Internet Marketing Ninjas Blog

Sorry, I won’t do SEO for your new website.

A majority of the leads we get at from are from "new" websites which are seeking higher rankings in Google.  I don’t believe that for most new sites that they’ll see their ROI with our services for several years (but if you’ve got an old site you’ll see results from our type of SEO work "fast").

This is based on my belief that a huge majority of sites will not get into the top 30 of Google for competitive phrases without having been online for at least 2 years.

Because of this I’ll almost always pass on taking on clients who have "new" websites and are seeking SEO services and expect top 10 rankings for competitive phrases within a year.  

So I’ve created this post as a link that I can send to people who contact us seeking our SEO Services for thier new website.

Reasons I won’t work with most new sites:

In my first month of blogging I once said that I like ’em old, and added: 98% of the cases, you’re not going to see any "competitive" rankings for what I believe to be 6 months to a year and a half.  Keep in mind that if your website is less than a year old, chances are you’ll see almost no traffic from Google, no matter what you do.

I also gave some reasons including:

Natural Link Growth.
Older sites have the advantage of gaining links within a community over the course of years.  New sites, unless they are spectacular and "of news" will not be able to even start to look into "fitting into the community" for a year or more (part sandbox – part Mike’s Filthy Linking Rich ideas). Google tends to like old established sites and trusts them more often over new sites.

The key is (gaining) links over time.

The older the site the more "natural" the more probable that it has experienced some type of "natural link growth" and that it’s potential is far more than any sites started after the site in question.

I later did a post where I spoke about telling a prospective client that I don’t want to work with their new website. When someone asks me about doing SEO link building services for them I first ask:

"How old is your website", and then I cross it with this wbp backlink tool, or I’ll use the Cool SEO Tool. (to check their site againt the top 10 for phrases they’re targeting).

In October I also posted about Google Ranking Filters: Trust and Age Factors, where I stated:

If I were handed 2 sites, and I had to vote for which one has the best changes for highest ranking:

Choice 1 – site registered in Aug 2005 with 10K of great backlinks.

Choice 2 – site registed in August 1997 with 1k of great backlinks

I’d easily bet on Choice #2 beating the 2005 website – even if they both had great backlinks.

Find out why by reading that post.

I also spoke more on this in my post about historical importance of backlinks, which talks a bit about Google’s patent on this topic as well.

WeBuildPages (that’s me) also has a tool that shows the top 100 search results the the age of the domain (at time of writing the tool is broke, but should be working by monday).


Do you agree or disagree?
Would you work with a new site if the client was expecting top 10 rankings for specific highly competitive phrase?
If so, what would your methods be, and do you really think you can crack the top 10 for a highly competitive phrase (and highly searched) in less than 1 year or even 2 years?



125 Responses

  1. I have to take issue with this: “ 98% of the cases, you’re not going to see any “competitive” rankings for what I believe to be 6 months to a year and a half.”

    Depends on what competitive is, but you can definitely get results for (good solid) keywords that will bring you (good solid) leads.

  2. I agree about 90% with this. When I first started doing SEO I took any and every job that came my way. I learned my lesson really quick. However, I have had great success with newer websites that have had proper research and analysis done to them, and have a good SEO plan of action. If you can help them realize you can get them quality traffic that can convert, but they may not see a top 10 ranking in Google for several moths, if not years. Most people are happy if they see traffic and conversion, even if its not in the form of a #1 ranking on Google (at least from what I have seen and people I have delt with).

    With that said, I still mostly hand pick the jobs I do, and usually end up picking the ones that are older established sites for the same reasons.

  3. Hey Jim,

    As I’ve said before I love your thoughts on SEO, but I think you’re pretty off on this one. I have a site I started October 1st, 2006 that is averaging 1700 uniques/day on Google and appx 30k page views as opposed to like 60 uniques per day from MSN/Yahoo combined. I went into the project with Google in mind and followed a path I thought they’d like, and it seems to have worked.

    I wrote something on my blog about why I think age is so misunderstood in SEO and if you have the time to read it I’d be interested in your comments.


  4. I work with a lot of new sites (read small budgets). It’s not easy, but by creating really, really strong copy writing that supports well researched and analyzed themes and keywords, I can balance a “new site budget” with keywords that produce traffic in Yahoo (and MSN). Paying for listing in Yahoo Directory helps much. It’s a six month minimum before ranking in Google, but the perspective and the content that goes into the site early on is a valuable use of the client’s online marketing dollar. Not every site fits the mold though.

  5. Hi Jim,
    Can you clarify…do you have a cutoff date for when you would or would not accept a client for linkbuilding? Is it two years of age? Would you, for example, take a 1 year old site that was looking at competition of less than 1 million pages in the SERPs for their important keywords? How do you judge this? I’d be really interested to know, and it could also be useful to understand this for future referals to your company for linkbuilding.

    In my own experience, competitiveness is the whole ballgame. I just launched a birding blog for my regional area 2 months ago. It has exactly 2 backlinks coming into it at present. It’s already ranking in the top 3 for nearly every single thing I write about. But, of course, the competition is basically nil. Try doing that with a mortgage site. hahahaha.

  6. Miriam,
    It’s all about who’s in the top 10…I don’t care if there’s only 50 site results for a search , or 1 million, or 100 million…It’s all about who’s in the top 10 and do you have a chance of competing for that…and a big part of that is the history of backlinks and history of link text linking to you….over the years.

    Let me ask everyone out there….
    Would you take on a client who has a brand new site and wants to target the phrase “Las Vegas Real Estate”?
    If this prespective client said to you “I’m going to expect to be in the top 10 with 12 months for that phrase.” – Don’t know about everyone else, but I’d run.

  7. Point is Miriam, when
    1. You’ve exhausted YOUR optimization resources
    2. There is still money left in the marketing budget
    3. You haven’t attained the traffic goals for the site
    then you start knocking on the doors of the heavy hitters (like our friends Jim, et al.
    Less than 1M competitors in Google (depending on how you define that ) isn’t usually the job of heavy hitters. Traffic goals, budget, optimization ability, sales ability–they all play a part. I have a feeling that Jim would take a client with reasonable enough expectations and an a large enough budget regardless of the age of the domain. Is that wrong?

