How long will it take us to rank at number 1 on Google?

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That’s the question posed every day to digital marketers and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) experts.

It’s a fair question. As a business, you’ve made the investment in a digital marketing company to spread the word and you want to know when you can expect a return. 

In today’s ever-competitive digital world a top ranking on page #1 of Google search results has become the Holy Grail. 

But the answer to when it will happen is not cut and dried, and the fact is it depends on many things. 

Add into the mix that Google has never revealed its exact ranking formula and the question can only be answered in the context of your businesses’ previous SEO efforts.

The phrase ‘SEO’ is bandied around often, but it remains something that is rarely understood by businesses. When you start SEO from scratch, effective agencies may help you achieve rankings within the first 6-12 months – but there’s no guarantee of this as the required aspects to rank well often take time to achieve. 

Take a look at our guide to the basics of SEO

Arguably, the most important factor in getting your business up the Google rankings is your Domain Ranking. Every website has one and it’s a crucial part of google’s assessment of how valuable it determines what you have to say.  Whilst a number of factors help make up this ranking, with different platforms using different metrics, one of the most important elements to consider is having other authoritative sites that link and reference your services. Think of it a bit like hanging out with an A-list celebrity to boost your personal profile. The more higher profile sites that link to your site, the more your authority builds and the more Google ‘trusts’ your content and sees it worth ranking. 

What does it mean to rank in Google – and is it worth your investment trying to achieve it?

In short, yes. Google is the undisputed king in the world of search engines, commanding a whopping 92% of all worldwide searches – and so having a page 1 Google ranking is crucial for business.

According to research, the first page of Google search results get 71.33% of all organic clicks, dropping to around 6% on the second and third pages.

The message is clear: people searching in Google aren’t interested in low-ranking sites.  But can we not simply bypass SEO and jump to the top of page by other means?

Paid Media V SEO?

Another dilemma often posed to agencies from a client, is the trade-off between paid media (often referred to as PPC) and SEO.  Where should our budget be spent?  Why should we invest in SEO when PPC will achieve results now?

Both points are valid.  And there is no right or wrong answer.  A businesses goals and objectives are often focussed on delivering results for the ‘here and now’ rather than looking at building a solid platform for long term stability in organic search.

This often results in many businesses focusing a hefty budget on PPC with little consideration for SEO investment.  However, SEO is exactly that – an investment.  So, the answer simply depends on business goals.

A long-term investment in SEO, when done well, will ultimately deliver natural search rankings delivering higher quality and more relevant website traffic.  As time goes on this investment can either be scaled back once the desired position is achieved or more likely reinvested in new search terms to continue to grow and expand the digital footprint.

A sole focus on PPC often sees a business become a slave to the platform and totally dependent upon this for its website traffic and enquiries.  As competition around search terms increase so too will your advertising spend, and you can become locked in a vicious cycle of dependence on ever increasing costly paid advertising.

The ultimate balance would be to invest in both areas with a well thought out strategy to ensure both channels complement each other with PPC for certain keywords being scaled back one the desired SEO position is achieved. 

How does a Google search work?

When you carry out a search, you’re not actually searching the web – you’re searching Google’s index of it.

That’s where Google’s ‘spider’ comes into play, finding and visiting a small number of high-authority web pages and crawling through them looking for links to lead to other pages. 

When you do a Google search, it queries its index with more than 200 questions including:

  • Which pages contain the keywords being searched
  • How many of those keywords appear on the page
  • Where is the keyword located (body text/URL/headline etc)
  • What is the PageRank and perceived quality of the website 

In less than a second, Google brings together the answers to all of those questions, and more, and analyses them to deliver you an overall ranking score for each page that contains the term you search for.

What is the fastest way to rank for keywords in Google?

Tweaking the art of ranking on Google is a bit like going head-to-head on a computer game battle with millions of other people all over the world every day.

Look at your business as a character in the game. The idea is that you will get stronger and stronger by battling the other players.

You must constantly be aware of your competition – or the other players in the game. How many businesses are competing for ranking with the keywords you are looking at? How many authoritative sites link to your competitors’ sites?

But by that definition, a new player would never win as the characters that started playing before them would always be stronger.

How does the game adjust that factor to make the game fairer? It allows players to get experience points – competing against the game itself to become strong enough to take on the other players.

If you create amazing content and prove your strength against the game itself, you will get the chance to compete against the other, stronger players – and propel yourself up the Google rankings.

When starting your SEO from scratch, here’s some tips to help improve your Google rankings:

  • Fresh, attention-seeking content will help your site/pages rank faster
  • Established websites with plentiful content are more likely to rank more quickly than new ones, or those with limited content. Always stay on top of your site’s content quality and quantity
  • Stay the course when it comes to link-building. Do not throw in the towel after just a few months if you’re not yet ranking #1 
  • Don’t rely on indirect methods such as social media sharing or influencers. While they can certainly help, don’t count on them. Going back to the basics and building your backlinks directly and traditionally will always be the most effective
  • Give paramount importance to your keywords

So, how long does it take to rank on Google?

It depends.
You can expect much quicker results as an established business familiar with SEO than a newcomer with no ‘authority in the eyes of Google – and your competitors will play a key role in determining just how long that could take – as will your budget.

The art of achieving Google rankings is one that is ever evolving, and relies heavily on constant modification, monitoring of content and competition – and perseverance. 

But, with the help of expert advice, it is more than achievable. Just don’t throw in the towel if it doesn’t happen immediately – be prepared it could take months. And it will be well worth the investment for your business when it does.

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