How Long Does Link Building Take to Work

How Long Does Link Building Take to Work
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So, you know that link-building is no hoax. You've done your research and know that great content alone isn't enough in 2023. You understand the boost that backlinks bring.
And yet, a question remains in your head. Until how long do I need to keep putting in the reps before the gains kick in? How long does link building really take to work?
Is it a month? A quarter? A full year? Or heck, even longer? How long of a commitment is active link building? Well, I too was in your shoes and had these same questions.
So, this is me, writing a blog to answer all that my past self (and hopefully you) would want to know.
Most link-building efforts take at least 1-3 months to work. Here, "working" entails three things:-
  • Your links getting indexed
  • You figuring out your link-building groove—how much of it you can do reliably
  • Improved rankings or real movement in the SERPs
Now, this is not to say that you can't experience results faster. A whole slate of factors affects that, which we'll discuss soon. But also know that you can do everything perfectly and have to wait longer.
Worry not though, for I've found data from 523 SEOs to paint a clearer picture. Here's a graph that does the explaining:-
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Source: SERPStat
Now, talking about my subjective experience, I had to wait for 8 months. The off-page SEO team at SmartTask took a good three months to learn the ropes and then enter a flow.
Post that, it took trial and error with tactics to get the ball rolling. Around month 8 is when we started seeing consistent ranking improvements across blogs.
"After 8 months of hard work, we reached a point where I alone was able to build 120 backlinks every quarter."
– Pratik Shinde, Head of Partnerships at SmartTask
Now that we've got the broad estimates out of the way, it's time to talk more in-depth. Let's try to understand all that impacts the speed of link-building success:-

1. How competitive is your niche/keywords

Competitive keywords have a sky-high quality threshold. You can't write copycat content without a unique angle and hope to rank. But another barrier such keywords pose is that of backlinks needed to rank.
Let's go a little meta and consider the keyword 'link building'. According to Semrush, it is very hard to rank for. And if you take a peek at the top 3 search results, you'll know why
The top page, which is extremely well-written and thorough, has a whopping 128.7K backlinks. It is likely the resource almost everyone who ever talks of link-building links to.
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To dethrone it, you'll have to pair top-notch content with 100s of 1000s of backlinks. For even the most well-funded and experienced off-page SEO team, that's a tall order. So much so that you'd decide against taking the challenge at all.
On the flip side, link-building results are faster for keywords where top results have just a few backlinks. You may even earn the coveted #1 spot just by producing great content.
The takeaway? Keyword difficulty strongly correlates with how long-drawn link-building results tend to be.
There's no set-in-stone way to build backlinks. Plenty of strategies and tactics exist, none of which is a silver bullet.
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You have to pick one that’s right for you, knowing there are pros and cons to the choices you make. So, let's talk about how soon you can get results with some of the most popular techniques out there:-
A. Writing Guest Posts:- Guest posts take 1 to 3 months before giving you a ranking boost. That's because guest posting demands your time for many things.
Number one is prospecting websites you can pitch to. Next comes the outreach, which is equal parts tiring and time-consuming. And even when you get a few publishers to accept your guest post requests, there's still work to do.
You have to draft your guest post, and then get it approved by the publisher's editorial team. Finally, publishers sometimes take a long time before making the post live.
So, you see, guest posting involves tons of moving parts. If even one of them gets stuck, the link-building benefits you seek can get delayed.
B. Creating Linkable Assets:- For this tactic to work, you have to create great content that can go viral. Some examples are:-
  • Original research [Ex:- SEO Pricing: How Much Does SEO cost in 2023]
  • Free online tools [Ex:- Hubspot’s customer persona builder]
  • Infographics
  • Statistics roundup [Ex:- 71 Link Building Statistics in 2023]
  • Large listicles [Ex: 203 Worst (& Safest) Countries for LGBTQ+ Travel in 2023]
Once you create such content, there’s one more thing to do. You either need to have good distribution already or do some initial outreach to help linkable assets take off.
So, this tactic generally takes 1 to 2 months to start working.
C. Being a HARO Reporter:- A little refresher for those unfamiliar with what HARO is. It's a platform where experts can respond to interview requests by journalists. As simple as that.
Here's the caveat though. Using it as a link-building channel involves some uncertainty. That's because you need two things to be a HARO reporter:-
  • Subject-matter expertise you can contribute
  • A journo request seeking your expertise
Now, even if you stay on the lookout for such requests every day, whether you'll get one or not is out of your control.
Another thing to keep in mind is that it's up to the journalist whether to use your quote or not. And if they decide against doing so while writing their piece, your backlink goes out of the window too.
D. Buying Links: Though we recommend against this tactic (unless you 100% know what you're doing), link buying is commonplace in the SEO world. Even billion-dollar brands aren't above paying for strong backlinks.
Assuming you have the money to purchase high-quality results, you can see them in a few weeks. But what you also risk by taking this route is creating negative links—ones that harm your website instead of the other way around.
My advice: Tread carefully. Sign up for a zero-outreach (white-hat) link-building platform instead. You get results just as fast without the added risk.
There's no exact science to determine backlink quality. Still, SEOs have narrowed down some pretty convincing indicators. The most important of them is the authority of the website linking to you. This means that a link from a DR 30 website will not be as effective as one from a DR 60 website.
Next comes relevance. For instance, if the same DR 60 website is about golf equipment and sends a link to your blog about the best video conferencing software, it's a mismatch. Google views that as a low-relevance link.
Another thing that impacts link quality is link placement. If it comes within the content body, preferably soon after the reader begins reading, it's quite valuable. On the contrary, a backlink in the website footer isn't considered high-quality.
The last indicator you should think about is whether the link is do-follow, no-follow, or sponsored. Herein, do-follow is the default state for backlinks. But people linking to you can modify it by tweaking the URL. Links that are marked no-follow signal Google that the linking site isn't vouching for the target site.
Clear so far? Great. Now, let's build upon this breakdown with an example. Below is the screenshot for a backlink we built for SmartTask.
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It comes from Hive (DR 76), another work management software, that too on a blog about the best project management software. It is an example of a backlink that is:-
  • Coming from a high DR website
  • Is coming from a high-traffic page
  • Is relevant to the target website
  • Has good placement
  • Is do-follow
So, it’s bound to give results in a healthy timeframe.
Keeping backlink quality consistent, more is definitely merrier. This means that 5 backlinks from a DR 60 website mean more than just one, and can generate faster results.
But, before you commit to an outrageous backlink-building goal, consider this nuance. Building more backlinks means that it'll take longer. As a consequence, the window between efforts and results will also increase.
So, ideally, you should aim to build the minimum amount of backlinks you need to get your desired rank. Any more is overkill.
Pages that already rank on the first page of search results are harder to bump up. So, building backlinks affects them less. The converse is also true.
Moz studied this in detail and came up with the following graph:-
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It clearly shows how link-building results materialise faster and are easier to get for pages that aren't already close to the top.

