A long time ago, SEO was pretty simple. You just needed to use the keywords you wanted to rank for on your pages, and they’d be likely to rank.
Today, though, there are so many websites being created every dang day that you have to be putting in a reasonably large amount of effort to see results that benefit you. You probably already know that, but you still might be asking yourself “How long does SEO take to work?” and I don’t blame you. Especially if you’re starting from scratch with a new website.
I’ll quickly get to the point because I want you to get a better idea of how long it might take your website to rank in Google.
One big shift in how SEO works: Focus on high-quality content
Compared to a few years ago, there’ve been tons of Google algorithm changes but one of the consistent trends we’ve been seeing is that Google is shifting more toward highlighting high-quality, content that accurately addresses a user’s search query.
Keyword density nowhere near as important – so don’t shove in keywords. Just answer the question or provide what the user is looking for in the easiest form for your user. Try to create the best experience and you’ll find it much easier to start ranking in searches.
You’ve got an unbelievable amount of competition as a content creator, so you’ve gotta be making content that stands out. If you’re blogging just to blog or you’re putting together posts that summarize posts you’ve read somewhere else, you’re honestly wasting your time and would be better off putting that time and effort into another part of your business.
Content marketing and SEO are a singular, multi-faceted beast and there’s absolutely no way around that.
Affiliate Disclaimer: Some links within this post are affiliate links, which means that I’ll make a commission if you choose to purchase something through them at no extra cost to you. If you do, thank you! If you don’t, thank you for reading anyway. I only recommend stuff I actually use and like and would recommend to a friend.
How long does it take to rank on Google?
It just depends. I know, I know, you want to see a number here.
It can take 6-8 months to start seeing traction in terms of SEO.
To speed up that process, go after long-tail keywords rather than shorter, higher-competition keywords. As your site starts to top searches for lower-competition keywords, it will become more authoritative and you’ll be more likely to pick up spots on the first page for higher volume keywords.
But in the beginning, you need to be focusing on long-tail keywords with lower competition to start earning Google’s trust and to get found by searchers initially. From there, your site’s authority, backlink profile, and rankings can start to snowball in the best way possible.
What you need for SEO to start snowballing for you
Google isn’t interested in the same regurgitated content over and over again. One of the biggest tips I can give you is to create high-quality content. It’s a lot simpler than it sounds and if you create content, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
You’ll need to be publishing stuff that is better than what’s already out there in order for it to rank. If you’re not acquainted with the Skyscraper Technique, definitely take some time to familiarise yourself, because if there’s a current “secret” to great SEO, this is it. Read this and get very, very comfortable with the idea of studying the current search results and creating content that tops it.
It’ll be a struggle to get backlinks or social shares or much traffic if the blog posts you’re publishing are vague or rehashes of what’s already been written 10,000 times, and that’s the main takeaway I want for you from this entire post.
Avoid linking to or getting links from spammy domains. A backlink to your website is a “vote,” essentially. The more votes from sketchy or low-quality sites, the more association you’ll have with those sites and the lower-quality Google will assume your site is.
The main way to avoid spammy sites linking to you is to not buy link building services at all (or at least without consulting with a white-hat SEO professional.)
The other way to avoid them is to keep tabs on your backlink profile and disavow any spammy links that do end up popping up, because they inevitably will.
Read more: How to Disavow Links (SEMRush)
Keep in mind that Google knows that pretty much any website with significant traffic will generate some spammy backlinks by default, so it’s probably not going to be a problem if you have a normal amount of them.
It’ll become a problem if you suddenly find yourself with lots of spammy backlinks in a short period of time, because that’s usually indicative of buying backlinks in an attempt to “cheat the system” and get higher rankings. If that happens you can expect your rankings to go down because Google does penalize that behavior.
Read more: An In-Depth Guide to Link Quality (Ahrefs)
Google wants to rank pages high that people love and are finding useful. Social signals aren’t listed as an official ranking signal according to Google itself, but there is a correlation between social signals and rankings.
That’s not to say that this correlation is present is directly tied to your position in searches, but the more your articles get shared on social media, the more chances it’ll get picked up or curated by other people looking for content to share. And lots of consistent social shares help validate to Google that your content is helpful to your audience.
An intentional and strategic keyword strategy
Like we touched on before, focus on long-tail keywords with lower competition in the beginning. Once your site gains some authority in your niche, you can tackle high-competition keywords and start seeing results in those higher volume searches, which is going to be epic for your traffic numbers.
Write down and do IN-DEPTH research for 50-100 keywords for your website at the very least. Then create content specifically for those keywords. Once you’ve gotten to the end of your list, do more keyword research for your next batch of content. Hopefully, by then, you can go after bigger keywords!
Good UX (user experience)
The amount of time users spend on your site is something that’s recorded and taken into consideration when Google is trying to understand how helpful your content is to your users.
