If you’re doing client SEO, I guess every new client, without any exceptions, will ask you this question:
“How long till my website (page) ranks on top of Google?”
The common response to this question is obviously, “It depends,” because there are just too many variables to consider: website strength, competition, budget, skills, etc.
But here at Ahrefs, we decided to sift through the petabytes of historical ranking data that we have and give you a slightly more quantifiable answer, something more concrete than simply, “It depends.”
How old are the top-ranking pages?
For starters, we identified how old the current top-ranking pages are.
We took 2 million random keywords and pulled data on the Top10 ranking pages for each of them. Which resulted in this beautiful graph:
The “age” is calculated from the date when Ahrefs crawlers first saw the page. But since we crawl the web at a pretty staggering speed, the actual age of the page should be very close, if not identical, to our records.
As you can tell from this graph, the average Top10 ranking page is 2+ years old. And those that rank at position #1 are almost 3 years old (on average).
In fact, only 22% of pages that currently rank in the Top10 were created within 1 year:
So the next thing we wanted to know is what percentage of pages at each ranking position were less than 1 year old:
This doesn’t look too promising, right? The SERP is clearly dominated by “old” pages.
How long does it take for a page to rank in Google?
To answer this question, we randomly selected 2 million pages that were first seen by Ahrefs crawler a year ago.
We then tracked the position history of each page for any keyword it’s ranked for.
Which resulted in this graph:
Only 5.7% of all studied pages ranked in the Top10 search results within 1 year for at least 1 keyword.
Pages from websites with a high Domain Rating (DR) performed way better than those with a low DR. Which shouldn’t come as a surprise, because Ahrefs’ Domain Rating metric (shows the strength of a website’s backlink profile) correlates well with Google rankings.
We then zoomed into these 5.7% of “lucky” pages to see how quickly they got from nowhere to the Top10.
The majority of them managed to achieve that in approximately 61–182 days.
By looking at this graph, you might think that, on average, it takes a page anywhere from 2–6 months to rank in Google’s Top10.
But that conclusion isn’t valid here, because this data only represents the 5.7% of pages that were lucky enough to rank in the Top10 within a year — while almost 95% of all the pages we studied didn’t make it to the Top10 within that timeframe.
We also re-calculated the numbers based on monthly search volume of the keywords:
Only 0.3% of pages ranked in the Top10 for a high-volume keyword in less than a year.
And here are the dynamics of these 5.7% “lucky” pages, broken down by search volume of the keyword that they ranked for:
Clearly, you can rank for low-volume keywords in a very short time, while the high-volume ones take almost a year to get into the Top10.
But again, don’t forget that this data only applies to 5.7% of “lucky” pages that ranked in the Top10 within a year. The vast majority of pages don’t perform that well.
What does this all mean?
Did our study give a definite answer to “how long does it take to rank” question?
But at least we’ve shown that almost 95% of newly published pages don’t get to the Top10 within a year.
And most of the “lucky” ones, which do manage to get there, do it in about 2–6 months.
Actually, I shouldn’t be framing these pages as “lucky,” because the reason they got to the Top10 in less than a year is most likely hard work and great knowledge of SEO, not luck.
Check out these tips from Sam Oh if you want to rank #1 in Google quicker:
Here’s to hard work and dedication!
PS: let me know what you think about our findings and what else would you like us to study.