With only 8.5 percent of online search traffic making it to the second page of Google search, it’s clear that search ranking matters – but it also takes time. When considering investing in SEO and PPC, many business owners are eager to know how to get on the first page of Google, and “how” to get the top ranking on a search results page.
The short answer is, “no one knows” – not even Google. But rather than just leaving it as a vague answer to a vague question, let’s explore the reasons behind the response.
We Aren’t Google
In addition to their periodic major updates, Google also has a fresh crawl that is constantly causing small fluctuations in rankings. They also have a deep crawl that can run on a predictable cadence that indexes a much larger portion of the Internet. Then there is the calculation and propagation time to value every link, every page, and every website and then rank those against billions of search queries.
In short, no one (not even most people at Google) can know how all of these factors affect each other and the overall formula for search rankings.
What we can do is look at a snapshot in time of what the current site looks like in comparison to a competitor’s site and identify areas that will likely improve their rankings over time. We can then apply a general timeframe for when we can expect to see results based off past experience. In addition, we can adjust the strategy to help enhance certain search signals to increase overall effectiveness.
Website Quality Affects Success
If your website is seen as low quality or isn’t updated often, it can take longer to climb those search rankings. In addition, if your site has been penalized in the past, you must first determine the issue, fix it, and then submit a reconsideration request before you can begin to reestablish yourself in search.
We Can’t Control the Competition
By developing a plan to improve your rankings, we are making the assumption that your site will push your competitor’s rankings down and help yours up. However, it is highly likely that your competitors aren’t standing still.
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If your competitors are actively marketing their site, you need to not only match them, but surpass them. In some cases, they may have years of a head start and it could take some time to close the gap. Additional resources can help, but sometimes it just takes the slow, persistent, and aggregated authority built over time to rise in ranks.
What If I Don’t Want to Wait?
It’s understandable that business owners want to quantify and calculate an immediate ROI for their marketing dollars. However, it takes technical implementation and best practices to achieve a high ranking. To do this, you must convince Google that you deserve and have earned your desired ranking. You must also convince the intended audience that you are a trustworthy site with valuable content, products, or services.
Search Marketing is Not a Campaign With a Start and End Date
It is a long-term branding methodology that is at the core of your business. It defines your audience, learns what they are looking for, engages with them, nurtures that relationship, and in return, rewards you with their business. By understanding that concept, you’ll realize that it doesn’t matter how long it takes to get to the first page of a certain ranking, because you’ll understand that the ranking itself is not the goal.
Now Forget What I Just Said!
With all stated above in mind, here are some ballpark figures you can use.
Low to Moderate Industry Difficulty – with a good consistent strategy and no other major site issues, it is reasonable to expect a 3-6 month window to move up into the top 10 results. As stated earlier, this varies based on the competition, but this is the general rule of thumb.
Difficult Industries – due to the high amount of competition, you can expect it to take a minimum of 12 months and possibly years to achieve your desired results. This timeframe may be shortened with additional resources (paid ad search).
Extremely Difficult Industries – it is possible you never reach the first page on Google. And, it could be that the cost associated with reaching the first page is not economically viable for a small business. For larger companies, it will likely require a multi-year, multi-faceted approach depending on where the current rankings are.
Getting a first page Google ranking doesn’t matter if it is for the wrong keyword and doesn’t drive traffic. And getting traffic doesn’t matter if it is targeting the wrong audience. Even getting the right traffic from the right audience doesn’t matter if you can’t convert them.
Instead, think about how you can best serve your audience by creating a unique and valuable offering and establishing a core branding and engagement campaign that is as embedded into your business as a menu is to a restaurant.