Acquiring backlinks to content is an effective way to help articles rank.
Multiple Search Engine Optimization studies have shown a clear relationship between the number of links a page has and where it ranks for a keyword on Google.
But the SEO benefits from backlinks don’t happen instantly.
It takes time for Google to crawl pages, find links pointing to your site, and then pass on the authority to your pages.
While not seeing instant results can be frustrating, waiting is an essential part of the game.
Remember that while it can take months to see an impact from link building, it typically takes a lot longer to rank without it.
It Takes 11 Months to Hit Peak Traffic from Link Building
In our experience, an average page targeting a relatively competitive keyword will see ranking increases from link building in two to six months.
The answer is more complex than this, though. The ranking increases may start soon after generating the link but take time to materialize fully. You’ll rarely want just to generate a single link, so the effect of your campaign will build up over time.
Refresher - What are backlinks?
Backlinks are links pointing to a page on a website from a different site. Google uses backlinks as part of its algorithm to decide which pages to rank for keywords. The theory is that because sites link to helpful content, a page’s link profile will hint at its quality.
Here is an example of a link building campaign we ran and how long it took.
Drifted.com hired us to build links to its content. One of the pages we selected was a profile of drift racer Keiichi Tsuchiya.
The site published the page in October. At the time we came on board it was receiving around 300 search traffic visits per month.
We started sending links to the page in March and quickly amassed around 20 links.
Over the following months, traffic kept increasing to the page as it improved its ranking for more and more keywords. Traffic doubled to around 600 visits per month by July, and it ended up receiving a high of 937 monthly views in February the following year.
So to answer the question, after starting to build links to the page it took:
- Around one month to generate 100 more organic visits.
- Three months to double to around 600 monthly organic visits.
- Eleven months to hit peak traffic.
During this time, overall traffic to the site also increased significantly. It went from around 6,000 visits in April to over 80,000 in January. And we’re pleased to say that the site’s success has continued. It now gets over 300,000 monthly organic visits.
Not all the results can be directly attributed to the link juice we sent to that single page.
The page’s age and increases to the site’s domain authority will have played a part. But the links were undoubtedly impactful.
Why So Long?
It would make sense that you should see a jump in traffic as soon as you receive a link. After all, nothing changes in the months after you attract a link.
But it’s not that simple. There are several reasons why it takes time for a backlink campaign to affect your ranking.
Time to Index
The first factor is that Google’s algorithm needs to find your link in the first place. It can only start bumping you up the search engine results when it finds these links.
The time it takes for the search giant to discover links varies.
If the site linking to you is an established high DR publisher that is frequently updated, it won’t take long for the Google crawlers to discover the link—just days or even hours.
But if your link is on a new, low DR site that the algorithm doesn’t crawl as often, it may take far more time.
If the search engine algorithm likes your link and your content, it may decide your page is worth a higher place in the Google search results.
The size of any ranking increase you receive will depend on many factors.
For example, if your page is currently languishing far away from the first page of Google, you may see a significant increase quite early on.
Pages that already rank highly have less room to move. But a jump from position four to position one can be just as valuable (or even more so) as a move from page four to page one.
The total increase a link provides doesn’t happen all at once.
The Google algorithm gradually increases the exposure of a page to higher search engine rankings and more keywords.
This happens as it figures out what the page is about and how people interact with it compared to other competing pages.
If Google’s algorithm thinks people enjoy your page and you keep generating links, you may see continual ranking and traffic increases.
Take the example below.
We were hired to build links to a relocation company website. One of the strategies we used was to create a guide to employee relocation that we would build links to.
Once we published the page we slowly built links over 6 months. We saw gradual increases throughout this time.
You can see in the Google Search Console screenshot below that there was quite a drastic initial jump in September 2020. The site went from almost zero daily impressions to around 600.
The page then continued to rise. It took almost nine months before it consistently ranked in the top four for its target keywords.
And we hope it hasn’t finished rising yet!
By continuing to build links and improving the on-page experience, we’ll keep pushing the page higher and higher.
What Factors Influence How Long Link Building Takes?
The results in the above examples are typical of what we see when link building.
But no two campaigns produce the same results at the same speed—it could be faster, or it could be slower.
