Another one of those often asked newbie (and sometimes even veteran) question is about how long it takes to rank in Google. Just like many of those other questions I've addressed on this blog, there really is no definite answer. It could take you a month, or it could take three, or six, or whatever. There are so many different factors that could effect rank, which I'll go over now.
As an aside note, since there's no way to know, it's probably better if you stop worrying about it and get on with writing some new content, but just so you can have peace of mind, let's continue.
Indexing Vs Ranking
Confused about the two terms? Indexing is just the act of Google (or other search engines) finding your content, analyzing it, and adding it to their index. Imagine Google as one big library, and your site or page as a new book. The process of indexing can take a week or more in new sites.
Google doesn't know you exist immediately, and when it does know you exist, it doesn't check back for new content immediately either. You can speed this process up by adding your site to Webmaster Tools and/or Google Analytics and also sharing your content with social networks like Facebook or Google plus.
Once it's found your content, it goes through the initial ranking stage, trying to figure out where to put you in the search results. This often results in the “Google dance” where your content might bounce from page 20 to 10 to 5 to 8 to 12 to 6 and so on.
Don't be put off by this, it just means you are on the radar and need to help Google index you by adding more quality content. Again, there's no real finite amount of time for how long this all takes.
People say that site age makes a huge difference to ranking. I'd say it DOES, but not because of the age alone. When a site is new, it has no record or quality score for Google to rely on. If Google doesn't know anything about your site, it will struggle to know where to put you. It doesn't want to throw you onto Page 1 no matter how low the competition for your keyword is. It can't take the risk that users hate your site and have a bad experience with Google search.
Sites which are older have typically had more time to impress the big G. They have more content, more user interaction, more history, and higher quality scores. So yes, older sites often perform better, but not BECAUSE of the age.
How Good Is Your Site As A Whole?
Ever since Google's Panda update in 2011, it has looked at a site's overall quality rather than the individual merits of a page. This means that if you have just three or four bad pages (broken links, broken images, strange code or URLs), it can have a major affect on your rankings.
As such, when you first start publishing content on a new site it will take you a lot longer to rank than when a site is older and already “won over” Google.
My kettlebell site took months to get its first page 1 ranking, but once that happened, page 1 rankings came more easily, and now the whole indexing and ranking stage can take just a week and I'm on page 1 or 2. This just isn't going to happen with a new site, so ask yourself if you should really be worried about your rankings, or about getting your site content top quality.
I'd also like to point out that rankings are never “Final”. Don't despair if your articles appear to settle on page 4, they WILL move up over time as your site grows.
I often find some of my posts have crept onto page 1 without me knowing it. It seems like they don't move when you watch them though.
How STRONG Is Your Competition?
We all know about researching low competition keywords (if you don't, read this), but it's not just the quantity of your competition that matters, it's the quality. Yeah, that old chestnut.
It's quite possible that even if your keyword has very little competition, the few sites that are ranking for it are excellent sites, providing wonderful user experiences, and Google just isn't going to give you a cut any time soon. On a long enough time period you can surpass them, so it's not a dead end if your niche is competitive.
Just bear in mind that some keywords will rank quicker than others, even if they have more competition. Not everything you touch will turn to Gold. Unless your name is Midas. King Midas ended up pretty miserable with his gift though, so we're all good.
Other Factors For Ranking
There are hundreds of factors that Google takes into account when ranking your site, things like:
- Social Engagement
- Media (images, videos etc)
- User Experience (time they spend on your site, number of pages they visit)
- Return Visitors
- Overall Quality (don't ask how Google knows your quality, it just does).
I could write an essay about each one of these, but I'm not going to. It's not actually necessary for this post. All of these things come down to one conclusion:
The more quality content you produce, the faster your rankings will become, and the higher they will go.
Yes, this can amount to a pretty frustrating experience when you first start out, especially as you just have no idea how long it's going to take to get a bit of joy (believe me, I've abandoned sites that were JUST about to get some success in the past).
Yes, this also means that you just have to put blind faith in the fact that what you are doing is worth it. It is worth it, trust me.
But one more thing. This is actually very good news. You don't need to learn tricks or rules to get rankings.
You just need to learn patience and consistency, then you're all good.
Now you know how long it might take you to get rankings, you can supplement this reading with some steps you can take to improve your rankings through improving your content.