How long does SEO take | 2 Graphs Which Tell the Story


3 November 2022

How Long Does SEO Take? | 2 Graphs Which Tell The Story

Search engine optimisation is a marketing channel that differs from many other paid advertising solutions in that it takes time, but for those that stick with a long-term strategy, the rewards can be bountiful. 

At Varn we take a holistic approach to search marketing and the clients that achieve the best results spread their budget across SEO and paid media, paid media is great for strategic campaigns, whilst SEO proves more cost-effective in the long run. 

Communicating this to clients can be tricky, and whilst some trust is needed having examples of timeframes when it comes to SEO growth can be handy; here are 2 graphs from our clients which tell the story of how long SEO can take. 

How long does SEO actually take? 

Before we get into the data, it is worth noting that over our years of experience in the field we have found typically SEO can take 12-16 months to drive real results, and whilst rankings can see an uptick over the 3-6 month mark (which you should definitely tell clients about) real results that impact the bottom line typically take longer. 

This is broadly in line with the timeline outlined by Google themselves

“In most cases, SEOs need four months to a year to help your business first implement improvements and then see the potential benefit”

Search Engine Journal (2022)

So that’s our experience, and here are the 2 datasets which support our hypothesis. 

1. SEMRush Data | Increase in Ranking Keywords 

SEMRush is one of our favourite search engine marketing tools and it is great for measuring your estimated organic search performance with comparable data for competitors. The above dataset is from one of our clients. We engaged in the work and started the SEO in July 2021 working on both their onsite SEO and site structure alongside digital PR.

There were some increases in rankings from the technical SEO optimisations, but few were getting into the top 10 or 3 results. We were able to use these increases in rankings and SEO optimisations to show progress, and in the new year, we started to reap the rewards with a big increase in non-branded organic traffic and rankings. 

The data above shows the number of top 3 and top 10 organic keyword rankings the analysed website had gained since we began the SEO work (marked in blue), and our client was very happy to see the results! 

2. SEMRush + GA Data | 2019 vs 2022 YoY Performance


Comparing year-on-year data can be very useful if you are finding that rankings are increasing and want to relate that to site traffic. The above graph shows sessions in Google Analytics from 2019 for the relevant client compared to 2022 overlaid with SEMRush organic keyword data.

We started the work in April 2021, using a similar combination of onsite SEO and digital PR as the previous client, and saw a big increase in rankings from March onwards which gives some context as to how it long it takes for SEO to start working and to have an impact on organic traffic.

The above graph shows a good increase in organic sessions from our SEO efforts alongside a big uptick in rankings and shows great progress on 2019. We are finding that comparing data to 2019 is more useful than 2020 or 2021 given the distorting effect the pandemic had on many industries and the digital environment in general. 

How do you show and predict performance? 

When it comes to getting data that supports the timeframe, presenting this in a logical and clear way is as important as having the right data. Looker Studio (formerly Google Data Studio) is a great tool that we use at Varn,  get in touch if you want to find out more about its power and how it can be used for SEO performance. 

Interested in starting a career in SEO or digital marketing?

We’ve got a new digital marketing graduate scheme starting in September 2023. Find out more here.

Article by: David, SEO Account Manager More articles by David

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