Answering such a seemingly straightforward question as “Why does SEO take time?” is actually not so straightforward.
However, just in case you are looking for an easy answer, I will attempt one before trying to probe deeper.
Basically SEO is going to take some time to work since it must convince the Google-bots that visit the site to analyse and rank it, that the site is worth extra ranking points, so the time-delay can be explained as the delay required for successive Google-bot visits.
Are you convinced? No … We didn’t really think that you would be. You could argue that if all the SEO changes are made at once, then why doesn’t the Google-bot pick them up on the very next visit and whizz your site up the rankings to that coveted first-page?
Indeed, why not? Now you may be beginning to see the trickiness of the question. We now want to play devil’s advocate at this stage and point out that, possibly contrary to your first impressions, having your site whoosh all the way up the rankings is probably not what you want anyway. Why not? Well, Google has its reputation to think about. Sites that whoosh up the ratings all in one bound are highly-likely to come whooshing back down again – temporarily at least, particularly if the site is fairly new.
You can see Google’s point: if the rankings environment for a particular key-phrase has been fairly stagnant or at least reasonably tranquil for a while, then some startling new change might be looked upon as something quite “fishy”. And Google’s response is justifiably to demote such a potential imposter to a less contentious position for a while, confident that a new “star” will be able to promote itself in the longer term if it is genuinely a good website.
So, my advice to our clients is typically to have patience and remain convinced that the SEO process will work in the longer term. Above all keep doing it and the results will follow.
Ranking Increase Over Time
Revisit the original question. What is meant by “the longer term” and how long should a client be prepared to wait for the promised SEO to take effect? Experience suggests that it typically takes from several weeks to five months or more for the effects in the rankings to take place. So now we’ve refined the question “why does SEO take time?” into the related “why does SEO take from many weeks to many months to take effect?” Answer that and you are a fair way into understanding how the mysterious process of SEO actually works. We’ll attempt to highlight some of the relevant factors below, remembering that some of them are at best educated guesses (the process really is mysterious because only Google knows the answers and they are not telling anyone) although we can point out that our beliefs are shared by the majority of individuals working in SEO.
Initially such things as page titles, key-phrases in page text, and headlines will all have a big impact. Page freshness will count strongly if your pages are updated more regularly than your competitors, so keep the content fresh. Updating pages regularly (even if only to incorporate SEO specific changes) will have a noticeable effect. Keep your site fresh and up to date.
Off-Site Factors : Mainly Backlinks, Anchor Text & Social Media
This is probably the key to the answer to the original question. Typically backlinks are put in over time and once in take time to work. Moreover backlinks have an effect on pages on the whole site and not just to the web pages to which they point. Particularly useful are those backlinks which are specific to the business sector in which you operate. Take care with backlinks, always monitor them and be forever on the lookout for new backlinks to help promote your site.
The SEO Process
Google’s search algorithm is not as mysterious as most people make out – They regularly announce changes to it and which new factors are going to assume higher importance: voice search and visitor numbers and dwell time (the amount of time visitors spend on your page). What is an unknown factor however is how much each of the factors will increase in importance (in the sense that it can be measured) after the change compared to before. The continued rise of social media is an obvious example of this. Rest assured that we keep our own SEO software suite fully up to date with regular updates from the manufacturer.