Ranking in the Search Engines: Why It Takes So Long

There are many factors that determine your site’s authority, trust and general ranking. One of them is Google’s PageRank, though not everyone subscribes to this theory. I believe Google PR has a great deal of value as a metric for gauging the success of your blog. That’s especially true since many ad networks and “pay per review” services determine your earnings per unit using PR, amongst other metrics.

Google PR itself is determined by several factors. This is a very light treatment of Google PageRank (PR) and should not be construed as gospel. I don’t profess to know the entire algorithm as its nuances are a mystery to most outside of the search engine team, no doubt. But a general look at how PR is built up should help you understand why some new blogs take longer to rank than others. If history is any indicator, you have less than 90 days before the next PR rollout, so your link building efforts should start now, especially if you have a new blog.

Understanding PR buildup will also help you understand some of the reasons why your new blog is taking so long to get web traffic. I’m trying not to clutter the discussion with too much technical description. What’s important is that PR can be used as a loose, relative measure of success. It’s not enough in and of itself, but it’s something concrete. Here’s a loose summary of my thoughts on PR.

  1. PR is valuable.
    I am of the opinion (despite claims from other SEOs) that increasing your Google PR helps increase your traffic because you CAN rank higher for certain keywords/ phrases in the Google SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). This is important since Google dominates search traffic in most parts of the world. Thus, increasing your PR draws more traffic, some of which may be bloggers. So if your content is linkworthy, then it will eventually draw links.

  2. PR uses graph theory.
    The graph theory branch of mathematics studies the link relationship between nodes in a graph. The web is one of the biggest natural graphs in existence, if not the biggest. Web pages are the graph nodes and hyperlinks are the graph edges. What does this mean to you? Just that because of the nature of the web, and the fact that Google employs a lot of PhDs in math, it’s very likely that the PR algorithm employs graph theory to study the nature of hyperlinks between various sites, to determine what is natural linking and what isn’t. Have you created a link farm? Are the sites linking to you owned by you? What about where you’re linking to? Is there any link collusion, as might happen in a link clique?

  3. The PR of outbound links may be relevant.
    By this I mean the PR of sites you’ve linked to. Google likes for “link neighborhoods” to be formed. It makes their indexing job easier. Linking to a site suggests that you, a human, have attributed some value to that site. Since Google’s job is “to index the world’s information”, they like it when you link out (without being a link farm), provided it’s to relevant sites. And that’s the key: linking to relevant content is likely more important its PR, else new sites would never gain PR. They probably don’t like for unusual linking structures that suggest cliques or collusion, though I’m still unsure of blog network links and how they pass PR value.

  4. The PR of inbound links is relevant.
    It isn’t enough anymore that you get, say, 10 inbound backlinks from other websites to score a PR4 rank. Not only does each link probably have to be from different sites (i.e., at least 10 different sites) but the quality/ trust of each site plays a role in your site’s PR. Obviously, it’s “natural” to have links from sites of different PR, but a link from a blogroll or a site whose main topic is significantly different from yours may be discounted. Editorial links from relevant posts elsewhere are the most valuable, especially if the site has good PR. I say may be because I’m not 100% sure where Google currently draws the line. Google’s algorithm gets smarter all the time and may discount the value of links from sites that you own. (Don’t be surprised if they can figure this out. I can think of several ways, most of which they’re probably already employing.)

  5. Being bidirectional may help PR.
    Linking has to go both ways. A site that links out but has no links in might have a lower priority when it comes to being indexed. It hasn’t established any content authority yet. On the other hand, a site that does not link out at all but gains steady inbound links could be perceived as an “authority” site. Me, I prefer not to to assume this. I think it’s far more natural that a blog is linked bidirectionally, connecting itself into a topical slice of the web. (Though it’s probably ironic that this post does not have many outbound links.)

  6. PR depends on timeliness of link building.
    Gaining inbound backlinks to a new site early on and maintaining is more valuable than having a gap of time where you receive few to no backlinks. It doesn’t seem fair, but if you establish some authority early, it’s a signal to the Googlebot that your site is probably worth indexing regularly. For this reason, it’s important to post very regularly for the first while, until you’ve at least moved from PR0. It’s also important that the speed of your link growth is natural.

  7. PR is logarithmic.
    While Google’s algorithm changes constantly, it appears that it takes about 10 legitimate links to get to a PR4, 100 to get PR5, 1000 for PR6, 10000 for PR7, and so on. That’s a base-10 logarithmic scale. But ignore the math and consider this: it means that it gets much harder to get to the next PR level. What’s more, Google’s idea of what a “legitimate” link is also changing, and more drastically in the rollout at the end of April. That’ll probably continue.