If people are finding your site but quickly leaving because of a bad user experience, that’s a sign to Google that they may not want to be sending as much traffic over to your site.
Here are a few of the things that can give people a reason to click out of your site quickly:
- Lots of ads, especially irrelevant ones.
- Popups and other interrupts. Content should be immediately accessible. Promote lead magnets within your relevant articles where possible. Other ideas: Using notification bars on top of your site, adding them to your footers, or using an exit-intent popup if you really want to have one.
- Auto-generated content.
- Clickbait or articles that don’t address what you promised in your headline.
- Duplicate content.
- Irrelevant links (Internal or external)
- Regurgitated content that doesn’t go into depth and is similar to many other articles on the same topic.
- Linking to spammy sites or using reciprocal linking. Don’t trade links with people or accept offers for paid links unless you’re doing disclosed and sponsored content.
- Too many options in your main menu.
- Visually overwhelming web design – keep it relatively simple wherever possible so people can find what they’re looking for.
- Too much content and copy about yourself and not enough about your intended audience, especially for B2B websites.
- Unrelatable content. Leverage voice of customer data and copy techniques to write relevant and engaging website copy that’ll keep people around on your site because they recognize that you understand them and can help them.
This is pretty straightforward – you need your site to be secure. This is becoming more and more important whether people are buying something on your site or not. HTTPS creates a secure connection between your website and the customer’s browser. You need this if you don’t have it already!
The good news is that it’s pretty simple to set up, especially if you’re not intimidated by a little bit of tech. But even if you are, you can usually buy a solution from your web hosting company or get a developer to set this up for you.
Read more: How to Get HTTPS on your Site for Free (FreeCodeCamp)
More searches than ever are happening on a mobile device, which means that more people than ever are viewing your site on a small screen. Your site needs to look just as nice and provide a great experience on mobile, so take a look at it on your phone and screenshot any areas where you see issues.
Things like unintentionally overlapping text, forms that are cut off on small screens, and other things that look off or don’t function correctly. There’s a lot to optimizing your website for mobile screens, so I’ll link a larger resource for when you’re ready to go down that rabbit hole.
Read more: Guide to Mobile Optimization (Backlinko)
This one’s kinda obvious, but if your site takes too long to load, people will give up and leave. Ideally, it should load in under 3 seconds.
Thankfully, that’s pretty easy to achieve on most website platforms. Unfortunately, I can’t go into too, too much detail because I’d need to write a separate guide for each website platform. So I’ll go ahead and link to some of those instead of trying to go into too much detail because we’d be here all day.
There are a few things that are relevant to any website platform, though.
Image optimization is one of those things
Before uploading images to your website, you want to reduce the size of those images by as much as possible. To optimize your images, resize them down to no bigger than the size you need them to appear on your site. Then, run them through some kind of compression tool whether that’s Photoshop, tinypng.com, or an image compression plugin installed on your website platform (My favorite one for WordPress is ShortPixel.)
Another way to speed up your site is to run it through speed testing tools and fixing whatever you can do yourself
Some of the thing you’ll see will require a developer and some of them won’t be possible depending on what website platform you’re on and how much access to the code you have.
Here’s 3 website speed testing platforms to help you identify speed problems:
It’s important not to stress out about every little thing because it’s impossible to get a perfect score on everything, but you do want to make sure that anything you can fix is fixed.
And depending on how important site speed and SEO is to you, you may also want to consider hiring a developer to do a one-time speed optimization or getting onto a website maintenance plan that offers speed testing and optimization included with their monthly maintenance fee.
Wrapping it up with a bow: SEO takes a while to start working, but you can do a few things to kickstart that process
If you have any takeaway from this whatsoever, I want it to be that you understand how critical it is to create high-quality content to stand a chance of your content actually ranking in a significant way, because that’ll make the biggest impact in your business if you use content marketing in your inbound marketing strategy.
To get traffic to your site sooner than 6-8 months from now, I’d recommend using Pinterest marketing to help people searching on Pinterest to discover your content. Pinterest doesn’t take nearly as long to rank pins in searches and you can start seeing measurable results from Pinterest marketing within a few weeks of getting started.
There’s definitely something to be said about how SEO can literally change the trajectory of your business for the better, though. Even though it’s a mighty creature, I’d highly recommend learning to slay it because you’ll enjoy organic traffic for years to come.
I hope you have a better idea of how long SEO takes to work now and if you have any questions for me, feel free to leave them in the comments. Happy content creation! 🙂
- SEO Tips for WordPress Bloggers (Big ‘ol List of SEO Tasks to Check Off)
- 10 Easy On-Page (Content-Related) Tips to Improve Your SEO
- How to Use Keywords on Pinterest
- Essential WordPress Plugins for Your Blog or Website
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