There are plenty of factors that play a part in the speed of your link building efforts.
Here is a look at some of the most important.
The Type of Link Building Campaign You Choose
The type of link building strategy you choose will significantly impact how long it takes to see results. The reason being that different backlink strategies take different amounts of time to plan and implement.
Why Not Just Build Links in the Fastest Way Possible?
In many instances, especially for new websites, it's going to be unnatural to build a huge volume of links very fast, and oftentimes unnecessary for smaller local businesses.
There are many other reasons why you may choose not to build links in the fastest way possible. While a well-planned linkable asset campaign may take longer to generate its first link than a niche edit or guest posting link building campaign, it also has the potential to get far more links at a low cost.
You’ll also have to consider your industry, strengths, and the time you have to dedicate to link building.
It's certainly important to map out your budget and costs for link building, as things can start getting expensive rather fast.
Say you decide to generate links to a linkable asset on your site.
You’ll have to:
- Plan the asset.
- Create the asset.
- Build a list of contacts to share it with.
- Email these websites.
- Negotiate with them.
- Wait for them to set the link live.
- Keep building links over time.
Depending on the type of asset you want to create, it could take a month or longer from the moment you decide to start building links to the first one going live. And you could keep attracting links for months (or longer) after that.
💡 Creating linkable content assets
Well-produced pages aren’t only more likely to rank on Google. They are also easier to build backlinks to, as people like to reference quality content.
Here’s an example:
When Identity Guard hired us to generate links for them, we decided that “Dark Web Monitoring” would be a good keyword to target.
But we knew that to rank, we would first have to create an exceptional piece of content. Being well-written wouldn’t be enough. We’d also have to design the page so it stood out from the competition and provided a fantastic user experience.
The piece we ended up producing was 5,000 words of in-depth content on a complicated topic. It contains custom graphics and CSS elements to help it stand out.
It took weeks to plan the page, commission writers and designers, and then ultimately publish it.
The page went live in March, and we started building links right away. Search rankings increased, and traffic began to trickle in during April and May. It wasn’t until June—around five months after we settled on the target keyword—that we saw real results.
There are ways we could have sped up the process.
Linking to a page that is already published would remove the time it took to plan and create the content.
The downside is that the campaign may have been less successful without a high-quality, recently published piece.
It could also have taken longer. Building free web tools is a common type of linkable asset that can generate tons of links when done well. But these tools require lots of work and can take months to get right.
Each of the top link building strategies has a bottleneck that will affect how quickly you can generate links.
Here are some of the most common ones.
- Guest posting relies on how quickly you can find and negotiate with suitable publications, write your guest posts, and then push them through the publishing website’s editorial process.
This could take anything from weeks to months, depending on the site. We find that higher-quality publishers have stricter editorial standards and more hoops to jump through to get guest posts published.
- HARO or PR links are reliant on the journalist writing the article selecting your contribution.
Those experienced in PR will typically place comments quickly, especially if they have genuine expertise in a subject matter that generates many HARO requests.
Those who are inexperienced can spend months replying to requests before one of their comments gets selected—if it ever does.
It also takes time (sometimes weeks) for your comment to go from being chosen to the article going live.
- Niche edits is a great link building strategy to generate links fast—especially if you are willing to pay.
Links generated in this way typically go live quickly once you have found a website willing to link to you and negotiated with the site owner.
The biggest bottleneck tends to be finding suitable websites. It’s becoming harder and harder to find quality sites that will link to your page.
Of course, if you're willing to buy backlinks, you can significantly increase the volume of inbound links which will help speed the process up.
The Linking Site’s Domain Metrics
Let’s assume you’ve gone through the above process and have a live link pointing to a page on your site.
Now it’s just a case of waiting for Google’s algorithm to see the link and then pass on the authority to your page.
You won’t be surprised to hear that the authority of the linking site plays a significant role in the time required for backlinks to take effect.
Google’s ranking algorithm typically crawls established, authoritative sites more often than new ones without a reputation. This means it is likely to discover links on high-domain authority sites faster than those on less authoritative sites.
Backlinks from high domain authority sites are also more impactful than those from sites with a low DR. This means these links may provide a bigger boost, making it appear like your strategy is working faster.
