Why does SEO take so long to rank

Why does SEO take so long to rank?

“How long until I rank?” – That’s the question that gets thrown around quite a lot by your clients, your boss, you name it! But a good SEO knows that there are various factors that affect the ranking of a post.

In this post let’s try to understand the basics of what actually affects how fast we can rank on Google and how we as SEOs can attempt to speed up that process without breaking any of the standard SEO practices.

If you have been seasoned in the SEO industry and have seen how fast Google Algo updates have been evolving, then you might have noticed a trend and that is, it is taking a lot more time to rank pages on Google today than it used to be in the past.

There is in fact no one-size-fits-all answer for this question and here is why. How fast a web page ranks on Google depends on multiple factors. 

Here are four factors that have the highest weightage:

  • Domain Age
  • Competition – Keyword Difficulty 
  • Authority – Inbound Links, etc. 
  • Site Niche

The Age Of Your Domain:

There is a reason why domain age falls on top of this list. Just like how we take time to trust people, Google takes time to understand how authentic a site is. Much the same way as us, Google does not trust strangers.

If your website is just a couple of months old. Then you are most likely in the “Deserted Island Phase” as I would call it. You might be publishing content but with almost no organic traffic at all. This is very very normal.

Over time even Google begins to take note of your website’s good content and SEO practices. Then one fine day, Google will start trusting you with its visitors and in the process, Google will evaluate the quality of your content based on the experience of its users.

For a new blogger or website owner, this initial phase is going to be the hardest. This is when your commitment to producing high-quality content is put to the test. Many people actually give up at this point saying “SEO doesn’t work and is just a waste of time!”. 

If you have any experience owning a website for 3 years or more you will notice that posts rank a lot faster now than in the early days of its existence. That’s how domain age affects your website’s ranking.

This makes you wonder, How does Google know the age of my website?

Google gets the age of your website by 

  • Checking when the first link to the domain was discovered or
  • Checking when the domain was first crawled by the search engine or
  • from the WHOIS registration data

Google says that the first two points are more reliable than the WHOIS registration data and hence are given more priority. Plus in 2005 Google filed a patent for historical data called “Information retrieval based on historical data”. 

All this adds to Google’s arsenal of tech that helps it find out the age of registered domains with a high level of accuracy. You can check out the video that talks more about that below:

Competition – Keyword Difficulty:

Keyword difficulty or SEO difficulty as some would call it is yet another factor that determines how long it would take to rank your page on Google. Keyword difficulty is an SEO metric that tells us how hard it is to rank a particular keyword.

It is measured differently by different tools like SEMrush or Ahrefs or any other SEO tool for that matter. This metric points to how much competition there is for any kind of keyword. 

The SEO tools use various factors like keyword intent and search volumes among other things to formulate this metric. Let’s take a look at an example to better understand this. 

If you check out the volumes on the keyword “MacBook Pro” it would run into hundreds of thousands of searches every single month. But, a long-tail keyword like “how to build a tree house ladder” might have a search volume of under a few hundred searches a month.

Now imagine the competition for the first keyword. There will be thousands of websites out there targeting this keyword and hence it will take you a lot more time to rank for it than it would for the long tail keyword, “how to build a tree house ladder”.

This may not look like a fair comparison especially with the first one being a popular commercial keyword, but it proves the point. Always remember that the tougher the competition for a keyword the longer it is going to take for you to rank for it.

Now here is another case that will help you understand keyword difficulty better. Let us assume that you are running a Food Catering service from Madhya Pradesh in India. And your firm is located in a district of Madhya Pradesh called Neemuch. 

Let us assume that you want to rank for the keyword “best catering services in Neemuch”. At the time of writing this article, the competition for this keyword was pretty low. 

If you already have a website for your firm that is over a year old then you will most likely rank for this keyword in a couple of weeks. 

