As an SEO agency working with clients in the Detroit area and beyond, we’re regularly asked about the importance of keyword rankings. How am I ranking for keyword xyz? How do I get ranked for keyword xyz? These questions are easy to answer but difficult to explain in the few minutes you have in a conversation.
So in short, the answer requires a much more in depth explanation.
The questions are merited, but we sometimes shudder at the thought of how we can explain this process that works to the benefit of the client.
First, let me say that keyword rankings should only be used as a gauge as to the true opportunity that exists in your market. It’s fairly easy to rank for a keyword by optimizing it on the site (providing it’s not a highly competitive keyword and the domain is somewhat aged). To rank for hundreds or thousands of keywords that people actually use to search should be the end-game and is a long-term mindset.
So below, are the four phases, based on our experience, of how Google’s indexing and ranking process works. Note there is subjectivity to the answers; they will undoubtedly vary based on the experiences of the SEO.
Phase I: First Starting Out | Month 1 ~ 3
When a site is first introduced or launched to Google, you will go through a “sandbox period” where you must prove to Google that your site is a trustworthy and a viable member of your niche.
This concept has evolved over the years and is continually changing. But in my opinion still exists and probably will always exist.
A Googlebot is simply search software that Google uses to send out to collect information about your website (and all of the websites on the Internet). Google may or may not read all of your content in one fallow swoop, and most times doesn’t. It depends on many factors, including what you allow into your site (bots), optimization factors, etc. After Google gets your site in it’s scope however, the magic is about to happen.
Providing you create consistent content and optimize that content, while gaining a few links along the way, it can take anywhere between 1-3 months to get Google’s attention and where you can begin to rank your site for keywords (long-tail), depending on the competitiveness of the niche. This is explained more in the next phases.
Phase II: Building of Google’s Index is Developed Over Time | Month 2 ~ 4
After you’ve passed the sandbox period, you can now get down to serious business to actually rank for keywords. Remember you can still rank for a few keywords here and there in phase I. But phase II is where your site develops a “relationship” with Google and the site begins to rank for keywords. And that’s only part of it. Let me explain.
As mentioned in Phase II, Google bots come to your website over days, weeks, and months. However, the Google searchable index is developed over time. Google Index is really the “potential ranking” of your site.
Furthermore, that’s why information such as Title tags, Description tags, ALT attributes are so important during the indexing process. Google bots spend only a fraction of time on your site, and surely does not rank your content only once. This happens over days, weeks, months, and years; it never ends.
Phase III: Google Ranks the Indexable Content of Your Site | Month 3 ~ 9
Google’s indexes sites based on over 200 factors and counting, with many having up to 5 variations; most are not disclosed either. This phase takes time to unfold.
Indexing is the process of locating and mapping resources around the web that are associated with a word or phrase, and it is something the search engines do in all phases, but do in earnest after trust is built (phase III and beyond).
Once documents are processed, they are added to Google’s searchable index. During indexing, Google processes the words on your pages, posts, looks at internal linking structure, external linking structure, and hundreds of other factors and then decides on the fate of your site. You can control that fate with a good strategy.
Phase IV: Building Your Website’s Presence and Authority | Month ~ 8 and Beyond
Okay, now that your website is built, indexed, ranking, and maintained in Google’s vast database, real ranking of keywords comes to the forefront. But here’s the catch-22. Ranking for one, two, or 10 keywords is only part of the process and should not be the end goal. Let me explain.
Google paces your website through a series of stages to build up trust and determines user value over a course of time. If you are tracking 10 keywords, you may find yourself ranking for a few or even all 10 in the previous phases. But there is a much more important piece.
Ranking for every, or nearly every, keyword, short-tail, mid-tail, and long-tail keywords is developed over time, and that is the key to exponentially increasing your overall traffic volume.
This is where the rubber meets the road and floods of keyword rankings are attained.
It is important in this phase more than any other perhaps, to build consistent, quality content and to optimize that content with zest. This must be done over the long haul. No stopping and starting. This is where site and page builds authority, and is where you truly start ranking for not only your targeted keywords, but for nearly EVERY keyword of your niche!
So in summary, we want to emphasize that ranking for a few keywords is only a fraction of the race to the virtual finish line (and the race never ends).
Obtaining a real presence in your niche is really dependent on following through the phases mentioned here, and do it with a long-term attitude in mind. It is at this point where focus shifts from keyword ranking to analytics, managing what keywords are actually converting.
If you want to become an organic authority in your niche, consistent pressure on the content gas pedal must be maintained. And if you do… you will be handsomely rewarded with traffic beyond your dreams.
Let Aqaba Technologies take your site to greater heights with powerful SEO strategies for your business.
By Dan DeRoeck