One of the most common questions SEOs are asked is “When will we see a return on our investment, and how much will we see?”.

The harsh truth is that a new link won’t immediately affect your rankings. This can make tying an individual link to an increase in SERP rankings a difficult task, especially as there typically will have been several new links and other changes by the time the rankings increase is revealed.

However new research has set out to answer this tricky question. The study picked out 76 links leading to pages with similar content that wouldn’t go through any significant changes for six months. It also focused on rankings for target keywords with a 25–35% Keyword Difficulty Rating (a calculation for how hard it will be to rank highly on any given term). This is what the study found…

On average it takes 10 to see 1 rank jump

The study showed that more links do have an immediate effect. One link promoted material that got around 20 links to a page, which was being outranked by other pages with about 6 more inbound links. It took this page 5–10 weeks to move from #9 to #5.

So basically each link has a small-medium effect originally, but this effect is going to increase over time. As you might expect adding a lot of links will speed up the process and bring higher returns over time.

The lower the rank, the greater the link’s effect

Pages that were already ranking on the first page of SERPs didn’t show much of an increase with just one link, as they barely moved one spot in 22 weeks. By contrast, pages on the second page of SERPs took off after just 8–9 weeks.

A higher DA with have stronger effects

The higher the DA (domain authority – a measure of power of a domain name based on its age, popularity and size) the larger the effect, unsurprisingly. Many SEOs won’t spend any time or money on sites with a DA under 25 – the research showed that the average rank change for a page that got a link from one these sites actually dropped after 13 weeks, before recovering to barely two ranks up.

The higher DA links will have faster effects, possibly as the higher traffic means the link will be discovered sooner, although it was also suggested this could be because Google takes longer to trust a link from a lower quality site.

Myth: If I start link building now, I’ll see results in 10 weeks!

Like any good business plan there are many steps to take before a plan can be implemented, including creating the plan itself. Naturally the first step would be finding someone to do this, whether you hire an agency (probably the easiest route but not all small business owners have the budget) or hiring an in-house link builder. You could also work with your PR team to start optimizing their media hits to also include good links.

Next you need to come up with the reasons people are going to want to link to you. Again there are several ways to do this, whether you’re going to offer up your expertise, an in-depth and well written article or put together an easy to understand infographic. Remember that while some of these options sound easy achieving the highest results is not; OK Cupid’s (previously) famous blog took 2–4 weeks of developer time and 4–8 weeks of a writer’s time for each post.

Finally, it’s time to execute your plan. This can take anywhere from two weeks to a month as you’re going to need to email each prospect. You may get a few immediate responses but as you’re not paying them you’re going to be fairly low on their list of priorities.

So to conclude:

In total it may take six months to a year before you see noticeable effects from your link building campaign. Remember, SEO is an investment. It’s a long process but once it’s complete the rewards are going to continue to pay off!

If you have any questions about SEO why not tweet us @teamdiscoveryeu. If you’re a small business owner and would like to discuss what SEO could do for you, please get in touch Team Discovery using the contact details below.