you, ascending to the top will be much more difficult than if you only have one rival.

Furthermore, going up against big-name brands can also be a hurdle. For example, let’s say you’re starting an athletic company that aims to compete with Nike, Reebok, and Adidas. Overtaking colossal brands is impossible if you don’t throw millions of dollars at your digital and offline marketing efforts.

And honestly, the possibility of you ever usurping them is exceptionally low since they’ve been around longer.

So what are your options? Finding a niche is usually the way to go. In our athletic company example, the newcomers may want to focus on “eco-sport” or “athletic gear for senior citizens.”

How Does Quality Content Affect SEO?

Well-coded sites with quality content have an advantage over poorly coded platforms with machine-written shlock.

Back in the day, search algorithms weren’t nearly as sophisticated and intelligent as they are today. Keyword stuffing — the act of incessantly repeating query words in the content — was a surefire way to get yourself to the top of the SERPs. But today, keyword stuffing is a cardinal SEO sin, and doing it invites punishment from the search engines.

Modern search algorithms consider over 200 factors when ranking content.

How Location Affects SEO

Location plays a massive role in SERP rankings. People in Denver, Colorado, and Manhattan, New York, will have wildly different returns. Moreover, search engines serve different results to people with different viewpoints. In other words, algorithms cater to individual sensibilities. In fact, your neighbor’s results may be completely different than yours.

You read that correctly: search algorithms keep track of our personal tastes and use them to craft personalized results.

What Should I Look For in an SEO Team?

The ideal roster for a digital marketing team includes various experts, including:

  • Client Liaison: Client liaisons hold your hand throughout the process. They’re your point person and explain every step of the process in language you can understand.
  • UX / UI Designer(s): User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) designers perfect the flow of a website.
  • Visual Designer: Visual designers are the artists of the crew. They “dress” the site.
  • Front-End Developer: Front-end developers turn the design into a living, breathing, functioning website.
  • Back-End or Full-Stack Developer: Back-end and full-stack developers are a digital marketing team’s programming heavy hitters.
  • Content Editor / Writer: A good web content writer has a great grasp of grammar, casual speech patterns that are understandable to the average person, and the ability to research a wide variety of topics.
  • Link-Building Expert: Competent link builders are a special breed. They know how to attract and generate high-quality links without upsetting the search engines.

If you’re working with a sizable budget, it’s wise to also enlist a media outreach professional who knows how to get your name in front of the big media outlets. This usually falls under the purview of the public relations department in large corporations, but it’s also smart for businesses of all sizes to work with digital promotion firms skilled in off-page SEO and outreach.

Notice we didn’t put social media on there. While having an active online presence may give you a boost — it’s not a guarantee. Intense social campaigns only work for certain types of products and businesses. Should every company have a social media presence? Yes. Should every company pour thousands of dollars into it annually? Not necessarily.

Summing It All Up

How long does SEO take?

Your investment will start yielding results within a couple of months if your domain:

  • Has been around for a while
  • Has never been attached to spammy link farms
  • Contains high-quality content
  • Doesn’t have much competition

However, if you have lots of rivals and a brand new domain, it could take up to a year to see significant results.

Let’s Talk

Do you need a website for your startup? Or perhaps you’re an established business looking to drag your firm into the 2020s in terms of digital marketing.

Either way, Rounded Digital is here to help.

We offer packages for all budgets and enjoy a proven track record of catapulting our clients to the top of the SERPs.

Let’s talk. We’ll review where you’re at — and where we think you could go.