How Long Does Link Building Take To Get Results? It’s Complicated

Not overnight, that's for sure... but how long?
Published on 
May 2, 2024
Updated on 
May 2, 2024
Posted in 

Link building is a lot of effort, but there’s a reason people still do it: it works

A well-executed link building campaign, informed by a thoughtful link building strategy, can do wonders for your search engine ranking, organic traffic and, ultimately, provided you’ve done a bunch of other things right, your conversions and revenue. 

None of this happens overnight, however. 

Ok, so how long does it take?

It can take hours to weeks for Google to index new content, find links that point to your site and then pass on the appropriate authority and trust for you to rank higher. 

A lot of newcomers to the SEO and link building space can find it very frustrating but waiting, unfortunately, is just part of the game. 

While it can take months to see any major increase in search rankings and traffic and link building, it tends to take far longer to rank without it. 

It can take around a year (about 11) months to hit peak traffic

In our years of experience building links for clients, it tends to take anywhere from two to six months to see a meaningful ranking increase from link building–assuming you’re targeting relatively competitive keywords. 

There is definitely no cut-and-dried answer to the question, though. You might see a ranking increase fairly soon after link building, but it can take a while for the effects to fully realize. 

What’s more, you rarely want to build just one single link, so the effects of a link building campaign usually ramp up over time. 

Here is a case study we’ve put together for a client that worked with us. 

The below comment is the end result of our link building efforts for this client. 

From 0 to 40,000 monthly traffic in the span of around six months, consistently building links using our proven, Google-friendly link building methods. 

These are the kinds of links we land and the ones that will move the needle when it comes to ranking and traffic.

As we built links for Nectar, not only did they see their page-level traffic increase on the pages we were building links for, but overall site traffic increased too. 

Why do link building efforts take so long to produce results? 

If you’re new to link building, it might seem intuitive that you see a jump in traffic right after building a link. 

It’s not so straightforward, though. There are a few reasons why it might take time for a link building campaign to influence your ranking. 

Indexing takes time

The first variable when it comes to seeing the results of link building is Google’s time to index. 

Google needs time to find a new link pointing to your site. It can only attribute any link juice to your page or domain once it has found these links. 

It can take a while for Google (or any search engine) to find these links and there is not set or guaranteed time frame. 

If you receive a link from a high domain authority website–Forbes, Hive, Buzzfeed–that is updated often, then it’s not going to take long for Google’s crawlers to find the link and apply it to your page rank. 

We’re talking days, perhaps even hours. 

If the link is from a new, low domain authority or DR site that the algorithm isn’t crawling as often, it can take a lot longer. 

Rank increases are never uniform

If a search engine algorithm values the link and likes your content, it may decide your page is worth a higher spot on the search engine results page. 

It is important to keep in mind, however, that ranking increases are dependent on a few factors. 

For instance, if you have a page that is sitting very far away from the first page of Google, new links might produce significant ranking increases early on.

Pages that are already highly ranked have less space to move. But to go from the fourth position to the first position on page one can be just as, if not more, valuable than a move from the fourth page to the first page. 

What’s more, the total ranking increase you can expect to get from a link won’t show up all at once. 

Google’s algorithm gives a page more exposure to rankings and traffic over time. 

If the algorithm believes people like your page and you keep building links, you might enjoy consistent traffic and ranking increases. 

There are other factors that also determine how long it is likely to take for link building efforts to show up in search engine rankings. 

Link building factors that influence how long it will take a link building campaign to produce results

What we’ve discussed so far is what we usually expect to see when building links. 

However, no two link building campaigns are the same. They come to fruition at different speeds–some slower than others. 

There are several factors that determine how quickly you can expect to see link building results, we will delve into some of the most significant. 

The kind of link building strategy you employ

Your link building strategy has a marked impact on how long you can expect to wait before seeing results. 

This is because different backlink strategies take longer to strategize and implement. 

Different tactics have different labour requirements, different link building software requirements, and different experiential requirements to execute. 

So why not just build links the fastest way possible?

There are a variety of reasons that you don’t want to build links as quickly as you possibly can. 

