In this article, I will examine many of the direct and indirect Google ranking factors that influence the length of time it takes Google to determine the final search results placement for a newly published article.
But first, let’s ask ourselves a few important questions.
What is the primary goal of ranking on Google?
Free and organic traffic to your website.
Where is the vast majority of traffic coming from when it comes to Google search results?
The first page.
What is your objective every time you write an article in regards to Google rankings?
To reach as high of a ranking as possible.
Now that we’ve established this, we can concentrate on a slight variation of the question posed in the title of this article.
And that is: “How long does it take for an article to reach its highest placement it will ever have on Google?”
Why is that a more relevant question?
Because there are no guarantees when it comes to SERP (search engine results page) placement.
Your article could be the best ever on a certain keyword or topic and end up being Rank #1, or it could be not as good and end up on Rank #62.
Regardless, it takes Google a certain amount of time to determine the long-term ranking for your article.
In other words, to determine its highest placement where it will roughly remain for years to come.
All the data points to that period of time being 6-10 months.
Why does it take 6-10 months to rank on Google
There are many reasons why it takes Google months to determine the ranking for any given article.
The Google algorithm is very complicated and sophisticated.
It takes many factors into account.
Some are directly connected with the article and the website itself.
This is also known as on-page SEO.
Those are ranking factors connected with the domain, content, site structure and code, site performance, security, user interactions, interlinking, etc.
And others that are connected with both of these but happen outside of your website.
Or off-page SEO.
Some of the off-page ranking factors are the number of links to the website, social media shares, links from relevant sources, backlinks, etc.
In fact, there are 200 known Google ranking factors.
Not all of them are equally important, but the algorithm takes all of them into account nonetheless.
On top of numerous ranking factors, you have to take into account that there are 4.4 million new blog posts published each and every day.
Meaning, it takes an extraordinary amount of computing power to perform this process.
And not even Google has infinite computing power.
To summarize, the algorithm takes your article, tests it against each and every ranking factor, and compares it against all similar articles that are already indexed.
A laborious process that takes months.
How does Google know your new article even exists
There are two actions performed by Google to ensure that the search engine algorithm discovers your new article, any other page, or your entirely new website.
The first action is done by the Google Spider Crawlers.
Crawlers are bots that visit your website and follow all the links it contains.
They visit all the pages on your website to discover new ones or any changes to the old ones.
The action that follows crawling is called indexing.
Indexing is simply storing the results of crawling into Google’s index.
Once the new page is indexed, the process of ranking starts.
It’s important to note that you can choose to not have certain pages of your website crawled and indexed with the “NO-index” meta tag.
For example, you could have premium content on your website that you don’t want to be displayed in the Google search results.
That way, those pages are up and running on the internet, but they are accessed by your audience in other ways specified by you.
How do you get Rank #1 on Google
People usually think there’s magic involved with ranking #1 on Google.
Or that you need some kind of ninja tactics.
There isn’t and you don’t.
From a technical standpoint, you have to target realistic keywords or topics.
Meaning, you will never rank on Google with an article titled “Fitness.”
The competition for keywords like that is just too strong.
You have to target more specific, long-tail keywords.
For example “20 Minute Exercise Routine for Busy Moms.”
With a long-tail keyword like that you not only stand a chance to beat your competition but content like that is more personal and relevant anyway.
This is important when it comes to building an audience, gaining their trust, promoting products, etc.
From a content standpoint, you simply have to create quality articles.
How do you do that?
By providing value to your audience.
Going with our busy mom example, put yourself in her shoes and think of the problems she might be having.
- She’s busy
- Her back probably hurts at the end of a busy day
- She needs the stamina to keep up with the kids
- She probably goes up and downstairs a lot
- She probably wants to lose a pound or two
To provide as much value as possible to her is to take all this into account and craft an exercise routine that simultaneously solves as many of her problems as possible.
If you manage to do that, busy moms will love your article.
They will read it, engage with it, and share it on social media.
Because of this, Google will reward your article with a high ranking.
Do this over and over, and your domain will gain authority which will further improve your chances of hitting high rankings.
Does keyword density influence Google rankings
A long time ago, it was enough to pack your article with keywords and see it shoot up in rankings.
But keyword density isn’t something you should lose sleep over today.
People from Google haven’t even mentioned keyword density as a ranking factor in years now.
The last time they did mention it was in 2014 and the quote by Matt Cutts of Google goes: “keyword density, in general, is something I wouldn’t focus on. Search engines have kind of moved on from there.”
Google algorithm is much more sophisticated than to simply count the number of times a certain keyword appears in an article and draw any kind of meaningful conclusions from that.
Sure, you should still work keywords into your articles, but in an organic way.
As the algorithm gets closer to humans in how it reads and interprets content, the objective to make the content robot-friendly loses importance.
And that’s exactly the direction in which Google is trying to develop its search algorithm.
Conclusions to draw from this are don’t overthink things and make your content as human-friendly and value-driven as possible.
Do backlinks still work in 2020
Backlinks are links from other websites to your website.
