Bloggers always want to know how long will it take for SEO to work, and how soon will their content start ranking on Google and bring them traffic. After years of industry research, and my own experience, we can make a good educated guess.
For new websites (not older than a year), it takes around 6 to 12 months for their content to start ranking, or between 8 and 9 months on average. More established websites can see their SEO bring results in 1 to 4 months. However, websites with the highest authority can rank in a matter of minutes under some circumstances.
Let’s see how we’ve arrived at these conclusions, and which factors play a role in how soon will your content rank.
- Factors that determine how long will SEO take
- What experience suggests
- How long does SEO take to work for a new website
- How long does SEO take to work for an established website
- How long does it take for a page to rank in Google [data and research]
- Why does SEO take so long?
- How to rank faster on Google?
Factors that determine how long will SEO take
We can probably say that the factors that determine how long will your SEO take, will be almost all the same factors in the Google search algorithm. Meaning, there will be hundreds or even thousands of factors here.
Still, we can identify a few factors that are almost certainly more important than the rest of them.
Total website content
I’m a big proponent of the idea that the total amount of good-enough content on a website is a super-important factor for SEO overall, and has a positive impact on literally everything about that website related to SEO, including how soon its content will rank.
The biggest reason why 99% of bloggers fail is not publishing enough. I can guarantee you that no SEO in the world can confidently say they can rank number 1 on Google for a competitive keyword without lying to you or being deluded. But even intermediate SEOs will all probably agree that if they publish 100 solid articles (not even necessarily their best work), 30 of them will rank in the top 3 at the very least, and probably 5 to 10 of them will rank number 1.
Now, let me be clear here – content quantity on its own is almost certainly not any kind of a ranking factor. You can’t just publish tons of garbage on your website.
But a ton of solid, good-enough content, will almost certainly do wonders for you. Content compounds, so to speak. And good-enough can mean a nearly perfect piece of content, or just a level above what’s currently out there, and anything in between. That’s how I’ve seen tons of results myself, and that’s probably how you’ve ended up reading this article, when you could have been reading the same one from a much more authoritative website.
When you have created a lot of solid content on your blog, the following all take place:
- you are competing for more of your main targeted keywords
- you are competing for a lot more of the keywords you’re not even targeting
- you have a lot of articles from which you can link your new articles
- you give people that want to link to a specific resource the chance to link to a more precise and more targeted resource
All of these are pure gold, and as you can see, are indirectly linked to all of the other factors.
Meaning, if you focus on publishing a lot of solid content, you will probably hit all of the important factors at once and rank a lot sooner.
I would go as far as saying that this may be the most important factor overall, or at least the one that we as bloggers have the most control over, which makes it the most important factor in my book by far. Of course, it would be great if all of our articles are linked to from The New York Times and Forbes and MIT and the President’s Twitter account obsessively tweets about them every day, but that would take orders of magnitude more work than simply releasing more good content.
I even think that this is the essence of Google and their biggest value proposition for bloggers even today.
You worry about publishing a ton of solid content, and we’ll worry about ranking it quickly and giving you a ton of trafficGoogle, hypothetically
Type of content
The type of content in question plays a major role in how soon will an article rank.
A news article ranks in a matter of minutes, and the same is true for any type of content that’s not going to be relevant for long.
On the other hand, an article on a topic that’s evergreen and the information around that topic doesn’t get updated as quickly, will increase the time it takes for that article to rank. So, an article on how to sit properly while working, for example, will take quite a long time to rank, because we know almost all the information involved here, and it is very unlikely that the information changes drastically any time soon.
Article types that are more common in affiliate marketing, such as list articles and product reviews sit somewhere in the middle.
This opens up a few possibilities even for newer bloggers. If you can be quick on your feet and react quickly to new and impactful events in your industry, you will manage to grab some top rankings, and that’s very good for your blog long-term even if that’s only temporary in some cases.
Eventually, you will want to go for the evergreen topics as well. I usually recommend going for most of them even if you don’t have a smidge of a chance ranking for them, because you can’t be seen as an authority in your niche if you don’t cover the most important topics. Plus, with some clever inbound links and strategic promotion, and frequent updates to those key evergreen resources on your blog, you will probably also rank for those topics at some point as well.
Existing competition on keyword
If there are no existing articles on a certain topic, technically, you should be ranking number 1 for that search term as soon as Google indexes your article, and since today Google indexes articles very quickly even for new blogs, you may rank in just minutes after publishing your article.
Obviously, that’s not very useful in most cases. Chances are, your competitors have already covered most keywords by now, no matter which niche you’re in.
The most competitive keywords will almost certainly be occupied with tons of articles, some of which will be from very big websites and very difficult to outrank. You can do a lot with a clever internal linking strategy and some good backlink building, but even if you do everything right, it will probably take you more than a year to rank for such a keyword.
Some of the medium-competitive keywords may have little existing content from other websites on them. If you find such a keyword, usually with at least 1.000 monthly searches, and one or two half-decent articles on them from medium-sized blogs, you’ve found a mini gold mine, and you should hurry up and craft a better resource on that topic. Even a relatively new blog can rank on that keyword in a matter of months.
