Pants Guy cut out a large number of low-quality pages from his ecommerce website, based on recommendations from Stone Temple’s video “How Many Pages Should My Website Have?“, hoping to increase his website rankings.
He was disappointed when his extensive changes didn’t seem to have any immediate effect on Google.
So how long does it actually take for Google to respond to SEO optimization on your website? Watch Eric and Brian explain in this video.
Eric: Wow. Look at this email. This pants guy is really not happy with us.
Brian: It’s somewhat understandable. He made big changes to his site, probably a significant cost to himself, and he wants to see some return on his investment.
Eric: Right. And frankly, he will. He just needs to understand that it’a gonna take some time.
Brian: That’s right. And actually, that’s one of the most common questions we get, is how long should it take before the changes I made are reflected in Google?
Eric: Yeah. Well, how long should it be?
Brian: Usually about 137 hours, give or take.
Eric: Great. Well thanks for tuning in everyone. Oh wait, you’re lying to me again, aren’t you?
Brian: That’s right, Eric. There’s not going to be a set amount of time. It’s going to depend on the type and the scope of change, how frequently your site gets crawled, and what part of Google’s algorithm is most responsible for registering that change and whether there’s updates cycles to take into account. So the real answer is that most changes are going to take somewhere between one day and six months to be fully taken into account by Google.
Eric: Thanks for narrowing it down, Brian. But that’s not very helpful.
Brian: I can see how you would feel that way. So fortunately if we drill into the type of change we made, we can have a better degree of confidence in terms of how changes will take to be reflected.
Eric: Well, how about simple changes on page content?
Brian: Well as you know, changes to title tags, page text, and other on-page content can be reflected pretty quickly, really almost as soon as the page gets crawled, so in most cases within a couple weeks.
Eric: Yes. We’ve actually seen double or even triple digit SEO traffic growth on pages within a few weeks from proving the title tags and page copy. So why do some changes take so much longer?
Brian: Well in cases where you have millions of pages of thin content and a potential Panda or a quality algorithm at play, there’s a number of reasons why it’s going to take awhile. Number one, since these pages are low-quality, Google probably isn’t trying to crawl them that often to begin with. So it may take awhile for them to revisit everything. Number two, sometimes people accidentally remove a bunch of pages from their site with no index tags or robots.txt instructions. So Google’s going to wait and see if you really intended to make the change. Number three, for these updates, Google isn’t just calculating things on a per-page basis, but they’re looking at the relationships between millions of pages and finding out the new information over time. And it’s a much more complex set of information that they’re dealing with and it’s gonna take awhile to digest everything. And number four, it really isn’t in Google’s best interest to invest lots of energy in making these kinds of changes reflected faster.
Eric: And why would that be?
Brian: Well, imagine that once Google started finding big changes on their site, they upped their crawl rate to the max that your servers could handle, and recrunched everything as urgently as possible, and got everything figured out in two weeks.
Eric: Okay. So that sounds great. Why not do that?
Brian: Well, you have to remember, Google wants to give people incentive to remove poor quality pages from the sites. So if I can just remove my very worst pages and then find out every two weeks whether I went far enough, I’m probably not gonna remove as many bad pages as if I only get a couple chances a year to do the right thing.
Eric: Okay. So in essence, taking time to process the changes actually helps the algorithms to be more effective at what they’re trying to do, which is clean up the web.
Brian: That’s right. If I could get feedback every two weeks on where Google’s drawing the line with what it considers thin, then it would be much easier to manipulate Google and find out where the algorithm isn’t working as well as Google might want it to be.
Eric: Well, that’s great for Google, but not so much fun for a website owner who’s waiting with no idea when their site is gonna get out of jail. Is there they can do to make it go faster?
Brian: Yeah, the biggest thing wherever possible is to use 301 redirects on pages you have removed. If that isn’t possible, other good options are 410s, 404s, no index tags or blocking pages in robots.txt. Canonical tags could potentially work as well, but they’re a little trickier to process and they’re also a suggestion, whereas the other solutions I mentioned are directives that Google is always going to follow.
Eric: That’s right. And one other trick. If you wanna get Google to revisit the removed pages faster, it’s to put them in their own unique XML sitemap.
Brian: Yes. And of course, once they do get crawled, you’ll wanna take that sitemap file down.
Eric: Yes, it wouldn’t make sense to keep directing Google to remove pages once they’ve already seen that they’re gone.
Kiki: I have an email from the pants guy and he said his website is on the first page now. And he says he’s sorry for the last email.
Eric: Well sometimes it happens faster than you expect to.
Brian: Yeah, that’s right.