197 - How Long Will SEO Take to Rank My Website Higher

A Look Into Factors That Can Impact Your SEO Timeline

In this episode of the Local SEO Tactics podcast, Jesse is joined by Bob and Sue as they address the commonly asked question: How Long Will SEO Take To Rank My Website Higher? They provide insights into the various factors that impact the timeline for achieving improved search engine rankings, offering practical strategies and real-world examples for business owners and digital marketers seeking to accelerate their website's ranking growth. Tune in to learn more about the timeline for achieving a high online rank and ways you can accelerate your website's growth.

What You'll Learn

  • How various factors impact SEO results, including location and competitors.
  • Why having a professional SEO strategy is essential for your website's ranking.
  • How timelines can vary due to the ongoing nature of SEO and the ways agencies can adapt to optimize results.

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Jesse Dolan: Hey, everyone. On this episode here today, we're going to tackle the question we get asked a lot, which is basically how long will it take before my SEO makes an impact? It definitely is one of our answers where it depends, but we're going to break that down and tell you where some areas can go quicker, so might be a little slower what you as a business owner or a marketing manager can do to help that process and how it all works. Take a listen.

Welcome back to Local SEO Tactics where I bring you tips and tricks to get found online. I'm your host, Jesse Dolan here with Bob Brennan and Sue Ginsburg.

Sue Ginsburg: Hi.

Jesse Dolan: How you two doing today?

Bob Brennan: Excellent.

Sue Ginsburg: Really good. Thanks.

Jesse Dolan: Sue, why don't you go ahead and kick us off for topic that we have for today's episode.

Sue Ginsburg: Sounds great. Today's question comes from a client of ours, Lelo Hernandez of Hernandez Landscapes in Louisiana, and the question is, "how long will it take for my website to rank higher?"

The quote of the day today is, 'the greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence it is to act with yesterday's logic.' That's a quote from Peter Drucker, one of the Mcdaddy's of marketing and a really good quote.

When a new business starts working with us, one of the first questions I very frequently get asked is, "when will we be able to start seeing the results of the SEO?" Especially if the business has not done SEO before, they're not familiar with it. They don't really know what or when to expect to see the impact, which I totally get. Smart business owners want to know when they can expect to see ROI from their marketing investment as usual.

As usual there's not a cut and dry answer other than Jesse's favorite answer. It depends. It depends on many variables such as how old is the website, how well does the website reflect what the business has to offer? What if any SEO has been done, what geography the business covers, who the competition is, are they doing SEO? Is there AGP? And a lot more.

A good analogy to make it easier to understand is if you think of it as a horse race. With the Belmont Stakes coming up next week, I thought that this would be a good analogy to make. The predictions are all over the map, even from the experts. One horse racing expert says Fort the Kentucky Derby favorite who was scratched just hours before the race is a good bet because he does well with a lot of competition in a 15 horse race. Another expert's giving Angel of Empire good odds because its trainer has won Belmont Stakes races before. Other experts say one horse does well on certain weather and track conditions, others say that their horse does best on dirt tracks and the 11.5 mile Belmont Stakes race is his sweet spot. Who do you bet on which horse do you think will win the Belmont Stakes race on June 10th?

The point is, there are certain things that SEO experts can control and other things that they can't, just like in a horse race. While we can project what we think will happen based on what we can see at the current moment, no SEO expert has a crystal ball good enough to tell you exactly how long it will take and exactly what their rank will be at any given moment in time.

What SEO experts can tell you is what they're doing to increase your visibility and your rank in searches for your keywords. We can guide you to work with the best keywords for your business, so our SEO work is attracting qualified leads. With the metrics that we have access to and the knowledge we have to understand what that tells us. We take the best actions for what we see happening and it is very static.

We will tell you what we're doing and why and get your input from your business knowledge and the awareness of your competition.

With that, let's see what the experts can tell us about navigating the question of when business owners will see the impact of good SEO? And see what we can all learn from Jesse and Bob.

Jesse Dolan: I can start, Bob.

I think, Sue, you're right with your kind of context setting it up that it really does depend. There is no pad answer. If there was, this wouldn't be such a popular question. It would be kind of common knowledge on what this takes.

