It’s no secret that backlinks can impact Google rankings. In fact, Google has listed backlinks as one of its top two search ranking factors alongside having great content.
But in the world of search engine optimization (SEO), results rarely happen overnight. So how long do backlinks take to work?
On average, it takes about 10 weeks for a backlink to impact Google rankings. However, the actual timespan depends on a number of factors, and results will vary from one website to another. Some backlinks impact rankings in as little as 1 month, while others may require 6 months or more.
To estimate how long before backlinks take effect on your Google rankings, it is important to take four major factors into consideration:
- Crawling and indexing
- Ranking power
- Pace and scale
- SEO Competition
Before we break these factors down, let’s quickly explore the results you might expect from a new backlink.
The Importance of Backlinks: How Backlinks Work and What to Expect
In every aspect of marketing, businesses need to know when (and how) they will see a return on their investments. This is tricky with backlinks, which could take years until backlinks and Google ranking effects are fully realized.
While we hate to disappoint our readers, this is the truth. Backlinks are long-term investments, and their value accrues over time.
That being said, it is possible to recognize early indicators that a backlink is beginning to take effect. It is helpful to know these signs if you’re earning backlinks on a regular basis, as they will help you optimize and tweak your approach.
To minimize wasted time and resources, take the time to understand the three stages of backlink impact:
Stage 1: Indexing
To see results, you need to get backlinks indexed. This first stage happens when Google finds and scans the page that links to you. Google then adds the page to its massive search index.
To check if this stage has occurred, type site: into Google’s search bar with the page’s URL immediately after:
If the webpage existed in Google’s index before your backlink appeared, you must wait for Google’s crawler to return to the page and re-crawl it to index your backlinks.
In our experience, Google takes 1-2 weeks (on average) to crawl and index pages.
Stage 2: Ranking
Once the linking page is indexed, Google’s search algorithm weighs different factors to determine the backlink’s “ranking power.” You may see some people refer to this as “link juice” or “authority.”
If the backlink is especially powerful, it is typical to observe a sharp increase in search rankings at this stage. You’ll also see your third-party authority scores (like Moz DA and Ahrefs DR) increase shortly thereafter.
After they are crawled, backlinks take about 8-9 weeks (on average) to begin impacting search rankings.
For the purpose of this article, we’ve chosen the growth observed during this stage as our definition of backlink “results.” However, it’s a mistake to neglect what happens after this stage.
Stage 3: Climbing
After Google appraises a backlink and applies the appropriate ranking boost, search rankings typically continue to rise on a linear path
There’s no way to know how long this trajectory will continue, but you should expect to observe long-term backlink effects for 1-3 years.
At some point, an external factor will likely interfere with this upward trajectory. For example, a competitor might earn enough powerful backlinks to outrank you, or an algorithm update could cause your rankings to decline.
This is why it is important to build on the momentum that backlinks provide. The only surefire way to continue this growth is by earning more backlinks!
4 Key Factors that Influence How Long Before Backlinks Take Effect
Remember: while 10 weeks is the average amount of time required to see backlink effects, your actual results (and the length of time required to see them) will depend on a number of variables.
To make the most accurate prediction, you should examine the four most influential factors that impact backlink results:
- Crawling and indexing
- Ranking power
- Pace and scale
- SEO Competition
Factor 1: Crawling and Indexing
Before Google can factor new backlinks into your search rankings, it must discover the linking page and add it to the search index first.
Recalling stage two of How Backlinks Work, we now know that it takes an average of 1-2 weeks for Google to crawl and index pages. However, you should know that Google does not crawl all pages with the same frequency.
Whereas some pages get crawled daily or weekly, Google’s John Mueller says that it could take six months for Google to crawl and index the page that links to you. Fortunately, a six-month wait is extremely rare.
Here are a few tips you can use to expedite the crawling and indexing process:
Tip 1: Ensure Google has access to the linking page.
Sometimes, web developers mistakenly add noindex tags to new pages, effectively blocking Google from ranking the page. Or, you might find that the developer has blocked Google from crawling the page (via the website’s robots.txt file).
Both of the above issues are easy to remedy—simply reach out to the webmaster and draw attention to the problem. You could also ask the webmaster to update and submit their sitemap to Google.
Tip 2: Link to the page on your own website.
Google’s crawler finds new webpages by clicking links. If the page that links to you doesn’t have any links itself, it will take longer for Google’s crawler to find it.
To remedy this issue, try linking to the page on your own website. When Google’s crawler reaches your page, it will follow the new link, thus speeding up the crawling and indexing process.
For an extra boost, you can resubmit your sitemap to Google once you’ve linked to the target page. In theory, this should expedite the process even more.
Tip 3: Pursue links from popular websites.
As a final tip to expedite the crawling process, try to earn backlinks from websites that:
- Receives a lot of daily search traffic.
- Updates pages frequently.
- Invests resources into search optimization.
Google’s crawler prioritizes websites with these qualities. As an added benefit, links from websites like these tend to carry a substantial amount of “ranking power.”
Factor 2: Ranking Power
You’ve probably heard the saying that “not all links are created equal.” While it sounds cliché, this is absolutely true: no two backlinks will have the same impact on your search rankings.