Let’s look a bit further at the last point. Those numbers of links are based on my readings. They may change at any time, or already have changed, judging by some of the strange drops that I’ve witnessed or read other bloggers mention. They’re for illustration purposes only. There’s more to PR building than just getting links, but it’s an important factor.

If you are getting some new backlinks every day because your blog is so fantastic, you can figure out how long it might take you to reach your target PR. For example, one new Google-legitimate link per day will take you about three years to get to PR6 – provided the algorithm hasn’t changed drastically. If you’re not getting even that, it’ll take you a long time to get where you’re going – presumably PR10, because doesn’t everyone want that?

Time to rank in the SERPs pt 1

On the other hand, if you can reduce the time needed to acquire a certain number of links, through various link building strategies, you’re golden. Tubetorial, for example, gains dozens of new links per day (Technorati link listing), thanks highly in part to the free Cutline WordPress theme. It links back to Tubetorial. (If I understand the way Technorati records new links, it does so when someone actually clicks on a link to your site. It won’t show up until then – neither in Technorati nor in your blogging platform’s control panel.) So Tubetorial is gaining links on a much faster curve. The diagram below shows that (not to scale).

Time to rank in the SERPs pt 2

Now I should point out that the bulk of this post was written over two months ago, and Google might discount theme-based links at any time, or they might not. Even if they do, theme links build traffic, which may eventually pay off in editorial links. So don’t discount offering a free theme.

What Can I Do To Increase Links and PR?
This post isn’t intended as a full discourse on building your PR or link building. However, a few pointers:

  1. Deep-link.
    Link into your archives with relevant anchor text. The search engines will give preference to those of your pages that you indicate as being relevant. In other words, if you don’t love your archives, how will they? Doing this will at the very least increase the PR of individual post pages, if not the home page. If you need some help in that regard, and you’re using WordPress, Chris Pearson has some great tips for exposing your archives. (The principles can be applied for other blogging platforms.) Linking into your archives helps expose your older articles and thus new readers will more easily find them. If some of those readers happen to be bloggers, deep linking your site increases the chances that they will link to you. That way, you are increase both internal links and backlinks.

  2. Post great content.
    Don’t stop me if you’ve heard this before. This is often overlooked. Don’t just post text. Add images with relevant alt text. Add rich media (audio, video), maps, etc.

In summary, if you have a new blog, it behooves you to start building legitimate links as early as possible. The simplest way to do that is to post great content regularly, deep-link your archives, and promote your site by participating in relevant conversation – either in the comments section of related sites or in relevant forums. Any activity that brings you targeted traffic will eventually bring other bloggers who will link to you if they know your site exists.

19 thoughts on “Ranking in the Search Engines: Why It Takes So Long

  1. All links are followed, unless specifically excluded with a nofollow tag. So if there’s no rel=”nofollow” added, then we are properly ‘rewarded’, although we naturally still have to respect the very big Important! comment at the bottom about personal links 😉

  2. I think comment links at Performancing *are* “do follow” in the sense that they are not “no follow”

  3. I would agree that it pays to be Bi

    There seems to be a bit of an underground movement amongst many bloggers to utilize the DoFollow plugin these days.

    I am perfectly aware of the history and why comments were degraded to a nofollow doldrum, but the nofollow policy setup by the cabal of search engines didn’t really help.

    Spam scanning tools like Akismet and Haloscan seem to do a better job of screening junk out of comments.

    Therefore, running a Do Follow plugin becomes an excellent way to reward readers for commenting. By the logic of your article above, it would also be a great way to increase the bidirectional flow of links to your blog from the comments. Plus, it encourages everone to not be quite so article selfish and get around to other blogs and just talk.

    What do I mean by that last comment?

    Sometimes people start to respond to an article, and before you know it they have 300-400 words of a response. The response itself is a passionate, sometimes factually strong refutation even, that can be a stand alone article. Under a nofollow system, the person that leaves that comment is basically slapping a great piece of content in the trash. It doesn’t do much for the person that writes it and only provides marginal benefit to the blog that receives it. Bloggers know this and so they often take that 300-400 words of a comment and drop it in their own blog as actual content. The response becomes a linkbait response to the original article. Maybe they link it and in odd why should I scratch the back of someone I passionately disagree with scenarios, they don’t provide a link.

