A common question I hear from customers is “when will I see strong rankings from my SEO work?” That’s a good question, and there are several reasons why SEO is more “process” than “event”. Let’s take it step-by-step and break down why SEO campaigns take a little time to develop their full power.
Getting Links Takes Time
First of all, securing inbound links takes time. A typical white hat SEO campaign will involve writing to other websites and web directories and inviting those other websites to link to our own. Without an SEO campaign, links from other websites take years to develop naturally. One way of looking at an SEO campaign is a process that accelerates what would occur naturally. And, as we all know, inbound links are counted by all great search engines as a “vote”–sites with inbound links are deemed stronger, and hence are ranked better.
This process of writing to other websites takes time. Even if you or your SEO consultant completed say, 100 requests in a day, the webmasters of those 100 other sites may not get around to answering immediately. I have received messages back from other websites over a year after I have made the link request. So, you’ll get some links quickly, and some links will take much longer. The good news is that when you do undertake link requests, you can reasonably expect that your requests will bear fruit down the road, and it’s good to know that you’ve got some links that will be coming in months down the road. It’s like saving for a rainy day.
Once You Get an Inbound Link, It Takes Time for That Link to Be Indexed
Now, let’s assume that a few weeks have passed, and you have secured 50 valuable inbound links from 50 great websites all pointing to yours; remember, you requested 100 and you will never get every link you ask for so this example might even be very rosy. Some webmasters will never answer your request, and some will not link back for whatever reason.
But, so far so good, you have some links pointing into your site.
But wait–Google and Yahoo may not get around to indexing those 50 pages for days or weeks. Google will generally index most sites in 3 to 4 weeks; Yahoo takes quite a bit longer, and MSN longer still (as these 2nd tier search engines improve their technology, look for their indexing speed to catch up; they are slow to index and they know it). And, until the search engines update their indexes of the pages that link to your site, it’s as if the link doesn’t exist.
And if that wasn’t complicated enough, search engines are not slaves to webmasters–search engines do not index every page they find. So, even if Google comes upon a web page with a link to your site, it may index that page immediately, it may return a few times before the page is indexed. In that case, some links may take months to be indexed.
Only after your link is indexed do you enjoy the inbound linking power that that site gives you.
The Sites that Link to You Have to Wait for Their Links Too
And, don’t forget that the sites that link to you are “living” websites too. The strength of their web presence is based upon the links that they receive–and that landscape is constantly changing. When your site is new, the sites willing to link to you are going to tend to be new as well. As such, the inbound linking power of the sites that link to you will tend to be on the lite side. However, those sites will grow into stronger sites as they age, and then the inbound links that you enjoy from other sites will rise with that tide.
The Sandbox Effect
And then, of course, there is the sandbox effect. The sandbox effect refers to the phenomenon of a temporary ranking penalty applied to newer websites that undergo rapid expansion in either size or inbound links. The effect is fiercely debated and never conclusively proven either for or against.
Google’s informal mouthpiece, Google employee Matt Cutts, has publicly stated: “[t]here are some things in the algorithm that may be perceived as a sandbox that doesn’t apply to all industries.” Mr. Cutts’ statements are carefully crafted, frustratingly rare, and are widely regarded as extremely reliable.
And so, the sandbox effect may serve to temporarily dampen the effects of any promotional campaign that you undertake.
The lesson? Patience.