  8. Metapilot,
    Yes, we’ve got a couple of “newer” sites for some pretty big companies that are in this for the long term, and have pretty high understanding of SEO…and they won’t ask me questions like “Hey, it’s been 3 months, why isn’t my new site in the top 10 yet”.

  9. SEO Loser, nice article – I agree a lot with your logic in your post.
    But I still think that “time” is a factor….and if an authority has been linking to a site since 1998, than I speculate that that links counts more/different than a link that was obtained last month.

    you also point out that it takes time to get these authority links…and time can be a long one….and if a prospective client of mine said “I want to rank for “Blue Widget”, in the top 10, in 1 year, with a new site, dare say “it can’t be done”….now I know there are exceptions to every rule….so I’ll still stick with 98%/

  10. Paul – about the site you gave in your example – I dug into his backlinks and the type of linkbuilding they’re doing (“counter tricks”) aren’t the type of link building I’d want to do for a client who’s thinking long term…but there’s no denying it works great for them today as a new site…but I can’t/won’t duplicate that as a service for someone.

  11. Jim-
    You’d meet me running away, too, from the Las Vegas guy.

    I guess what both you and Metapilot are saying is that you don’t have a firm line drawn in the sand about this, and would have to research the client’s situation to determine whether your services would realistically meet their expectations. I can dig that. I just wasn’t sure if I’d seen a domain age limit mentioned in the past by Jim…I thought I had, but I’m not sure.

  12. Ok, I hear you on Lendance, then pls explain top 10 mortgage listing for which, like lendance, has been in the top 10 for mortgage and refinance terms consistently over the last 12 months. Is there (cross)linking also grey or black-hat to you like Lendance’s methods?

  13. “Let me ask everyone out there….
    Would you take on a client who has a brand new site and wants to target the phrase “Las Vegas Real Estate”?”

    Jim, then its not about domain age. It’s about who’s on the top 10.

    But even in that case I’d still disagree with you. It doesn’t even matter who’s on the top 10. It’s sometimes very easy to hit #1 on a page dominated by authority sites IF they’re not actively optimizing for that keyword.

    Take “supplemental hell”, or “pagerank doesn’t matter” for example. I outrank your site (with the first term), but the keyword is low traffic (~1 hit a week) and you were’nt targetting that term with your blog post. I outrank SEO Roundtable’s post which is a little more targetted but still I think I outrank them because the post is still on my blog’s front page and its got one or two organic IBLs.

    In these cases, it doesn’t matter all that much that your site has more backlinks than I do or that your domain is way older than mine. On-page content and backlinks to a particular page for those two SERPs happen to outweigh domain age and “authority.”

    I also think that some basic SEO should be done before a site even launches, like choosing the right url scheme (avoiding stuff like /las_vegas_realestate/ or multiple query strings), on-page basics like TITLE/META description, and installing dynamic NOINDEX to keep dupes or thin pages off Google’s index.

    The reason I’d stay away from new sites is simple: IMO most new sites tend to be low quality. But if someone comes to me with a site I really like to see rank higher in Google, then I wouldn’t care if the site was built yesterday.

  14. Halfdeck,
    the 2 examples you gave
    “supplemental hell”, or “pagerank doesn’t matter”
    are not competitive, (few sites have people linking to them with those phrases), so it’s not worth noting in my views…age, links, etc don’t matter for phrases that aren’t competitive.

    And yes, all sites should get some SEO, new or old (on page and off)

    but would anyone really take on a client who wanted to be in the top 10 for a phrase like “Las Vegas Real Estate” within 1 year?

    I wouldn’t….I’m sure those sites in the top 10 have had people linking to their site with that phrase for years.

    Don’t get me wrong, the new site should get SEO, they should optimize thier page, they should get backlinks….but if they think they’re going to get into the top 10 in a year (for a phrases that’s competitive (meaning the top sites are targeting that phrases, and have been for years)), I think they’re pipe dreaming.

  15. Jim,

    I agree with you 100%. If it’s a competitive phrase, it’s going to take about a year to start ranking in the top 10 on Google. I hear other people saying it doesn’t take that long and their sites have top 10 rankings but have yet to see anyone who ranks for competitive phrases that many sites are going after.

    “Would you work with a new site if the client was expecting top 10 rankings for specific highly competitive phrase?”

    I have n the past (and now only if it’s an existing client) taken these types of clients on but only if they accepted the fact that they will not rank for one year.

    “If so, what would your methods be, and do you really think you can crack the top 10 for a highly competitive phrase (and highly searched) in less than 1 year or even 2 years?”

    My methods for working with new sites are to focus on adding unique, quality content on a regular basis and obtaining links from as many authority sites as possible. I feel in the early stages of working on these types of sites that it’s important to focus on the quality of the inbound links in order to help establish trust from Google. These sites eventually have to be optimized if they want to rank. If you wait for say 1 year, and then start the optimization process you’re going to be waiting even longer to get the full benefit of the inbound links, additional content, etc. Again, my clients know it’s going to take a year (literally the 12 month mark is where I start to see 1st page results). If they’re in it for the long run, they understand the process has to begin at some point.

  16. Jim, of course the keywords aren’t competitive – that was my point. Remember, you said “Miriam, it’s all about who’s in the top 10” and I’m saying it doesn’t matter who’s in the top 10 and it doesn’t matter how old the domains are. What matters is how competitive the keywords are. But you cannot size up the competition by just looking at the domain registration dates or the number of IBLs to a domain. You want to see the IBLs to the page that’s ranking.

    You do realize though that you can generate thousands of daily uniques without targetting competitive terms, right? 🙂

    “but if they think they’re going to get into the top 10 in a year (for a phrases that’s competitive (meaning the top sites are targeting that phrases, and have been for years)), I think they’re pipe dreaming.”

    I agree completely. I wouldn’t waste my time trying to rank #1 for “paris hilton.”

  17. It sounds like the magical question here is “how much value does age (and only age) have?”

    I have (what I think is) a particularly interesting and applicable situation – Im working on putting together an ecommerce site for a local retailer. He currently has a website, and the domain he uses was registered in 2004. It has a PR of 4. I discovered today that prior to 2004, he had been using a different (but similar) url, and lost it by not renewing quickly enough when it expired. The old domain name was registered in 2001, was home to the site for 3 years, acquired a grand total of 8 links, and then was lost and turned into a domain parking page.

