Search engine optimisation (SEO) is highly technical and complex, which means it can take time before you see results. But how long should you expect to wait before your pages start ranking in Google's search results?
While there’s no definitive baseline, here are some guidelines on how Google indexes pages, how long the process can take, and what you can do to speed up the process.
So you’ve chosen which keywords you want to target, you’ve created content aligned to your goals, you’ve optimised your site to ensure everything ticks off Google’s boxes. How long till you reach number one?
The truth is that it varies – it takes time for you to build the links and engagement required for Google to rank your site effectively, and there’s something of a snowball effect too, in that as your page ranks better with Google, you gain more traffic, helping to build momentum.
Most SEO experts agree that it should take between three to six months to start seeing results of an SEO campaign – but the results themselves will vary significantly. For example, you might not rank in the top position for your chosen keywords after three months, but you should rank higher than you did beforehand, showing relevant progress.
For this reason, it’s important to track your focus keywords and to keep tabs on referral traffic from Google, which will help you get a better understanding of the impacts.
Why so long?
When deciding which pages should rank for which search terms, Google assesses some 200 factors which all contribute to the SEO puzzle. But the two main factors, according to Google, are links and content. This is important to understand in the SEO assessment process, as Google needs to see engagement on your page to get an understanding of its relevance.
That means it’s something of a chicken and egg scenario at times – as noted in the previous point, SEO has a snowball effect, you need to rank in search results to drive more traffic, but you need to generate more traffic for Google to pay you more attention.
The key here is that you need to actively establish a plan to generate your own traffic and build momentum, whether that’s through getting links from relevant pages, guest blogging or utilising social media to get people visiting your site.
As you generate interest, Google will pay more attention, and your pages will rank higher, sooner.
Speeding it up
Can you make Google pay you more attention faster?
Google has a couple of options to submit your site to them for consideration, which can expedite the ranking process. The first option is submitting your new site via Google’s Search Console, which will add your site to their search crawl database.
The second option is Google’s ‘Fetch as Google’ tool, which is designed to cater for people who’ve suffered a Google penalty. Once you’ve fixed up any site errors, you can use this tool, which asks Google to re-analyse your site.
This can be useful for updates, and can help you rank higher faster – but it is worth noting that neither of these tools will necessarily improve your SEO results straight away. They might help, but the key process you need to focus on is building links and traffic.
As noted, there’s no definitive answer on how SEO takes to work, it will vary from site to site, industry to industry, region to region. That said, if you’re working to generate more search activity, you should track and measure your results and keep an eye on performance. If you’re not seeing any movement at all after six months, it’s likely that you need additional assistance.