Local Search Sponsored

How Long Does It Take to Rank Locally?

Image courtesy of Unsplash

Ranking locally used to be a lot easier than it is today. All you needed was a good website, some on-page optimization, and a listing in the local business directories. But with the advent of Google’s Pigeon update in 2014, things changed dramatically.

To rank locally, you need to have an optimized website and directory listing, citations from high-quality websites – basically a plethora of requirements. And you may also need a localized rank tracking service, or else you won’t make heads and tails of the impact of your SEO efforts.

Meanwhile, a question that often unites most local business owners is “how long will it take to rank locally?” It depends – not what you were expecting, but that’s how things work.

If you’re after a rough estimate, though, it might take three to six months for your ranking to increase. Essentially, this is a ballpark figure, and the actual time can vary widely. Let’s examine some factors impacting local SEO, including the duration it might take for a business to rank.

1. Your Budget

In the SEO world, money talks, and surprisingly, quite loudly. Simply put, how much you’re willing to spend on your local SEO efforts will directly affect how long it takes to see results. If you’re working with a shoestring budget, you’ll need to be patient as it may take longer to rank than if you had more money to invest.

On the other hand, if you’re willing to spend a little more, you can speed up the process by paying for directory listings or Google AdWords. While this doesn’t guarantee you’ll rank first, it can increase your chances. Similarly, your budget impacts SEO in several other ways, including:

  • The volume of content you can generate (blog or guest posts, press releases, location pages, and more).
  • How quickly you can get high-quality citations?
  • How many staff members can you assign to work on optimizing your website and other digital properties?
  • The length of your pages.

As you can see, the more effort and cash you can allocate to scaling your SEO efforts, the faster you might see results. In short, budget is a significant factor impacting the duration it takes to rank.

2. Your Industry and Competition

If you’re in a highly competitive industry, it will take longer to rank than in a less competitive one. After all, if it were easy to rank, everyone would be doing it, and competition would be non-existent.

The key here is to focus on less competitive long-tail keywords with lower search volume. Once you’ve managed to rank for these, you can start targeting more competitive keywords.

Also, consider the number of businesses vying for the same keyword in your city or town. For example, if you’re trying to rank for “pizza delivery,” you’ll have to contend with all the other pizza places in your area also targeting this keyword. As such, you may need to change tact to deal with the rugged terrain. This may imply investing more into your SEO efforts. Otherwise, it will take longer to rank.

Consult an SEO expert to get a feel for your market, including your competition, the phrases they’re ranking for, and their general SEO strategy. This will give you a good idea of where you should focus your attention and how much time, effort, and money it will take to establish your footing.

3. Your Website’s Age

How old is your website? If it’s brand new, it will take longer to rank than if it’s been around for a while. Google looks at a domain’s age when determining how to rank it. All else being equal, an older domain will rank higher than a newer one.

An older domain has had more time to build trust and authority with Google. Plus, the website’s owners have had ample time to generate backlinks – two key ranking factors. Also, older businesses will have created more pages compared to a startup. Thus, they have more opportunities to rank for various keywords.

But this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bother optimizing a new website. On the contrary, ensure your site is as SEO-friendly as possible from day one. Generally, a new website might take a bit longer to rank, say three months.

Interestingly, if your new business isn’t operating in a competitive area, it can rank high faster – if you do your homework. This may entail researching for gaps in the market. And once you establish what’s missing and work hard to plug the gap, you can speed up the ranking process.

4. The Size of Your City or Town

It’s easier to rank in a smaller city or town as opposed to a larger metropolitan area. That’s because there’s less competition. For example, if you’re trying to rank in New York City, you’ll have a lot more difficulty than if you were trying to do so in Albany.

In a city with more than 500,000 people, your website can take roughly 90-120 days to gain keyword momentum. But if you operate in a town with a lower population, your ranking can increase in as little as 90 days.

5. Manual Penalties Imposed by Search Engines

If you’ve been engaging in black hat SEO tactics, you may receive a manual penalty from Google. This can set you back and will take some time to recover from.

A manual penalty is when Google’s webspam team specifically targets your website and hand-deliver a penalty. This contrasts with an algorithmic penalty resulting from a change in the Google algorithm. In both cases, your rankings will take a hit.

If you have been slapped with a manual penalty, experts note that you’ll have to wait between three and six months to rank again. That said, you may request Google to remove the penalty after ‘cleaning up your act’ – removing flagged content.

We’ve only tackled a few variables affecting the duration it takes to rank locally. That aside, there is no magic formula for success. It takes dedication, lots of effort, time, and a bit of luck. But if you’re persistent, your website could be on its way to ranking better locally.

About the author


Usama Guest