The Number of Links You Get
A link-building campaign rarely aims to attract just a single link. The more links you build to your pages, the bigger the impact is likely to be.
When you generate a high number of links, you are also making it more likely that Google will notice some of them faster.
Results typically come quickest if you are able to attract a high number of links from authoritative web pages.
Mattress buyers guide website Eachnight is an excellent example of how attracting good links at scale can bring rapid results.
The company built up an impressive backlink profile by promoting a job where it would pay people $1,500 to nap. This worked because it is precisely the type of story that can go viral and generate easy clicks, meaning many news websites were happy to cover it.
In around a month, the page attracted hundreds of links from high-authority websites. It appears to have given the site a huge search engine rankings boost.
Eachnight.com Link Building Metrics
- Over 1,500 links to a single page
- 588 referring domains in a month
- Many high DR links
- Overall monthly traffic to the site shot up by almost 30,000 visits.
The press first picked up the job offer in mid-to-late April. Ahrefs first recorded a link to the page on April 22.
After this first link, the article quickly generated more and more referring domains.
By mid-May, it had over 1,500 links from 588 domains, including high DR sites like FoxNews (DR 90), Newsweek (DR 90), and NY Post (DR 90).
It’s still early days, but it seems like the site is already reaping the benefits of the campaign.
The page has gone from getting six monthly organic visits on April 26—four days after the first backlink to 146 organic visits on May 26—a month and a day after the first backlink.
This is a good increase. But the owners didn’t go to the trouble of creating the campaign to get 140 more organic visits per month.
Especially when you consider that visits to the page in question won’t generate much revenue—just a lot of admin work from all the job applications the site will have to sort through.
More impressive is the massive jump in overall traffic the website saw in the month since it received its first backlink to the nap page.
Sitewide traffic as measured by Ahrefs has more than tripled. It went from 13,851 visits on April 20 to 43,189 visits on May 23. That’s a 30,000 traffic increase in just over a month!
And much of this traffic is coming from potentially lucrative keywords like:
- King size bed (position 7)
- California king vs. king (position 6)
- Best adjustable beds (position 10)
- California king vs. queen (position 1)
We don’t know exactly which ranking and traffic increases were specifically due to that particular campaign. The site was already on the way up following a huge (and sudden) decline in traffic at the end of 2020.
But the increases after the links went live suggest it helped somewhat. And that it made a difference very quickly.
The content you build your link to has a huge impact on your ranking. It can be the difference between your link building strategies having a fast impact and not.
Let’s consider two examples:
- A campaign that generates links to a high-quality piece of content that is better than its competitors and optimized for SEO.
- An equivalent campaign that generates links to a poorly produced, unoptimized piece of content on a slow, unprofessional website.
Even if the first and second campaigns end up with the same backlink profile, the ranking impact would be much higher in the first campaign.
This is because links are just one part of what Google looks for when ranking content.
You also need well-produced, SEO-optimized content, the right target keywords, a good website experience, and more.
If you don’t have this down, your efforts won’t be anywhere near as effective as they could be.
The Keywords You Target
Your target keywords and the authority of the sites and pages that already rank plays a huge part in how long it takes to see results.
Let’s say a new fitness website wants to rank for “Best Bicep Exercises.” It will take months or years of consistently building your site’s authority through links and content before you even stand a chance of ranking for this search term.
That’s because the sites that already occupy the top pages have years of authority and links.
The top-ranking site has 290 backlinks, and the lowest in the top five has 80. The sites also all have very high domain ratings.
Unless you can already compete with these numbers, progress from a link-building campaign will be slow.
This doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth building links to rank for high competition keywords.
In fact, this is a strategy that can generate serious revenue when done well. You just need to be prepared to take a long-term view.
One of our clients is a software company called SentryOne. The owners wanted to rank higher for a valuable commercial keyword.
When we started, their page ranked eighth and had zero inbound links. We built 22 links to the page over five months. After six months, the article began to rank in positions one to three for many of its target keywords.
This resulted in a significant organic traffic increase, as you can see in the Google Search Console screenshot below.
The point is that we didn’t just generate one or two links and then wait to see what would happen. We continually looked for opportunities, as we knew that in time we’d succeed.