Backlinks still remain a ranking factor today in 2020, and will probably remain a factor in the future too.
Because when other websites link to your content, it’s usually because someone else deems it worthy to recommend your content to their audience.
That tells Google your content is authoritative and of high quality.
Another question is should you actively spend time and energy on contacting other websites and getting backlinks.
That’s for you to decide.
Some people swear by backlink building outreach, some don’t do any at all.
A scenario where your website is generating enough money for you to be able to afford to pay someone for backlink building outreach would probably make it a good idea.
But if your website isn’t generating revenue, it means it’s either not properly monetized, or lacks traffic.
In that case, your efforts should go towards proper monetization and creating high-quality content before thinking about stuff like backlink building outreach.
Produce high-quality content and people will naturally link to it.
My plan for this website is to forgo backlink building entirely for at least the first year.
After that, I will reconsider this decision and possibly do some backlink building outreach.
How long do backlinks take to influence Google rankings
From what’s being reported, backlinks don’t necessarily influence the speed at which Google ranks articles.
Not directly, anyway.
Backlinks do affect the domain authority score which has been reported to speed up the ranking process a bit, however.
So, I suppose, you could draw a conclusion that every backlink indirectly plays a tiny role in the speed at which Google ranks every future piece of content published on your domain.
What backlinks do affect in a direct and real way is the peak ranking itself.
Once your article reaches its peak placement, a new backlink pointing to it will help it climb up.
A case study by Moz (marketing analytics company) suggests that one backlink takes an average of two and a half months to bump an article a rank higher on Google.
The same study suggests that this time period shortens and placement jumps increase for lower ranking articles as opposed to ones that are already on the first page of Google.
These positive effects also increase with the number of backlinks at play.
Will backlinks always play this big of a role?
That’s a quote from 2014 of Google’s Matt Cutts saying that backlinks could become a “little less important” in the future.
I imagine Google could be slowly going in that direction, but backlinks are hard to ignore and it’s not likely they will stop being a ranking factor entirely anytime soon.
Do SEO changes help articles rank on Google
Tightening SEO (search engine optimization) certainly helps rank your content higher on Google.
After all, Google Spider Crawlers continue to crawl every page on your website and index changes.
So, fixing up titles tags and meta data does positively affect rankings.
It seems that titles are, however, ever-so-slightly losing importance as a ranking factor.
In 2016, Google’s John Mueller said in a podcast that titles “are definitely used as a ranking factor but it is not something where I’d say the time you spend on tweaking the title is really the best use of your time.”
I interpret this as “set reasonably well-crafted titles and move on.”
Furthermore, in their SEO Starter Guide, Google advises on creating unique and accurate page titles.
Even if the technical side of things is starting to play a bit of a lesser role in Google rankings, it should not be ignored.
You still have to pay attention to titles, headings, keywords, etc.
Not just for Google’s sake, but for the sake of your audience as well.
A well-structured article that takes all that into account provides that much more value than a messy one, which is ultimately the primary goal.
How long does it take for SEO changes to take effect
Once you make SEO changes, they don’t take effect overnight.
Generally, things will start happening 4-6 months after the changes had been made.
And the positive effects will keep accumulating over the next few months.
Presuming you made the correct SEO changes, of course.
You won’t do much good if you start making SEO changes not knowing exactly what to change and why.
Why does it take 4-6 months for SEO changes to start taking effect?
The same thing why it takes months for Google to do anything, really.
To properly judge your now changed article, the algorithm has to go through almost the same process it went when it was ranking it for the first time.
As you can tell, the algorithm doesn’t do anything on a whim.
Because of this, you have to think of SEO as an investment.
You will not see immediate positive ROI, but, if done right, SEO will profoundly impact your business in the long run.
Do content updates help articles rank higher on Google
Just like you can change the SEO side of your article, you can change the content too and Google will take notice and make proper adjustments to rankings.
Make sure not to change the URL itself, though.
If you do that, Google may treat the article as an entirely new piece of content that has never been indexed before.
Now, on to the content changes.
Articles can and do get obsolete all the time.
For instance, remember how Pluto is no longer a planet?
Basically, around 10 or so years ago, scientists demoted Pluto from a planet to a dwarf planet.
The difference being that planets have cleared the surrounding area, but dwarf planets have not.
And so our Pluto got demoted.
This made some of the content online obsolete.
Not only content around Pluto itself, but content around our Solar System as a whole too.
Of course, this did not impact our lives one bit, but if you want your articles to be current and accurate, you have to make adjustments when necessary.
Because the second that Google realized our solar system had 8 instead of 9 planets, it considered articles that claimed it had 9 as inaccurate, which impacted their rankings.
The last thing Google wants is to suggest inaccurate information to people.
This is especially dangerous when it comes to medical and financial information.
That’s why Google scrutinizes that kind of content much more than, for example, keyboard-related content.
To conclude, you can make both minor changes, as well as re-write your articles entirely and Google will reward you if you improve them.