If you start blogging today, you will find that even a lot of the low-volume keywords already have a few competing articles written on them, and sometimes even by some larger websites (which further solidifies the point that you must have a lot of good content, since even the most high-authority sites obviously apply that strategy). But a lot of the times, some of these will have either no competing articles targeting them specifically, or maybe have just one article, or even just a Quora or a Reddit post, and when that’s the case, your article can rank within weeks, even if your blog is just a few months old.
Also known as domain authority and page authority, the number of links to your website in general and your article specifically, and the authority of the websites and pages that link to them, is a crucial factor in how soon will an article rank.
In fact, in some cases, this is probably the most important factor of all.
Now, the major problem here is that, even though our link building efforts and our promotion strategies are entirely within our control, the decision whether another website links back to you is ultimately out of our hands (unless we have some hypnotizing or voodoo powers). There is a lot we can do to increase the chances of success, and link building is a valuable skill that can bring massive results, but in the end, the person that decides whether to link back to your page will hold all the cards.
And, for new blogs and websites, I believe that trying to rank their content quicker by trying to build lots of high authority links may be a waste of time in many instances.
Because almost no high authority website decision-makers are stupid, and they will almost never agree to link to a new website with just 24 articles. It just doesn’t happen, unless there’s something else at play like previous relationships, etc. I would make an argument here that a small website that has really good design and branding may have a shot even with a handful of articles, but even that’s a long shot because good design is subjective, and not so expensive anymore, so it can be easily faked. Tons of good content, on the other hand, is impossible to fake, and that’s what big website decision-makers trust in the end and that’s how they decide whether they should give the link you’re asking them for.
Again, this brings me to the first factor – it’s much better to build a large, solid library of content before attempting any serious link building. It’s just a more natural timeline, not to mention all the backlinks that your content will be earning for you in the meanwhile.
This one is one of my favorite factors to leverage for making sure my content ranks sooner.
The best piece of news here is that we have complete control over this factor.
While probably not technically true, it is helpful to think of internal links (link from the same domain, from one article of yours to another article of yours) as low-authority outbound links. Don’t get the wrong idea here – you shouldn’t create a spider’s web of links between all of your articles and make your website an incoherent mess.
But you can be pretty aggressive with internal links, and you will see great results.
And when combined with the tons of tons of solid content you have on your blog, it can be implemented in minutes. You simply publish your new article, spend about 15 minutes reviewing the titles of your old articles, and add links from the ones that are topically related and relevant.
Also, if you write detailed and in-depth articles, you will find that you cover some smaller areas and subtopics in more than one article. For example, if you are writing, say, a review for a cryptocurrency, your content pattern may involve a short paragraph about cryptocurrencies in general in each of those reviews, and those short paragraphs are the perfect opportunities to link to your other, bigger article on cryptocurrencies in general.
Remember though – relevance is key for internal links! Avoid creating links that don’t make sense and don’t lead the reader in a useful direction that further educates them on the topic.
Is website age a factor?
If you’ve read some other articles on how long does it take for SEO to work, you may have seen website age as an important factor.
I believe that website age plays a role only at the beginning of a website. Meaning, when your website is less than half a year to one year old, Google and other search engines will not give it the shot it deserves. The trust isn’t there yet. I believe in that period, Google is in a way waiting to see whether this will be some sort of a spammy domain, or will it be an actual helpful website. Spammers are simply not patient people (and it’s kinda ironically funny when their success actually takes longer than the success of proper bloggers), and they’re going for all or nothing pretty quickly. Google knows this already, but I believe they’re still missing a precise way to quickly tell whether a newcomer in the blogging world is a spammer or not. So they wait and observe. If you don’t make any stupid moves (which is actually easier than doing them), Google will, in a way, label you as a non-spammy website, and will throw you inside the ring with the other useful bloggers more often.
After that initial period of up to a year, website age plays less and less of a role. It doesn’t matter if you have a blog that’s been around since 2005, if it only has 4 articles with 300 words each, it will not rank.
Which again, brings us to the most important factor about the time it takes to rank.
Create a lot of good content and don’t worry about your website’s age.
Plus, I’ve noticed that time tends to pass on its own, without requiring us to do anything, so you can just let it do its thing while you create a lot of content, and you will be doing everything you can.
There’s one other thing to mention here. That initial period of 6 months to a year that Google takes to get the first impression of your website can be cut down a bit. Not by a lot, but you can shave off two or three months in some cases.
You probably guessed it. More content. That always works. Publish more content, make it as helpful and useful as you can, and you will be given a shot in the starting team sooner.
And backlinks, of course. The more high authority backlinks you build, the sooner you will get your shot on the field. But as we mentioned, building backlinks is much more effective after you have a lot of good content, so focus on that first.
