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How Long Does it Take to Get to the Top of Search Engines?

This is a question many of our clients ask. You want to be on the top of Google, but how long will it take? We will answer this question for you in this article.

First, let’s be clear that we are talking about getting you to the top of the organic (natural) search results, not the pay-per-click advertisements. With pay-per-click programs such as Google AdWords, Yahoo! Search Marketing, or Microsoft AdCenter, you can get to the top right away if you bid enough money. However, your web site will appear in the “paid advertisement” section, and studies show that only 25% of Internet users click on the paid or sponsored results versus 75% click on the organic search results. The reason is that people perceive the organic search results to be of higher quality, because you cannot “pay” your way there. Obviously, you can because this is what search engine optimization is all about – getting you to the top of the organic search results.

Second, let’s be clear that we are talking about getting you to the top for a relatively competitive keyword. Some keywords are obscure and very few people type them into search engines. For these uncompetitive keywords, you can get to the top of search engines fairly quickly. For our discussion, we are assuming that you are interested in being at the top for a highly desirable, highly competitive keyword. The more traffic a keyword gets, the more desirable and competitive it is, and the longer it takes to get to the top of search engines.

Finally, let’s be clear that we are talking about optimizing your web site. There are companies that optimize their own web site and get their web site to the top of Google. Think of it as a directory if you will. When you pay them, they simply put a link to your web site on their web site’s directory. When you stop paying them, they simply remove the link. This is not what we are talking about. We are talking about getting your web site to the top of search engines.

Okay. Now that we are clear, how long would it take to get your web site to the top of the organic search results for a competitive keyword? While individual situations vary, these are time frames our clients typically experience. For MSN / Bing rankings, it takes 2 to 3 months. For Yahoo rankings, it takes 3 to 4 months. Google is by far the most difficult search engine to rank high, but the amount of traffic Google brings to your site far outweighs the traffic of MSN and Yahoo combined.

Our primary focus is to help your site rank high on Google, but there is a caveat. Google has been known to hinder the rankings of new websites or pages until they have proven their viability to exist for a while. This is known as the “Google sandbox”. Assuming your web site is not completely new and receives no penalty from Google’s sandbox aging filter, it typically takes 4 to 8 months to get your web site to the first page of Google.

Getting to the top of the organic search results is not instantaneous, but it is an investment that pays for itself many times over. When you look at how many people search for a particular keyword every month, just know that they are either going to your web site, or your competitors’ web site. Which one will it be? The decision is yours.


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