One of the questions the Big Leap SEO team gets the most often is “how long will it take for me to rank #1 in Google results?”

The obvious answer to this oft-asked question is “it depends.” The ranking is affected by many factors – your industry, the amount of keyword competition, how quickly your industry moves, and many others. There is no hard-and-fast formula for snagging that top spot, or everyone would have done it by now. In fact, there’s no guarantee at all that you’ll ever make it to #1, however, there are tried-and-true ways to improve your search rankings and give yourself the best possible chance of making it into Google’s Top 10, as well as data we can study to give us a better idea about what those high-ranking sites have in common.

What factors influence how quickly a domain ranks?

As mentioned, there are several things at play when it comes to hypothesizing how quickly a domain will rank. For the sake of this post, we’ll look at five: SEO, amount of keyword competition, the domain’s age, the domain’s quality, and the content itself.

  • 1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

    SEO is literally a full-time job for many of us here at Big Leap, but there are several things your small business can do to be sure your site is optimized for Google. First, design your site to be responsive. In 2018, the majority of searches are done on mobile, and with Google’s recent switch to Mobile-first Indexing, you’ll need to be sure your site displays quickly on all browsers and all display sizes. If you opt to only design your site for desktop, your rankings will suffer.

    The next factor you should be aware of is keywords. Knowing which keywords you’re trying to rank for and how much competition those keywords have is a foundational piece of any SEO strategy. You can perform keyword research on your own using a tool like SEMrush, or hire an expert to do keyword research for you. After you know which keywords you’re aiming to rank for, be sure to use those keywords in your site content, in headers and titles, in image captions, and in alt text. But be wary of keyword dumping – you want these words to actually make sense in the context of your content, and to be helpful for visitors to find what they’re looking for. If it’s obvious that you’ve employed shady tactics to sneak keywords into your site, you’ll be penalized by Google.

    Another factor that will help you win big with search engines is how well your site is organized, both for the end user and for Google’s crawlers. Is your sitemap intuitive and can visitors easily find what they’re looking for? If not, make the changes you necessary to ensure that both the robots and real people will find your site useful, and Google will notice.

  • 2. Amount of Keyword Competition

    Now that you know what keywords you’re trying to rank for, the next step is to check how many other sites are trying to rank for those same keywords. If you work in a very saturated market, chances are, it’s going to be difficult to rank for your top-choice keywords. For example, if you owned a bail bonds company in Las Vegas, Nevada, you would naturally have a very difficult time attempting to rank for the keyword “bail bond.” However, if you choose a secondary keyword like “low budget bail bonds” or a long-tail keyword like “same day bail bonds las vegas,” you’re more likely to have a chance at ranking. The key is to choose popular keywords, but not so popular that you won’t have a chance at success.

  • 3. The Domain’s Age

    The next factor that affects how quickly your site will rank is how mature the domain is. As a general rule, the older the site, the more credibility it has with Google. There are obviously exceptions to this, but according to countless studies, this holds up. In fact, according to a study by Ahrefs, only 22 percent of sites that rank in the top 10 of Google were under a year old, and most sites were at least three years old. In addition, if your site is attempting to rank for a popular keyword with extremely high search demand (like our Las Vegas bail bonds example), it will be nearly impossible to rank in the top 10 within the first year. In Ahref’s study, only 0.3 percent of sites were able to achieve this. If your site is new or competing for a high-volume keyword, this puts you at an obvious disadvantage, but don’t give up just yet – SEO is about the long game. Continue to employ smart optimization practices over the long term and you’ll find success.

