Episode 4

How Long Will It Take For My Content to Rank?

Are you wondering how long does it take to start seeing any meaningful results from SEO?

In this episode, I discuss the usual SEO timelines, and walk you through what happens from hitting publish to the moment when a page starts generating good organic performance.

Episode transcript:

Hello there, and welcome to another episode of the Stacking Pancakes podcast. This is episode five of our well, journey through the intricacies of startup SEO, and I’m super delighted that you have me back in your ears. And if this is my first episode you’re listening to, well, hello, and it's great to meet you.

In this episode, we’re talking about SEO timelines. Because let’s face it; if there’s one SEO-related question practically everyone’s asking, it’s how long will it take for my content to rank, and what goes with it … how long will it take to start seeing any results from SEO?

It makes sense to ask it, right? SEO can be so discouraging, at times, after all. Just think about it - You’re putting all the effort into creating all this new content; perhaps you’re doing it yourself or having some writer to assist you. etc. Either way, it’s quite an effort. And surely, for a while, it feels super exciting. You see those pages going live, and you know that you’re working towards building your organic presence and growth, and all that.

But eventually, it hits you - Nothing’s happening with that content, really. I mean, sure, it’s there, Google Search Console tells you that the search engine crawled it and indexed it, and all.

Yet ... You don’t really see any major movement in rankings. And that’s that discouraging part.Well, the thing is - It’s quite normal. And that’s your first clue as to what I’m going to tell you about how long the process normally takes.Because the short answer is that it’s quite long.

Of course, I won’t leave you just with this. So, let’s take the whole rankings process apart and see what happens (and what needs to happen) from an SEO perspective, of course, from the moment you hit publish to the point where the page achieves good rankings.

The first thing is that Google needs to crawl any new page. This means that a search engine crawler needs to discover that page; remember, it’s a new one, so it has no idea that such an asset even exists. So, it needs to learn about it somehow. This can happen in several ways (BTW, I’m having a separate episode on improving the crawlability of your content coming soon, so stay tuned for a detailed explanation of the process there) - But in general, a crawler can discover the content through your sitemap, for example. If you use a CMS, like Wordpress or webflow, then, the system will automatically add the new page to the sitemap, and the crawler can learn about it the next time it visits the document.

It can also discover the page through internal links pointing to it from your other content.

Or it can find out about it because an external site has linked to it, if there are any backlinks pointing to it already.

The thing to remember here is that the process may take time, particularly for a new site. If you haven’t been publishing too often and you’ve only just started your SEO content program, then, the crawler might not be accustomed to you publishing new content regularly. As a result, it won’t be visiting your site that often.

You can also request indexing through GSC, but even then, you’re only notifying the crawler about your new page. It doesn’t mean that it will rush there to crawl it.

Then, the search engine needs to index the page. Usually, this happens pretty quickly, almost right after crawling. But Google might also take its time with it, and you might see your page being stuck with a “Crawled: Currently not in index” notification in Google Search Console.

But once the page is indexed, it should start appearing in SERPs. Now, the fair, technically, that’s what should happen. In theory, once the page is indexed, it will show up in rankings. But, unfortunately, it doesn’t mean that it will achieve its highest ranking right away. This is actually where things get a little complicated, and we’re entering that area where several different factors begin to play a role in achieving those highest rankings.

The most important thing is that your new page needs to age. This relates to the concept of page authority, which, in a nutshell, means that a brand new page needs to earn its right to be ranking high, so to speak. Again, as with almost everything in SEO, there are exceptions to this rule. In general, however, your new page needs to mature a little before jumping up in rankings. It’s as if Google or other search engines needed to get used to that new page. They’ve only discovered it, and they kinda need to watch it, see what happens, get to know that content better, before making the decision where to rank it finally.

It’s almost like what we do when we meet someone new. We’re a bit cautious at first. The person’s made their first impression, but it’s almost as if we needed some time to verify whether that impression is true.

I know I’m simplifying Google algorithm here but I think it’s a fair comparison. Your page has made its first impression. Now, Google needs to verify it and see whether it was right in assessing it the way it did.

Needless to say, that process can take time, depending on your domain authority and whether you have topical authority already or not.

So, how long could that be? Well, there is no single answer to this, unfortunately. But I can give you some guidelines that will help you predict that timeline for your site.

The process is always slow for a new site or one that only started working on SEO. In that case, it can take months for a page to achieve its full SEO potential. I’d say, if you’re in that situation, estimate 6-9 months per page. The actual time will differ from site to site, and it will also depend on the quality of content, domain authority, and several other factors. But I think 6-9 months is a fair estimate.

For established sites or sites with strong topical authority, the process is significantly quicker, of course.  But even here it can take a couple of months. Again, it depends on the domain authority, age, quality of your content, and many other factors.

Can you speed up the process? This is usually the follow up question I hear. And the answer is - not really.

That said, there are several things you can do to sort of increase that speed in the future. It won’t mean that your content will immediately go to the top of the SERP, of course. But it can increase the rate at which the page goes up in rankings.

#1. Publish those pages. This sounds crazy, I know so let me explain. I often see companies delaying publishing SEO content just because it’s not 100% ready. So, they tweak it and tweak it and tweak it. And then, tweak it some more until it’s absolutely perfect.

The thing is, while they spend weeks and weeks doing that, the page isn’t acquiring that maturity. That process only starts after the page is live and gets crawled. So, publish the content, even if it’s 80% ready. At this stage, it’s probably good-enough to make that great first impression on Google anyway. Having it live will mean that the aging process will commence, and you can finalize the remaining 20% in the meantime. Google will be crawling that page again anyway, and will learn about those additional changes.

#2. Make sure you target the right search intent. I talked about search intent in the previous episode, and I recommend that you listen to it if you haven’t. But basically, the closer to the search intent your content is, the greater chances that it will rank. Because, let’s face it, if you’re off, then there’s no incentive for Google to include you in the SERP at all.

#3. Finally, work on achieving topical authority.

If Google recognizes you as one of the authorities on the subject, it will be more likely to include you in the top-ranking SERPs. And that is bound to speed up the ranking process.

And that's it for today's episode. You can always head to gopancakego.com/podcast to find the show notes for each episode. You can also check my full guide to startup SEO, where I outline the entire process of building search visibility for an early-stage startup. Again, head to my site, gopancakego.com, and you'll find a link to it in the Resources section of the main navigation.

Don't forget to subscribe to the show. I'll see you here in two weeks, and until then, take care.

Copyright: Smashing Copy Limited T/A Pancake 2023