In today's ever-competitive digital world, a top ranking on page #1 of Google search results has become the holy-grail. That's why each SEO agency has had to answer this question every so often:
What's Google ranking timeline? Or, how long will it take for my website to get ranked on Google?
That's right. Every business owner getting his/her feet wet in the world of SEO wants to know how soon they will rank. As with most transactions, it's only natural to want to know when you can expect to see a return on your investment.
With Google rankings, however, the answer isn't cut and dried, and with good reason.
First - Google has NEVER revealed its exact ranking formula.
Second - These questions can only be answered in the context of previous SEO efforts.
When you start SEO from scratch, there is no secret formula for ranking. Although the most effective SEO agencies can help a company rank within 3-6 months, there is no guarantee of this unless you have an established business with great Page Authority (in other words, Google already trusts your content!).
The most important factor to understand in this process is what Google takes into account when ranking your page over the competition.
This article will walk you through each of the factors that affect any timeline tied to Google search rankings. We will also tell you where to begin..
Google is the undisputed superstar in the world of search engines.
Google commands a whopping 92% of all worldwide online searches. Bing (2.45%), Yahoo (1.82%) and Baidu (0.95%) pale in comparison.
You already know that Google is the best search engine. But what does it truly mean to rank high in Google in 2019? The chances are good that you are also wondering how much search traffic your website will get once it reaches the coveted page one status.
How much more traffic will you be so lucky to experience when you rank #1 on Google for a specific keyword? Is it worth your time, money and effort to try to rank above everyone else?
The short answer is yes - having a page 1 Google ranking is crucial.
We have stand-out numbers to back this claim.
According to this MOZ Report, the first page of Google search results (SERP) get 71.33% of all organic clicks, with the second and third pages getting only 5.59% of the click share.
What's more, the top 5 results on page one account for a whopping 67.6% of all the clicks (CTR), while results 6 through 10 account for a mere 3.73%.
The message here is very clear: people searching in Google aren't interested in low-ranked sites. In fact, first-page Google ranking means that your website is close to 13 times more likely to be clicked on than if your content were on pages two or three.
Having said that, the bigger question now is: how can you rank higher in Google?
What steps and criteria do you need to meet to achieve a favorable ranking?
That's where Google PageRank comes into play.
To rank in Google, you need to have a high PageRank, which is the algorithm Google uses to prioritize search results.
It pays to know how PageRank works, at a high level, if you want to understand what it means to actually rank in Google.
To avoid over-optimization and SEO abuse, Google officially remoted the PageRank Score feature in 2016. This allowed businesses to check their score and understand how much additional work was needed to get to page 1 of search results. That doesn't mean PageRank is dead; it's just out of the public eye. Google still uses it in the background to index websites.
Moreover, the newly patented Google PageRank shows that the search engine makes use of large number of other ranking factors, including natural backlinks and quality content.
Which brings the question: how does a Google search actually work?
Matt, a search expert at Google has created a handy YouTube video (watch it here) that explains in simple terms how the search process works. The first thing you should know is that when you do a search, you are not actually searching the web; you are searching Google's index of the web.
Think of the index as a directory of the billions of web pages Google has fetched over the years.
So, how did they find and index the pages?
That's where Google's so-called spider software comes into the picture.
The spiders find and visit a small number of high-authority web pages then literally crawl through them looking for links that can lead them to other pages. The process goes on and on until Google has indexed every page they can find via the links.
Now comes the interesting part: what happens when you do a Google search.
Google takes your search term and queries its index with more than 200 questions.
Which pages contain the keywords you are searching?
How many of these keywords appear on the page?
Where is the keyword located - body text, URL, h1, h2, h3 or the title?
Does the page consist of any keyword synonyms?
What's the PageRank and perceived quality of the website? Is the page spammy?
In a fraction of a second, Google brings together the answers to all these questions (and more) and analyzes them to deliver an overall ranking score for each page that contains the searched term.
Take the search term "fintech marketing," for example.
As you can see, Google took a paltry 0.38 seconds, scoured over 51 million pages, and then prioritized the top search result (and all other results!) based on the factors Matt talked about in the video above.
So Google looked at all the pages, at this page in particular, at the title, meta description, how often the words 'fintech marketing' were used in the article, the date it was published, etc, etc and determined this is the best article to answer a user's query tied to fintech marketing.
Additionally, Google extracted a definition of fintech marketing from the article above and presented it in search results for the user.
How long it takes to rank in Google is something that boils down to how Google ranks pages in the first place. There are over 200 SEO factors Google takes into account, including:
● Page-level factors such as where the keyword is located (title, meta descriptions, h1, h2, etc.), how often the keyword comes up on the page, and so forth.