On the other hand, if your website is just a couple of days old you might start ranking for this keyword in less than 3 months i.e if your website follows standard SEO practices.

Be it a new website or an old one, your posts have a very high chance of ranking quickly because the number of searches for the query “best catering services in Neemuch” is very very low. In other words, there is very low competition.

And where the is low competition there will be faster ranking!

Authority – Inbound Links:

Domain Authority is yet another metric that will determine how fast you can rank your website in search. Now, just to be clear Domain Authority can be the same as Site Authority or even Domain Rank depending on what tool you are using. So what is Domain Authority?

Just like Keyword difficulty, Domain Authority is an SEO metric that SEO tools have derived using various factors to help understand how authoritative a website is.

These factors could include sub-metrics like the number of backlinks that the website has, the number of referral links to your website, the age of your website, and numerous other metrics as well.

And out of all these factors, the one given the most weightage is perhaps your website’s backlink profile. This might make you wonder, why not start building links to your website and push up your website’s authority. Hold your horses right there!

Google honestly does not like or want you to go and randomly get links from high authority websites to boost your rank. Google sees this as a way to manipulate their search algorithm and hence it’s a big red flag! Simply put, it is not a good SEO practice.

Now, some of you will come up in arms against me saying that I am wrong and that you have been doing it for quite some time now. And that it seems to be working just fine for you.

Whatever the case always remember that doing anything contrary to what is mentioned in Google’s standard SEO guidelines will one day destroy your website. You will get penalized eventually and picking up your website from there would be close to impossible.

Who in their right mind would want to get on the wrong side of Google? If you are Penguin, Panda, and Humming Bird update survivors then you know exactly what I am talking about. These updates literally devastated millions of websites across the internet. Whereas websites that did not resort to any black hat SEO practices suddenly started picking up in rank. 

You will come across many shady SEO practices like buying links from high authority websites or even exchanging links or using spammy link-building tools among other things. I have got four words for you. Stay away from them!

Google will understand how your website gets links and once they realize that you have been using these shady tactics you may even get permanently de-indexed from Google search.

Building links to your website needs to happen organically and genuinely. The easiest and the most authentic way to do this is by creating super high-quality content that users want to consume and eventually want to link to.

This happens completely organically and takes time. Anything done artificially to build your site’s authority or rank will only seem too unnatural to Google. Google will be able to easily spot your website from the crowd and serve you with penalties.

Generally the higher the Authority of your website the more quickly you can start ranking on Google. 

Ahrefs completed a data analysis by randomly selecting 2 million pages that were first seen by their crawler a year ago and this is what they found:

  • Only 5.7% of all the studied pages ranked in the Top10 search results within 1 year for at least 1 keyword.
  • The large majority of the 5.7% managed to achieve that in approximately 61-182 days.
  • Low-volume keywords could rank in a very short time, while the high-volume ones take almost a year to get into the Top10.
  • Pages from websites that had a high Domain Rating (or Domain Authority) performed way better than those with a lower value.

Your Website’s Niche:

Niche essentially refers to the space your website caters to. Here are a couple of niches that you commonly come across on the internet:

  • Health and wellness
  • Personal Finance
  • Real estate
  • Fashion and Lifestyle
  • Law
  • Education

Let’s say you have two websites. One in Personal Finance and the other in Fashion and Lifestyle. The ease with which your content ranks for these two sites is going to be different and here is why.

Ever since Google introduced the YMYL (Your Money Your Life) update certain niches have become really hard to rank for. Spaces like Health and Finance domains have become super tough to rank for.

Now, if you set up a new website in either of these niches it will be extremely hard for you to get to rank for keywords and it will generally take much longer.

After E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness) became a part of Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines. Google has made it even harder for new websites to rank in the Health and Finance space.

So, long story short, how fast you can rank for a particular keyword will also depend on the kind of niche you are targeting. If you target a niche like Life Style your website might have a better chance of coming up more quickly as opposed to when targeting a Personal Finance niche.

