The most common question asked by your SEO clients, or even yourself doing SEO for your own websites: “How long does it take for a brand new website (using a new domain name) to get reasonable results in terms of traffic, say around 100 visitors per day starting from nothing?”
Or if you’re facing a more technical and difficult scenario, when you are moving an old website/blog to a new domain name/new hosting environment: “When can I possibly recover the lost traffic or even become stronger under the new domain?”
The answers to these questions will be examined in this article using actual traffic data. The time frame information provided in this article will only be used for estimation purposes, as no two websites are the same. The objective is to come up with a realistic and reasonable time frame for search engine optimization success. Setting realistic time frames for your SEO campaign is important to the formulation and attainment of customer expectations.
The data in this article are taken from Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools.
First scenario: SEO time frame for a brand new domain
Let’s start with what appears to be common: starting your website from scratch. Say you’ve registered a brand new domain. The domain does not have any content or links at all at the beginning. What is a good time frame for reasonable SEO success?
The first thing you need to do is to quantify and define your meaning of “success.” This is important if you are setting goals and formulating time lines for your SEO project. It is not enough to just say “to increase my website traffic after one year.” Your definition of success should be specific and measurable, such as “to increase my website traffic to at least 100 visitors per day after one year.”
That means your definition of “success” is to reach at least 100 visitors per day. In a recent article on this site: http://www.seochat.com/c/a/Search-Engine-Optimization-Help/SEO-Success-Story-Do-it-Yourself-Strategies-to-Increase-Web-Traffic/, the website under study reached the targeted traffic of around 150 visitors per day, or around 4000 visitors/month, after one year.
The “one year time frame” to hit around 100 visitors starting from zero requires a significant amount of hard work in terms of content, website technical improvement and links. The work that needed to be done was also discussed thoroughly in that tutorial.
Currently, after one year of work, the website under study has 156 indexed pages, and 78 backlinks from unique domains (as determined by Google Webmaster Tools). These links point to the entire site; that is, there are links to both the home page and inner pages.
If we computer the monthly statistics based on that data, we find that the number of pages created per month is 156/12, which equals 13. The site earned around six backlinks per month from unique domains.
The results above were achieved with self-SEO efforts. It is possible that with a standard and reputable SEO company, you can get much higher statistical figures, provided both content and links are considered.
The above statistical data implies that as a webmaster, you need to create at least 13 new posts per month and earn six backlinks from related/high quality unique domains to hit the target after one year. Bear in mind that a lot of factors can play a significant role in your success. One of the most important is keyword research.
1. If you are registering a brand new domain, the realistic time frame to increase your traffic from nothing to around a hundred per day is around one year, but this requires full dedication to working on the website. If you are working part time, or can not devote your full time to SEO work, you can hit the 100 visitors per day mark in around 2-3 years, provided other recommendations (given below) are considered.
2. If you have limited time, SEO skills and experience, you can set a goal of around 30-50 visitors a day after one year (based on a Google Analytics average of website data with limited resources devoted to them by their owners).
3. Given the above observations, it would be tough for someone putting in their own SEO effort to achieve a goal of more than 200 visitors a day after one year.
4. When you write content, select a targeted keywords with reasonable traffic and readers. And observe correct SEO practices when writing content (e.g keywords in title tag as well as the quantity and quality of your content). Check out http://www.seochat.com/c/a/Search-Engine-Optimization-Help/Website-Content-Planning-Techniques-for-Search-Engine-Optimization/ for more.
5. If your website uses professional SEO services, be doubtful of any promises made to increase traffic if these promises do not include substantial work and planning that covers the addition of content. This additional content should not be focused solely on the home page, but include the rest of the website’s pages as well. This is because a high percentage of visitors to your website (e.g 96%) actually come from long tail traffic and land on the inner content/posts. See the pie chart below, which is based on a website study:
If only links are added to the site in a continual basis, or only the home page content is updated, it will difficult to hit your traffic goal after one year. The long tail content plays an important role. Even high rankings for your targeted keyword (e.g to the home page) do not necessarily translate to high overall website traffic or website conversion.
Another possible scenario is that you already have a blog or a domain with content that has already been published on the Internet. You already have reasonable traffic for this blog or domain, but you are moving to a new domain name under a new hosting environment.
It will be interesting to know when you can realistically recover the resulting lost traffic and increase it further under the new domain name.
Case example: A certain blog hosted in blogspot.com is receiving a reasonable amount of traffic:
The time period of the analytics data shown above covered from May 2, 2009 to August 2, 2009. It shows that on average, there were around 100 daily visitors. This was before the blog was moved to a new domain name.
On August 3, 2009 the blog was moved to a WordPress-based hosted platform under a new domain name. The original content and everything from the old site had been transferred to the new domain. As expected, it experienced a drop in overall traffic as part of the transition:
On average it dropped from 100 to a low average of 45 visitors per day. This trend continued until February 2010. An improvement plan was initiated after transferring the blog. The plan included three steps.
The first step involved adding five new blog posts per week.
The second step involved implementing the link rel canonical solution to transfer link juice from Blogger to the new domain. You can read two related tutorials:
The third step was to continue the marketing and link baiting efforts after the blog transfer.
What was the result? By February 2010, it finally reach the same traffic level as it had before. So it took six months for the blog transfer from Blogspot to the new domain to stabilize the original level of traffic (around 100 visitors per day).
After February 2010, the improvement plan continued to be implemented. It included adding content on a periodic basis that also translated to an increase in links to the site from link baiting techniques.
The traffic from the long tail (inner content) constitutes 95%, while the traffic to the home page is only 5%. This is organic traffic coming from the Google search engine.
Finally, traffic reached nearly 500 visitors per day on November 2010:
So, after the blog re-stabilized to the traffic level it originally held before the transfer, it took another nine months to hit this high daily visitor target level. Remember that re-stabilizing took six months, so we’re talking about a total of 15 months, or more than a year, to achieve this new, higher level.
Since link rel canonical employs a principle similar to 301 redirects, a similar time frame will be attained by those websites that are transferred using 301 redirection (to its new domain).