The short answer is six months to one year. The long answer is: it depends.
Back in the early 2000s, ranking on Google was pretty easy. You just added your main keywords to the title, URL and content body and boom – you got to the top 10 in the search results within a few weeks or even days. Not for major competitive terms, perhaps, but definitely for the less competitive ones.
The competition was less intense and the search engine algorithms only relied on keywords and links on a 50-50 basis to rank a webpage. This means that if you added lots of relevant keywords to your webpage and built some links, then you had a 100% chance of ranking in Google pretty quickly.
Link farms, keyword stuffing and footer links all worked and SEO was pretty much easy in those days. Even three or four years ago it was much easier – you just built links from high PR pages and your site shot up to the top. But this “magic” does not work any longer.
Prior to two and a half years ago, you could start seeing results in six months. You still can to some extent, but nowadays it really does take a year plus – unless you have brand queries in which a lot of people are typing in your domain name and you have a high click-through rate and amazing user metrics.
Today, Google updates its algorithm frequently: In 2018, it made 3,234 changes – which is an average of 8.9 per day. With each improvement, the algorithm has become more sophisticated, which means that it is much more difficult to rank on Google no matter if you have an old domain or new.
The Variables that Come into Play
Most marketers are pretty much aware that there are 200+ ranking factors that come into play, but the most important ones that directly influence the ranking of a website are explained below. These factors have a major role in the ranking of a website and decide which sites move to the top faster and stay at the top for longer.
1) User Metrics
If you have high brand queries and amazing user metrics, in many cases I've seen sites rank within a few months. But if you don't have that, in most cases you need to wait about a year plus. I am talking about a domain in general, the whole domain.
User metrics decide whether people visiting your site like it or not, to put it simply. Here are some of the basic user metrics that are taken into consideration by the search engines are.
A page view is counted as a visit to a webpage on a website. If any visitor lands on Page A of your site and then leaves it to visit Page B on your site, then both Page A and Page B will have one page view each. However, if the visitor leaves Page B to return to Page A, then Page A will now have two page views:
A higher number of page views indicates the importance of a webpage. It means that people are visiting the page again and again looking for some information that that they find useful. For a page to rank higher on Google, it should have a high number of page views (probably higher than your closest competitors).
The total traffic metric is the total number of visitors to your website. It can come from any channel, such as organic, social, direct or referral. A site generating a total traffic number of 25,000 visitors each month is considered more valuable by the search engines as compared to a website generating a total of 2,000 visitors each month:
This refers to the percentage of visitors to a website who leave the site after viewing a single page. A high bounce rate means that people do not find your website to be very valuable – i.e. does not contain the information they were seeking.
On the contrary, a low bounce rate indicates that people like the website. Search engines take into consideration the bounce rate when ranking websites, so a site with a low bounce rate has a higher chance of ranking faster on Google.
The average bounce rate benchmarks are:
- 10% or lessneeds some investigation
- 10-45%is excellent
- 45-65%is typical
- 65-75%is poor
- 75%+is concerning
In the image below, you can see that this site has a 56% bounce rate, which is considered typical:
Pages per Session
This indicates the average number of pages viewed by a visitor during a single session. A session is equal to 30 minutes of activity. A website with higher pages per session indicates that the visitors are more engaged with the site, and higher engagement leads to better ranking faster:
This metric measures how far down the webpage users are scrolling. If the scroll depth is high then people are actually interested in viewing more, which is a positive factor that the search engines take into consideration:
Time on Page/Site
This is the amount of time a visitor spends on your website or webpage. A high amount of time on page indicates positive engagement and leads to faster ranking, while a low time indicates poor user engagement, meaning that the page will take more time to rank:
This measures the number of unique IP addresses that visitors are coming from when visiting your website. In other words, it calculates the number of distinct individuals visiting your site.
A higher number of unique visitors indicates a popular website and therefore it deserves a higher ranking. Hence, if you are able to quickly increase the number of unique visitors to your site, then Google might promote it by ranking it at the top of the SERPs:
Links are counted as a “vote” for a website. The higher the number of votes to your site, the higher your chances are of ranking at the top of the search results.
Links are divided into two categories: high quality and low quality:
- High-quality linksare relevant and earned naturally over time; hence, acquiring these links take time.
- Low-quality linksare spammy or paid links that aren’t earned but bought in order to artificially increase the number of links pointing to any site.
Your site should have lots of natural links pointing to it in order to start ranking higher because Google is extremely competent in detecting unnatural or spammy links.
A new study published on Moz by Eric Enge reveals that links with a score of 0.293 have a strong correlation to rankings. Moz DA (domain authority) and Moz PA (page authority) also have a strong correlation score to rankings, as shown in the below graph:
Hence, links still remain one of the major factors for ranking on Google. Once a site starts acquiring links, it will see an improvement in rankings, but the sites that continuously acquire natural links over time have the best chances of ranking at the top and, most importantly, staying there.
