How Long Does it Take to Rank in Google? How Many Hours do I Have to Work Each Day?

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. :)

Published: February 5, 2008 by Aaron Wall in Q & A


February 5, 2008 - 2:04am

I have a couple of sites I am trying to rank, make money while I sleep, and manage. I am learning pretty much everything on the fly, and Aaron I have certainly got maximum value from this book, which I continue to read. I am working about an hour a day with a free tech support website. I am about to begin a second site so I can be working on two at once, how much content should I have before I slow down with the content adding, or how much content should I be adding at what rate? These are all questions this raises. I read your blog every day, and thanks for keeping us updated.

February 5, 2008 - 3:24am

It is not just how much content but also the perceived value of the content and perceived content quality. A one page site can be more than enough to rank in some cases if it is a really useful tool aimed at a niche market. In other cases many strong ideas are needed to rank.

February 5, 2008 - 3:07am

Whether you're in real estate, comedy or seo. People who live out their passion in their work will see itself through people. Aaron, for the past eight months you have tickled my cerebellum in creating ideas (and managing it thank God)in ways i would have never done by myself. I won't even have to mention the improved rankings. But more importantly i believe im in the path of truly making a difference to my people. Makes life a lot more fun.

February 5, 2008 - 5:04am

if i post a link from my blog I typically see a new domain on google the next day (excluding weekends). as for ranking, it takes time.

February 5, 2008 - 5:27am only takes a day or two to get indexed if you get a link from a trusted site that gets crawled frequently.

February 6, 2008 - 6:21am

u saying that google trusts the content i post lol???

February 6, 2008 - 6:34am

Why not? They even trust this site, sometimes. :)

February 5, 2008 - 5:43am

Just a quick note to those who might be thinking "I can't wait a year for results":

I recently drafted up a one-page placeholder site for a client in niche market (Dental equipment installation / repair) and used the normal Google add a site link and signed up for the webmaster tools.

Within a week the site was listed front page on a wide range of targeted keywords, with several 1's and 2's. I haven't optimised, built links or advertised anywhere yet and the client is reeling with excitement from all the extra enquiries.

So in short, it is possible to rank no1 with about an hours work.

PS, the site was (just so you can see how basic it currently is)

February 5, 2008 - 9:38am

Google likes fresh content. I wouldn't be surprised to see those rankings slip as time goes on if the site stays in its current state.

February 5, 2008 - 8:24am

You made a point in the post "Keep launching quality original content". I have heard that based upon the PR adding content may not be beneficial because the overall PR of the site may not have enough weight to carry the additional pages of content.

Aaron what are your thoughts on this?

Thank you.

February 5, 2008 - 4:01pm

I tend to associate "of quality" with inspiring free inbound links and/or moving customers toward conversion. If you are doing either of those then the content should easily pay for itself.

February 5, 2008 - 9:36am

So the answer lies somewhere between 5 hours and 100 hours per month. Seems reasonable.

Good article. No 2 campaigns will be the same, but a little research upfront will go a long way in planning your time effectively.

February 5, 2008 - 10:55am

Not all, but most of the keywords I would like my sites to rank for are local in nature, there for putting me up against sites like superpages, servicemagic, yellowbook, and others. Is this a major disadvantage to me? I have been able to easly get ahead of them with exact match domains I have bought for mini sites that I don't do really work on. But I would like one site to compete against them. If you are looking into ranking one of your customers and you saw that all your competion was directories, would you be like, "this is going to be easy", or "we have a long road ahead".

In some way's I think it shouldn't be that hard just for the fact that in competative fields you don't see directories 1-10. You see sites people have spent time on and developed good content. The directories are no where to be found.~Dustin

February 5, 2008 - 4:06pm

I think the strategy is... Google is throwing the directory companies a crumb of traffic to help them cover their costs, while Google is also pushing to marginalize them by building out the local onebox.

February 5, 2008 - 12:04pm

For me, if you're passionate about your work, you will succeed. Things won't always be smooth, but you'll have the built-in motivation to keep working hard. Without passion, you'll need a heap of luck.

