Clients always ask, “how long does it take to rank on Google?”
It’s a loaded question, partly because:
- Some keywords are more difficult to rank
- Some sites are treated better on launch–even in the presence of similar ranking factors
- Google is deindexing more of the web than ever before thanks to the rise of AI content and the sheer volume of live sites on the web
- The goalposts are always moving
We have noticed a disappointing trend, particularly as it relates to high volume, global keywords:
The process for ranking and vesting, which used to take 6-9 months, now takes closer to 3-5 years.
In some cases, and for some keywords it’s taking even longer.
That’s a heart-wrenching prospect, particularly for a startup that may want to outrank a long-standing competitor.
We put together a comprehensive list of all the most highly correlated Google ranking factors.
But chief among them, which is not listed, is TIME.
That includes a vesting time for:
- The site as a live, known website (not the domain registration date)
- The age of the content of the web pages you want to rank
- The age and vesting of the backlinks pointing to your content
Keep in mind, this vesting assumes all else as being equal to other high-ranking websites, including the quality of the site’s content.
Let’s explore some of these issues a bit further.
- Why does it take so long to rank?
- Events that may trigger a reset or re-vesting
- How to speed up your time to rank in search engines
Why does it take so long to rank?
If you wanted to give users the best possible online experience, would you want flash-in-the-pan upstarts with a little technical system-gaming know-how to be able to unseat 50 to 100-year-old established brands?
Search engines don’t think so.
You need to build trust and trust takes time.
Backlinks are only one ranking factor that help determine trust.
Trust comes from crawling and recrawling your content, working to understand your site structure and how it fits in with the rest of the web.
So, here’s the good news: as your website ages past the 3 and 5-year mark, you will notice something, it will suddenly become easier to rank.
Your backlinks didn’t change, and your content may not have updated in a while, but suddenly your site finally starts to rank for things that matter to you.
Consider the following two studies by Moz and Ahrefs:
Both provide similar conclusions: there is a direct, strong, and positive correlation between time and Google ranking position.
The older your page is, the higher likelihood it will have of ranking in the SERPs.
Consider this: the average age of position 1 in Google is nearly 950 days old!
That’s the average!
If you’ve been blogging like a beast for two years, tuning all your pages and doing plenty of off-site promotion, and you’re wondering why you can’t seem to beat “XYZ brand,” who outranks you in search, just give it time.
Events that may trigger a reset or re-vesting
If you’ve been engaging in link schemes, buying paid links, or otherwise pushing too heavily in one area, but ignoring factors in another, your page may be subject to a reshuffle.
There are also algorithm weights that change with each algorithm update which may trigger re shifts in your Google rankings.
A reshuffled is also known as the Google Dance and can last for a day or for months at a time until you make the necessary changes.
Here are just a few.
Sitewide or individual page rebrands or URL slug redirects
If you wanted to change from:
or even from
You are likely to see a negative impact to your rankings.
While it goes without saying that, in doing so, you would also create the appropriate 301 redirects in either your .htaccess or REGEX file, you should also consider the rankings impact of such a decision.
While most of the ranking will continue to flow, your redirect may pose its own issues and even cause a drop in rankings or, worse still, a reset of your vesting for a particular phrase or term.
A vesting reset can drop you back and take months or even years to resurrect fully.
Spam attacks & negative SEO
While admins at Google will tell you they ignore spammy backlinks for ranking, they don’t tell you that the worst backlinks can actually cause your rankings to be pushed down even more.
Negative SEO (aka, “Google bowling”) typically consists of either site hacks or pointing backlinks to a competitor’s site from nefarious neighborhoods on the web.
While you can disavow and request removal of these links, they may have a negative impact that could add months to your site vesting and keep your rankings suppressed for a very long time.
If you work to scale your total indexed pages in a relatively short period with increased content velocity, you may see an overall drop in your rankings for the following reasons:
- Search engine spiders now need to figure out which of your pages really are the most important to your business (that’s why internal links are so important) and they may demote pages as a result
- Your link equity and individual authority of the site will now be spread across more pages, diluting your site’s (at least initially) overall ability to rank for competitive terms
You need enough content to rank but be sure you don’t garble the message by creating content just for the sake of content.
You’ll want to create content that adds value to your target audience.
When your website is not diversified in its ranking factors, there is a higher likelihood of receiving an algorithmic adjustment downward, particularly in the next Google algorithm update.
Notice I did not title it “algorithmic penalties.”
An algorithmic penalty is a misnomer.
Search engines will mete out manual penalties or manual actions, but the algorithm only adjusts based on math and weights.
What may look to be a penalty, may simply be the algorithm:
- Trying to figure out if an adjustment, backlink or update you made to a particular page would impact your ranking for a desired keyword
- You were overweighted in an unnatural way toward one of the 200+ statistically significant factors and, as such, your lack of natural style has dropped your rank
Unless you have had a manual action, algorithmic blocks are typically not permanent and can be reversed, but you just have to focus on fundamental search engine optimization (SEO) strategy on-page and off-page.
How to speed up your time to rank in search engines
When it comes to ranking more quickly, there are a few questions you will need to ask, particularly as it relates to your content marketing strategy:
- What makes your new site, unique, interesting, and worthy of ranking compared to what already exists online?
- How is it different enough to get the attention you want?
- Is it good enough that someone in your industry may want to link to it naturally?
- When users perform Google searches, are you matching search intent by solving problems?
We have found the best way to shorten the gap to rank is as follows:
Create epic content
Your content doesn’t need to be longer or use the Skyscraper technique (length does not always equal higher quality), but it does need to be better.
It needs to be MORE informative, MORE engaging and MORE entertaining.
We have an internal formula that we implement for that.
ChatGPT or other AI tools can help create structure, but they mostly regurgitate for landing pages.
They are not as good at creating content that hits all the buttons.
In short, your content needs to draw the reader in and keep them on the page, following along.
Tune your content
Compare your content to the top-ranking pages and posts and fill the gap.
We suggest using the following SEO tools:
- Ahrefs for keyword research and then
- Tuning pages using data from Cora by SEOToolLab or SurferSEO
- Core Web Vitals (CWV) to see what technical items may be missing, including page speed and how fast your site loads
- Google Search Console (GSC) and Google Analytics (GA) to give you a partial vision of what Google sees
These tools scan your pages and add the appropriate entity keywords and LSI keywords to the body, title tags, headers and meta description so you are comparable to the competition.
These tools will show you where you are deficient relative to your competitors and show you how you can close the gap.
Deficiencies could include more than just your written content but might encompass technical SEO like site speed and page load time, keeping in mind that sometimes tunes will indicate page load times should increase (typically because the content is exhaustive and loads more slowly).
But beware not to over-tune or overoptimize!
Content promotion and link building outreach is critical, but if your content is epic enough, it will promote itself.
So, if you can make it viral, then others are more likely to link to it, reference it or share it on social media.
Just be careful where it is you are acquiring your backlinks from.
It’s better to get quality than to even touch low-quality links that can drag down your search engine rankings.
Good things come to those who wait, especially in search engine rankings.
We often suggest working less on new sites and putting more time into older more established sites.
It can be discouraging when new sites don’t receive the rankings gains you want, even after a year or two of work.
Be patient. To rank in less than a year is partially based on luck, partially based on lots of input and hard work.
But, your time will come if you focus on fundamentals and white hat SEO strategies.
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