As a marketing and sales agency partner, we get a lot of common How questions: “How long is SEO going to take?” “How long until I’m on the front page of Google?” We also get the dreaded Why questions: “Why is this SEO taking so long?” “Why am I not ranking number 1 yet?”
Despite these being some of the most common questions we get in regards to Search Engine Optimization (SEO) they are also some of the most difficult to answer. The thing is, SEO, and achieving a high ranking on Google, is complicated. Anyone who says otherwise (think those “rank #1 in just 30 Days!” ads you see all over) is, quite frankly, a scam. But, that doesn’t mean there aren’t answers to those questions or that there aren’t solid SEO strategies you can use to improve your ranking.
How Do Websites Get Ranked?
Now, there are other search engines out there, but when most anybody talks about achieving a #1 ranking, they’re talking about Google (for obvious reasons), so let’s focus on that. Of course, we could talk all about Google’s algorithms and other technical stuff to try to answer the How and Why questions, but for most people without a deep technical knowledge, those aren’t very helpful answers.
Instead, let’s take a bit of a higher-level approach. Understanding Search Engine Optimization for your website starts with understanding the basics of how website ranking in Google works. In general, it goes something like this:
- Google’s bots crawl through millions (probably more) of websites all day, every day.
- The bots collect all the content, pages, posts, tags, links, etc. of the sites.
- The sites are indexed in what is essentially a data catalog of the entire web.
- Google’s algorithms (including RankBrain, which is updated almost continuously) read and measure the collected data.
- The algorithms rank similar websites from highest to lowest for each keyword.
The algorithm is the big ticket item in this whole process.
The thing is, Google’s algorithms are constantly changing and updating – getting smarter and smarter as they go. Back in the day, having the right words on your site in the exact right order meant getting a good rank.
Now, Google is smarter than that. The algorithms now attempt to understand the context with which your keywords are being used rather than just reading them as they are. In addition, Google does not share the formula they use to create their algorithms with the public, which means none of us know exactly what the algorithms are looking for on any given day.
So how do websites manage to improve their ranking and get onto that coveted first page? Well, even though we don’t know the formula behind them, we do know several of the key criteria a website needs to achieve a solid ranking, and that’s what should be used to form the base of any SEO strategy.
How Long Does It Take to See SEO Results? 5 Criteria for Optimizing Your Website
When you’re optimizing a website for search engines, your goal is to get the keywords and content you hope to rule the front page of Google found by the bots. That means it’s pertinent that you make this information as accurate and easy to index as possible.
Related Webinar: SEO for B2Bs
As you work to get your website optimized for search engines, there’s a few important SEO criteria you need to be aware of. Let’s discuss below:
Yep – how old your website is matters when it comes to SEO. The truth is, Google doesn’t really trust websites that are less than 6 months old. It makes sense, because if a brand new website could toss some keywords up and climb to the top of search results in weeks or days, the only thing we’d ever see on the first page of Google would be scams.
Now, this doesn’t mean that if you create a new website you’ll be back to square one with SEO, because the “new” concept is actually referring to how long a live website has been on your URL (but not how long the URL has been owned).
But, that doesn’t mean you can’t make SEO progress in the first 6 months of putting up your website. It’s just that progress is going to be a little slow. Once you cross the 6 month mark, you should see the speed with which your ranking improves increasing (provided you’re also following the other SEO criteria).
Keywords are kind of like the bread and butter of SEO. Whatever your product or service is, you need to choose your target keywords around that. Then you need to put those keywords on your site (and include actual content about them, but we’ll get to that later). Then you rank #1!
Just kidding – you didn’t really think it would be that simple right?
That’s because of keyword competition. The more often a keyword is searched for, the more competitive Google considers it. The more competitive a keyword is, the more difficult it is to rank for that keyword.
So, the key to SEO success and to getting faster SEO results is to focus your efforts on ranking for less competitive keywords. For example, if you were selling handmade, vegan leather sandals in Vancouver, you probably shouldn't try to rank for “shoes" or even “sandals.”
In fact, you’d even have a hard time ranking for “sandals in Vancouver.” Instead go more specific like “buy vegan leather shoes Vancouver.” This kind of keyword probably has less competition, and you’re also more likely to get more qualified buyers coming your site if they’re searching for this as opposed to “shoes.”