And I think sometimes I compare it to sports or athletics. If you're starting the season off, whether you're playing soccer or basketball, baseball, whatever your sport of choice is. If you were to say, when are we going to win our first game? Or things like that, you really can't answer that clearly. You can give an opinion or kind of some bookends, but like sports SEO is a competition. We're trying to rank number one or in the map pack if we're talking Google business profile and the fact that it's competition means you're not solely in control of all aspects depending on the market or the niche or whatever keywords we're targeting.

Let's say if Bob and I are trying to go against each other as competitive businesses trying to rank if Bob's an SEO master or as hired an SEO master versus us just starting out or whatever, there's kind of the Yankees versus the Twins, if you will in baseball. Things like that can make a huge difference.

A full disclaimer for anybody if you're listening to this or watching this, if you're new to SEO, digging into this, trying to figure out what's going on and you're like, "ah, I keep hearing this answer of it depends or it's going to take X number of months, can't somebody just clearly give me the straight dope here?" There really isn't a pad answer. It really depends on a bunch of different factors, but I think we can walk through a few scenarios real quick where these are some areas maybe where you can get some quick wins, where it can happen quicker, and then maybe go through some scenarios where it could take a little bit longer.

Some examples of where you can have a super quick win is your Google business profile or your GBP formerly called Google My Business or GMB. If you are not in the mat pack or let's just say you don't even have a GBP, that's going to be super quick for you, maybe not on all of your keywords or on your highest profile keywords, but if it didn't exist before and we get you set up on a profile and you're going to start ranking for something very quickly, you got to get reviews. There's a lot of things to do to kind of nurture that and accelerate it and I think that underscores another point on this too. Is there's no clear black and white or binary I wasn't, and now I am ranked. It's a trajectory, we've probably got dozens or even a hundred keywords for any client that we're working on and there's constant traction and degradation on some of those keywords as things move forward.

You may start to get ranked or notice some ranking within days. If we're talking about you didn't have a GBP or any presence there and we started working with you. Getting to the ultimate spot where you're saying, "yes, this is what I was hoping, I'm ranking number one in my top five keywords and I'm getting calls every day." Something like that can take three to six months. That's kind of a standard answer we give clients when they're saying, "how long do I need to do this for before I start to see some traction, some ROI." The answer we give all the time is within that first three months you should start to see something happening that gives you confidence that you're going to get ROI or on the right path.

Round about that six month mark is when you should be getting ROI. Maybe not the entire ROI and everything you've spent so far like, boom comes due in that six month, but kind of in a month to month scenario you should start to be above water and it can happen a lot quicker than this too. Definitely an area where we don't want to the old overpromise under deliver. At our agency Intrycks, we're always setting the expectations of that three to six month window. You'll start to see some traction. You'll start to head towards that ROI point. As a general rule with without regard to GP status, their current natural web ranking status, competition level, things like that.

That being said, we definitely have some clients where it's taken into that six months or longer mark to really gain some good traction if you're more of a larger national company or regional competing in multiple markets. Again, there's a lot of factors there and to keep this episode short and not just ramble on all the difficulties or possible scenarios right over an hour. I think a real easy short answer is if you're hiring a professional agency that knows what they're doing and you're not a scenario where you're trying to figure this out on your own and implement it or kind of start everything from the get go, you should definitely be in that three to six month window to where you're having the confidence to say, "I think this is good, this is working, the light is at the end of the tunnel." Or again, maybe you're already getting multiple times over.

On your ROI if if you're at that three month mark and you're just throwing money down the tubes, there's been no benefits anywhere from more leads coming in, higher ranking. Sue, you're mentioning there's different metrics we can track for traffic on your website, exposure, things like that. At the end of the day, as Bob's probably waiting to chime in, we always talk that stuff's super important, but it's the clicks. I'm sorry, it's the emails and the phone calls that really are the thing that we're looking at as business owners for... It's the question behind the question, "when am I going to rank? How soon can I rank?" There's a lot of trickery in that answer and possible what is ranking. Really what it will all mean is when am I start to make money off this.

