Does search engine optimization take time to be effective

This one of the most oft cited pieces of SEO pseudo fact I've come across.

"SEO takes time to be effective", "SEO takes time to grow", "It'll be at least a few months before optimization really starts to work".

This isn't necessarily a lie, but it certainly isn't a fact.

It isn't that SEO takes time to be effective. It's that SEO doesn't exist in a vacuum. You are not optimising your site, you are optimising it against somebody else, principally the people that already occupy the coveted page 1 space....and they are there in that space, because they have achieved the highest level of relevancy, and greatest quality and quantity of inbound links out of all the other competing sites in that realm.

Consequently SEO is about closing gaps between you and them. Its just that often, doing 'so called SEO', is based on relatively little work being done, and the work being protracted over a long time frame. Which means that gap is only closed in small increments, and those movements are only made over a long period. So SEO done in this fashion is a living embodiment of Parkinson's Law, i.e. the work is expanded to fill the time allotted to it. Which is why it can take time. But it doesn't have to be so.

You need to acknowledge that your search engine rankings are not like wine. They do not get better with age. They get better because you take proactive steps to close the gaps, and they get better quicker, the more intensive the effort you invest.

So what timelines are we dealing with?

Well, once any on page changes have been implemented, (you know, like those meta tags you've been agonising over, and the keyword density you've been so carefully and cleverly inflating), the time taken for those changes to register an improvement (or not) in rankings, will be the time taken for search engines to come round and find that the page has changed and then re-evaluate your relevancy and integrity.

Which often takes longer than it does to find the changed pages. Its not easy re-shuffling 30 billion webpages just for you!

Still, once it's found the changes and done its re-jig, some difference (or not, if it was not sufficient to beat those top rankers) will have manifested. This is generally about 1-4 weeks depending on the frequency of search engine visits which can vary with your sites popularity. High pagerank, or high priority sites will see things very quickly, possibly in days to a week. Most people will have to wait 2-4 weeks, and the very new or less popular sites perhaps 6-8 weeks.

...And.... if your optimization efforts on a page stretch out even further than the page itself, i.e. you have improved the way that the rest of your site cross links to this page, then the time taken to see improvement from this activity, again, will be the time taken for search engines to crawl those other cross linking pages, and factor them into that above equation too. Which could happen in the same period of time.

And if your optimization efforts stretch out even further than that, to getting links on other sites, then it will take till these pages are crawled before these characteristics are factored into the equation for that page. Hopefully you get the idea.

So if your page, your site, and everyone else's site that may have linked to you is getting crawled within a within a 6-8 week period, then after that point, everything that could be factored into the decision on how to rank you, probably has been done.

The key factor that effects your ranking though...is did you do enough of those activities to substantially re-colour the perception of the search engine to convince it, to allow you to rank higher than you did previously.

And this is the bottom line. Whilst there is a little delay in search engines, as they crawl and process new information, the change happens as fast as you can bring it.

If its 2 months since you made your changes and your still not page 1, then that means search engines have decided that's your natural weight. The only way to improve that, is to begin attacking those gaps once again, with more changes, and more links.

Basically, improving your ranking doesn't take time per se, its just that the people doing often do, and that needn't be your choice.

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