If you earn a powerful backlink, you could observe a ranking boost in as little as 1 week. As an added benefit, these quick-acting links will have a greater impact on your search rankings as well.
On the other hand, you will never see positive results from a low-quality link. In fact, having too many of these “powerless” links could result in a Google penalty, effectively decreasing your search rankings.
To determine a link’s ranking power, examine the following components:
- Relevance: backlinks must be relevant to your website in order to affect your rankings. The purpose of backlinks is to show that other pages are pointing to your page as an “authority.” For example, if your webpage is about bodybuilding, your most relevant backlinks will appear on other webpages about bodybuilding.
- Authority: the most impactful backlinks come from pages that demonstrate authority. Most SEOs estimate this with third-party metrics (like Moz DA or Ahrefs DR), which calculate a website’s score by examining the links pointing to it.
- Value: high-quality links offer real value to humans. Backlinks that excel in this category come from pages that attract real, engaged web traffic that is likely to click on your link.
While these three components are extremely important, it’s okay if some of your links don’t excel in all of the above categories. The most powerful links happen to be the hardest to earn, and there’s nothing wrong with pursuing average-quality links.
However, if you want to see the quickest results from your backlinking efforts, you should invest in a strategy that incorporates these components as quality standards. If this sounds like a big task to handle on your own, you might consider hiring an SEO and Backlinks agency to do the heavy lifting for you to get the results you need. Consider this case study that shows 582% growth in organic traffic from the combined efforts of link building and on-site optimization over the previous year.
Factor 3: Pace and Scale
Pacing and scale refers to the rate at which your website is earning new backlinks. This factor influences rankings in a major way, and it might be your key to achieving faster results.
To better understand this concept, let’s examine two links along with their “ranking power” scores (as assigned by Google’s algorithm):
Assuming Link A (scored at 8) and Link B (scored at 6) both point to your website, it follows that your website will inherit the ranking power from both of those links.
The most intuitive model for this algorithm uses the additive property:
With this equation, your website will inherit 14 ranking “points.”
This model is based on the assumption that Google deals with links in an isolated manner. While this might seem logical, real-life evidence tells a wildly different story.
Google wants to ensure that your webpage is relevant, popular, and authoritative before giving it a top spot. That’s why each new backlink tends to have a multiplier effect when combined with the other new links in your profile.
Instead of simply adding your links to get 14 ranking points, our links amplified each other to result in 48 ranking points!
That’s right: backlinks don’t just influence search rankings on their own—they affect how other links will affect your search rankings, too.
As long as your links are of high quality, each new backlink will yield quicker returns than the last. As an added benefit, earning links at a rigorous pace also helps your page rank higher!
Just a warning, though: as you attempt to earn links at a consistent pace and scale, make sure that your link building activity isn’t too consistent. If you’re earning the same number of links every week, Google’s algorithm could interpret your efforts as an unnatural link scheme.
Factor 4: SEO Competition
While we wouldn’t call SEO a zero-sum game, it’s easy to see how search rankings are inherently competitive.
If you’re trying to gain higher search rankings and more organic traffic, there are two things that ultimately matter above all else:
- Who is ranking above you?
- How can you outperform them?
It doesn’t matter how hard you work or how many links you earn. If you can’t outperform your competitors, your backlinks won’t show results.
While links play a big role in determining who comes out on top, there are other elements to consider as well. For example, perhaps your top competitor has invested in content that is more robust than yours and is earning more content backlinks. Or, maybe their website is simply better optimized for search engines.
If you’re trying to rank for an extremely competitive keyword, it could take years of grueling work of content strategy and optimization before you reach the first page. On the other hand, it’s a well-known fact that SEO results arrive quicker in areas with low competition.
To achieve the quickest results from your backlinks, choose keywords for which you have a fighting chance. This is an integral part of keyword research, and it will save you from a lot of frustration in the future.
How to Check Backlinks in Google Analytics and Google Search Console
Two great options to give you a baseline of your current backlink profile include checking your backlinks in Google Search Console and Google Analytics. It is important to note that Google Analytics uses the term “referrals” for backlinks.
Checking backlinks in Google Analytics:
- Log into the Google Analytics account and select the domain you wish to check.
- Click “Acquisition” in the menu on the left.
- Click the “All Traffic” drop down.
- Click “Referrals.”
- View your Referral Report.
Checking backlinks in Google Search Console:
- Log into Google Search Console for and select the domain you wish to check.
- Click “Search Traffic.”
- Click “Links to Your Site.”
- View the “Links to Your Site” report page.
Backlinks play a huge role in Google’s ranking system, and it’s a mistake to leave them out of your SEO strategy.
Generally speaking, the more resources you can allocate to backlinks, the quicker you’ll see results. However, acquiring powerful links requires a lot of time, effort, and resources, and you shouldn’t expect to see progress right away.
At some point in the journey, many marketers will feel compelled to quit. While we wouldn’t blame you for feeling this way, you should know that giving up on backlinks is one of the most counterproductive things you can do.
As we explained in this article, backlinks are long-term investments, and they will continue to build authority and rankings over time. If there’s one key takeaway from this article is the importance of backlinks, and that backlinks are never really done kicking in!
To project and measure success, remember to pay close attention to Google’s crawling and indexing process, the ranking power of your links, the pace and scale at which you are earning links, and your SEO competition.