I have a feeling the answer to this question is everything SEO clients want to know. They're convinced that they need to implement SEO best practices, "but how soon can we see results?"
Our best estimate is about 3-6 months.
The obvious truth is, it's no walk in the park to get to the first page of Google, especially for high value or high traffic keywords. As of 2019, Google’s algorithm has evolved and become smarter, utilizing over 200 factors to search and categorize a page, making it more difficult for SEO black-hat practices to rank higher than more legitimate sites.
The top 11 of these factors are as follows:
- site security (HTTPS vs. HTTP)
- mobile-friendly layouts
- schema markup
- content quality
- content length
- page speed, social signals
- quality backlinks
- optimized images
- domain age
- and user experience (UX).
Given all these factors and keeping in mind that Google received almost 2.3 trillion searches in 2019, we’re brought to the all-important question: how long does it take to make it to the top of Google's results pages, and how do you get there?
Getting to Google’s First Page
Ahrefs says about 2-6 months, but only if you're lucky and do the work right.
Ahrefs did a study on 2 million articles in 2017, 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).
- 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.
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 hundreds of different factors, it's safe to say that a website with quality links will rank higher and faster than a website with bad links or none at all. Ahrefs supports this claim with their 2018 data finding that 91% of all studied pages never received organic traffic from Google mostly due to lack of backlinks.
It depends on how difficult your keyword is.
Your keyword difficulty will have a significant effect on how hard it is to rank for that keyword as well as how long it might take to get on page one. To calculate this, you need to analyze the attributes of pages already ranking on the top SERP for that keyword.
The main components to look at are:
- Domain authority/website authority
- Content quality and relevance
- Page backlink profile strength (link volume, quality, relevance, etc.)
- Search intent for the keyword (transactional, navigational, informational)
The amount of people doing voice searches continues to grow.
The rise of voice search and Google Snippets are changing the search landscape. Although not technically part of the search results, snippets in “position zero” get displayed above organic rankings and have a high chance of getting clicked. Since 48% of consumers use voice assistants for general web searches, optimizing keywords and ranking for this medium can be just as important in reaching your target audience.
SEMrush found that 80% of the answers Google’s voice feature delivered came from the top three results on the SERPs, with 60% of the results coming from featured snippets and 70% overall from SERP features (i.e. Google Shopping). Ideally, the study suggested answer paragraphs be around 42 words long and made strategic use of title keywords.
Spiralytics’ answer is about 3-6 months.
We can conclude from the above studies that getting to the first page of Google takes about 3-6 months of—take note—intentional and intensive SEO work. This goes for relatively new websites, ones with domain authority lower than 40, competing for medium-difficulty keywords.
The disclaimer of course is, getting a page on an established, authoritative 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, you'll eventually rise up the ranks and gain your own competitive 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, distribute your content across other online 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'. There are a host of effective marketing channels to choose from online and finding the right channel mix for your brand is an essential part of the process.
Email, paid ads, and social media are effective ways to position your website in front of your target market and increase engagement opportunities. More engagement opportunities naturally mean more traffic, social signals, and most importantly, more backlinks.
Aim to rank for long-tailed and branded keywords.
The studies mentioned in this post mostly focus 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.
It's 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 would want to 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 more qualified leads. Win!
Consider SEO an integral part of your 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 will 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.
Don’t let the competition get a one up on your rankings! Spiralytics has helped hundreds of brands like yours grow organically through the power of search. Contact us today for FREE SEO Audit!