Ah, the almighty Google search box.
Website developers spend a lot of time trying to make sure their pages show up directly beneath that box, at the top of Google’s first page of search results.
Reaching the top of the search rankings does not happen overnight, especially for small businesses with little or no existing web presence.
According to multiple sources, the average time for websites to rank on Google through optimization (SEO) techniques is about three to six months.
That’s right – jumping to the front of Google’s results usually takes between 90-180 days, depending on the competitiveness of your industry and popularity of your keywords. For several reasons we’ll discuss below (competition, domain age, content accumulation, etc.) a high ranking may take as much as a year in competitive fields.
This can be frustrating for developers and clients alike. We just put weeks into building a new site! It looks great and no one is seeing it! Why isn’t Google recognizing us?
Don’t worry. In this case, doing everything right doesn’t mean immediate results. Ranking on Google is a process, not a magic trick.
To understand which websites appear at the top of Google‘s rankings, first, we need to dive into how Google finds those pages and adds them to your search results.
How Does Google Find My Page?
Software programs called “Googlebots” (also known as bots, robots, or spiders) move or “crawl” through billions of web pages, collecting and cataloging information that is added to Google’s index of the web. For your webpage to reach Google’s index, the spiders must be able to crawl and read the information on your site.
This video from Google explains in more detail how the search function works:
Like the nice man in the pink shirt says, when you search through Google, you are actually searching the Google index, not the whole Internet. Google uses an algorithm to match your query to the bazillion pages it has on file.
The algorithm considers more than 250 factors, including keywords, titles, and content tags. The algorithm also incorporates PageRank, a separate program that measures each page’s importance according to the amount and quality of traffic from other sites.
How Are Websites Ranked?
When you type a search into Google, pages are selected from the index according to how well they match up to your specific query.
There is no exact formula for placing your website at the top of a Google search. However, the following factors play a key role in the ranking process:
- SEO. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) ensures that your website is visible to Googlebots and other indexing programs. This includes things like titles, keywords, headings, and ALT image text.
- Domain age. A web domain less than six months old is considered a “new” site, and therefore less trustworthy or reliable than an older website that has been thoroughly verified. New sites can still be ranked, but rankings are more likely to increase after the six-month window.
- Keyword competition. Words or phrases that are searched often are highly competitive, and more established sites in your industry have a head start on ranking for popular searches. If your site is new, it will be easier to build trust and rankings through keywords with lower levels of competition before moving on to more popular searches.
- Content quality. The Googlebots are designed to identify characteristics like how often new content is published, whether the content is original, as well as the length and overall quality of your posts. Regularly adding new, original, high-quality content to your page will keep the search bots looking at your page, and could lead to higher rankings as time passes.
- Clean domain. Google’s algorithm is also designed to spot when websites try to cheat the system with tricks like keyword stuffing or buying inbound links. These schemes may work for a while, but when Google catches on, your site will be penalized. Your ranking will suffer until you correct the problem, which can be a lengthy and difficult process.
(Hat tip: reliablesoft.net)
So if you’re maintaining your page with good content, keeping your domain clear of any shady shortcuts, and focusing on low-competition keywords that will build your online authority… be patient.
You’re on your way.
We’re here to help you out. If you’d like some support on getting your site on Google as fast as possible, consider scheduling a consultation with us.