● Domain factors like domain age, registration length, history, and more
● Site-specific factors like content value/quality, contact us page, website architecture, and more
● Backlink/Page Authority factors such as:
● Brand signals
● Webspam factors (both onsite and off-site factors)
● User interaction factors
● And several other Google algorithm rules and ranking factors
As we mentioned above, it usually takes 3-6 months to rank in Google.
But what if you don't rank during that timeline?
Does it mean your SEO firm has failed?
Not necessarily. How long SEO takes to work is tied to what you're doing - and whether you're doing it right.
When you do SEO, you are fighting an uphill battle.
The folks at Ahrefs have gathered much data and many insights on the subject, but here are three key stats you need to keep in mind:
Average #1 search result in Google is 2 years old
22% of Google search results on page 1 are for content created in the last year.
The average time to get to page 1 with amazing content is anywhere between 61 and 182 days. However, it's worth noting that only 5% of AHREFS indexed pages actually made it there within 182 days.
The important lesson here is simple: you can't trick Google.
You can only play by its rules. What makes this even more complicated is that Google changes the rules of the game a few times a year by rolling out ever more search algorithm updates.
More crucially, if you're working with a great white hat SEO company you'll get the best results.
Yes, there are far too many factors that count towards your page search results ranking. It all boils down to whether you are playing by Google's rules. Of course, you need to understand and focus on the single most important factors affecting SEO:
Time on Page is a top ranking factor that is tied directly to a website's user experience. Google monitors what users do when they land on your site. They want to know if people actually find your content valuable and relevant to the search query. If your site's user experience is wanting, people will definitely flee your pages at the earliest chance possible. That's going to hurt your SEO.
As Matt mentioned, links are crucial for Google spiders. The higher the quality and authority of the links to your website/pages, the more likely Google will perceive your site as relevant. So avoid garbage links from mediocre websites. If you garner backlinks from high authority posts/sites/pages, you will rank quicker and rise faster on Google organic search results.
The way you optimize your web pages will make a huge difference in whether they will rank faster or not. Oftentimes that means you have to stay on top of keyword optimizations, especially when it comes to page titles, body tags (H1, H2, etc.), image SEO, URL, meta tags, meta descriptions, and more. Stay on point with keyword density, implying that you also have to avoid overstuffing keywords. We've written a whole guide just about the technical SEO factors Google uses to rank your content. Check it out here.
Google loves fast-loading websites and pages, as do your website visitors. This is even truer for sites trying to take advantage of Google AMP for mobile ranking. In short: the quicker your pages load, the more likely your website will rank faster and higher in Google.
How do you move faster up your Google ranking timeline?
For purposes of answering this question, we will address the hardest use case: a completely new website/ a website which has NEVER been optimized for SEO purposes.
Everyone knows that a new website is more difficult to rank.
In this section we cover only SEO aspects that are NOT directly tied to your original content created for SEO purposes (check out the next section for content and keyword ranking difficulty).
Every great SEO strategy starts with thorough keyword research.
Your choice of keywords not only influences how you'll optimize your blogs, landing pages, and the entire site but will also affect your technical SEO. the good news is that there are myriad keyword research tools and resources readily available.
The first and perhaps the most unlikely tool is Amazon Suggest, which is a great resource for e-commerce websites.
It will help you find both short- and long-tail keywords relevant to your niche. If you already have the so-called seed keyword (the main one), you can use tools like Keyword Tool Denominator to broaden your keyword search. It's an ideal tool for finding long-tail keywords. These two tools will help you zero in on category keywords, too.
Believe it or not, Wikipedia is another fantastic keyword research tool. However, don't forget the veterans in the keyword search arena, including Ahrefs, SEMrush, Google Keyword Planner, and Neil Patel's Ubersuggest.
How do you choose the right keywords?
Consider the keyword's search volume, how it fits with what you sell, user intent, and competition.
Once you have your keywords, you must crosscheck to determine whether the top 10 results have optimized for them. This way, you can optimize better and outrank them.
Make sure you work with an SEO firm to determine whether the content on your current website is optimized for SEO (or hire a very seasoned SEO manager for the job!). The goal is to make sure each of the pages on your site includes all the elements Google examines.
Page speed is one of the key SEO ranking factors.
In fact, it's the core ranking factor for Google's Mobile First index.
If your site is slow, Google will not rank it, which makes sense because an average online user expects your page to load in a matter of 3 seconds or faster.
Page speed doesn't just improve your chances of ranking higher in Google, it's also important for your site's usability (UX), conversion rates, and overall user happiness.
To speed up your [mobile] website and pages, be sure to use HTTP2 protocol, activate Google AMP (which was designed to help mobile pages load faster), and convert to PHP7 (if you're using WordPress).
Don't forget to run page speed tests to see how your site stacks against the rest, as well as use CDN to ensure that your page content is being delivered from the closest location to the user. Of course, you might want to limit excessive use of scripts, fonts, and plugins that might slow down your page loading.