On the other hand, things that prevent success (IMHO):-

- people want a quick / easy solution; they don't want to be told that success online often means hard work, but that doesn't mean it has to be dull - it can be very interesting, but you need the passion in the first place

- connected to the above point, people choose a business model purely for the money, not for the passion - so it's a chore to keep a blog going, link build etc

- people get lazy, they stick affiliate links left right and centre as well as ads - their site starts too look very low quality and they lose even more interest when their income starts to drop

- there's no sense of "how would I feel as a visitor to this site? What's in it for me?" - more like "How can I get the most from my visitors?"

Overall, I think success can seem like an enigma if there's a lack of passion. I've been there, and I ended up viewing success purely in monetary terms. This is kind of alienating, and rather depressing to be honest. Now I have work I enjoy greatly, and success is much more than just earning money, it's coming up with new ideas, implementing them, seeing how people react, making people genuinely happy through helping them from my work and seeing THEM be successful.

February 6, 2008 - 1:02am

We rank with relatively static content as an ecommerce site.

anywho, I was wondering if you could shoot me an email at [myfirstname].bunsen[at]

Dave Keffen
February 6, 2008 - 6:21am

One of our older blogger blogs seems to work wonders when it comes to introducing new sites.

Normally it's only a couple of days at most before it shows up.

Surprisingly it's not a particularly high content blog and hasn't been nurtured like some of our sites, but it still brings home the bacon.

One important business site was ranking well for our search terms after only a week and a half. Others seem to have taken forever- not always in the more competitive sectors - go figure!

February 6, 2008 - 6:23am

Anyone else noticed the honeymoon period Google gives new domains? they appear pretty high up for target terms for a week to 2 weeks and then disappear... interesting!

February 6, 2008 - 6:40am

Most of my sites that end up ranking for great terms do not unrank without a big goof on my end or some sort of manual intervention on the part of a search engineer.

I am pretty aggressive with link building though.

February 6, 2008 - 12:41pm

It did help a little.

February 6, 2008 - 11:22pm

I had this same question asked to me today by the CEO that I did some minor work for. Just basic stuff like replacing headers that were in span tags with h1's and h2's, putting in alt tags, etc.

I was honest and said I didn't know. Unfortunately the site is in a very competitive search market which makes it tougher to even guess. I ended up saying "We'll have to see". Thankfully they are working on a link building campaign which should naturally help much more.

February 11, 2008 - 4:00pm

Thanks for the great posts, keep them coming. I had forgotten about the firefox seo extention, glad to be reminded.

March 13, 2008 - 3:32pm

This is about the most complete, easy to understand and accurate answer to this question that I've ever read. In a perfect example to what you call creating "compelling content" to get links for free, this is it. I will be linking to this page for sure.

Thanks for a great resource, Aaron.

Myrtle Beach, SC

April 18, 2008 - 6:11pm

I would like some feedback about an article I wrote about how SEO companies often charge too much without looking at the basics first.

It would be helpful for me and my readers to get responses and feedback from the SEO community about some of the points I make.


April 18, 2008 - 6:29pm

I think it depends on how much the SEO values their time. I have people asking me for more consulting than I have enough time to do @ $500/hr. Consider link building costs, etc. and $6,000 is not a lot of money.

But I agree that a company should pay for market research and/or some PPC marketing before spending on SEO implementation.

April 18, 2008 - 6:36pm

True - it all depends on what you charge.

Do you take a look or recommend the "under the hood" changes before the link building begins?

April 18, 2008 - 7:27pm

I charge for site reviews too. Formal ones where we do competitive analysis, etc. can start at $10,000 and up, but most the companies doing those are mid sized companies to big companies.

The two cheaper ways to get some access are a phone consult or via our online training program.

Some amount of link building might be done right away if it is seen as being in dire need. Not so much though for bigger sites that are just poorly using their PageRank via bad site structure.

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