    With do follow enabled on blogs, people can and do get a backlink reward from leaving a comment. Kind of like going to a restaraunt, tipping the waiter / blogger, and then the waiter gives you a mint or something with your receipt. The backlink is the mint. Even in the scenarios where the comment is posted as an article elsewhere, there is now more motivation to link to the source article. If the source article does follow and if they have trackback links running, then your link to them will generate a comment with your link in it and you both benefit from the links!

    It almost makes Blogging something like an ecosystem. Dare I say it becomes something like a self contained system, in a great big ball of bloggers working together. If I were to attempt to coin a catch phrase, I’d call it a Blogosphere. I think a blogosphere would be much more powerful than millions of little BlogoSilos, but that’s just my opinion. Feel free to refute me, I’m in the middle of adding Do Follow to my blogs, soon you’ll be able to benefit from refuting me on your own blog

    Just curious, is Performancing or Drupal capable of using something akin to a Do Follow policy?

  4. the problem with topsites is that if you’re starting off low, some readers might look at your topsite position and think you suck, then not bother to come back. And unless you have a fairly high volume site, you probably will start off low.

    But if you’re high volume, at least relatively speaking, in your niche, then it could help.

  5. I’ve been meaning to ask this for a while. Does it make sense to submit your website for one of the many many toplist sites? Just a random example: http://superman.top-site-list.com/ (no, my site isn’t about Superman) 😉 And webrings? I never read about those. I know you’re better of with a steady stream of article links, but does it hurt to have your site(s) listed (high)?

  6. IF and I say if you are trying to rank for something very common you’re going to have a very, very hard time no matter what your PR is. Some sites might have been on the web for over 10 years and have been using the same keywords.

    Even with a new site you might be able to rank quite high for a version/combination of your keywords. One example-Don’t try to wine the race for -red wine-. Maybe try -california red wine- than move onto -oregon red wine-. In the short term you might get some results from the less searched term and in the long term you’ll notice some improvements since those two phrases both contain your long term goal.

  7. Ryan,

    set up a ‘how to improve perf’ thread and i’m sure you’ll get plenty of suggestions. For a reboot, well, i’ll add you to the list 😛

  8. @pdatronix: Drupal was what the original Perf founders selected because of great support for multiple blogs and multiple forums. I love WordPress, believe me, but I think it’d be hard to get the same feature set going as you see here at Perf. Even if that’s not true, it’s also a major project to switch over from Drupal to WordPress :p

  9. Drupal is a more robust backend than WordPress. Since Performancing has always planned to be more than a blog, it was the smart choice. Still, Drupal could learn a lot from the simplicity of WordPress!

    BTW, I wasn’t involved in the decision to go with Drupal, though I think it was the wise move, given the large vision for Performancing.

  10. Maybe I missed this way earlier, but why did you chose Drupal as your blogging platform? I don’t mean to start any ‘application’ wars: I’m just curious (also since you said a few blog posts back Drupal is a b**ch to upgrade)

    By the way: post Dugg for ya I don’t have Netscape and Reddit accounts.

  11. Coming soon to a theatre near you.

    Honestly, we should do a blog reboot with Module suggestions.

  12. Ryan, what happened to using a digg plugin / module? Don’t blame drupal for it 😛

  13. Ahmed, if you read carefully, I said that I was focusing on a partial discussion of how PR may be built up, and a few factors that may affect it. I don’t know what you’re nitpicking because you don’t say. Are you implying that everything I’ve said is wrong? Clarify yourself, please. I approach most search engine discussions from a mathematical viewpoint, and I think I make that pretty clear. Anyone who isn’t interested won’t read it.

  14. ok, nitpicking all of it might take too long

    general idea – yes, PageRank is a useful measure of blog value and search ranking potential, but it’s not all there is to it.

    Talking about this makes me angry, because half of me wants to defend SEO against the naysayers who criticise it simply because it doesn’t match their world views and their negative perception of this field makes it hard for an seo consultant to even talk to them without hearing crap.

    The other half just makes me laugh, because yea, there are different ways to getting to the top of the SE rankings. Blogging and linkbaiting works just as well as SEO, because they are eventually two sides of the same coin.

    You can be a linkbaiting linkwhore, or you can be a link request linkwhore – bottom line, you’re still lifting up your skirt to get paid, and you shouldn’t forget that, whether you’re a blogging evangelist or a hardcore SEO.


  15. That’s especially true since many ad networks and “pay per review” services determine your earnings per unit using PR, amongst other metrics.

    ad networks and pay per review services value PR because it’s an easy metric to measure relative link popularity, that does not make PR valuable in rankings in itself.

    There are other reasons why it is valuable – being used by TLA or ReviewMe isn’t one of them.

    Going back to the rest of the article.

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