    Would it be worthwhile to obtain this old domain, and move, just because of the age?

  18. I’d take this kind of client after educating him/her that the results will be in not so close future (6-24 months). If the client doesn’t understand this, then no. It is not a question of wasting money, it is a question on how much such a client trusts you.

  19. The average client is not worth it. Not so much that a top 10 can’t happen in a year or two years for a competitive phrase, it’s that the investment in time, ideas, and strategy is out of budget for the average new website/owner.

    Plus most people are not good at doing a thorough job at linkbait, or being a link ninja.

    A new web owner with $10-20k (or that amount in consistent invested time in guerrila marketing/campaigning) could do a lot of damage with an incredibly, and I mean incredibly powerful viral linkbait strategy.

    People are only going to get back what they invest, and usually a new website does not have the cash or the (time/money/learning curve) ability to risk so much on “possibility” of rankings.

  20. Hell, I’d take on the real estate client, assuming he had the money. C’mon people, it’s a whole year we’re talking about here. You’re all running away quivering in fear from a key word with only 8 million results in Google? Grow some balls! There are FAR more competitive markets than this, and every single one can be cracked assuming the owner of the site is willing to throw enough money at it.

  21. Good stuff everybody. The point is, everybody has a different threshold for pain and a varying need for money/clients. What people are willing to do is based on their own personal need as a business owner/SEO.

    Age does matter, and it will only matter more in the future. Not considering it is myopic at best. SEO is about spotting and preparing for the future as much as it is about doing what works now.

    For the sake of this conversation, “Who’s in the top 10” is practically synonymous with “domain age” and “competitive phrases”. Take the intuitive leap people…if the top 10 wasn’t filled with competitive keywords and mature domains…why would they even ask for Jim’s help? They could get in the top 10 themselves.

    My own personal analysis for mature, competitive markets is showing that a combination of age, quality backlinks, and other high trust factors are blowing everything out of the water.

    A new customer with a new site would have to have realistic expectations and be committed to do their part (and part with the requisite amount of dollars)….and understand their is no guarantees. More targeted traffic and higher conversions is the ultimate goal…i.e. more money and higher ROI. They need to understand that rather than be a search engine slave who needs to be in the top 10.

    Nothing is more annoying than a customer who constantly asks why they aren’t in the top 10 for every keyword combination they can think of…if I have a customer like that…it’s my own fault…regardless of how much they paid me. I don’t want that business. Sounds like Jim doesn’t either.

  22. I agree that in today’s SEO environment, it takes a considerable amount of time for a new website to rank highly for competitive keywords unless they are investing a lot of time, money and resources into their overall marketing campaign. I’d define competitive keywords as keyword rankings designed to bring in at least 50 (maybe 100) referrals per day from search.

    Recent experience has shown me that new sites look at SEO as a form of alternative advertising strategy in lieu of investing in PPC, PR or other strategic marketing communication strategies and I have seen this from large and small companies. IMO – SEO is becoming more of a component of long-term marketing strategies, which often get compromised because it doesn’t keep the lights on this month.

    Of course, that makes it difficult for SEO’s to continue to sell their services.

    This is a great post Jim – my last comment is that if SEO’s want to be effective with new websites, they need to set the right expectations up front, build digestable timelines and objectives for longer timeframes and (of course) back this up with proven examples and references.

  23. I think getting rankings in less than a year is very possible, It seems all I was getting when I started offering seo services was new sites where my first link was the link that got them indexed for the first time, I have never had to wait over 9 – 12 months for competitive terms. My problem was most clients even though I told them to expect that long or longer were still asking about rankings by month 2 and 3. Also they cough up so much money up front to get there you’d better make sure that they have a decent conversion rate. You’d better have them testing ppc on the way to the organic rankings to make sure they can make your fees back
    once they achieve the rankings.

    Now that we are more established and in a better position to pick and choose who we work with It is a lot more fun for us and the client to work on a campaign with an old trusted site and see top ten in a matter of weeks.

    I think if anyone is going to sell seo to the new website they better make sure that client understands seo, and trust and make sure that they do a good job of creating expectations.

  24. Jim, we typically see eye to eye on most things in the SEO world, but I have to say that I disagree with you on this one. There are some companies that “get it” when it comes to SEO and there are others that don’t “get it” when it comes to SEO. Ideally, we would want to work with new sites that “get it” and realize that it will either take time or take money.

    I believe that money or (the right) publicity can quickly overtake time when it comes to SEO.

    If a new site is backed by a powerful company that has a lot of reach and pull in their industry then most likely they’re going to be able to do just fine with a new site. Perhaps the new site is a new celebrity or newly famous company? Would that stop you from working for that client? What about two companies that “merge” and create a new site and need new SEO? And finally, keep in mind that YouTube was a startup and a new company (but I’m not sure where they rank right now).

    There are new companies and there are new companies out there. When it comes to picking clients, I’d rather work with a new site whose owner has money to spend rather than one who doesn’t.

  25. Bill,
    Yea, I agree with you on that….problem is, a lot of people come to us and want to rank a new site for competitive phrases like “las vegas real estate”, and expect to get into the top 10 in 3 months…and that I’ll pass on.

    But yes, there are exceptions….but they are rare.

  26. I am doing a little experimentation with day job killer as a few aged domains are trying to rank for the term, and the book is launching in a few hours.

    I have done a couple of nice sitewide links to my review page from 2 additional domains.

    My tag page was ranking well (2nd), then dropped back to 13th, then recovered (3rd), then the post page took 2nd earlier today, and has again dropped to 3rd.

    I know it doesn’t class as “highly competitive” as only a few affiliate are seriously trying to rank for the term.

    There was no mention of the exact phrase on Google 6 days ago, and now there are about 28,900
    Allintitle returns 55 sites

    My blog is less than 4 months old

    I suppose it all depends on how competitive the term really is, but this is a lot more competitive than many terms.

  27. Andy,
    and this is one exception:
    “There was no mention of the exact phrase on Google 6 days ago, and now there are about 28,900”

    new sites do great for new phrases.
    ALso for phrases that suddenly get search a lot.

    New vitamins and health products are great for this…if there’s a new vitamin called “Jimohealthy” and last month there were 0 search results for that phrase, and 0 searches for that phrase…but now this month there’s 28,000 search results for that phrase, and 50,000 people searching that phrase, then a new site can do just fine….partly also since no one has ever had a backlinks to their site with that phrase since extremely recently.