For a new website, a large number of quickly acquired links can seem unnatural to search engines. Depending on the tactic being used, you could find yourself penalized for certain kinds of links.

What’s more, if you are trying to build links using something like a linkable asset, a well-planned campaign could take much longer to start producing backlinks than, say, something like niche edits or guest posts. 

You also need to consider your competitive edge in the industry, how much time you are able to spend building links, what kind of results you want and when you expect to see them. 

It’s vital that you develop a link building budget and road map for how and where you plan on building links because costs add up quickly, especially when you start building links at scale. 

The linkable asset route

Taking the linkable asset example above, consider that you will have to: 

  • Plan the asset (which will involve some brainstorming and perhaps research)
  • Put time into creating the content 
  • Prospect a list of people to share it with
  • Send out emails to each website
  • Negotiate with these websites (for a backlink)
  • Wait for websites to make your link live (assuming they give out dofollow and not a nofollow link)
  • Continue to build links over time

Depending on the kind of asset you’re putting together, it might take you upwards of a month to get your first link. Done right, however, and you may find you continue to passively acquire inbound links to such an asset for many months (or years) to come. 

Other link building methods have their own pitfalls and bottlenecks 

Every link building strategy has its bottlenecks, no matter how much you perfect your processes. 

Guest posting

You need to be able to find and then negotiate with viable websites, write posts to their editorial standards, and then stay on top of the website while they publish the post and link. 

This can take weeks to months, depending on the site, the owner, who you’re dealing with and the editorial standards that are in place. 

HARO and PR links

HARO and other forms of digital PR require you to pitch until someone agrees to publish your ideas and link to you. 

You might find you exert a lot of effort and get completely ignored, or, when a journalist or writer does decide to include you in their content, you are waiting months to see any results. 

It can take writers quite a while to go from quote selection to inclusion in their piece to publishing. 

Niche edits

Niche edits are pretty simple once you’ve got a site lined up, but the labour intensive part is actually finding quality sites that are willing to work with you. 

It is becoming increasingly difficult to find reputable, authoritative websites that accept niche edits. 

The domain metrics of the linking site

Another major variable when it comes to ranking dynamics is the linking site’s domain metrics. 

After you’ve gone and done all of the hard work of finding those backlink opportunities, it’s now up to Google to make a value judgement of the referring domain and page. 

Your search rankings depend on you getting not just links, but quality links, and a site’s authority plays a big part in that. 

This is why the top link building strategies are ones that go for quality, not quantity. If you look at the Google search results, you will most often find (though, by no means always) that the top ranking pages are those with backlink profiles full of quality links. 

How many links did you acquire?

You rarely, if ever, set out to build a single link when carrying out a new link building campaign. 

There are multiple reasons for this. 

The more links you build to a page, the more “votes” of confidence you have from sites across the web. 

And, the more links you build, from a variety of sources (likely of varying authority and websites of varying age), the more likely that Google will discover those links quickly. 

The quality of your content 

Where you have the most control over a link building campaign is when it comes to the quality of your content. 

Link building strategies that are not underpinned by a solid content approach are far less likely to see meaningful search engine rankings increases. 

You don’t often find trustworthy sites linking to low-quality, spammy content. 

This makes sense since these sites have built up their readership and traffic numbers by being of value and then don’t want to compromise their user experience by suggesting people shoddy content. 

Not only that but Google doens’t just look at your backlinks. 

Let’s have a look at two examples:

  • Example a: a link building campaign built around high-quality content that is also better SEO optimized than the competition 
  • A competitor link building campaign generates links to sloppy, unoptimized content that is slow and hosted on an unprofessional website. 

Even in the event that the two campaigns generate the same number of links, forming the exact same backlink profile, you could bet on the ranking impact being much more favourable for a campaign designed around good content. 

As we said above, links are just one part of the ranking equation. 

Search rankings are also dependent on the kind of content and user experience you offer to visitors. 

It can even be the case that a page with few or no backlinks, but with impeccable content, outranks competitor pages that have more links (probably built using black hat link building schemes). 

If you don’t put time into creating relevant and comprehensive content, you won’t build backlinks the way you need to if you want to enjoy significant ranking increases.

What keywords are being targeted?

