One of the common issues we, and SEOs in general, face when proposing work to potential clients and also for existing clients is that they want results immediately or in the case of existing clients they become impatient and want to know why a site is ranking after X months.

It is an understandable problem, if you have just paid for a brand new website you may of paid thousands of pounds and you want to be getting a return on your investment as fast as possible.

Let’s say we have just developed a website called selling Mobile Phones. Luckily we decided to take SEO into account when developing the site and we have an excellent site with keyword rich titles, unique descriptions, proper use of headers, and a text link based navigation that avoids duplicate content.

Then surely it is a realistic expectation to rank for “Mobile Phones” right?

Granted the term Mobile Phones is quite hard to rank for no matter what, but I couldn’t think of an example off the top of my head for a medium competitive term. However let’s say yes it is a realistic expectation, now the problem is why doesn’t that site rank for the term in 3-6 months?

If we look some of the top ranking sites for Mobile Phones we have o2, onestopphoneshop, directphoneshop, dialaphone and currently has 90,620 external links pointing to the domain so surely if I got 90,621 links pointing to we would rank for “Mobile Phones” yeah?

No unfortunately not. Apart from the fact that not all links are born equal (10 good links might be better than 1000 spammy links) Google looks at other factors beyond what links you gain and how optimised your site it.

One of the main things Google is trying to avoid is web spam. A common feature of spammy websites is new domains and websites that have been live for a very short period of time. This therefore means Google likes older domains and websites that have been around for a long time.

If we look at it was registered in 1998 and has an internet archive dating back to 1999 with the earliest archive being a site selling mobile phones. Therefore it is safe to assume this site will not be spam and deserves to rank higher than my brand new domain with no history.

The other factor that needs to be taken into account is the age of the back links themselves. Google is going to be mighty suspicious if my brand new website suddenly gets 90,621 links over 3 months so therefore it won’t rank the site for the chosen key term.

It is hard to identify the age of the links to but if they have been acquiring keyword rich links from 1998 and these links have remained in place then it is clear to Google that this site but be about Mobile Phones and therefore deserve to rank for it.

The simplest analogy would be someone applying for a £150,000 a year job when s/he only has 6 months experience. Yes in theory the individual may have the skills to do the job but are you going to trust s/he is telling the truth? Someone with 10 years experience in a well known company would (in theory) a much safer option as s/he has a proven track record.

Obviously we are not suggesting it will take 10 years to get a site ranking however if you have a new website and new domain and want to compete in a competitive market it takes time, you need to prove to Google you deserve that position.

One of the main driving forces behind this issue is SEO companies claiming to achieve rankings in days, weeks or a few months. Yes it is feasible that you will get some long tail rankings in this time I am confident it wouldn’t take me that long to rank for “Cheap Nokia E90 Communicator Smartphone” however what benefit will that ever for a website?

SEO is a long term investment, with long term results. It takes time and money but in the end if it is done properly it will have a better return on investment than pay per click or traditional marketing techniques.

Why SEO takes time and effort

Some further reading:

SEO Is Not a One-Time Fix by Chris Boggs. Recommends that enterprise level contracts should be 3 years minimum

Search Engine Ranking Factors by SEOMoz. A guide of rankings factors including sections about the age of document, age of site, historical performance of the site, and age of links.

Link Value Factors by Wiep. Another excellent guide this time focussing on the factors involved in determining the value of a link. This also references age of the link and age of the domain.

Unrealistic SEO Expectations by Dolphin Promotions. Why ranking for highly competitive terms when you are not directly in that market can be unrealistic, and why focussing on increasing conversions is much more profitable