Whatever I'm investing in my seo, when is it going to pay me back and maybe Bob, before I throw it over to you real quick for some commentary, that is something to underline there too is when we pose that question of when will I rank, there can be keywords that three people a month search for and there can be keywords that 3000 people a month search of. Any SEO could tell you, "I can rank you tomorrow." For something now maybe nobody's ever going to search for that thing. Or again, three people a month search for that thing. The metric of just ranking in itself without further definition can definitely be misleading, and if anybody's giving you information contrary to what we're saying here, that's going to be super quick. Is it your primary keywords? Is it the high volume keywords? Is it the competitive stuff? And not just that low hanging fruit that nobody's going after and it's not going to move the needle on your business.

Nothing super concrete there, but that's really I guess my opinion and where we usually land with our clients.

Bob, what are your thoughts kind of more from that business owner side or what you see in the real world?

Bob Brennan: Let me throw this back at Sue. What was this gentleman's name again?

Sue Ginsburg: Lelo Hernandez.

Bob Brennan: Then what city was he in?

Sue Ginsburg: He is in couple different cities in Louisiana.

Bob Brennan: In any specifics or no?

Sue Ginsburg: One is Baton Rouge is his main one.

Bob Brennan: Baton Rouge.

I mean the way I kind of look at it is metro rural, what would it be? Like deep metro, so that would be Manhattan Metro and then rural would be Harvey North Dakota. Not to pick on the folks at Harvey.

But basically it comes down to population, it comes down to the search term DWI lawyers, it's going to be hugely competitive, plastic surgeons, things like that. Baton Rouge has a population of 222,000. Landscaping I imagine is pretty competitive. We use the term, "when will I rank?" Which is important, I'm not saying it's not. But I think the savvy business owner needs to look at, "when will I make money?" And they have to have the mindset that they have to participate in this process. And the key thing is yes, set those expectations, hey, I'm expecting to see some kind of return in six months and I think a good SEO person should say, based on your city size, your search term, your keywords that you want to rank for, I think you're in this window, this bookend of three to six months. Or whatever it is, and that's part of your process and say, okay, if I'm not showing up for this and it goes back to metrics, then I got to kill it.

The other thing I wanted to say is we have ranked people in the top three and that's our goal is to get you in the top three for SERP and for sure for GBP. But if you don't have any reviews, you'll get a bump in calls, but I don't think you're going to get your money back, to be honest with you. I really don't. I think you'll break even, but none of us are in this game to break even. Go work for the city or go work for the federal government if you want to break even.

Well, I'm in it to win and so I guess what I'm my point is yes, be a shrewd business person, make sure that they say this is what we're going to deliver and this is a timeline that we're going to do it in for these keywords and then put in good metrics like call tracking and stuff like that if you can, but you got to do the work on your end and you got to understand that if your competitor, if you're looking to get in the top three and your competitor has 25 reviews, roll up your sleeves because you need to get 50 and then look out because then you will definitely get your money back in short order and then yes, you'll make a profit. That's what we're in business for type of deal. You won't have to worry about the debt ceiling. You can actually pay your bills.

You've got to be engaged in that sense. This isn't a silver bullet, it's just part of your overall marketing strategy, but you've got to fully take ownership of getting those reviews because once we get you in that three pack and once you get in that top of SERPs, you got to convert and people are not going to call you if you have no reviews or the least of reviews or very poor reviews, you'll be the last person they call.

That's my 2 cents.

Jesse Dolan: Hey everyone, just a quick message about our free SEO audit tool on local seotactics.com and we'll get right back to the show. If you haven't taken advantage of it yet, go on out to local seotactics.com/freeseoaudit or look for the yellow button up in the top right corner. Click that and it's going to take just a couple seconds you enter in the page that you want to optimize what you're looking for the audit to score against. Enter in that page, enter in the keyword you're looking to get optimized for and enter in your email address. Click the button and it's going to take a few seconds and then it's going to send you off a PDF report via email.

It's a great report. It's going to kind of give you an overall score of some vital SEO areas for that page and for your website at large, even though it's auditing this page that's going to tell you some of the good things that are happening, some of the bad things that are happening too, and give you basically a checklist of some things that you need to shore up and what you can do to improve your SEO for that page, for that keyword that you're auditing.

