Every company that hires an SEO company wants to know how long it takes to get to the top rank in Google, or even the top ten. The vast majority of the clicks that happen on Google hit those first ten sites.
Unfortunately, there are so many factors that go into SEO that no SEO company can say when it will happen. But a study from Ahrefs yields some tantalizing, if slightly disappointing, clues.
Ahrefs started by taking two million random keywords and pulled the age of the page for the top ten positions for all of them. Older pages clearly won out. On average, the top spot had a page age of three years while the tenth spot was around two years.
This data clearly shows that SEO is a long game and that customers shouldn’t expect to see instant results. Yet some pages do shoot up to the top quite quickly. Ahrefs took a further look by selecting two million random pages that had only been online for a year or less.
Only 5.7% of those pages had one keyword in the top ten. Of those, most of them hit that point within 2-6 months of going live. That seems good, but they dug further into it by looking at search volume as well. Many of those early jumpers had keywords with a low monthly search volume (less than 1,000 searches a month). For high volume keywords (over 50,000 searches a month), ranking jumps didn’t really start happening for first-year pages until after 245 days, with the largest number ranking between 305 and 365 days.
Of the entire batch of pages, only 0.3% had a top ten position with a high volume keyword. within a year, with most of that activity happening after eight months of life.
Based on this study, here’s what we can say about how long it will take to get to the top ten in Google:
- Age is your friend. The longer your site is up, the more Google will trust it. Ahrefs didn’t do a detailed study of pages with longer lifespans, but companies need to know that older pages perform better, period.
- Ranking a page in the top ten within the first year is possible, but quite difficult. Slightly less than 6% of all pages can get there. It is unknown from this study how fast that accelerates after the first year.
- If you are lucky enough to be part of that 6%, the monthly search volume of your keywords will play a role in how fast you can expect to rank within the top 10.
- Low volume long-tail keywords take around 2-6 months to rank in the top 10 if they’re going to rank within the first year.
- High volume keywords take at least 8-12 months for similar conditions.
There must be additional things that the fast ranking pages are doing differently, but they are not revealed by this study. What we can say is that companies need to temper their expectations for how long it takes to rank. It’s not as fast as some SEO companies make it out to be.