  28. Based on that logic, why would I also have a first page result for “meta redirect” unquoted?

    All in title reports 1690 from lots of aged domains

    It is an SEO term that brings me traffic every day to one of those horrible duplicate content pages I love

    Until today I did have a 301 from a 18 month old PR3, and a meta redirect from a 20 month old blog on blogspot (that is now a 301 with the new blogger as of today) – those were actually genuine, but SEOs can do the same, and even retain permalinks to the old content.

  29. Not a competitive term Andy.

    Keyworddiscovery shows 494 searches for meta redirect for the entire year. Under 500 searches for the entire year is not a competitive term.

  30. That doesn’t necessarily equate to how competitive it is for ranking.

    All in title gives you a good indication of how many sites are relatively well optimized for that term. It is similar in number for a niche like surveillance camera, which does get search traffic.

    Not every website that is looking to rank well is competing for blue pills or Ugg boots

    It is probably similar difficulty to ranking for “cheap ugg boots” or “womens ugg boots” and there is traffic and money to be made on both of those terms.

  31. What I typically use as a “quick” indicator for how competitive a keyword phrase would be to rank for is query for inanchor and intitle. Obviously this does not calculate age, theme relevancy, trust, etc. or even the allinanchor rank but it works for me as a quick check indicator.

    inanchor:”meta redirect” intitle:”meta redirect”

    meta redirect = 564 matches

    las vegas real estate = 16,400 matches

  32. I agree, looking at keyword numbers doesn’t equate to how tough competition can be but it’s still a good indicator. An allintitle search also is telling but looking at both sets of numbers gives a better indication of how competitive a search term can be. I wouldn’t say an allintitle tells how “well optimized” a site is though.

    Not sure I understand your comparison with surveillance cameras though (233,000 searches and over 100,000 pages in an allintitle search). Something like that (or even womens ugg boots) is going to be much more competitive than “meta refresh”.

  33. Maybe I will make an Ugg boot affiliate site tomorrow

    Here is one that Jim should be ranking for even if it doesn’t get a lot of traffic, it is very targeted

    how to gain links

  34. Great post Jim. I totally agree that older is better and new sites are no fun. I agree to the extent that the keyword phrase being targeted is hard, in most cases the website will not see great traffic in the first 6 months.

    Sites that will see traffic are the ones such as Andy mentions that are for non-competitive terms. I also think that terms for certain cities are also an exception and can see great rankings quickly, but I guess this goes back to the fact that the competition may not be as strong.

    I also agree with Bill Hartzer, because a nice budget sure can help via text link ads and other strategies.

    I will definitely be emailing this link as well for those people who don’t have the budget and expect grand results from an organic campaign.

  35. Fast, Good, and Cheap. Pick any 2.

    But in all seriousness I would say for us, it’s about budget in “98%” of cases.

    I think just about any local term is still penetrable within a year.

    There are definitely some terms that would be ridiculous to shoot for in less than a year, but I think in most cases it just depends how much the client has to spend. But then in most cases if the budget is right they’re better off buying an old site and using that in addition to working on a long term more branded approach.

  36. its not that i wont work with new sites, its just harder… for these clients why not search for a recently deleted domain, something keywordy and promote that in place of the ‘new’ domain its a tip i often use (just make sure the deleted domain was indexed previously).

    seems to work for me.

  37. Chris said it best:
    “I think if anyone is going to sell seo to the new website they better make sure that client understands seo, and trust and make sure that they do a good job of creating expectations.”

    It boils down to educating the client and setting expectations.

  38. I run a new blog that started in December of 2006. Made one post about Michelle Sorro from the Apprentice and got about 800 visitors in one day. Alot of this traffic came from Google and That was only 1 month from the start up date. So I have to disagree that it has to take so long.

    As long as clients are willing to do other things while they’re in the process of building links (articles, press releases, blogging), and they understand going in that there will be somewhat of a delay before they get out of the sandbox, I think they can get Google traffic quite a bit sooner than 6 months to a year and a half. If it really took 2 years to get to the top of Google with specific keyword phrases, I wouldn’t have the patience to be doing what I do today.

    One main question I’d have is: What do you consider “competitive phrases”?

  39. Nate,

    Michelle Sorro isn’t a competitive phrase, that is cool you capitolized on a new potential word like that, but I would argue that even in a year if she won her phrase still wouldn’t be competitive in the terms we are talking about. It is smart for sites to do what you did and move on new terms, but how do I monetize that for a client? Adsense would be the first thing that came to mind but again I would never do seo for a site solely monetizing off of adsense. I think that would be something I would do personally.

    I think competitive is words like Las Vegas Real Estate as Jim stated, words that have averages of 10k plus links not just to the site but to the page ranking.

  40. Well Jim, I can get new sites ranking for some terms in weeks/months, not that hard, but the trick is steering the new site in the right direction. If you wait until they’re over a year old they can be a complete mess left in the wrong hands.

    From a sheer business perspective, if you pass on the new site today, someone else will pick it up. Then when you look them up and a year or so later, when it’s primed to be milked it’s likely the SEO that helped start them up from the beginning will have that job.

    Obviously an old powerhouse site has lots of traction and it’s easier to do your job, but virtually anyone can manipulate a site with authority, what’s the reward in that?

    Well, obviously the money, but it’s not much of a challenge really.

  41. As a rough measure of competition, I check how bold the first page of results is. If page one is black with bold listings (ie everyone doing their on-page SEO properly), chances are it’s a competitive phrase.

  42. I am new here 🙂 After reading all of the posts I think it is funny how most people didn’t even answer the question. I wouldn’t take that client on, not if they expected those types of results in 12 months.

  43. I agree that new sites don’t stand much of a chance at ranking for competitive keywords. I usually turn down clients that are trying to start a new online digital camera store or something similarly unspecialized.

    But I think that certain sites do stand a chance even if they are new, if they are specialized enough, and have a depth in that specialization that sets them apart from whatever few existing resources that are already out there.

  44. MaxD has a great point: get old domain and 301 to new domain. This is a good strategy, but the only issue is that you have to first find on-topic older domains (okay, that’s not very hard to do), but then you have to actually acquire them so you CAN redirect them.

    Acquiring those domains can be costly.