And the results were significant. The main keyword for this search term has an average paid CPC of $100. By generating significantly more clicks on this term, the site is getting thousands of dollars’ worth of traffic at no extra cost—showing why building links is such a cost-effective online marketing strategy.
If you want faster results, target lower competition keywords.
A handful of links pointing to your site (when combined with quality content) may be enough to get you to the upper positions fairly quickly for some of these search terms.
Look at the sites that rank for “bodyweight bicep exercise no bar” in the image below.
The keyword is topped by a DR 28 site with just 11 backlinks. And the other pages that rank aren’t necessarily even great matches for searcher intent.
It’s thus much more reasonable to think your site could rank for this keyword in a short period with a fairly modest link generation campaign.
Your Page’s Current Ranking on Search Engines
Your page’s current ranking impacts how much of an influence a backlink has. If your page isn’t on page one, a single backlink may push you up the rankings significantly.
Moz found that after 17 weeks, the average article on the second page of Google jumped ten places after gaining a link. This compares to a jump of just one place for those already on the first page.
This is because competition for the lower rankings isn’t as tough as for the top ones. And these pages obviously have much more room to improve.
If you’re already on page one, you may need significant link profile increases to see an effect. This typically takes longer than attracting a single link.
How Old Your Website Is
Your website’s age plays a part in how long a link generation campaign takes to show results.
The “Google Sandbox” is a much-debated concept that suggests new websites are suppressed by Google for a length of time until they have proven their quality.
The “sandbox” may or may not exist. But it is definitely the case that brand-new sites rarely rank for all but the most uncompetitive keywords.
The good news is that while building links during the early stages of your site’s existence might not push it to the top of rankings right away, it can signal to a search engine that your site is valuable and speed up the ranking process.
The Type of Link
Not all links are created equal. The final point is whether your link is a nofollow link or a regular link. Nofollow links are those which the linking site has told Google’s algorithm to ignore.
This means that generating nofollow links won’t have much of an effect on your website. Spending time building these links is unlikely to be an optimal use of your time.
Low-quality, spammy links such as forum links, blog comments, directory links (if done wrong), and social links are also unlikely to increase your site’s rankings.
Instead, focus on generating high-quality links from authoritative publications if you want fast results.
How Long Does It Take for Domain Authority to Increase?
So far, this article has assumed that the goal of your link building strategy is to see ranking and traffic increase.
While this is almost always the case, many SEOs use domain metrics from tools like Moz and Ahrefs to track their backlink efforts.
Thus, you may want to know how long it will take for a link to increase your domain authority.
The time it takes for you to see your domain and page authority increase will depend on when their crawlers next index the site.
For example, Ahrefs says it takes around two months to recrawl its entire database, so you should expect links to show up in this timeframe.
High DR sites are crawled multiple times in this period. They may show up far faster. On the other hand, the algorithm won’t even crawl some smaller sites—so you won’t see any rating increase at all in these cases.
Remember that neither Domain Authority nor Domain Rating impacts your search engine ranking. It’s just a helpful guide to see how you compare to other sites.
Impact on Page vs. Impact on Overall Site
When considering how long link building takes it’s worth thinking about the impact a good campaign can have on your overall site, not just a single page you are targeting.
Let’s go back to the example of Drifted.com that we featured at the start of the article.
We mentioned that it took several months before the page we targeted started to see big traffic increases.
But building links to the site had other positive impacts.
Overall traffic to the site rose significantly. And new content started to rank in the top five almost immediately after it was published. This is despite us not building any links to these articles.
Be Patient with Your Link Building Efforts
It’s important to be both patient and realistic when setting goals for your campaign. It takes time for backlinks to take effect but results are typically worth it.
Try to plan for your campaign to take at least a few months to generate real results. And don’t just generate links and then move onto something else. Link generation should be a continual process.
Remember that you tend to get out what you put in.
A single link from a site without much authority is unlikely to make much of a difference to your rankings. But multiple links from authoritative sites almost always will.
And always be aware that link building is just one part of the overall ranking process.
You’ll also need to have a well-implemented content and organic SEO strategy, including keywords, internal link building, and on-page optimization.
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