How long does it take for content updates to affect Google rankings
The answer to this question is the same as to the one about SEO changes – about 6 months or so.
Obviously, this period could decrease or increase depending on your domain authority and various other factors.
But 6 months is a realistic ballpark number.
You might be wondering if it’s even worth your while to update or expand old articles.
The answer is yes.
Google will not penalize you for changing the content of your article if you make it better in the process.
Your audience will look at this favorably because that will demonstrate your efforts to present only the most current information to them.
You could put something like “Updated for 2020” in your article title and it will actually help the article to stand out in the search results.
Just make sure that the content updates are considerable.
Don’t simply change a sentence or two and call it an update.
That’s a cheap trick Google can see right through.
And so can your audience.
Now, let’s examine a few ranking factors that don’t directly affect the speed at which Google ranks your articles, but they do affect the final position in the SERP’s.
They do, however, affect the speed at which Google ranks your articles indirectly.
As you have more and more content that ranks higher and higher, your domain authority goes up as well.
Which is reported to boost the speed at which Google ranks articles.
Simply put, the Google algorithm starts to trust the content coming from your domain more and is willing to put it in front of humans sooner.
Does internal linking influence Google rankings
Internal links are links that lead to pages within the same domain.
It’s considered very desirable to interlink your content.
It’s impractical to always extensively cover every topic that you touch upon in an article.
What you can do, though, is to link to an article where that particular topic has been covered extensively in case your readers want to know more about it.
That link is called an internal link.
Google likes internal links.
This means that you’ve not only covered one particular topic, but also related topics.
The more “sub-topics” of a bigger topic you’re able to cover and interlink them together, the more of an expert on that bigger topic Google considers you to be.
And the more of an expert Google considers you to be, the more it will recommend your content to people searching for information on that topic.
It makes sense, doesn’t it?
For instance, someone who knows a lot about the materials guitar strings are made from, isn’t necessarily an expert on guitars.
They would have to demonstrate their expertise on the instrument itself by talking about a lot more than just the strings.
How much exactly does Google like internal links?
It’s been reported that Google roughly values 2 internal links the same as 1 backlink.
You can build up a lot of authoritativeness for your domain by covering related topics and interlinking your articles.
That’s fantastic news for new websites that no one’s even heard of, let alone would link to.
Does website layout influence Google rankings
Website layout makes it easy for your audience to consume your content.
And Google loves that.
You could have the best content out there, but if it’s not laid out neatly for your audience to consume, Google might not rank it the highest.
How does Google know your layout is good or bad?
Well, Google doesn’t have any preferences when it comes to fonts or colors, but it tracks user experiences.
A messy layout would impact your audience’s user experience and they probably wouldn’t spend as much time on your website even if the content was great.
Google even tells you what the average session duration is for your website in Google Analytics:
User experience is a collective name for a few Google ranking factors like bounce rate, pages per session, organic CTR, and dwell time.
And as the algorithm becomes more and more sophisticated, the user experience will only gain in importance.
What’s a good website layout?
From a visual standpoint, it’s hard to tell.
It’s much easier to talk about good layout from a technical standpoint.
Going with something minimalistic allows your website to load fast, which is a direct ranking factor.
And it allows your audience to easily consume content without unnecessary distractions.
You should also use a font that’s easy to read and make sure it’s big enough, especially for mobile users.
Also, choose an appealing color scheme.
There are plenty of complementary color schemes to draw inspiration from out there.
Does content length influence Google rankings
Google’s John Mueller very clearly stated: “Word count is not a ranking factor. Save yourself the trouble.”
It doesn’t get much clearer than that.
What sometimes influences content length itself is content comprehensiveness.
And content comprehensiveness is a ranking factor.
What Google has to say on this topic is can be found in its SEO Starter Guide: “Creating high quality content takes a significant amount of at least one of the following: time, effort, expertise, and talent/skill. Content should be factually accurate, clearly written, and comprehensive.”
Comprehensive content usually (but not always) is longer.
Simply put, if you want to cover a topic comprehensively, the article will probably end up being longer.
That’s just how things tend to work out.
People often mistake comprehensiveness with word count, though.
You’ll often hear this study cited as proof that longer content performs better on Google.
The study concludes that “the average Google first page result contains 1,890 words.”
To focus on the word count here would be to miss the point, in my opinion.
There are a lot of examples where shorter but more comprehensive content beats longer content on the first page of Google results.
Conclusion I would draw from a study like that would be: be comprehensive, but stay on topic.
There’s no need to artificially boost the word count.
Recommending the best information on a particular topic to people comes with great responsibility.
On top of that, it’s a laborious process that has to take many factors into account.
Google has to nail this process down or its entire business model falls apart.
People would simply start using another search engine if they start getting useless results to their queries.
For all these reasons, it takes Google 6-10 months to determine the final placement of a newly published article.
This is one of the biggest barriers of entry into blogging.
Instead of deterring you from blogging, you should look at it as an advantage.
It eliminates a lot of competition.
Embrace this fact and start publishing as much content as possible.