  45. I see many site that get rank in google with their new domain. Last year i maintenance a site that only less than 3 month domain old and get top 1 to 5 ranked in main search engine till now.
    It’s very important to maintenance the site content and keyword density. And never leave meta tag. You still need this.

  46. Hello Jim,
    Interesting post idea for your clients.
    I see that almost everybody agree in the “time” factor.
    As a company has became older, clients will have more trust with the time, and I think that the same happen with search engines and older sites. With a typical site, Time will give you natural links, but, if the site is touched by an SEM expert, things will happen more quickly.
    I totally agree about the time factor, sites with less than 2 years won’t rank well in Google for competitive phrases.

  47. Jim,

    I couldn’t disagree more. When we launch a brand new site, I expect significant traffic within 3 months, and page one @ Google in less than six months, in almost any market. Regardless of when the domain was registered.

    Of course, we aren’t talking about launching a one-page brochure site, we’re talking about fully developed sites that deserve to be found.

    Sandbox? That’s for screen scrapers and MFA sites, not us. Get a Yahoo listing and let ’em know you’re a real business.

    While you’re waiting for SEO to give you the gift of free traffic, run some PPC campaigns and learn how to make a profit. When I launch a site, I expect it to be profitable in the first month, and most of that comes from doing PPC right.

  48. Dan,
    great. How much would you charge to do SEO on a new site? I’m interested in getting in the top 10 for “Las vegas real estate” within 6 months. I’d prob be willing to pay for your design (or any designer of your choosing) if you can get me page 1 in 6 months for that phrase. Do I get a refund if you can’t get that on page 1 in 6 months?

  49. Jim, I didn’t know you were a real estate agent. It’s good to have a hobby, I guess. 😀

    Tell you what, since we’re friends… If you’re serious, willing to build a real web site, and actually have a budget for marketing, I’ll coach you through it for free.

    Just as a warning, PPC prices look pretty steep, somewhere around $3 per click, so you’ll definitely want to have a strong lead capture mechanism and a strong back end selling process. How many agents on your team?

  50. I’m not interested in PPC…just natural rankings.
    All I want is to be in the top 10 for “las vegas real estate” in 6 months in Google’s natural SERPS.

    Ya know I love ya Dan! I’d be honored to get your coaching and I’d almost get my real estate license in nevada if you really think you can get me top 10 for “las vegas real estate” in 6 months…by that time I’ll have my license and agents on my team 😉 all ready.

  51. OK, Jim… it sounds like you aren’t really serious about starting a business in Las Vegas, but if you want me to give you a road map “just in case” email me. I’ll have PJ set an appointment for the first hour consultation.

    I’m going to assume that you’re after the residential market. I dunno if “real estate” or “homes” is a better target, but we’ll figure that out with the PPC campaign. I’m willing to bet that we’ll make more money with “homes.” Are you planning to get into the commercial space and undeveloped land, as well as residential?

    At a quick glance, it looks like around 300 pages (20×15) of content to cover the keyword space and information needs of your target audience, plus a dynamic component that will create a few thousand more pages – you can build that out of MLS, the fees aren’t too steep. I haven’t seen anything good “off the shelf” for MLS but we can probably find someone who’s already done one and get them to tweak it for us.

    The PPC is essential, though. If I can make you a profit at it, why wouldn’t you do it? Anyway, let’s figure on 4-5K for other promotions and advertising. Since it’s Vegas, it would be nice to test some bus and taxi ads too, but maybe we can do that later.

  52. Dan,
    I’ve already done all the reseach…my only market is being found in the top 10 of google for the phrase “las vega real estate”.
    if you think it takes 300+ pages of content, plus thousands of dynamic pages so be it…still not interested in PPC, keyword research or any of that….the whole question is:
    “Can you get me in the top 10 of google for the exact phrase “Las Vegas Real Estate” with a brand new site? nothing else matters to me…just that 1 and only question.

  53. With all due respect, Jim, that’s a stupid question, because it lacks context. 😀

    The answer is yes, if you’re willing to invest in building a real site with real content, and put something into marketing and promotion besides text link ads.

    However, because I don’t want you to feel like an idiot in six months, I must insist on a PPC campaign to validate your choice of “las vegas real estate” as the primary target because I think that’s the SERP all the idiots are going after, and we can get more by blanketing the stuff they’ve left off their radar.

    The answer is no, if you’re not willing to do the right things to make it happen. If you want to just throw up a site, and sit there passively while I do… what exactly would I do, if you aren’t participating? If you aren’t going to drive any targeted traffic to it, and work on the site as we go, how can you improve usability and conversion, and gain user acceptance?

    If the question is, “Dan, can you get any worthless doo-doo-ball of a website into the top 10 for anything besides worthless doo-doo-ball” then the answer is maybe, but I have better ways to use my time. If you want to get a new site to the top quickly, you must build something that users like, you have to use your analytics to improve the site’s performance, and you must promote it actively.

    My answer to “will you do SEO for my new site” used to be “let me see your business plan.” That shakes out the chumps pretty quick. 😀

  54. Dan,
    I agree with everything you’re saying about “create a great site”, and “test with PPC”, “have a great plan”, etc.
    however, from 98% of what I’ve seen, new sites have a hard time going after major competitive phrases…even mid-level competitive phrases like “las vegas real estate”…I believe it’s because other sites have a history of backlinks to them with phrases like that..a history that’s often very important to rankings…and a new site just doesn’t have that history.

    Dan, I’d love to buy you a beer next time I see you and get more advice on working with new sites. In the mean time, I’m still going to pass on “new” sites, and stay with the aged clients.

  55. Thanks, Dan and Jim, for some enjoyable Memorial Day evening reading! (I’ve been getting the email notifications and loving each new installment tonight.)

    Dan, I have to say that your first post was misleading in that you made it sound like you can get any good site to rank well within 6 months. But you neglected to say any new site with a very large marketing budget.

    It became clearer as you debated with Jim about the topic, that’s what you meant.

    But I agree with Jim that you can’t simply take a brand new website and rank it for a competitive phrase simply by “SEO’ing” it.

    That’s what most of those types of clients are looking for. They aren’t interested in you buying ads on the sides of busses…you are their SEO…not their marketing/ad agency. (I’m just telling it from their side.)

    Unfortunately, at this point in time most people still don’t understand that SEO doesn’t live or work in a vacuum.

