How Long Do SEO Rankings Last?

13 Oct

How Long Do SEO Rankings Last?

I get #1 in Google, fire the seo company, how long will that ranking stay there?

This is probably the most asked question that every search professional has to address. It’s a bit scary since it poses the potential of a client leaving you, or if they know they have a budget that will be running out, they want to see how much value they will get.

And to be fair, it is a legitimate question that every client should ask. I know I would be asking this question if the situation were reversed!

So, imagine you get your main keyphrase ranked number one in Google and it’s doing everything you thought it would – delivering traffic, qualified buyers and brand recognition to your site. So much that a decision is made that since the site has the top spot, the seo efforts are no longer needed.

Big mistake.

As I mentioned in my You Have A #1 ranking in Google, Now What? article, you have to put in effort to maintain that hard earned ranking.

So if you decide to do nothing, how long could you expect to keep that spot?

Short answer – Anywhere from a few days to many months. It’s really dependant on the competitiveness of that top ranked phrase.

So what are the factors that determine the length of your stay at the top?

  • 1.) How competitive the phrase is
  • 2.) What the competitors are doing
  • 3.) What they did to get ranked
  • 4.) Algorithm changes
  • 5.) What types of links the search engines like

Let’s break down each one to see how it impacts the length of time.

1. How competitive the phrase is.
If you are going after “slippers” the competition is a lot fiercer than “size 6 women’s purple slippers”. Retaining that ranking will take continuous effort every month to remain at the top. On the other end, the long tail phrases don’t need as much to retain their rankings, but should still get some link love on a regular basis.

2.) What the competitors are doing.
If reach the top of the mountain and decide to stop, it won’t take much to get you knocked out. Your competitor is most likely very active in getting links to their site. There are many ways to earn links – Articles, blog participation, press releases, videos, podcasts, white papers, forums, pdf’s, tweets and participation in the social space.

3.) What they did to get ranked.
There are many ways to get a site ranked. Some sites naturally have a lot of content so a steady diet of people linking to them is common. (Think If it’s an e-commerce site, the search pro might have got them listed in some shopping directories that pass along trust in Google’s algorithm. Maybe the search pro went old school and spent a ton of time social engineering college students to link from their juicy .edu profile pages. It’s just about endless to the ways of getting links, one just needs to be resourceful.

4.) Algorithm changes.
Part of the game is to figure out what Google looks for as a “quality signal” of a link pointing to another one. As we in the industry have always suspected and Google recently confirmed, the speed that your site loads up is a factor in the rankings. Another metric? If you are ranked #1 for your phrase when people search on Google but quickly return for another search (via the back button in their browser) that tells Google that your site isn’t what they are looking for. Remember, Google’s became king by delivering the best results faster than everyone else – follow those rules and you should be able to use common sense to know what the search giant is looking at when deciding what site should earn that top spot.

5.) What types of links the search engines like.
Let’s take a trip down memory lane. When seo was in it’s infancy, reciprocal links were the magic bullet to top rankings. Then came the directory listings spree we all were on for a little while. Next came blogs with the ability to leave your anchor text hyper link right in the comments section of said blog. Forums were also great places to do this as well. Currently, the most powerful links are from the social type sites that include an element of freshness that Google loves.

I’m sure there are other factors in play that I haven’t covered, but from my experience, these are the top factors that determine the stay at the top of the serps when/if you decide to stop going after that phrase.

And as William Feather once said: “A budget tells us what we can’t afford, but it doesn’t keep us from buying it.”

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