I have a feeling the answer to this question is everything SEO clients want to know. They're convinced that they need your SEO services, "but how soon can we see results?"
The obvious truth is, it's no walk in the park to get to the first page of Google especially for high value, high traffic keywords. There is a myriad of factors that affect Google's algorithm: quality of content, number of links, quality of links, page relevance, social signals, click through rate, not to mention domain authority and age.
To illustrate, one quick search for the phrase "how to rank in search engines" in Google showed us results from as far back as 2012.
Which brings us to the all important question: how long does it take to make it to the top of Google's results pages, and how to get there?
1. A study conducted by Ahrefs shows about 2-6 months, but only if you're lucky do the work
Ahrefs did a study on 2 million articles last February, which resulted to some interesting figures:
- Only 5.7% of all studied pages ranked in the Top 10 within 1 year for at least 1 keyword.
- The average Top 10 ranking page is 2+ years old. Those that gain Top 1 rankings are almost 3 years old (on average).
- Only 22% of pages that currently rank in the Top 10 were created within 1 year.
- Roughly 95% of newly published pages don’t get to the Top 10 within a year. And most of the ones which do manage to get there, do it in about 2–6 months.
Tough! But, as said, if you're willing to do the work, it can be done. Read here.
2. These guys ranked #1 for a high volume keyword in under 3 months
A 3-person team implemented a labor-intensive process that ranked them #1 for a high volume keyword in less than 3 months.
The strategy is nothing we haven't heard before: they chose the right keyword, created quality content, built quality links. The article detailed the step-by-step process. Interesting read!
3. Neil Patel answers "about 3 months", but it all boils down to link building
Neil conducted his own study on 20,000 URLs, testing several data points to know how long it takes for a website to rank, and how links influence the ranking of new content.
While ranking a website depends on a thousand different factors, it's safe to say that a website with quality links will rank higher and faster than a website with no links. As usual, lots of great insights and inspiration from this guy.
Best effort, the answer is about 3 months.
It can therefore be concluded from the above studies that getting to the first page of Google takes about 3 months of—take note—intentional and intensive SEO work. This goes for relatively new websites, ones with domain authority lower than 40, competing for high volume keywords.
The disclaimer of course is, getting a website like Copyblogger or SearchEngineLand to rank is a lot easier and faster than ranking a relatively new or low profile website. Old domains and high authority sites have an unfair advantage when it comes to SEO—not that it's unfair, really. Most of them worked hard to reach that level for years and if you do the work, pretty soon you'll rise up to the ranks and gain your own advantage too.
It's impossible to rank without consistent application of SEO fundamentals.
SEO has never been a case of "build it and they will come." To rank in Google, you need to apply SEO fundamentals consistently, and out of habit.
Study your competition, choose the right keywords, create strategic content, reach out to influencers, promote in social media, build links, rinse, repeat. When you invest in these strategies, you also reap long-term results. Consistency is the name of the game.
Apart from search engines, be proactive in distributing your content across other online marketing channels.
Especially if your website is new, you can't just expect that people will find you through organic search right away. But that shouldn't stop you from figuring out other ways to get 'seen'.
Paid advertising and social media are effective ways to position your website in front of your target market, therefore increasing your traffic, social signals, and link building potentials while you work on your SEO and Content Strategy.
Aim to rank for long-tailed and branded keywords.
The above case studies mostly focused on high volume, high value keywords. SEOs compete for these keywords for important reasons but there's also wisdom in targeting long-tailed keywords that are relevant to your brand, product, or services.
This only means that you get a better chance at ranking for, say, "where to find wedding coordinators in Boracay" or "[Brand name] wedding coordination and events services", than ranking for "wedding coordination services".
It's relatively easier to rank for long-tailed keywords because the competition is not as tough as the high volume ones. Ranking for branded keywords is also wise because you get traffic from search engine users who are already looking for your brand.
These keywords may not generate the same amount of search engine traffic as high volume keywords but they're likely to bring in targeted traffic. Win!
Consider SEO as an integral part of your business process and not just a campaign.
Given that it takes 3 months to a year to gain rankings, it's crazy to simply launch a website and expect that search engine visibility would inevitably follow (it won't!). It therefore goes without saying that SEO should be an ongoing process that's intentionally integrated to your sales and marketing.