Updated: April 2012.

I often get asked the question “How long does it take to rank well in the search engines?” Unfortunately his is one of these questions with the answer “it depends“!

There are so many factors that are taken into account by search engines when they rank other websites including:

  • On page optimization – in particular the TITLE tag and the keywords throughout the body of the page
  • How many backlinks are pointing to the site
  • The quality of the backlinks pointing to the site
  • The keywords contained within the anchor text of your backlinks
  • The age of your domain

These are just a few of the factors, but it gives you an idea of why this question is not so easy to answer.

Regardless of this, before you embark on an SEO campaign it makes sense for you to have in mind a timescale. Like all goals, it is good to be specific about the results that you want to achieve and the time frame that you want to achieve them in. For example “I want to be in the top 3 sites in Google for keyword phrase xyz and abc withn 4 months”.

Before you set yourself a goal, you need to make sure it is realistic. The best way to do this in my opinion is to check out your competition. You’ll probably already have a couple of keyword phrases in mind, so you need to take each keyword individually and do the following:

1) Go to Google and enter your keyword in the search box without quotes

2) You’ll see a number of website pages returned in the results. Don’t freak out if this number is high – although it is typical for more competitive terms to have a higher number of pages returned in the results, you are only really competing with the sites that are on the first page. If you can beat them, you are at the top.

3) Take a note of the domain names of the top 4 websites and use a backlink checking tool to see how many backlinks they have.

4) Compare the number of backlinks that these sites have with the number of backlinks that your own site has. This will give you a rough indication of how long it is likely to take you to beat your competition. For example if your site has 300 backlinks and the number one site has 2000 backlinks, you need to work out roughly how long it will take you to exceed 2000 backlinks. Bear in mind that this is a rough indication only as the quality of the backlinks also plays a large factor in ranking.

5) Take a closer look at the sites you are competing with.
If you are trying to rank your home page and you are competing against a site that has a sub page or blog page ranked, it should be easier to beat them. If the site you are competing with does not have the keywords in the TITLE tag or mentioned throughout the page it may also be easier to beat them.

Although there is not an exact  scientific answer for the question how long does it take to rank well in the search engines, hopfully these steps will help to give you an idea of the length of time it takes.

You may have to repeat this process a few times until you find a keyword that allows you to acheive a good ranking in as short a time as possible.

You can find more tips like this in my EBook – 3 Steps to Search Engine Success.

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