For the past 12 years that I’ve been optimizing websites, there is no question I get asked from clients and prospects more than:
“How long will it take me to get ranked in the first page of Google for my targeted keywords?”
I’m sure a lot of you have received emails from shady companies stating that you can get to the top of Google in 30 days for just two payments of $100.
I wish this was true, but all companies that advertise these sorts of services are all scam artists and have no idea of what it takes to get to Page 1 in Google.
Before I give my answer based on my experience, let’s explore two things that should make my answers clear and easy to comprehend.
- Do rankings even matter anymore, and should I focus only on my website?
- Is it difficult to get to Page 1?
Do Rankings Even Matter Anymore?
I just love it when the CEO of a company comes to the marketing director, manager, or person in charge of SEO and says, “We need to rank for xyz terms on Page 1.”
You conduct your keyword research and find out that those terms have no search volume nor purchase intent.
Rankings are important but a true measurement of SEO is to get qualified traffic that results in conversions.
Getting to the first position for some keywords doesn’t mean anything if you are not going to impact your sales and conversions.
Your agency or in-house team might’ve gotten you on the top 3 listings – but that doesn’t matter if no one is searching for those terms.
But if your CEO wants to rank for terms that are only relevant to him, like his name, then that could be done rather easily (in a month or less based on my experience) with a few:
- External links.
- Internal links.
- Social links.
Are Websites Still Needed?
Websites are still needed. However, soon we won’t be relying on them as much as we used to because more content is being consumed by social media and in apps.
It’s time to stop thinking about your website as your only marketing vehicle and have a clear plan for your voice search and app strategy because we live in an app economy.
App usage has now overtaken the mobile web. Mobileloud states that people spent 90% of their mobile time using APPs in 2018. In 2017, comScore data showing mobile apps are leading at 87% of mobile time, with web browsing only scoring the remaining 13%.
How to Get to Page 1
Now that we understand that we should look way beyond your website and focus on your mobile and app strategy in addition to voice search, let’s talk about how much time does it really take to get to Page 1.
The real answer depends on the following.
- The type of site (i.e., new site or an existing site).
- How competitive the keywords and industry are?
- The popularity of the site (i.e., household name versus a brand that is trying to get established).
- What you are trying to get ranked for (i.e. voice search, answer box, etc.).
- Where the site is ranking for your targeted keywords.
- And some other factors.
When a client asks me how long I can expect to get first page rankings for my targeted keywords, I tell them “Let my team do an analysis and we will get back to you” because there are so many variables at play.”
A startup with a brand-new website and new domain with zero links, no popularity, no end user signals, etc. and tells me “I want to rank on Page 1 for health insurance company.”
I tell them, “Good luck.” It will take years to get Page 1 rankings for that keyword and related keywords because that is a super competitive industry.
Getting to Page 1 will require a lot of great content and links about why people should buy health insurance, what health insurance companies are available, the best health insurance companies, etc.
If an existing site and powerhouse domain like Chase wanted to rank in the first page of Google for small business credit cards, which they already rank in position #25, I would be up for the challenge. They are just outside of what we call striking distance (i.e., positions 11-20).
Chase is a powerhouse in terms of popularity, links, and traffic. It has the potential to get to Page 1 for “small business credit cards” with more high quality and useful content, internal linking, high quality external links, and some more social love.
Now if a company like Evans Bank, which only has 3 referring domains and a DR of 43, wanted to rank on Page 1 for “small business credit cards”, it would be difficult.
Ranking in the first page for that keyword would be hard because the site is not popular and lacks high-quality links, content, and some other crucial factors for SEO success.
The keywords “small business credit cards” are super competitive. You have big brands like Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and affiliates like Nerd Wallet ranking for these terms, which will be extremely difficult to compete with.
However, if Evans Bank where to position themselves right and support the site with an integrated marketing campaign, strategy, and holistic content that helps people, it will cause the domain to:
- Get more links.
- Become more popular.
- Start to rank higher for competitive keywords like “small business credit cards” and other related terms.
Currently, the site is ranking on Page 6 in Google. That isn’t bad considering the current state of the site from an SEO and content perspective.
Once Google sees that the site is getting more popular and has fresh and useful content that people are consuming – which they can tell by the end user data – the site will improve visibility and traffic from keywords that will get them to Page 1.
It’s easier to come online, but you must establish a presence.
If I were Evans Bank, I would find people to partner with, do more business with, and differentiate themselves from the other banks.
For example, if they were to position themselves as the lowest rate small business card provider in the industry, that would help them be unique.
For more people to talk about the brand and link to the site, they need to:
- Start an integrated marketing campaign.
- Build out a great content strategy that is useful in the moment.
- Start branding themselves as the lowest interest rate small business credit provider
- Get people to take notice through social, paid, and email.
This will improve their visibility over time, help them become relevant, and establish their authority in the industry.
In my experience, I have seen big brands loose visibility by getting some high-quality links removed from their site.
Once they get the links back or even get more high-quality links to the site from related domains, the rankings will come back. I have seen it come back in weeks for some big brands and in some cases days.
Based on my experience, here is the time period I have seen it take to get to Page 1 based on some factors. Although each site is different this is a general guideline.
|Category||Competitive Keywords||Non-Competitive Keywords|
|New Site||9 to 12 months+||1 to 4 months +|
|Household Name||3 to 6 months||1 month or less|
Getting to Page 1 in Google is no simple task.
Google has become smarter through advancement in machine learning and real-time algorithms.
Brands must focus not only their websites but also on having a positive content experience across all devices and platforms that helps users in the moment.
Focusing your efforts take time and, if done correctly, can get you to the top of the first page of Google in due time, help your site get incremental traffic and conversions, and make your brand a huge success online.
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- A 7-Step Process to Realize the Promise of SEO
- A Complete Guide to SEO: What You Need to Know
All screenshots taken by author, June 2019