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How long does it take for content marketing to work?

The marketing community has been shouting “content is king” for many years now, but it can still be daunting to commit to a proper content strategy without knowing the outcome. So, how long does it take for content marketing to work?

Whilst the answer is of course dependent on many factors, we can get a pretty good idea of what to expect by looking at real examples from our client base.

START RIGHT

Setting yourself up for success

If you want your content strategy to achieve the best possible results you need to set yourself up for success.

You need to:

0-2 weeks

Indexing and crawling

When you first publish content, search engines like Google need to index and crawl your pages. This process typically begins within days but can take up to two weeks. If your technical SEO is solid, you’ll find this process is generally faster as it requires accurate sitemaps, and good website crawlability.

2-8 weeks

Initial rankings and adjustments

After indexing, your content starts to appear in search engine results. However, initial rankings usually fluctuate as Google assesses your content’s relevance and quality. You may see your content move up and down the rankings during this time, or see an initial surge followed by a slower decline if the content is particularly timely.

During this period you can start to gather data on what users are finding helpful about the content. 

  • Keep an eye on Search Console to see what queries are getting the most clicks. 
  • Are there any queries that the content is getting impressions for that have good volumes?
  • Reoptimise and adjust the content if necessary.

3-6 Months

Consistent ranking and traffic growth

According to Ahrefs, it takes about 3-6 months for content to consistently rank in search results and start driving significant organic traffic.

We took a look at our own data of the clients we’ve helped over the last year or so to see how this held up with Ahref’s findings and found that on the whole, their claim rings true.

By three months following the implementation of your content strategy, you should be seeing some positive results. We dig a little deeper into this data further on, but first, let’s take a brief moment to discuss how you should be measuring this success. 

How long does it take for content marketing to work?
"Within three months of starting a consistent content marketing strategy, all clients saw an uptick in clicks and impressions from Google as well as website conversions."
- The Typeface Group

TRUST THE DATA

Measuring content performance

To effectively measure how long it takes for your content to start working, focus on key metrics such as:

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Use tools like Google Analytics to track the increase in organic traffic to your content.
Monitor your keyword rankings, clicks, and impressions in tools like Google Search Console, SEMrush, or Ahrefs.
Track metrics such as bounce rate, average session duration, and pages per session to gauge user engagement. Lots of users that then bounce from the page are not valuable to your website.

The holy grail of metrics. If you’ve got your conversions set up correctly you should be able to determine if the content you’re producing is reaching the right audience.

EXAMPLE ONE

Quality and quantity

This client was keen to produce more content, more regularly. We worked with them to create a strategy that balanced quality with quantity, and helped them optimise their articles as they went out. As a result, three months in, they’ve seen a 5% increase in clicks, and a whopping 120% increase in impressions.

Let's compare the three months prior to the start of the content strategy with the first three months of consistent, quality content:

example of how long content marketing takes to work, showing an increase of clicks, impressions, and conversions over three months

EXAMPLE TWO

Clear down to level up

This client went through our favourite process – a full content audit, with some blogs being canned, and some being rewritten, whilst embarking on a new content strategy put together by ourselves. Each blog was researched, written, and optimised with the audience in mind.

Another great example of that three month window. Let's take a look at the stats:

content marketing success graph

EXAMPLE THREE

A cohesive and long-term strategy

So, we’ve ascertained that three months is a good period to look at to start seeing initial results. How about the longer term?

With this example, we were involved in the end-to-end process, so we were able to relaunch their site with a comprehensive content strategy. This means we can look at the data over a twelve month period and see what the true effect of a well-thought-out content strategy can have, supported by other areas of marketing such as more general website SEO, PR, and design.

In the graph below you can see the journey the website went through.

When we compare the first three months of the twelve month period with the last three months, we can clearly seen the progress even if we consider the dips:

These weren’t perfect upward trends – you can see from the graphs that things go up and down somewhat. And you can see that even three months in, although these stats sound impressive, often the biggest jumps have been in impressions. What’s the point if users aren’t clicking, you ask? Actually, this is a really positive sign, because it means that the site is ranking for more keywords that they weren’t before, or that keywords that weren’t ranking so highly are ranking higher and getting more eyeballs on them. 

You should expect to see a trickle-down effect. If the hard work is maintained, the jump in impressions inevitably leads to higher clicks and better conversions. In fact, you can see in the stats above that the conversion increases were really positive already. 

However, there are many variables that can influence this journey!

BECAUSE SEO COULD NEVER BE STRAIGHTFORWARD

Factors influencing content performance

From our examples above you can see that different brands grew at different rates. A 300% increase in conversions might only mean 5 more conversions than they had before, but if the brand is niche, or leads tend to result in large-scale deals, the actual impact on the bottom-line could be huge.

The first step to these results are of course producing consistent, quality content, as we’ve outlined above, but there are several factors that influence how quickly your content starts to work.

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Websites with higher domain authority and existing traffic tend to see quicker results from new content. The better your E-E-A-T efforts, the greater payout you’ll get on your content ranking.
The competitiveness of the keywords you are targeting plays a significant role. Low-competition keywords can yield faster results compared to high-competition keywords, but gunning for the lower-competition keywords may backfire if the search volumes aren’t there.
High-quality, relevant content that satisfies user intent is more likely to perform well. Google’s algorithms prioritise content that provides comprehensive and authoritative information on a topic. It’s no use trying to write content around a high-volume keyword if you aren’t going to add anything new or insightful to the reams of content that may already exist.

Acquiring backlinks and social shares can accelerate content performance. Backlinko reports that “The number of referring domains is one of the most important ranking factors in Google’s algorithm.”

This is where having a PR strategy that is tied to your content strategy can really work wonders.

IN IT TO WIN IT

Creating quality content is a long-term investment

As you can see from our results above, initial results may start to be seen within the first month, but acceleration normally happens around the third month, with significant and sustained traffic growth typically occurring within 3-6 months if you stay the course. There are plenty of factors influencing the whys and hows, but it is impossible to deny that an informed and consistent content strategy will have a positive effect within 6 months. 

"By consistently producing valuable content and monitoring key performance metrics, your efforts will eventually pay off, establishing your website as a trusted source in your industry."
- The Typeface Group

Want to get ahead of the game?

If deep-diving into the data with us has finally convinced you to get stuck into your content marketing strategy, first of all, please let us know as you’ll make our day!

Once you’ve done that, we can get you started with some fantastic content strategy tips from our content lead, Victoria, or if you’re after some hands-on help, check out our content marketing services!