Like I mentioned earlier, Google’s bots and algorithms are getting a lot smarter. They’re not just crawling for keywords and leaving it at that. They’re looking for the context in which those keywords are being used and also the quality of the content and the website posting that content.
When you’re considering how long SEO will take, you should consider how prepared you are to continually post and update original, quality content.
If you want to improve your Google ranking, you need to post content:
- On a regular basis. Read: as often as you can.
- That is original to you/your business. Re-posts from partners or vendors are cool, but they don’t count.
- That’s long enough. Research from serpIQ shows that the average top 10 ranking piece of content is more than 2000 words long!
Just like the domain age thing, Google is becoming a stickler for good behaviour.
This doesn’t mean that to have successful SEO you need to have a G-rated website (although, if you’re a B2B organization with a website that’s not G-rated, we’d love to see it). It means that you need to avoid being flagged by the search engine for trying to cheat the ranking system.
If you’re thinking that you’ll be able get SEO results faster by doing something like buying backlinks from sketchy sites, posting stolen content, or stuffing as many keywords as you can without any relevant content onto your site then think again. It’s time to face the music – the bots are smarter than you.
The best way to improve website SEO is the old fashioned way. Follow all the legitimate strategies and let the process take its time. We know it can be frustrating when results aren't coming as fast as you hope they would, but don’t chance getting your entire site removed from Google search by employing illegitimate, scammy SEO tactics.
I know – I just said not to buy backlinks, but I only meant the sketchy ones. Having high-quality backlinks is still important to achieving a high ranking on Google. That’s because if good, legit websites are willing to give you link, it’s a pretty good sign to the bots that your site is also good and legit.
Generating high-quality, organic backlinks isn’t easy, and sometimes it requires some help from the experts, but if you want to see a more significant SEO improvement, you should definitely be doing it.
Just Give Me a Number – How Long is SEO Going to Take?
So you’ve read through this whole article and still no one’s said exactly how long ranking on the front page is going to take. Unfortunately – no one’s going to.
There’s no exact science to SEO. The amount of time it takes to improve your Google ranking is dependent on a wide variety of factors, including but not limited to:
- How optimized your keywords are (and how competitive they are)
- How often you’re putting out new content
- How much time you’re spending on generating quality backlinks
- How often you’re optimizing your website back-end for SEO (meta, JSON Schema, image tags, etc.)
- If you’re keeping up with the latest algorithm updates
- The success of your direct competitors’ SEO
- A whole bunch more
Wait – did that list just say the success of competitor’s SEO?
Yep. It did.
It’s more difficult to rank #1 for your desired keywords if another company is already successfully doing that. That doesn’t mean you can’t overtake them and get that top spot, but if you have competitors with a healthy SEO strategy (which you probably do), it’s going to take some more effort on your part to achieve your Google ranking goals.
Preparing Your SEO Strategy for 2020
As we start to see summer coming to a close (we live in Canada – it’s practically winter already), there’s no better time to start preparing your SEO strategy for 2020 than right meow.
Here’s a few tips for what you can do to create an SEO strategy that works:
- Get an SEO Audit – find out how you’re doing currently. A good-quality audit will also provide some information about keywords and competitors as well as some recommendations for the next steps you can take. Pssst – you can get one from us!
- Find Your Target Keywords – understanding which keywords you’re trying to rank for, and how difficult that’s going to be, is critical to forming your SEO strategy.
- Create a Content Calendar – if you have a calendar of planned blog posts and/or campaigns you’ll have an easier time creating and posting quality content on a regular basis.
- Optimize your Current Website Content – Check your headings, meta data, schema, image tags, page titles, URLs, and more to ensure they’re all fully optimized for the keywords you decided on above.
- Start Generating Backlinks – once you’re curating quality content, it’s time to start finding your backlinks. Look for directories and other industry sites that accept guest articles.
If course, that’s all easier said than done. If you’re a busy business owner you might want to consider hiring SEO experts to help create and implement your strategy for you. If this is something you’re interested in – we can help! Check out our SEO Audit and Optimization project, or just go ahead and contact us if you have questions. We can also answer your questions anonymously in our monthly advice column.