What does it take to rank in Google and how long do you have to wait before you hit one of the top positions?
There is no magic formula for ranking a website in Google neither there is anyone that can tell you how long it will take to get to the first pages.
From experience though, there are some factors that play an important role and this is what I will try to explain in this article.
Factors affecting the time needed for a website, blog or post to rank in Google and other search engines
Google has repeatedly said that they are using more than 255 factors in their ranking algorithm but the most important factors that are also related with how long it takes to rank in Google are the following:
Age of the domain – A website that is old and trusted is more likely to rank higher in Google search results than a newer website, provided that other factors remain equal.
This does not mean that a new website cannot achieve good rankings but it simply means it will take more time.
A domain is considered new when it is active (not parked) for less than 6 months. After the 6 month period you can start getting some serious traffic from search engines.
You can read one of my case studies on how to build a successful blog with more than 500K visits per month, which is a very good example on how to build traffic for a new domain.
Clean domain – This is another factor that can work in favor or against your efforts to rank in Google.
A clean domain is a website that has not been penalized from Google either by a manual or algorithmic penalty.
How can you tell if your domain is clean? There are 2 ways to do this:
#1 – Login to Google webmaster tools, click on a website to go to the dashboard and select ‘Manual Actions’ from the Search Traffic menu. If you see the message ‘No manual webspam actions found’ then this means that the website does not have any manual penalties.
#2 – Besides manual you should also check for algorithmic penalties. The best way to do this is to logon to Google Analytics (or in the analytics tool you are using) and go to the traffic sources report.
Select Google as the traffic source and set the date range from the beginning of the year. Watch for any drastic changes in traffic and compare the dates these happen with the Google algorithm change history.
If you see a connection between the dates you lost traffic and the date Google rolled out changes then you know that your website was penalized and depending on the type of change you can start working on your recovery.
If your domain is not clean then it’s a waste of time to try and rank for any terms in Google because the imposed penalty will not let you.
The best way to continue is to first clean your domain or maybe consider starting from the beginning with a new domain.
Competition for the keywords you want to rank in Google – There is strong competition especially for the most popular keywords, so you should be selective of the keywords you want to rank for.
If you try to go after popular keywords believing that this way you will get more traffic, chances are you are not going to achieve much, unless you have a very strong and trusted website.
What you should do instead is to target low competition keywords until you get high rankings for those and then try to go after popular keywords.
High rankings for low competition keywords will get you traffic, links from other websites and slowly this will make your website stronger and able to rank for more important terms.
Type of content (news item, article, image etc.) – Another factor that affects the time needed to rank in Google is the type of content. Breaking news stories will rank faster than stories which are not considered news.
For example, a story about possible war episodes in the Middle East is likely to appear in the top positions faster than your story about food allergies.
Likewise, a new picture of the new born British Prince will get to the top faster than the image you are uploading to accompany your new post.
Selection of title (SEO optimized title) – Having an SEO optimized title is more important than you think. I have explained before how to choose titles using the keyword tool but what I want to clarify here is that an SEO title will help you rank faster than a non-optimized title.
If you are a normal blogger or webmaster i.e. you have a relatively new website, with a not so strong author profile and only a few incoming links to your website, then even if you write the best content but choose the wrong title, you won’t rank for anything, at least in the short term.
I have seen this many times before and what I try to explain to my clients is the importance of page titles especially for not so strong websites.
Take for example the post you are reading:
The title I have chosen ‘How long does it take to rank on Google’ is an SEO optimized title i.e. there are people looking for this term in Google and it does contain keywords.
I made this choice because I know from experience that I have more chances for getting a good ranking for this term (in the next couple of weeks) rather than for a non-optimized title i.e. ‘Don’t expect to see your website in the first page of Google anytime soon’.
If you have a really strong website and profile then it’s possible to rank for non-optimized titles pretty fast but if this is not the case, you can be more selective with your titles and get better results in less time.
Content Length – Content length does count as a ranking factor. You can read my SEO Copywriting tips article which references a number of recent studies that prove that lengthy articles are more likely to rank higher than shorter articles.
In terms of time needed to rank, an in-depth article about a topic has more chances of ranking higher than a shorter article about the same topic.
Number of posts / Quantity of content on website – This is also related with the age of the domain, as explained above.
A post published on a website that already has a number of quality published posts will probably rank faster than an article published on a website with only a few published posts.
Original Content – This goes without saying but sometimes it is important to clarify the basics. Don’t expect to rank non-original content on Google or other search engines.
SEO is important – On Page and Off page SEO play a very important role not only for ranking a new post or website but also on how long it will take to rank. A carefully designed SEO Campaign will also speed up the time needed for new pages or posts to rank in Google.
Number of external references (links) – A new post/page that receives a number of natural links because it is important, useful and valuable will also climb the SERPS faster.
How often you publish new content – The frequency you publish content affects the time needed to rank a new page in Google. If you have a steady schedule (i.e. 2-3 times per week) then most probably your content will get indexed almost immediately but in the cases that you don’t publish new content that often, it may take a day before search engines find out about it.
Note that indexing does not mean ranking, but it’s the first step in the process.
What can you do to achieve better rankings in Google?
Besides what I already explained above, in order to achieve better rankings in Google you can follow these tips:
Be patient – Patience is perhaps one the most important characteristics you need to have if you want to succeed online.
Search engines are governed by complex ranking algorithms, they have BIG data to manage, competition is huge and it generally takes time to convince them that you deserve one of the top positions in their rankings.
Hire a reliable SEO agency – The Internet is very important for all businesses and sometimes when you can’t get the results you want, maybe it’s better to leave it to the pros. Outsourcing to a trusted SEO firm is perhaps the best thing to do and it’s does not cost as much as you think.
Keep updating with good quality original content – Don’t give up but keep trying. If you have not done anything that may get you into trouble (like buying links for example) then perseverance together with good quality work will get you results.
Work on your social media presence – While waiting for Google to find and recognize your good work, you can turn to social media for more exposure and visibility.
Forget about Google for a while – Don’t be obsessed about Google because this will make you make mistakes.
Instead of checking your ranking statistics many times per day what you can do is forget about Google for a while and concentrate on other ways to increase your traffic.
This will not only help you be less dependent on Google but it will also diversify your traffic and income sources which is necessary if you want to build a solid online presence.
It takes time to get good rankings on Google. If you are starting a website now then you may have to wait for 3-4 months until you see your first visits from Google.
After 6-7 months and provided that you are working on the right direction you can start getting more serious traffic from Google and the other search engines.
What you can do if things don’t look good in the first months, is not to give up but to keep trying using white hat techniques and sooner or later you will get the portion of Google traffic you deserve.