Feeling frustrated because you gained a number of great incomings links to your website a month or two ago, and Google still hasn't noticed them? It can take time for the search engine to notice those links – and more time to decide what they're worth. Just how long will you have to wait? Keep reading.
Eric Ward covered this topic on Search Engine Land. The short answer to the “how long must I wait?” question is: it depends. I know that's not what you wanted to hear, but there are a number of factors that can affect how long it takes Google's search bots to index a page and discover new links.
Let's start by talking about the most ephemeral of links, namely those shared socially on sites like Facebook, Twitter, G+, etc. If you send out a tweet with a link, chances are your friends and followers will see it instantly (or nearly so, depending on how compulsively they check their social sites). Many will click on the link. Some may even repost it. But that doesn't mean Google will credit you with the link right away, or even give you any particular ranking-related credit for it at all. We'd be swimming in a lot more social link spam than we already are if that were the case. Such links may give you value over time, however.
Speaking of time, let's talk about the time lag between the moment a page links to your website for the first time, and the moment Google finds out about the link. You know that Google's search spiders crawl the web, but they don't crawl every page, or even every website, every day. Some websites update their content daily or perhaps hourly if they focus on news. Others may update once a week, once a month, or even less frequently. If the link to your website is coming from a site like this, it could be in place for weeks before Google learns of its existence. This isn't a bad thing, as users will still find the link (and presumably click through) even before Google indexes it.
Once the link is indexed, you may still have to wait a while. Ward explains that “once a page that contains a link to you has been crawled, Google does not instantly adjust their algorithms in real time to reflect that new link. Google runs a number of calculations for every page it crawls, and it can take anywhere from a few days to several months before new links affect search rank.”
This doesn't mean you should only pursue websites that publish frequently. Far from it. Think about how infrequently libraries and college professors update their web pages. A link coming from these pages is usually considered very valuable, because these links are curated – they've already been carefully vetted by human beings to determine that the pages they go to will be of high value to their audience. As Ward points out, “Some of the most brilliantly curated subject specific Web guides are not updated that often. That does not diminish the power and credibility that links obtained from those pages provide.” Or, put another way, high ranks can come to those with the persistence to pursue the right kinds of links – and the patience to wait the couple of months or more it might take to see the rise. Good luck!
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