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This is actually a question that gets asked quite frequently from prospects, full service SEO clients, people that attend SEO workshops and oftentimes in random emails and social media messages. An email just a few weeks ago from a newsletter subscriber wanting to know if he would see the effects of his onsite optimization within 3-5 months—frankly, that’s a very loaded question and very difficult to answer with any kind of certainty.
The answer? Yes and no.
The truth of the matter is that there are billions upon billions of web pages, images, videos and other forms on content online. Yes, if you publish a blog post it immediately goes live, but that doesn’t mean that the search engines find and index it the moment you hit publish. There is an indexing process and it might be a few weeks or even a few months until the search engines get around to reindexing your site and finding your new/updated content. This is why many website owners that were hit by one of the Panda updates didn’t recover immediately even after they fixed their sites with appropriate onsite optimization.
Not all SEO was created equal, and some elements of onsite optimization may have a bigger effect on your website sooner than others. For instance, a well trusted e-commerce site that was trying to get more visitors on Cyber Monday could target long-tail keywords and would probably see a slight uptick in visitors for those keywords. Since the site has a good trust factor with the search engines, those small changes had a big impact. If it were a brand new e-commerce website, chances are none of their onsite optimization would make a substantial difference.
There are a lot of factors affecting how well your site ranks in the search engines that are out of your control. In addition to how old and trusted your site is, you also have to consider the level of competition you’re up against. If you compete in a highly competitive niche, good onsite optimization is just the first step in good SEO—chances are every one of your competitors has a well optimized site, so that’s not going to be the deciding factor in whose website performs the best. If you operate in a relatively small niche, good onsite optimization might catapult your website over the competition with minimal offsite SEO.
So how long until you see the positive effects of onsite optimization? I can’t really give you a set time frame. In my experience, it can take anywhere from 3 months to almost a year to really feel the effects kick in. That’s why it’s so important to keep at your SEO and not call it quits when you aren’t seeing immediate results! The wheels may be turning behind the scenes and if you pull the plug on your SEO campaign too soon you’ll never reap the benefits of onsite optimization.