What experience suggests
Surprisingly, there’s not a lot of accurate data on this. There are some studies trying to answer this question or similar ones (more on that below), but as you might be guessing, they are rather imprecise, they only look at a small data sample (the Internet is vast), and most importantly, they don’t really give a satisfying answer.
That’s why we have to fall back on the experience and the intuition of veteran bloggers, which can be far more accurate than you would imagine.
The answers in this article are derived from both experience and data, and they have a good overlap, good enough so that we can be sure it’s correct.
How long does SEO take to work for a new website
It’s the industry consensus, the findings of several pieces of research, and my own personal experience, that all suggest new blogs will probably not see any of their content ranks for 6 months and up to a year, and this can only be sped up in some very rare scenarios that are not typical for affiliate blogs (like a blog for a hot new startup that gets a lot of publicity naturally, or a new blog from an already popular website, etc).
How long does SEO take to work for an established website
Blogs that are not so new will find that their content usually tends to rank between 1 and 4 months after publishing, mostly depending on the authority of their domain and the already existing competition on that keyword.
How long does it take for a page to rank in Google [data and research]
In a study done by Ahrefs on how long does it take to rank, they’ve looked at more than 2 million search results, and have found out several interesting insights:
- the average article on the first page is 2+ years old
- only 5.7% of the articles on the first page were less than a year old
- the articles that were less than a year old and ranked on the first page were between 61–182 days old
The study doesn’t quite answer our question, but the data is certainly very useful in understanding the general timeframe.
Another study on the topic published by Neil Patel, in partnership with BuzzSumo, SEMRush, and Ahrefs, has looked at 20.000 URLs, and found that websites that already have some authority will see their content rank on Google in 100 days on average.
Another interesting case study on the topic, done by Income School, finds the following:
- new sites will take around 35 weeks (8 months) to rank
- relatively established sites will take about 25 weeks (5-6 months) to rank
- more authoritative and well-established sites take 18 weeks (4 months) to rank
- if you publish an article on a keyword with no competition, you will rank in a matter of hours. (They actually published an article on “which dirt bike would Dwigth Schrute from The Office ride” and ranked very quickly, but obviously there was practically no search volume nor competition for that keyword. Still funny.)
Why does SEO take so long?
The short answer is, bloggers don’t always have a clear idea of how search engines work, and sometimes they overestimate how good search engines are at figuring out content relevancy and quality. Google and other search engines are learning about how to evaluate content every day, and they are getting better and better, but in the last few years (maybe even a decade), the speed at which they’re learning has probably started to plateau.
You may have noticed this yourself, especially with Google. Google was relatively good when it first came out, and it started to improve very quickly in the first few years. This was a long time ago, but if memory serves me right, I believe Google made the biggest jump in progress, in terms of the quality of the search results they provided, probably somewhere between 2005 and 2010. In those years, they went from offering somewhat relevant results some of the time, to offering pretty relevant results almost all of the time.
However, since then, progress has been somewhat incremental. Maybe most of the potential has been reached, or maybe the low-hanging fruit has been picked, but over the last 5 years, the quality and relevance of the search results have remained stable, without that many significant improvements.
In fact, the more frequent algorithm updates seem to often have a more negative result than a positive one, and we’ve seen several major flops and reversals in those updates.
Plus, I’m still often surprised, at periods even daily, by how inaccurate Google can be at times. Just a few days ago, I actually had to go to page 2, and found the truly best resource I was looking for at position number 14.
Obviously, something like the perfect search algorithm will always be a work in progress, and that’s why it takes so long to see your content rank. The engineers working there are super smart, but at the end of the day, it’s still just data and code, and the algorithm still doesn’t have the general-purpose intelligence of a topic expert, for example.
So, to evaluate content, Google still needs to do a lot of measuring, a lot of analytics, and a lot of trial and error. The mere fact that it still has to rely on the authority of the domains, and who links out to who to figure out which article should rank higher, is a clear display of that.
And all of that measuring takes a lot of time.
Plus, during those long periods of time, Google still has to provide at least satisfying search results to the billions of people searching for billions of all kinds of crazy keywords every second.
There is no other choice yet. Progress must be slow, Google can’t risk trusting new websites that soon, or new content even, and we have to wait for our content to start ranking.
How to rank faster on Google?
We already touched upon this briefly, but it’s a good point to summarize again and provide some actionable steps.
As with almost anything in blogging, the correct answer to how to rank faster on Google is create more content that’s useful and helpful and of good quality, and build as many backlinks to it as you can. When I think about it, that’s what the entire game of blogging is all about.
To be more specific, these are some concrete steps you can take to make sure a content piece ranks faster:
- make sure the content piece is the best resource on the topic out there, both in terms of depth and in terms of quality (probably most important in the long run)
- create several smaller sub-pieces related to the content piece you’re trying to rank quickly, and link from the smaller articles to the bigger one
- promote your article on social media, and some forums if possible (I’ve noticed that Quora, and in some cases Linkedin, seem to provide great results lately)
- build as many relevant backlinks to your content piece as you can
This will be a separate guide that I will publish very soon, so stay tuned.