    I’m with Jim on this in that I’ll still with clients who have old sites and leave it at that!

  56. I think part of the problem is fixating on a single phrase, instead of attacking the market. I know you’re sort of joking about that (typical about-to-be-rejected client), but it’s totally the wrong approach.

    You already know that retrieval and ranking aren’t the end of the story. You’re one of the few bloggers I’ve seen with an intelligent take on the subject. 😀

    I guess you don’t do much PPC, but a big part of why I consider Adwords critical to the launch/SEO process is that the quality score feedback and analytics linkage helps us make the necessary changes to create a site that actually gains from reordering.

    The search engines may have different approaches to gathering user feedback and predicting user satisfaction with a search result, but they all do it*. The approach I take is entirely empirical, but so far it’s worked well for the top 3 engines.

    Google uses some “sledgehammer re-ranking” (-40, -999) that everyone can see, and it’s easy enough to identify the causes, but there’s a lot more subtle stuff going on. I think the “universal search” will reveal a lot if we understand what to look for.

    Anyway, I don’t blame you for sticking with the easy jobs… if I were an SEO consultant I’d probably do the same thing. It’s not the age of the competing sites, it’s the 10 year lead in getting plugged into the web – that’s hard to overcome.

    Since I teach, I can’t afford to say “your new site is doomed” and walk away. I have to look for solutions. I’d love to walk you through it some time, but you gotta promise to take on at least one new site this year.

    *OK, maybe doesn’t, but their referral weight is somewhere below so who cares?

  57. Excellent article, we are in the competitive field of personal injury claims and managing to appear in the top 10 for any of our key-phrases is never easy.

    Our site was first established in 2000 and I am pretty sure that has given us the edge over some of our newer competitors who have sprung up in recent years.

    Whilst some of the newer sites may appear in the top 10 for a while they tend to fall away once things have settled down.

  58. So, Dan, you’re seriously saying that you could get a site to rank highly for very competitive phrases such as Las Vegas Real Estate, in 6 months with only $5k?

    Sorry, but I just don’t believe it.

  59. Look at the SERPs for that market, Jill. Then come back and tell me it’s really that competitive. That SERP churns like crazy, and it’s not hard to see why when you see how many of them are renting their links.

    Give me a good site that deserves to be found (not some 10 page realtor brochure), do what you’re told to do when you’re told to do it, and it won’t be that hard.

    You need links and you need traffic, so you have to market aggressively, you have to promote aggressively, but that stuff doesn’t have to cost a lot in terms of dollars in the budget.

    It will cost more in money and time to build the site, than it will to promote it. If you limit the scope to “on site” SEO, of course it’s impossible.

  60. I’ll bet 10k that a new site (less than 6 months old) can’t get into the top 10 for las vegas real estate in Google within 6 months.

  61. This is like having ringside seats at a boxing match in Vegas! Or maybe it’s more like a poker game, I’m not sure, but dang, it sure is fun to watch.

  62. I’ll bet 10k that a new site (less than 6 months old) can’t get into the top 10 for las vegas real estate in Google within 6 months.

    Jim, is that the only qualifier? You might want to rethink that.

    I just watched someone deliberately and very nicely get into the top 10 for [make money online] in less than 4 months, a upper-mid level competitive phrase to say the least… it is very doable if you know what you are doing.

  63. Tell you what, Jim… I’m not planning to build a Las Vegas Real Estate site any time soon, since I live in Texas. This isn’t “elursmebble 7vd” or something, it’s a real SERP, so we can’t just throw junk at it, that’s not cool.

    Since you are a credible skeptic, you’re invited to watch our next site launch, which should be happening this week. I could be smokin’ crack, but I think this market’s a lot tougher than LV real estate.

    If we aren’t pulling in page 1 results for that launch in six months, I’ll eat a very large cheeseburger at WMW or SES, while you drink beer at my expense. If we are sitting on page 1, that bacon-laden cholesterol bomb is going into your gut, while I drink beer on your dime.

  64. I’m not planning to build a Las Vegas Real Estate site any time soon, since I live in Texas. This isn’t “elursmebble 7vd” or something, it’s a real SERP, so we can’t just throw junk at it, that’s not cool.

    Well, Dan, technically speaking… if he’s willing to bet $10k, and you think you can do it for $5k, then the odds are that you could find a nice honest LV Real Estate agent with a semi decent site who deserves the traffic but doesn’t know anything about search engines, do it pro-bono, collect Jim’s money, and still wind up ahead of the game, couldn’t you?

    Be a little creative here, no once said ever said anything about needless clutter, or putting something in the top 10 that didn’t belong there. Plenty of deserving sites that no one will ever see without a little tender love thrown at them.

  65. Well, that wouldn’t give us a new site for one thing, and I never said I could polish a turd… I don’t do launches of “semi-decent” sites, I do launches of sites that will be market leaders, with students who can follow the instructions and execute.

    My whole point here, and you are welcome to disagree, is that there is no “sandbox” if you bring the right site to market and launch it right. Established sites will always have a lead, but most markets are simply not that competitive.

  66. Well, that wouldn’t give us a new site for one thing

    Well, all you would really need to meet that criteria would be a new domain name. If the site was a complete unknown anyways then that shouldn’t matter too much.

    I never said I could polish a turd… I don’t do launches of “semi-decent” sites, I do launches of sites that will be market leaders, with students who can follow the instructions and execute.

    My bad, I just naturally assumed that part of what you would be doing would be taking a normal site and making it that market leader through your advice and whatnot. Following directions is easy. So, did you actually mean that you could do it with a site, as long as that site was completely above average already, a genius in it’s own right, before you ever get to it?

    My whole point here, and you are welcome to disagree, is that there is no “sandbox” if you bring the right site to market and launch it right.

    I do agree wholeheartedly with that statement. I just happen to think that in general that isn’t going to happen without more marketing and man hours than you alluded to. I mean, $5k… even at a discounted rate of $50/hour, that’s still a mere 100 hours into the site over a 6 month period. Seems cheap to me.

    And my point was more towards the fact that should you actually want to prove what you were saying, the $10k incentive would more than offset you not having an actual client… you could just create one.

  67. Michael, read what I said, not what you wanted me to say. That’s a 4-5k budget for marketing and promotion. Not to build a website.