Allow me an analogy.
Many people have heard of World of Warcraft.
It's a player-to-player game that millions of people all over the world play every day. The idea is that each player gets stronger and stronger by battling other players.
By that definition, a new player will never win - because everyone that started playing the game before a new player will be stronger than him.
How does the game adjust that factor to make the game more fair? It allows players to get experience points - where they kill boars in the forest (while not playing against other players) until they become strong enough to battle other players.
SEO is like that. If you start fresh - you need to kill a bunch of boars before you play against the big players. What are the boars in Google's eyes?
Low ranking keywords are the keywords that have a lower search volume for which other companies and writers haven't bothered to rank. In other words, they haven't bothered to create great content to accompany those search terms.
If you create amazing content for enough of these "boars", then you get to play in the big league. It might take time to rank in Google, but this method is cost-effective and efficient.
Tangible example: Let's say you're a marketer working at a mobile app development company. This mobile app company has never done SEO. So you wonder: where the heck do I start?
Your boss naturally wants to become the number 1 search result for mobile app development.
Unfortunately, if you try to go after this keyword, it will be close to impossible to EVER get to the number 1 search result.
So how do you do it?
It's simple: create relevant content and do SEO against related search terms.
When you start ranking for related terms, Google becomes confident that your content is good. Secondly, Google will more likely - and willingly - rank fresh, comprehensive content, on page 1 of search results for low competition keywords than they will ever rank your articles for competitive keywords.
So here is a simple SEO plan we recommend for mobile app development in 5 articles over 6 months.
First, create content and rank for the following terms. (Text in bold is the primary keyword for the article we're suggesting. Note: It is incredibly easy for every article that requires less than 10 backlinks to rank, even for companies with zero SEO history.
Mobile App development process: how does it work?
*This search term gets 410 monthly searches and only requires 7 backlinks to be on page 1 of search results.
Custom mobile app development: why should enterprises consider it?
*This search term gets 430 monthly searches and only requires 9 backlinks to be on page 1 of search results.
Mobile App Development Proposal Template: what should every client look for?
*This search term gets 330 monthly searches and only requires 3 backlinks to be on page 1 of search results.
A guide to Outsourcing Mobile App development in 9 easy steps
*This search term gets 150 monthly searches and only requires 5 backlinks to be on page 1 of search results.
These are all easy to rank for keywords. Some are buy-oriented; some are educational. All are within the sphere of areas for which people who are interested in engaging with developers would look online.
Only when you are on page 1 of Google search results for each of these terms, should you attempt to rank for mobile app development.
The search terms above are your boars. They play a crucial role in your Google ranking timeline. Easier to kill… at ranking.
When you rank for these, Google has confidence that you are an expert.
When that happens, write an amazing guide to app development. That's when Google will consider ranking you for the primary keyword.
Never try the uphill battles by trying to rank for the hardest keyword first. Always start in the forest by killing some boars!
Neil Patel, a well-known SEO and Digital Marketing guru, puts the answer perfectly: it depends. That's right–how long it takes to rank in Google depends on literally thousands of factors.
Neil and his team looked at 20,000 URLs that entered the scene in 2016. More specifically, they based their in-depth study on a set of 12 unique data points, including when each page/URL ranked for its optimized keywords and the date it acquired its first link.
The results obtained by Neil et al were quite interesting:
● On average, the pages achieved the highest ranking position of 1.81
● It took the average page around 100 days to reach that ranking
● The average domain rating (DR) of the sites that helped rank the pages was 49.6
● To reach the said ranking, the average page required around 25 referring domains (backlinks)
Based on these key findings from Neil's study, here are some tips that can help you propel your site to top Google ranking:
● Fresh, attention-grabbing content will help your site/pages rank faster. After all, Google has gotten quite smart when it comes to telling the quality of content.
● Established websites (with lots of content) are more likely to rank quickly than new ones (or sites with limited content). In short, stay on top of both your site's content quality and quantity.
● Stay the course when it comes to link-building. Don't throw in the towel after just 3 months.
● Indirect methods like social media sharing, brand signals, influencers, etc. won't do much to your link-building efforts. While indirect methods are great, don't count on them. Go back to the basics: build your backlinks directly/traditionally.
● Keyword due diligence is of paramount importance
So, what is the time to rank in Google? It depends.
If you're an established business who has worked with SEO, the data summarized above from Neil Patel applies.
If you're a newcomer, follow the boar strategy above, and you will very likely rank in 3-4 months for "boar" keywords.
And then another 4-6 months for the big player keywords you want to rank for.
So start your SEO journey with a 1 year SEO plan or risk being disappointed with the results.
Like what you're reading? You should also check out our in-depth guide on How to Choose Between SEO and SEM. Spoiler alert: SEO always wins when you do a side-by-side comparison between the two.