Your target keyword and the domain authority of the pages and sites that are already ranking for those keywords also play a large role in how long you can expect to see results. 

For instance, let’s say a new camera review website wants to rank for “best DSLR camera.” 

It’s going to take months or perhaps even years to constantly build up your website’s authority via link building and creating great content before you ever stand a chance of ranking for a search term like that. 

The websites that dominate the first page for this keyword have years of authority and links safeguarding their spot at the top. 

Just because there is fierce competition around a keyword, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go for high competition keywords. 

You can still generate solid revenue targeting such keywords, you just need to have a longer term strategy. 

In order to make more competitive keywords work, however, you need consistent link building. 

You can’t just build a couple of links and then rest on your laurels. Dedicated effort over time is required if you’re after competitive, high-margin keywords. 

Lower competition keywords tend to produce quicker results

Of course, if you want quicker results, then you need to target less competitive keywords. 

A few links pointing back to a page (a page filled with quality content, that is) could be enough to get you up into those top SERP positions much faster. 

Your current rank

Another thing that a lot of people don’t give enough weight to when estimating a link building results timeline is a page’s current rank. 

If the page you are trying to bump up the rankings is not on the first page, for example, then a single link could give it a major push. 

Moz found, for instance, that after around 17 weeks, the average article on the second page of Google jumped ten places after receiving a backlink. 

Articles that already occupied a coveted spot on the first page, however, only moved up one place with an additional link. 

When you think about it logically, it makes sense. 

Competition for the top spots–the top 3, let’s say (the top spot receives 25% of all search clicks)--will be a lot stiffer than the bottom 7. 

If you are already on the first page, it’s likely that you will need to add some serious links to your backlink profile before you see any results. 

The age of your website 

How long a website has been around also factors into how long you can expect to wait to notice the effects of a link building campaign. 

There is a hotly-debated concept in the SEO world known as the “Google Sandbox,” which suggests that Google essentially suppresses new sites in the rankings until they have proven their quality. 

While the sandbox may be more fiction than fact, what is irrefutable is that brand-new sites don’t often rank for anything other than very uncompetitive keywords. 

The good news is that even if building links during the formative years of your website doesn’t result in a big increase in ranking right away, it can still send powerful signals to Google and speed up the ranking process. 

Stay on top of your Google Search Console metrics, make the requisite changes to your site, and keep building links, and you should start to see those clicks go up continuously over time. 

The types of links you build 

Another important thing you want to consider is the kinds of links you’re building. 

Different links are better or worse for your backlink profile. 

Nofollow links are, generally speaking, not as good as dofollow links for your site. 

If your link building efforts are resulting in a large number of nofollow links or branded mentions, or you are getting a lot of poor-quality forum links, blog comments, directory links and social links, you probably won’t see a big increase in site rankings. 

You need to acquire inbound links from authoritative, relevant websites if you want to see real results in a reasonable amount of time. 

Internal link building 

In addition to actually building inbound links to your pages and website, you also need to make sure that you have good internal linking in place. 

Of particular importance, you need to ensure that those inbound links are pointing to pages that are doing a good job of directing traffic to the target keywords you are most interested in ranking for. 

Patience is a virtue when it comes to link building

If you want to get those pages ranking and increase your domain rating, link building has to be a long term process. 

Spammy links can be gotten quite easy, but good links take time to build. 

If you’re interested in seeing what a experienced, industry-leading link building agency can do for your ranking and traffic, get in touch with dofollow today

Why Trust Us On SEO

Eric Carrell & Sebastian Schaffer have been working in SEO for over a decade, building their own projects - understanding and testing SEO strategy, along with building hundreds of white hat links per month for our projects. They take their learnings and experience and apply them to the strategy that drives our link building strategy for our clients.

Eric & Seb have always believed in quality over quantity, doing things the right way so we future proof our client’s websites against future Google updates and the evolving industry of search.

While Seb handles the company strategy around culture, processes and structure, Eric is constantly working to improve our service offering, customer experience, and following the industry in parallel with Google’s Quality Guidelines so that we are always one step ahead of our competition and aligned with what Google wants to see for your site to rank higher.

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