  • 4. The Domain’s Quality

    If you truly want to rank in the top 10 and stay there, commit now that you’ll stay away from Black Hat SEO, or any shady practices that might purport to help you cheat the system. It might work in the short term, but you can almost guarantee that Google will notice and will penalize your site, and in some cases, even ban you from the search engine. Trying to cheat to win, at least in the SEO game, is rarely if ever worth the cost. In addition, be sure that all of your backlinks and incoming links are high-quality, and that you’re not being linked to by any spammy sites. If so, you’ll be guilty by association. Read up on these 10 Secrets To Getting Quality Backlinks To Your Content to help you steer clear of any links that would hurt your site. If you find that there are spammy sites linking to your pages, contact the site administrator to have them removed, or if all else fails, report these spammy sites to Google. Playing by the rules and maintaining the quality of your site will keep you from being penalized, and you’ll therefore have a much higher chance of ranking in those coveted top spots.

  • 5. The Quality of Your Content

    Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, is the quality of your content. Content, as they say, is king, and if you’re not producing high-quality content that your users find helpful and want to share with their friends, your chances of ranking highly are slim to none. At the end of the day, your content exists to serve your users, to make their lives easier, and to address their pain points, not to help you make sales. If you’re creating content solely for the purpose of getting leads, you’re doing it wrong. Recommit yourself to creating the best content possible to create a loyal following, and the leads will come. In addition, Google will notice that people love your content, and will reward you with high rankings.

The High-Rankers: more quick stats

The above five factors will provide you with a solid foundation for getting your site in the top 10, but, in addition, there are a few other guidelines we can glean from the countless studies that have been performed to determine what makes a site a high-ranker. Based on data from around the web, here are a few more quick stats you should consider:

  • Fresh content tends to rank more quickly. If your site is updated frequently and deals with news or current events, you’ll have the potential to rank much more quickly than an industry that’s more static, simply because you’re churning out content more frequently and search trends follow current events. A site that publishes updates on political races, for example, would have a better chance at ranking more quickly than a site about bathroom decor.
  • Bigger websites rank more quickly than smaller websites. This one is pretty self-explanatory, but the bigger the website, the more pages on it, and therefore, the more clout it has with the search engine. It is a lot easier for a site like the New York Times sports section to rank quickly than it would be for a smaller locally run sports site.
  • Getting your content to rank takes time. As mentioned above, it takes at least a year for most sites to rank well, but according to expert marketer Neil Patel, most rookie marketers give up after only three months on the job. Creating good content takes time, as does maturing that content for long enough that the search engines and users take notice. Mature content is high-ranking content, according to the data. It’s tempting to give up when you don’t see immediate results, especially with your CEO breathing down your neck, but remember that longevity is a key to success when it comes to SEO.
  • Push your content hard in the first two months. The world of content moves quickly. You publish a piece, post about it on social media, and in just a few minutes, your posts are buried under a mountain of other content, all competing for the same eyeballs. In order to be sure you get the clicks you need on your content to signal to Google that your site is high-quality, schedule your content to post to social media several times within the first couple of weeks after publishing, and then several more times in the first few months. According to data collected by Neil Patel, those first two months are critical when it comes to building up the credibility of any one piece of content.
  • Link building is critical for ranking. The more high-quality sites that link back to your content, the more likely it is that Google will see your site as reputable. Part of link building involves the number of shares your content gets – how often your readers post your links to social media, retweet your posts, and share them with others. In addition though, it’s important to take active steps to build your site’s link portfolio. An extremely effective way to do this is to actually ask other sites with whom you have a good relationship to link back to your content. While it may take a little more time and effort, it can really benefit your content’s SEO in the long run.

Building great content takes time – don’t give up!

While there is no fool-proof method for ensuring that your content will earn the #1 spot in Google, if you consistently produce high-quality content, publish regularly, and follow these SEO guidelines, you’ll have a much higher chance at success. The most important piece of advice we can give you is to not give up. It’s extremely easy to get discouraged when you don’t see immediate results, but remember, like fine wine, good content needs time to mature. Keep employing smart SEO strategies, and with time and consistency, you’ll see success.

Want even more help ensuring that your content gets the eyeballs it deserves? Sign up for your free SEO consultation with a Big Leap SEO expert – we’ve helped hundreds of small businesses like yours nail SEO strategy and find success in the digital marketing game, and we can’t wait to help you do the same.

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