6. Quality of your backlinked content

If you've written killer content that Google somehow hasn't ranked well, you know it is just a matter of time before it does. Or should I say, a matter of building high-quality backlinks?
Once that's done, content that's worthy of attention will get its due. In this case, link-building results will take their natural course, or may even come sooner than you expect.
But if you're building backlinks for content that:-
  • Is poorly written,
  • Misses searcher intent,
  • Lacks a unique POV,
  • Has no images,
  • Is hard to skim,
  • Has a boring title...
You're in for an ugly surprise. Even the best backlinks may not be able to move the needle much.
That means that high content quality paves the way for faster building results.
Link velocity is a rather cool-sounding term for how fast you build links in a set timeframe. So, if you build around 40 backlinks a month (like we did at SmartTask), that's your link velocity.
No surprises here that the higher your link velocity, the faster results you get. Of course, that's assuming that you're not sacrificing link quality for quantity.
If you're new to link building, don't care much about getting links fast. Find tactics your team can stick to, and focus on being consistent. The velocity will go up on its own.
Note: Link velocity can also vary from month-to-month. It isn't a perfect metric.
One last thing to keep an eye out for: Are the backlinks you’re building staying live? Are they do-follow as expected? Actively monitoring this can save you many a headaches.
After a year on consistent, full-throttle link building for SmartTask, a realisation struck. My team and I knew that no matter how hard we pushed, we just couldn't move the needle as much as we wanted. So, we decided to fix that, for us as well as you.
Cue Smartlinks: The zero-outreach link-building platform for white hat SEOs.
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Here, all you have to do is:-
  • Enter keywords you need backlinks for,
  • Get matched with opportunities,
  • Send a one-click backlink request,
  • And voila!
You earn backlinks without dizzying prospecting, tiring outreach, or never-ending negotiations. Just focus on creating link-worthy content and Smartlinks does the rest.

Written by

Angad Singh
Angad Singh

Content marketer at and