SEO and timescales – considerations for the marketing budget

How long does SEO for your website take to work and when will it be finished?

In this blog I’ll take the opportunity to address two questions we are regularly asked about our web marketing campaigns for dentists – how long does SEO take to work and how long will the project run?

Given that the days of cheap SEO are well and truly over and effective marketing is not cheap, it’s understandable why a practice owner needs to understand what needs to be budgeted and when a suitable return on investment can be expected.

So how long does SEO take to bear fruit?

These days, Google gives nothing away and wants website owners to prove their worth before awarding any decent rankings. The days of paying for hundreds of cheap links to boost your website in a few weeks are history and will cause problems in the shape of Google penalties.

Consequently, optimisation needs to be done carefully and sustainably within Google’s web publishing guidelines which, in a nutshell, means you have to get all of the contributory factors right.

This means a great website with excellent content, regular updates, content generation via a practice blog, complementary use of social media channels and prospecting for decent back-links. All of these factors, done well, will create the “buzz” around your website which Google is looking for.

The momentum needed cannot be created overnight and Google wants to see that you are publishing quality material consistently before you can expect a rise in search positions. Even when you have been active for three of four months, your new website can still be held in what many SEO practitioners refer to as the “sandbox” – effectively a holding area where Google monitors you to see if you really are contributing to the web in a positive way.

Experience suggests that a new website on a new domain name can take take 3 to 4 months to start moving forward sustainably, even though it can appear in the rankings within a few days of publishing; albeit several pages back.

The next hurdle occurs as the website approaches page one and the competition factor comes into play. Typically the websites on page one are also engaged in activities designed to enhance their ranking and at this point progress will typically slow down and become incremental rather than occur in jumps. Be prepared to review your SEO at this stage with a view to ramping up – invariably the competition will not be sitting idly by and letting new sites overtake them. Actually achieving a page one position can take at least 6 months and sometimes a year or more in competitive environments.

So when can the SEO work be stopped?

I’ll be honest and say that this question always confuses me. Given that new sites are appearing all the time and in all likelihood competitor websites have not ceased optimising, it surely follows that calling a halt can only lead to a gradual slide in your ranking results. So our advice is to maintain your search marketing even when you have reached prominent ranking positions. The return on the investment will easily justify the decision at this stage.

The only case for considering halting SEO, if only temporarily, is where a website has gained prominence in the local listing – typically achieved via a combination of an old domain name, lots of reviews and saturation of all the good quality local business listings. In this circumstance, you may consider pulling back on your SEO; however it’s quite a risky strategy and probably not sustainable mid/long term. The risk is that you fall out of the local listings and you find yourself back at square one.


seo is still productiveSEO work can take a number of months to start bearing fruit due to reasons discussed above. It is not an overnight activity and needs a degree of patience whilst progress is established. Consequently it should be budgeted for accordingly – a professional search marketer will need to review your site and the local competition before providing a price. This can vary significantly on a case by case basis.

Given the competitive nature of search results, SEO is an ongoing activity and ceasing is not a step to take lightly – it is advisable to discuss the best strategy with an experienced dental marketing partner.

If you would like to discuss SEO for your dental website in more detail, please call our search marketing team on 01332 672548 for no-obligation advice.