Question: How long does it take to rank a website? How many hour of work do I have to do each day to compete and rank my website at the top of the search results?
Answer: I get this question almost every day, and it is one of my least favorite questions to answer. So I figured I would answer it as best I can once here, then point people to this page when I get asked again. To compete in competitive marketplaces you have to out-think the competition or invest more than they do. When you start from how little or how quickly you have the wrong mindset. Ask not what your search results can do for you, but what you can do for your search results. :)
Keep launching quality original content, keep working at brand building, keep making social connections, and watch the traction build. When you are new, can you predict what one idea is going to make the difference? For most people I don't think so. Some types of success are deliberate, but for most independent webmasters, I think they accidentally step into success by working hard, being ignored, and then watching something blossom that they did not realize the importance of when they first launched it.
After you have some success then you can engineer further success, but for many it starts out as an accident or a byproduct of constant motion.
How long does it take to rank?
If the search results are uncompetitive (use SEO for Firefox to survey the competitive landscape) you might be able to rank in a month even if your site is brand new.
Is your site brand new? If so, how old are the top ranked competing sites. If they are a number of years old then it is probably going to take at least a year to catch up unless they are bad at marketing and link building or you have a great marketing idea that will help you build many organic links. If the companies that are ranking are multi-billion dollar corporations then you can't outrank them with a one man website unless your site is integrated into the conversation of that marketplace and/or your site offers valuable tools and/or original linkworthy content.
If your site is brand new, you probably want to develop links over time in a fairly consistent manner. If you grow x links this month then you want to create x or more the next month. And that number sets the baseline for the following month. Months where you have no viral marketing ideas try to list your site in a few quality directories, join trade organizations, and get other clean links.
If you are sitting on an older site you may be able to grow links a bit more aggressively, and you may be able to get away with being a bit more aggressive with the anchor text you use in the inbound links.
In many regional search markets outside of the US the competition is much less fierce than it is in the US, and it is easy to rank for some fairly competitive keywords.
An exact match domain name may also provide ranking benefits in some search relevancy algorithms, which allows you to rank quicker without needing to build up as much link authority.
How many hours of work will it take?
I have ranked sites on 5 hours of work, and I have put hundreds of hours of work into sites that do not rank as well as I want them to.
- How hard are your competitors working? If you are unsure track their current link count and their link growth. Also look for signs of public relation and the quality level of their inbound links.
- How big is their head start?
- How much are they investing?
- Are there ideas they forgot to focus on?
- Is your brand more focused than their brand?
- How much risk are you willing to take?
- Are competitors weighed down by bureaucracy?
- Are you more passionate about your topic than the leading websites? Eventually people will discover that, especially if you are not afraid to market yourself.
Ask not what your search results can do for you, but what you can do for your search results. :)
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