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Receiving results from SEO takes as long as it takes, but SEO always needs constantly optimizing. SEO Theory explains why and how long SEO takes to kick-in…

People have many questions about how long it takes SEO to work, to recover from penalties, and to see improvements in search results from all sorts of simple tasks. This document combines three articles that were previously published on the SEO Theory blog, as well as some recent updates to the material. This is as thorough an answer as we can provide at this time to the basic question of “how long does SEO take to work?”

How Long Does it Take …?

People ask all sorts of questions about the minutiae of search engine optimization. Unfortunately, the best answer to many of these questions is the rather unsatisfying “It depends …” so let’s take a look at a few of them and see if we can agree on something better than “It depends ….”

2015: How Long Does It Take to Recover from Penguin? – The Penguin algorithm has to process changes in your on-page (keyword stuffing) or backlink data before you will see any effect. You may not see an improvement in traffic if Penguin downgraded your site because of spammy backlinks. That link value will never help you again but it hurts you until you do something about the link value.

In early 2015 Google revealed that Penguin compares your “good” links to your “bad” links, and if your bad links outweigh your good links you have a Penguin problem. If your good links outweigh your bad links you should have no problem, or at least it’s a mild problem. So the ratio of (Google-designated) spammy links to (Google-designated) natural links determines how much (if at all) the Penguin algorithm affects your site.

How long it takes to recover from Penguin thus depends on how long it takes to change that ratio — and for Google to see and acknowledge the change. Penguin went for a year (from late 2013 to late 2014) without an update while Google rewrote the algorithm. They say it should now be updating on a gradual basis.

You fix a Penguin problem by:

  • Reducing apparent keyword stuffing on your pages
  • Earning a large number of natural links
  • Removing a large number of unnatural links
  • Disavowing a large number of unnatural links

In theory you may only have to do one of the above. In practice, since it is impossible for you to know which links are really hurting you, you may find you have to do more than one of the things on the list above.

2015: How Long Does It Take to Recover from the Panda Algorithm – We have engineered recoveries in about two months’ time for several sites. But how long it takes to recover really depends on how much you are willing to change your site’s presentation. The Google Panda algorithm looks at what you present to the visitor (“user experience”). It does not look at what the user is doing on your pages (“user engagement”).

Google’s Panda algorithm may be able to detect and downgrade poorly written copy that is just a rehash of content written on other Websites. Opinions are divided on this matter. Also, if Google does have an algorithm to evaluate the actual quality of written text, that may be handled separately from Panda.

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