One of the first questions business owners ask about ranking their website locally is how long will it take to get on the first page. However, there’s no clear-cut answer to that since there are numerous factors that affect how long it takes for a website to rank.
But for websites in competitive sectors that haven’t been optimized for SEO, about 50% of local search experts confirm that a notable increase in local rankings can be done within 3 to 6 months.
To get a more specific answer, we discuss every factor that affects how long it takes to rank.
Factors That Can Affect How Long it Takes to Rank Locally
Google ranks local search results based on a wide range of different signals. That’s why rather than focusing on just one tactic, it’s better to have a holistic approach where you tackle various ranking factors of local SEO.
Since more local businesses are now grasping the importance of SEO, ranking on Google will normally become harder as time goes on. But the good thing is, you have time on your side if you start your efforts early.
Below are just some of the factors that will affect the time it takes to dominate local SERPs (search engine results pages).
How competitive is your industry or location?
The more competitive your industry or area is, the longer it takes for your site to rank locally. This is because there are a lot more businesses contending to be on the top results when there are only limited slots that appear on the first page or Google maps.
When this happens, Google will assess what to rank based on these factors: relevance, proximity, and prominence.
Relevance is determined if your business fits the search term the user has entered. While proximity is assessed on how far or near your business is to the searcher’s location.
Lastly, prominence refers to how well-known your business is. For instance, if you’re a new business with little to no info online then Google won’t likely rank you.
If you’re in a highly competitive industry or location, it can take as much as six months or more to see significant results for your local SEO efforts.
For businesses in mid-competitive industries or locations, you’ll be able to achieve noteworthy gains in 2 to 4 months if you’re applying local SEO best practices to your site. While those in low-competition industries or areas will typically see results in 1 to 3 months even with basic local SEO efforts.
There are two kinds of optimization—off-page and on-page. Off-page refers to local SEO efforts that are done outside of your websites such as link building and on-page optimization describe the SEO changes you can make WITHIN your website.
To define what on-page optimization is, it involves internal linking and including your target keyword into your title pages, meta descriptions, URLs, headers, and text bodies with your target keyword.
Off-page optimization signals to Google that your website is trustworthy while on-page optimization lets Google know what your website is all about.
These are two crucial things that the said search engine requires to rank a website.
If you’re building links to an already optimized site, you’ll be able to see an increase in ranking within just 1 to 3 months. But if you’re only focusing on on-page optimization, it might take 2 to 4 months to see any significant boost in your rankings.
Another thing that can affect how long it takes to rank is if your website has been penalized in the past or has any existing penalties. Google typically penalizes websites it suspects of using black hat tactics such as keyword stuffing or suspicious link-building efforts such as PBNs (Private Blog Networks).
So how do you know if your website has been penalized or has an existing penalty? Log in to your analytics after at least a week or so of the latest Google algorithm update to see if you experienced a drop in traffic. If so, you were most likely hit with one.
To get back your site’s SEO health on track, you can disavow links seen by Google as suspicious using tools such as the Google Search Console and Semrush, to name just a few.
Once the penalty has been resolved, you’ll be able to see an improvement in 11 to 30 days for small offenses while more serious ones can take a few months at the least. If you’re a big, well-known brand, it can take as early as 11 days to see your traffic coming back up. However, do note that full recovery can take months.
Not all SEO efforts are equal—some will make a big difference while some will only lead to incremental improvements. What you choose to focus on will determine how long it will take your website to rank.
As per Google, here are the factors that will make the most difference in your local SEO efforts:
- Claiming and optimizing your Google My Business (GMB) listing
- Having a mobile-friendly website
- Having reviews on your GMB listing and responding to them
- Doing local link building
- Ensuring NAP (name, address, phone number) or citation consistency
Google Business Profiles, in particular, have increased in importance in the past few years—increasing from 25% to 36%
If you’ve done most or all of the above, you’ll see meaningful improvements in as short as 1 to 2 months.
Ranking Locally Takes Patience
As with SEO, in general, ranking in the top results and seeing results take time even if you’re only targeting the local search engine.
The good thing is, that there’s already a proven process you can follow to make sure you rank on top of SERPs in a few months. All you have to do is lay down the foundation and be patient while waiting for your web traffic to slowly increase.
The gains might be slow initially but that’s how long-term SEO results are built.