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How Long Does It Take for a Site to Rank?

Last updated on November 21, 2019
7 minute read

Skill Level

Intermediate, Advanced

This is a question that every business owner with a website will ask themselves at some point. You’ve worked on making your new website the best it can be or refreshed your existing site, and now you’re ready to start seeing results — you want to see your site show up in a top position in search engines. But how long exactly does that take? 

The answer, of course, is “it depends,” but don’t expect to see results overnight. It takes a long time for a site to begin ranking organically in top positions through SEO. According to Website Muscle, it takes about three to six months for a site to reach its top position, and this is influenced by a variety of factors. For a highly competitive field, it can even take as long as a year. Perhaps most telling is a study by Ahrefs that shows that only 5.7% of all newly published pages will get to the top 10 positions in Google within a year

This guide will cover why ranking takes so long, some of the factors that affect your ranking, and some ways to increase rankings for your site.

Why does it take so long to rank?

Search engines like Google crawl and index billions of sites to determine which ones they should serve up in response to search queries. They take into account a variety of factors that help determine the authority and relevance of your site, and especially for a new site, it can take some time for the search engines to figure out what your site is bringing to the table. Here are some factors that can affect ranking time:

  • Site size and age: When you type in a search for local news, chances are the top positions will go to big, established sites rather than a small, newer blog. That’s because the bigger sites have been around long enough to establish domain authority through backlinks and other factors, and they have valuable content that keeps readers coming back. This same idea applies to all industries — a large, established site will have a better chance of ranking at the top, and smaller sites will take longer to gain backlinks and establish their content as trustworthy. 
  • Domain authority: Backlinks are a huge part of establishing domain authority. Are other sites linking to your site because it provides the best service or information? For a site that is just starting out, chances are it doesn’t yet have many backlinks. To start building domain authority, businesses can ensure their site is listed in all the relevant directories (like all the main travel directories such as TripAdvisor and Yelp) and start creating relationships with other local businesses and influencers who can link to their site.
  • Keyword and content competition: Using keywords to help your site rankings is a great tactic. Some keywords are easier to rank for than others, depending on how many other sites are competing for that same keyword as well as the search volume of the term. Google is increasingly interested in providing quality content in response to search queries. To increase your chance of boosting your ranking, it’s important for your website to provide the most valuable, relevant informational content for the keywords you’re targeting to be able to stand out from the rest. Look for any gaps in content in your industry. Do you have a ton of expertise in an area that your competitors don’t talk about? Start targeting those keywords that have a little less competition and around which you know you can provide great content.
  • Best practices: Search engine algorithms have evolved to spot any domains that try to influence rankings by skirting best practices. Dishonest practices like keyword stuffing or buying links can result in penalties, which in turn hurt rankings. It can take longer to come back from penalties than to rank honestly in the first place, so spammy practices are best avoided altogether. 
  • SEO: Of course, search engine optimization will help any business’ ranking. Ensuring you have quality title tags, meta descriptions, headings, keywords, and other on-page SEO factors is crucial to giving your site the best chance to rank. 

How to Boost Rankings

Yes, ranking is a lengthy process that involves a lot of moving parts, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do a few things to help increase your rankings. Building backlinks, crafting quality content, and running periodic SEO audits will help you continue to build domain authority and ensure your site is optimized. 

Pro-tip: Reach for the low hanging fruit. One of the best ways to see results is to target keywords in “striking distance,” meaning keywords that you already rank for on page 2 or 3 of the SERPs.

Instead of trying to rank for completely new keywords with a lot of established competition, find those keywords that your site is already ranking for and optimize the appropriate pages for these keywords. Are they included in your headings and in the top paragraphs of the page’s content? Do they appear in your title tag? Can you add more valuable content to the page related to those keywords? Making a few adjustments to optimize for your striking distance keywords can make a huge difference and help you climb those rankings. 

If you start to get frustrated about your rankings, remember that you’re playing the long game. It takes time to build authority, but the longer your website is around, the more established it becomes in the search engines’ eyes. You might not see results overnight, but your efforts will pay off in the long run. 

However, that doesn’t mean your work is done when you see your site on the first page of the SERP. SEO isn’t the type of thing you can do once and then forget about. It’s a continuous process of understanding how search engines find and prioritize sites, refining your SEO strategy, publishing quality content, and building backlinks. To continue to strengthen your site’s performance, check out our other SEO guides!

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