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Sunday, October 31, 2010

A question I seem to be getting a lot these days has to do with search engine optimization (SEO) and how long it takes to see tangible results from your focused SEO campaigns. As is true with most things that are not directly in your control, the answer is, "it depends."

Now I know what you might be thinking.  My initial response may appear to be a bit of a lame answer but let me explain.  Ask the SEO experts how long it will take to acquire #1 rankings for a particular keyword and you probably won't get a direct answer.  In fact, some may not even respond at all.  This is because any experienced SEO knows that predicting when a site may achieve a particular ranking is suicide.

What happens if rankings come sooner... or later?  Although SEOs know the best way to improve a website's ranking for a particular keyword phrase, they can never predicts what Google is going to do and how long it will take them to do it. That being said there are a few guidelines to use when determining the competitiveness of a particular keyword phrase.  

Assuming you apply some of the basic SEO best practices such as keyword research, on page optimization and off page optimization techniques (link building), you can judge the competitiveness of a keyword by:

1.  The Google PR of sites ranked in the top search result positions. The higher their Google Page Rank the more difficult it will be to outrank them.
2.  The Age of the domain for the top ranked search results.  If the top positions are controlled by sites that have been around for a while, this is another sign of strength.
3.  The number of inbound links to the top ranked web sites for your keyword phrase.  Quality inbound links are directly correlated to rankings.  The more sites linking in to the top positions the more difficult they'll be to outrank.
4.  Number of competing sites.  This number which is displayed by Google when completing a search shows how many other sites have the keyword you're searching for.  The greater the number the more competitive the term may be.
5.  The number of monthly searches.  Generally, terms with higher search volumes are more competitive from a ranking perspective.  Not always but generally.  If you're researching a frequently searched term, chances are that many strong websites are competing for the top rankings.

Now that you have a better understanding of ranking factors, you probably understanding why predicting top search results is difficult.  In my experience, top results can happen anywhere between 30 days and 12 months.  It largely depends on how competitive the term is; how long competing sites have ranked in the top positions; and their relative strength - based on the factors noted above.

Given the complexity of rankings in general and the explanation above, you should have a better understanding of how difficult it is to determine how long it will take to achieve top rankings for a particular keyword.  So the next time someone asks you how long it will take to achieve #1 rankings, you can let them know that it really all depends!


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