Everyone is interested in improving their visibility on the web. Many are looking for shortcuts.
The fact of the matter is that SEO is more of a long game and anyone promising quick results should be greeted with a high level of skepticism
This post will break down the steps needed to boost your visibility in the Google search engine result pages (SERPs).
That said, I know you are equally interested in knowing one thing.
How Long Does It Take to Improve Google Rankings?
I’m going out on a limb to give you the definitive answer to how long SEO takes: it depends.
While I recognize this is frustrating and seems like a copout, it’s the truth.
SEO doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Every situation offers a unique set of variables.
Skill, budget, the level of competition, and how your website stacks up against the competition can all play a role in how quickly one can move the dial.
So, bearing that in mind, let’s break it down in a more quantifiable sense and review what you can do to make things happen sooner, rather than later.
Continuous Improvement Is Critical
During a Google Webmaster Central Office Hours Hangout last March 2018, the question of how long it takes to see ranking improvement came up.
John Mueller, a Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, underscored that it takes some time. In short, because the search engine’s algorithm has to carry out a re-evaluation of your entire site after changes have been implemented.
Due to the number of factors in play, rapid changes in SERPs should not be expected.
Mueller also confirmed that even if you make drastic changes to your website’s design and functionality, it could still take a couple of months or even a year to have an impact.
He also cautioned that you should not just sit and wait for results after you upgrade your site. It’s better to keep working on your website with continuous improvement being the ultimate goal.
Continuous improvement is important, as it can have a positive impact on how your site is crawled and indexed. Low-quality URLs are crawled less often by Googlebot which could, theoretically, extend the re-evaluation time.
That said, it’s not a good idea to automatically remove infrequently crawled pages. Some of those pages could be ranking for valuable key phrases and removal may negatively affect your rankings and traffic.
That risk is a primary reason for Google advising consistent improvement over the removal of pages.
How Long It Takes to Rank on Google
A study by Ahrefs turned up some interesting information, in terms of how long it takes to rank on Google.
Among the main takeaways:
- On average, a page that ranked in the top 10 was over 2 years old. Moreover, the average age of pages that ranked first was nearly 3 years old.
- Among the pages that ranked in the top 10, only 22 percent of them were less than 1-year-old.
- Of all pages in the study, only about 6 percent appeared in the top 10 search engine results for at least one keyword within one year.
- Zooming into the top 6 percent pages, most of them were able to get to the top 10 from nowhere in 2 to 6 months.
So, based on their findings, about 94 percent of the pages in the study never made it to the top 10 search engine rankings within a year.
How to Improve Your Google Rankings
As you can see, to reach the top 10 SERPs in less than 1 year, takes lots of hard work, skill, and sometimes luck. And this takes us back to the topic of today’s discussion on how to improve your Google ranking.
So, if you want to boost sales and conversions by taking your website to the first page of Google, here are five steps you should take.
1. Start with a Sound Foundation
Poor website structure and information architecture can doom even the best SEO campaigns.
If your website is difficult for users to navigate and Google to crawl, your rankings are likely to suffer.
Think about “usability first” on a mobile platform. That is the pathway to success.
Perform a Technical SEO Audit
The Google algorithm incorporates hundreds (if not thousands) of signals, plus machine learning to determine search rankings.
That said, tending to the SEO basics will give you an advantage over many competitors.
Here’s a step by step process to follow.
Fix Duplicate Content
Duplicate content issues are often related to technical issues. The most common being multiple versions of the same page.
For example, http://www.yousite.com, https://www.yousite.com, http://yousite.com, and https://yousite.com would be considered by Google as four different pages with identical content.
This can be resolved by setting the proper redirect rules in your .htaccess file
2. Optimize for Mobile
With Google rolling out the mobile-first index, your website needs to pass the Mobile-Friendly Test.
According to Google:
“… our crawling, indexing, and ranking systems have typically used the desktop version of a page’s content… Mobile-first indexing means that we’ll use the mobile version of the page for indexing and ranking…”
In order to avoid a mobile ranking meltdown, you should double down on mobile tasks and performance.
Think about what users want to do on your site, once they land on it. They need to be able to perform those basic tasks smoothly and without difficulties, even while multi-tasking.
What are the first three to five objectives of your site’s visitors? Ensure they can be accomplished on your mobile site effortlessly.
Do your visitors find themselves scrolling endlessly to access the services or products that you offer?
Do images bog down loading times on your website?
Did you know that Google will be using page speed as a mobile search ranking factor, starting in July?
Loading time is a huge factor on mobile devices, particularly since most of the connections on mobile tend to be slower than those of PCs.
3. Optimize for Speed
For both mobile or desktop, you must continuously monitor the speed and keep improving it.
Use the Google PageSpeed tool to benchmark performance.
Here’s how you can execute page speed optimization:
Image File Size
Use your favorite image editing program.
Before uploading, you can further optimize your image by using an image compression and optimizer tool.
Lastly, always confirm that the dimensions of the image fit into the reserved image space to retain a clean, structured look on your live webpage
When a web browser loads a page, it loads a number of resources. Browser caching stores these resource files locally on the users’ computer. That way, when a user navigates to a new page, those resources need not be loaded again.
For most sites, the best way to enable browser caching is by adding code to the web host/server .htaccess file.
For WordPress, there are plugins available to accomplish this.
Before loading countless JS and CSS files to enhance your site, make sure that you actually need those extra augmentations as they end up slowing down your website.
You can also minify your files by stripping comments, for instance, to keep things running fast.
If it’s possible to merge several scripts into a single file, go for it. That way, there will only be one retrieving call to the server to load all the scripts.
4. Work on the Links
Both internal and external links continue to have a huge influence on how your website ranks.
Here are a few tips for polishing up your link game:
Fix Broken Links
Many website owners have a habit of ignoring broken links. This can create a less than ideal user experience.
By running a crawl on your site with tools like W3C Link Checker, you can easily spot the 404 errors and fix them.
Exact Match Anchor Text
Abuse of exact match anchor text can be poison as an external linking strategy but still plays a big role when selecting internal anchor text.
As with anything, don’t be spammy, but if it’s relevant – use it.
Turn Site Mentions into Links
Get notice of mentions of your site by setting a Google Alert.
This will help you keep track of your brand mentions across the web.
In cases where the mentions are unlinked, contact the webmaster and request they turn the mention into a link.
5. On-Page Optimization
Google wants to help you out here. They have produced a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Starter Guide meant for anyone interested in promoting online content via Google search.
As with website architecture, just doing the basics, as explained in this guide, will put you head and shoulders above many of your competitors.
Tell Google What Your Pages Are About
Do this by adding structured data throughout your site. That way, Google can easily understand what each page is about.
Schema is the format preferred by Google.
Schema types include recipes, businesses, products, authors, and more.
Create Unique, Brief & Descriptive Titles
Create a title that is natural and descriptive as opposed to a series of keywords.
Every page needs a unique title.
Craft ‘Clickable’ Meta Descriptions
Even though meta descriptions don’t have a direct impact on your website’s ranking, they play a significant role in CTR. This, in turn, can increase your traffic.
So, make sure all descriptions are both unique and irresistible to click. If you don’t use a description or if Google doesn’t like your description, they will auto-generate one.
As Google continues to close the door on spammy techniques and schemes, anyone serious about digital marketing needs to take a long view.
The strategies mentioned above aren’t sexy or new. They do, however, require work and a continual investment of resources.
More SEO Resources:
What’s The Value of a Top Search Ranking in Google?
Understanding the Modern SERPs & Why There’s More to Ranking #1
Your Rankings Have Dropped – 10 Things to Do Now