“How long does it really take to rank on Google?” is one of the most common questions asked by clients or marketers looking to buy SEO services or improve their SEO rankings. The short answer is that the average takes 6 to 12 months for you to rank on Google and other search engines.
The long answer is that it depends on many different factors – like competition in your market segment, the current status of your site, and the quality of your content. In this article, we will take a deep-dive into these key factors to give you a realistic picture on when to expect a return on your investment.
How ranking on search engines has changed over the years
In the old days, ranking on search engines like Google was easy. Back then, everything was all about what we call today “on-page” SEO. Search engine algorithms relied on keywords to rank a webpage. In simple terms, all you had to do to rank was add keywords to your title, URL, and body content – and Voila! You rank on Google.
The days of stuffing your content with keywords are long gone.
Today, ranking on search engines is a lot more complicated. Google algorithms are changing on a regular basis. In the year 2018, Google reported an incredible 3,230 updates to its algorithm. That is an average of almost 9 per day – more than eight times the number of updates in 2009. To add to the complexity, your competition is changing and publishing content on a daily basis as well.
So how exactly did things get more complicated and what do you need to do to rank better in search engine results in 2020? Let’s take a deep-dive into these key factors.
Your website’s off-page SEO
In simpler times, it was all about on-page SEO. Now off-page SEO is just as important – if not more. One of the biggest changes that determines how fast you rank in search engines is the introduction of off-page SEO. Off-page SEO refers to all the activities that you and others do away from your site to raise the ranking of the page with search engines. Off-page SEO tells Google and other search engines what other people think and are saying about your site. These days, the perception of your website’s popularity, relevance, trustworthiness, and authority are used to gauge if your website provides content of value for users – and ultimately ranks on Google.
Backlinks and off-page SEO
Backlinks are a critical part of off-page SEO. Backlinks are incoming links to your website that come from another website or web resource. Generally speaking, a website with a lot of backlinks tends to rank higher on all major search engines including Google – but it’s not just a numbers game.
There are a few important things to consider when it comes to backlinks.
The first one is quality over quantity. One backlink from a popular and trustworthy website will yield better rankings than a bunch of links from different sites with less authority.
Another important aspect of link quality is relevancy. If a link comes from a website that is dedicated to the same topic as your site, the link’s search engines will increase the weight of a given backlink and rank your page higher. This is why buying backlinks is not a good idea and is a practice that is banned by Google and other search engines. Most fly by night places selling backlinks are not concerned with authority or domain relevance.
Building backlinks is something that doesn’t happen fast. It takes time. This is a major factor on why it can take up to 12 months for your site to start ranking in search engines.
Domain age refers to how long your site has been around and when it was registered. New sites are significantly devalued for the first few months after Google first discovers them. If your website is new, it is extremely challenging to rank well for competitive terms in those first few months. A web domain less than six months old is considered a new site by Google and therefore less trustworthy or reliable than an older website. Ranking well in search engines is a long-term game.
To rank well in search engines, you have to build great content. In 2016, Google announced that the most important search engine ranking factors are quality, content and backlink profile.
Google search engine quality guidelines state that page quality is measured by how helpful and informative your pages are. Google’s basic principles are:
- Make pages primarily for users not search engines.
- Don’t deceive your users.
- Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings. A good rule of thumb is whether you’d feel comfortable explaining what you’ve done to a website that competes with you or to a Google employee. Another useful test is to ask, “Does this help my users? Would I do this if search engines didn’t exist?”
- Think about what makes your website unique, valuable or engaging. Make your website stand out from others in your field.
In short, the better your content the more likely it is going to be shared and linked by other sites. The key take away from all this is to add value, not noise.
Competition in your location market segment
It’s important to understand that search engine results are localized. Your potential customers search for goods and services according to their proximity and location. The level of competition in your location and market segment determines how fast you will rank on Google search results.
In simpler terms, a new coffee shop in Buford, Wyoming will rank much faster and higher than a new coffee shop in Manhattan or Seattle.
Understanding your goals
SEO is not a one-time “set it and forget it” proposition. It takes time and more importantly, it takes commitment. Long-term commitment. Many companies underestimate how much time and money it takes to be successful with SEO. More often than not, companies pull the plug after 2 to 3 months after not seeing any results. SEO is not a good tactic for generating sales quickly. If you can’t commit to the long-haul, SEO is probably not right for you. You’ll be better off allocating your budget to other marketing efforts.
However – if you have realistic expectations and are willing to commit to the long-haul, SEO has a great return on investment. It could not only generate leads, but it could also position your brand as a trusted thought leader in your market segment.