3) Website Design
Google takes into account factors such as mobile-responsiveness and page loading speed when ranking a website, which means that if there are too many ads above the fold then the chance that Google will downgrade your website increases.
The reason for this is that users will have to exert more effort in order to find the actual content on your website, thereby wasting their time. Any feature on your site that provides a negative experience for the user will have a negative impact on your rankings.
Focus on small elements of site design (i.e. user experience) while designing your site. For example, do not use more than one H1 tag on a webpage because that confuses Google when determining the relevance of the webpage with various search phrases. This eventually decreases the overall relevancy score. If your site UX is great, then you will climb up the rankings really fast.
4) Domain Popularity
The popularity of a new domain is more likely to obtain higher rankings in the shortest possible time. For instance, if a lot of people typed in “Single Grain” every day and Single Grain was a brand new domain name, you’d see ranking really fast versus if it's an old domain name and very few people were doing a Google search for the brand's name.
5) Age of the Ranking Page
Your web pages need to be older in order to start ranking, especially if you are targeting popular keywords. Head terms have high competition and hence Google trusts pages that are old enough to provide the most relevant information to searchers.
The average age of the top-ranking webpage is around two years or more. This was confirmed in a study by Ahrefs and is shown in the below graph:
6) Domain Authority
Assuming you have a little domain authority on your site already, then yeah, it might take you a couple weeks to rank at number one. If you're ranking at number 30, 40 or 50, that's not great because that means you're not showing up on page one, but it does show that you're making progress. So that's something you want to monitor.
Any increase in domain authority will have a direct impact on your ranking because higher DA sites rank higher in the search results – provided the other ranking factors are also taken into consideration, like UX, links and content.
As per Ana Gotter:
“There are a number of tools that allow you to check your domain authority for free, but the best ones are Moz’s Explorer tool or their free MozBar Chrome extension, both of which give you the domain authority right from the source itself. Moz’s Explorer is not a free tool in general, but you can get up to 10 free queries per month.”
The higher the competition level, the more difficult it is to rank on the top of Google SERPs.
Before you start building your own SEO strategy, it is best to know who your competitors are, for which keywords they rank higher in Google, and their average ranking position. This will help you analyze their SEO strengths and weaknesses so you can turn their weaknesses into your strengths.
Also, analyze your competitions' best-performing content. Look for the information they’re missing or the content pieces that they haven’t gone into much detail. Use it to your advantage.
Therefore, it is important to focus on creating the best content you can. It will help you build trust with your target audience which, in turn, will increase your click-through rate and decrease your bounce rate.
When a new website has a higher click-through rate and a lower bounce rate, it will definitely affect Google rankings in a positive way. However, make sure that you post engaging, high-quality content on a regular basis.
8) Scale of Project
A company's budget is one of the major factors that influences the rankings on Google. Why? Because if you have a good-sized budget, then you can:
- Add lots of new pages to your site
- Improve the quality of content
- Improve the UX of your website
- Acquire high-authority links by hiring influential link builders
- Improve brand visibility by reaching out to influencers
- Engaging press and media to write content on your behalf
When you take the time (and resources) to make all these actions happen, then it's hard for Google to ignore your site and the result is faster rankings.
How to Speed Up Your Google Rankings
Now that you understand that it takes a good amount of time to rank your site on Google (at least 6-12 months) because rankings depend on a lot of variables, let us look at the factors that can speed up your Google rankings. By following the tips below you will increase your chances of speeding up your site rankings on Google:
- Improve your website’s user experience, allow easy navigation and increase your site’s loading speed.
- Figure out the pages you’re already ranking for, but not ranking high, and optimize them for relevant keywords and phrases.
- Prepare unique, authoritative and engaging content that really helps the user. Use outbound links to back the claims or statistics you use in your content.
- Optimize your website for mobile devices.
- Acquire as many high-authority backlinks as possible.
- Use internal links that point to related content and fix broken links.
- Submit a sitemap to Google Search Console every time you add new pages to your site.
- Eliminate barriers and other distractions on the homepage that divert your visitors from accomplishing the main task they’re here for.
- Take advantage of PPC ads to increase the click-through rate.
Ranking on Google isn’t easy, especially if you are working on a fixed budget and your business doesn’t have a lot of popularity. Popular businesses always have a bigger hand in achieving rankings in the shortest possible time because they already have links, brand mentions, citations, branded searches and direct traffic.
If you have a fixed budget and your business is new, then expect your ranking to rise slowly. Ranking that increases slowly stays stable for a longer period of time, so be patient and wait for six months to a year before you expect to see positive results.
Also, remember that SEO requires you to regularly undertake a lot of activities that enhance your brand presence in Google, such as complete site optimization, link acquisition and content quality improvement. Your search engine optimizer is the best person (or people) to help you with these activities, so trust your SEO provider and offer the best products, service and content to your customers. Happy rankings!
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