    I’m out… Jim, the invitation stands.

  68. Obviously what you have to do is get Vanessa Fox to prove there is no Sandbox by writing a well optimized post on her blog titled “Las Vegas Real Estate”

    I am not sure she would eat that hamburger though.

  69. It should be easy to outrank Vanessa even for “Vanessa Fox Nude” by Jim’s logic, after all it isn’t even a competitive term.

    Ah, wait, Vanessa gained an avalanche of links from extremely high PR blogs.

    It would be interesting what terms Vanessa could rank for.

    Is SEO consultant and SEO consulting looked on as competitive?

    I did a review for someone’s site with a title of SEO Consulting on the blog post – that currently gives me a page1 result for SEO Consulting and 2nd page for SEO Consultant.

    That is just from internal linking structure

    Domain was registered in October 06

    I do expect it to drop a little in the results, but it will never be more than 2 clicks from the home page.

    I do benefit a little from a 301 redirect from an old blogspot of mine, but that is fair game.

  70. This is very interesting…

    Can’t wait to see the outcome for a new site (6 month)
    to rank high with very competative keyphrase.

  71. Totally agree, I do SEO for my sites, but I think that was impossible to sell SEO services because of this…. great post, at the end somebody telling the true. There is another alternative, I do it but you are going to have results in 2 years…. but, it is difficult that somebody agree on that, so they go with “easy solutions” that are no real.

  72. I agree with Dan that sites can have top rankings in 6mo – however there is a huge qualifier: these sites must DESERVE to be in the top 10, have stellar design and excellent, copious, ongoing content addition.

    As an example I present exhibit A: launched in mid 2006 and dominating the most competitive category on the internet:

  73. CVOS….searchengineland?…here’s a quote from danny at:
    where he talks about being sandboxed:

    “Sigh. It’s stuff like this that makes Google sound like a mockery when they suggest there is no “sandbox” or “sandbox-like effect” that holds new sites back. Clearly from our experience, there is. It’s easy to find many searches like the ones above, where other sites that reference our own content outrank that content. It makes no sense, nor is it particularly relevant.”

    so using searchengineland as an example wasn’t the best choice 😉

  74. Jim, I wouldn’t jump to conclusions. I highly respect what Danny Sullivan has to say, but he’s been wrong before, including his suggestion that Colbert’s site’s deranking was due to a handjob and his reporting that Matt Cutts’ blog has been hacked. He also failed to mention the role of PageRank in getting a site into the main index in his otherwise comprehensive PageRank article.

    Also, just because he’s not ranking well for certain terms doesn’t mean anything. He’s not actively optimizing for any of the terms he mentions in his article.

    In fact, he ranks 3rd for “Miserable failure”, just underneath Wikipedia, So his claim that he’s “not in the top 100 listings” is untrue.

  75. Actually I think it’s a great example, Jim. If you search for ‘miserable failure,’ SEL is now at #3 where I’m sitting. SEL is not actually a miserable failure, so I’d say the SERP isn’t very good, but that’s another story.

    Maybe SEL’s results would have been different if they had done a little SEO. If you don’t immediately see at least three major SEO problems with that site just from examining the home page, then I really can’t help you.

    But I forgot the mantra: it’s not weak SEO, it’s the sandbox. I didn’t shoot myself in the foot, Google did. Sometimes I think we forget what SEO is or something. SEO is not about hoping that the search engines will get it right – it’s about helping them get it right.

  76. I think the age of a website has alot to do with search engine ranking. However at the same time we have a relatively new site and are experiencing good results on search engines. The competitive keywords are hard to get a foot hold in though against sites that have been online for a while.

  77. If you follow the rules, ethics and a clean code with useful content, the aging factor may not be as important as to establishing a reputation with a search engine. I’ve personally managed other sites that started to bring a decent targeted traffic from Google after about 4 month point without a high page rank. And I’ve seen sites dead for years because of simple java scripts that contain unfavorable coding that Google considers as spam because many banned sites had used it in the past, although the code seemed to be completely harmless. Many… many sites use it with no intention of harm or spamming because the scripts are a matter of delivering the content in a friendlier manner but with that, they never get any traffic from Google. MSN and Yahoo are a different story though.


  78. Hey Jim,

    Just a bit off of subject, but assuming that sites 2 years and newer shouldn’t be hiring “heavy hitters”, then what should they do to SEO in the mean time? I’ve been doing a little here and there with my site, but honestly, it’s next to impossible to work with. If you have a low page rank (in my case, 0), even if you are VERY active in building, no one cares to have a reciprocal link with you. yesterday I’ve contacted over 20 sites, and today I haven’t had 1 site contact me back at all.

    Are there some basics that can be done, to bring a site up to the level for the “heavy hitter” SEO’s to work on 2 years from now?


  79. Nof… I hate to say it, but “your baby is ugly.” What you have there is an empty directory, covered with ads. Why would anyone with a real web site want to link to it?

    Don’t waste your time with reciprocal link emails. Every minute you spend on that is a minute you could have spent actually building a real web site. You don’t get those wasted minutes of your life back, you just get older.

  80. Nof…. I have to agree with Dan 100%…I couldnt have said it better.

    I’d start another site.
    What’s your hobby or interests?… start there and build a great resource site…build good content and try to get a following in the community the site is about. Earn links via references and network with the players along the way. Build Trust….over time when you site has earned trust, then look to monitize it, but keep the trust and quality on your site.
    For your first 2 years you could focus on providing quality info, tools, forum, blog, articles, etc on your site…that’s the best way to prepare for tomorrow.

  81. Well, I’ll defer to you. Yo ar ethe expert. My site is only 2 months old and I am still working on it. I’ve made mistakes along the way. I probably should never have published my pages before they were fully optimized, but I’m learning. I intend to be around in a a year and a half or two. So, I’ll just bookmark this and get back to you in a year or so.

  82. Dan, Jill, Jim: I will take the challenge on for $10k. Here’s what I’m prepared to do. Get a brand new, new hosted website ranked within the Top 5 of Google. It will stay there for a period of 2 months without extra money thrown in [Guaranteed]. I will guarantee the ranking. I am not betting $10k of my money. 🙂

    I’m interested to see if you will respond. I can do it, and I’ll even explain my strategy with all of you beforehand.

