How Long it Takes for a Link to Affect Rankings by @martinibuster

Someone asked me if it was true that it takes around three months for Google to assign value to a link.

The interesting thing about the recent patents and updates to patents is that they explain a way to efficiently accomplish these mind boggling calculations.

Those kinds of research papers aren’t super exciting because they’re concerned with how to essentially do geek plumbing. But they are important because they make things like real-time Penguin calculations possible.

Does it Take 3 Months for a Link Effect?

The reasonable assumption for the past ten or so years has been that it takes about three months for the influence of a link to become noticeable in the search engine results pages (SERPs). With the recent advances in hardware, software and algorithms, it’s more likely that the influence is happening faster.

The search engines are a lot faster than they were ten years ago. So it follows that perhaps the link effect might be even faster today than it was a decade ago.

Evidence that Link Effects May be Faster

Consider that Penguin is now a part of Google’s core algorithm. Penguin, a link algorithm, works in real-time. This has been the case for almost two years now.

So it is reasonable to assume that the value of a link is folded into Google’s ranking algorithm at a significantly faster rate than three months.

Because Penguin is real time and is now a part of Google’s core algorithm, it is absolutely reasonable to update our estimate of how long it takes for a link to take effect. Three months now seems too slow and not reasonable at all.

The time period for a link to take effect is probably on the order of a week to fifteen days. But whether you see the effect of those links is another matter altogether. One link or a few links by themselves may not be enough to help your rankings.

What if Rankings Change 3 Months Later?

Sometimes rankings change three months after a link. Could that be attributed to the links? In three months there is no way to know whether a change in ranking is due to a single link, another link that was added to your site, links dropping off of a competitor’s site or even a totally unrelated change with Google’s core ranking algorithm.

A change in Google’s core algorithm could decide that your competitor’s site is not a good fit for certain keyword phrases. Then your site rises because it’s a better match. Or it could be that your site offeres a better user experience and Google’s algorithm is handing out prizes for good UX that week.

Three months is far too long to make an accurate judgment about whether a sigle link or a group of links made a difference. There are too many things going on externally to your site (having nothing to do with your site), and too many factors directly related to your site that are changing, in order to put your finger on it and say with any confidence that this single factor is what caused a change in rankings.

Links and Ranking Changes

In my opinion, it’s best to focus on building content and cultivating links, in that order. Identifying which link caused a rise in rankings would be nice. But it’s not always possible to identify which link caused the change in rankings. The calculations involved are many and we have no idea how the various link factors are weighted on any particular day.

So the best answer to the question about how long to wait until a link has taken effect is to not wait. Just let go of fussing over minor details like a single link and move on to the bigger picture and keep building bigger and better things. The links will work their magic regardless if you are worrying about it or not.

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