How long does it take for SEO to show results?

I am pretty sure you guys are looking for a number. But honestly, nobody in the world can give you an accurate figure. That being said here is what Google’s Maile Ohye has to say – 

“In most cases, the SEO will need 4 months to a year to help your business first implement improvements and then see potential benefits” 

In the above quote by Maile Ohye check out the first three words – “In most cases”. This is simply another way of saying that, your website has a high chance of ranking in 4 to 12 months if you follow good SEO practices.

You can check out the time stamp at 1:39 to verify her quote in the video.

Again here too factors like the age of your domain, the competition for your keywords, the authority of your website, and the niche you are in all have an impact on how fast you can rank on the front page of Google.

How can you speed up the ranking for a brand-new website?

Here are some legitimate ways you could use to rank your brand new website as fast as possible on Google.

  • Make sure your website is really light and quick to load:

A lighter website will load a lot faster for your visitors. A slow website could result in high bounce rates. Google recommends a page load speed of fewer than 2 seconds for e-commerce websites and fewer than 3 seconds for other websites. Just because you have a very quick page does not mean your content will rank on top. It depends on a lot of things like the quality of your content and what user experience it delivers. But generally not being slow helps in improving the overall user experience. 

  • Publish high-quality content:

Nobody wants to read or consume poor-quality content. It is a total waste of time and sometimes even misleading. High-quality content will attract a lot of visitors to your website which tells Google that you are worthy of higher ranks.

  • Only contextual interlinking:

Getting unworthy external links right from the beginning will attract Google’s attention and your website will be penalized. Good luck trying to rank your website after that. Links will come on their own organically if your website is worthy.

The temporary bump in your website’s authority from link building is going to be short-lived so please do not try this out. Alternatively, you can contextually interlink pages on your website but do not overdo this as it could look spammy.

  • Mobile-friendly website:

Make sure your website is mobile-friendly because the majority of search today happens on mobile devices. Having a good mobile responsive and mobile-optimized website will greatly improve the user experience.

  • Targeting relevant keywords that are not too competitive:

If you want to rank for a particular keyword then make sure that it is not too competitive. Generally, keywords with low search volume carry very little competition. Another interesting fact is that almost all of the low-competition keywords are long-tail keywords. These are keywords that have more than 3 words in them.

  • Understand Keyword Intent:

Before you select a keyword make sure you perfectly understand the keyword’s intent. Always remember that the keyword intent is not what you say it is but rather what Google says the keyword stands for.

For example, you are targeting the keyword “apple” with the intention of getting more info on the fruit. But you are served with links to iPhones, Macs, and other Apple products. So before you start targeting any keyword, first search for it on Google and evaluate if the links on the top are serving your requirement.

  • Make sure your URLs are well optimized:

Your URL needs to have the relevant keyword that you are targeting in your content. This will tell Google what you are talking about in your content is exactly what is present in the URL.

  • Stick to your Niche:

When you target keywords make sure that you do not target anything outside your area of expertise. Not doing this will tell Google that you’re deviating from your authoritative space.

Let’s say you are the owner of Grand Ribbon Bakes and Cakes and you are targeting the keyword “Is paracetamol effective against high fever”. Do you see what’s wrong here?

You being in the baking industry have no authority whatsoever to speak about a drug used to treat fever and so you will never rank for this keyword no matter how hard you try.

But instead, if you target a keyword like “How big a cake do you need to serve four people?” you have a much better chance of ranking quickly.

  • Fix all SEO issues that show up in your Google Search Console:

Google Search Console will show your website’s overall health. Make sure to fix any issues that you find in the “Core Web Vitals”. Also, fix any Mobile usability issues shown there.

Doing everything mentioned above would be enough to keep you on track to start ranking quickly without violating any of Google’s SEO guidelines. Remember, Google decides when your page should show up in the search results. So always be nice to Google!