  83. Rob Docherty Says:

    August 4th, 2007 at 10:38 am
    … I am not betting $10k of my money.

    Rob, are you thinking Jim was looking to hire someone? Either you missed something here, or I did. 😀

    Jim Boykin Says:

    May 29th, 2007 at 1:11 pm
    I’ll bet 10k that a new site (less than 6 months old) can’t get into the top 10 for las vegas real estate in Google within 6 months.

    A bet isn’t “I’ll try, and if I make it I win”… a bet also has the possibility of you losing as well.



  84. BTW…

    I want something in contract, otherwise what do I have to gain from it?

    Rob, if you don’t think that bragging rights to, “HA! I proved Jim Boykin wrong!” has inherent value, something that you can leverage into either linkbait or leads, then you’re just not being creative enough. 🙂

  85. Hi Jim,

    2 years ago we built an website ( with the aim of selling our website backup software. For two years we got no notable results. Last month we started to get traffic (no changes to the content, back links or other changes were made for more than an year and a half). If you search “website backup” on Google we now list 3rd.

    So I must agree that web site’s age does matter. Or at least the link’s age.

    About the Las Vegas stuff … SEO is hard … especially hard when you don’t wanna cheat your way.
    I give no promises … If the customer understands that … ok. If not , … I can always focus on web development 😉

    Good luck to you all !

  86. Hi, jim.

    I agree with you.
    May be someone think that the new domain can get good position on search engine.
    But it’s actually not good keyword.

    To get hight rank on search engine with the good keyword it’s not easy.

    So you right.

  87. “May be someone think that the new domain can get good position on search engine. But it’s actually not good keyword.”

    How about ranking #1 for “online dating” in less than 12 months? “online dating” is probably about 10 times harder than “las vegas real estate.”

  88. Halfdeck…I know…I know….the second I saw that my jaw dropped…it was actually my inspiration to make our next tool the 301 finder….I’m dying to know if there’s any 301’s….if not…we’ll I just might have to eat my hat a bit here (and say yes, there ARE very rare exceptions….and I’ll study that one some more…and I’m also curious to see if it maintains and what it takes to maintain….so far it’s worth exploring….let me see what the 301 finder says….it’s #1 on my list. We should have that tool done in 1-2 weeks.

  89. I think a single new site for a competitive phrase is challenging – however I’d propose creating a small network of five 20 page sites (all new on different IPs) – and working with those (both external link building, heavy intra-site linking, a regular fresh blog on each site). I believe with a reasonable budget that would work.
    (And definitely requires buying or begging some authoritative links – PR5 at least – and Yahoo Directory + a DMOZ listing right at the start).

    When I look at domain age for my market everything in the top ten is 2 years older or more (damn! why didn’t I grab my domain a year earlier). And several have built small networks of sites as well.

    However I believe I will crack top ten for a major competitive phrase in the next month (I’m at no. 13 now).

  90. Hi Jim,
    I have to admit that as a new website creator and owner your comments are a little depressing. I have a pet classifieds site which went live a year ago yesterday. I’ve been building and improving over the last 12 months and have tons of content to ad to my site (450 breed profiles) but find it difficult to find the time to get it done quickly. I currently have the following rank in google #3 find a pet #7 pet classifieds, #6 pet ads, #19 pets for sale and several other key terms in the 30’s. I am in the yahoo directory but have had difficulty getting listed in dmoz. If you are unwilling to take on a site such as mine do you have suggestions that could be helpful?

  91. Can we agree that “baby names” is at least a half way competitive term? It was in Hitwise’s top 10 generic phrases recently, so I guess that gives it some cred. The top 2 or 3 sites are doing well over a million unique visitors a month (easily verified through their ad sales data, etc). I built a site in this niche about a year ago, and got ranked in Google in a month or two. Been on page 2 of Google for “baby names” for about 9 months now. Been high on page 1 for lots of “decent” terms in the niche, such as Irish Baby Names, Biblical Baby Names, etc. Getting about 70,000 visitors a month, and have been since about April.
    My point: most of what Jim is saying, in my opinion, doesn’t mesh with my experience. I simply researched and wrote tons of unique content, and pitched it to major media, and got some great pickup. I have a link from the Chicago Trib. from a blog at USA Today, from the San Diego paper, from, and from a bunch of other, lesser sites. I don’t know why Jim makes such generalized statements about new sites. I think it’s all about how much work you put in, and whether you know what your’re doing.
    The idea of a sandbox for new sites is absolute nonsense in my experience. I know of a bunch of new sites that are pulling a lot of traffic, yet are less than a year old. Some of them are using white hat SEO, some very blackhat, but no sign of a sandbox.
    Well, that’s my ten cents worth.

  92. Neil,

    That’s exactly the kind of effort I’m talking about. You “broke the rules” by investing in real content development, doing real marketing and promotion, and creating a site that actually deserved to be ranked as relevant.

    If Jim has said, “no, I won’t work on your crappy site with no marketing budget,” nobody would be arguing about it. 😀

  93. Thanks Dan, I appreciate that. I actually took one of your online seminars about 18 months ago, and took away the lesson that in the end, so much of “SEO” boils down to good, old-fashioned P.R. I remember the story you told about the guy who was selling upside down Christmas trees — now there’s some winning content!

    In a universe long ago, before computers, I actually worked in publicity in the area of book publishing. We had to take a book and an author, make a good story out of whatever they wrote, and pitch it to the media for coverage. The key point is: “we had to make a good story out of whatever they wrote.” If I had said to my publicity director “sorry, I can’t work on new authors, I just like to promote authors who come with a track record” she’d have fired my sorry ass, and I’d have deserved it. Who wouldn’t want to work on a product, or a site, with a good track record? The real trick is to take a new, but worthwhile website, and promote that sucker on the internet. The same techniques work on the internet today as worked in book publicity years ago. It was hard work then, and it’s hard work now.

  94. Actually, I think it depends on the scale of the project.

    Getting top ranking depends on the competition not on the age of the website. I have got a site #1 ranked for low competitive keywords within 2 weeks of having registered the domain – recently.

    Best way to do it – Combination of:
    In bound links and content.

  95. Pingback: jimsotonna
  96. i was surpriced of the matter but i look back and i agree on the issue that older domains are better for SEO.

    I never thought of that before but some older domains I own are much better ranked than news so must be it!!

    good article


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