Now, you can use this as many times as you want. You can do multiple keywords, multiple pages, multiple keywords on the same page. You can even use this to check against your competitors. If you want to do a little reverse engineering, see how they're scoring for a certain keyword, what they may be doing good that you're not, and some things to improve there.

Lots of different ways to use it completely free. Again, go on at the local seotactics.com/freeseoaudit or look for the yellow button in the top right corner of the website.

No, I think that makes a lot of sense and there's so much nuance. Bob, we're you and I are both overlapping half of our opinions I think, and the underlying factor in all that is there's so many variables, it's just not that simple of when am I going to rank? Like we were saying, there's that question behind the question, when am I going to make money? What's it going to tank? Where am I going after your point of what city are you into? I think we've talked about that in previous episodes. If you're out there where there's nobody else in the game except for you, if there's no presence and you suddenly get online, yeah, you're going to crush it, but if you're in Manhattan, there's 35 people and two square miles offering what you have to offer, boy, it's going to be a lot harder.

Then I think something else to mention is when you're talking about hiring an SEO or maybe paying a person within your company to do this. There's a finite amount of time for how much that person can put forth for labor to work on this, and especially if you're hiring it out, you're probably paying a certain rate each month. If you want those results quicker, double or triple the amount you're paying. If you're paying out to somebody, maybe you're getting fractional hours per week if you will. You're not contracting somebody for 40 hours a week. Doesn't work like that.

If you want quicker results or if our clients are talking to us and it's, "gosh, six months, how can we make this happen in three months?" Well, that's half the time. Let's double the resources just as esoteric, stupid quick math there, but that is a multiplier there too, is what's it going to take? How long will it take to do these things?

The reason I'm clarifying this or putting some light on this is we always talk about SEO and people have the impression that it just takes a while. You got to do something and it has to sink in and it just has to go for a while, which is true. But the other part of it is there's only so much you can do unless this is the only thing you're working on day in, day out, like one website. You do some work, you let that get some traction, come back, do the next chunk.

This all can be accelerated, the more resources that you would pour into it, but that's definitely budget withstanding for everybody.

Bob Brennan: What would you say, you don't have all the variables, but let's say this guy had a solid website or a good basis basics for a website. Baton Rouge is 220,000 term like landscaping. If you went out and got in reviews, help with SEO to a certain degree.

What do you think kind of bookends you would advise him? Are we talking three, six months for him to see ROI? I would throw this out at you, it's seasonal landscaping is typically seasonal. It's not like up here in the Midwest. I would assume that their heaviest season, I would imagine would be the cooler months because I wouldn't want to be out there doing anything in a hundred plus degree, a hundred humidity or whatever it is that they got to deal with during the summer.

What are your thoughts on somebody like him when he could expect to rank and get ROI?

Jesse Dolan: I would say, and Sue can chime in if you feel otherwise for what we do say to clients, but just still that standard three to six months, and that's like if we were to be talking right now before we're engaging with somebody.

I think we've broken this down before, so I'm not going to get too deep, but really the first month is there's a lot of research, there's a lot of fact finding and our recipe for SEO gets tweaked to fit that particular client. If we know that client has bigger demands or needs something expedited. In that first month when we're pulling all this together, it'd be like, "okay, well which keywords should we look at?" "Couple of these keywords, Mr. Brandon, that you really want to go after are going to be really hard. Maybe we do start with some that are a little bit smaller volume, but we see some quick wins here. It's not something that nobody's searching for, but it's kind of that somewhere that in between."

There's things you can do to maybe not get your full ROI right sooner than later, but you start having early traction and I think in some cases where it's super competitive. Kind of like you're talking in this scenario, that can help build confidence too as a business owner that, "okay, we got a couple singles and maybe a double there. We didn't hit a home run, but this team can play. We've got some things that can work."

If you're not using us using somebody else, I guess I offer that up to say that there should be some kind of conversation that you can have as you're working with your SEO or your SEO team about what are you targeting, what are you going after? Then just that conversation of is there anything we can do to win a little bit quicker? Maybe I can't throw resources on it, but what are we picking for targeting?

There is no exact paint by numbers for SEO and it should be molded around your business and what you need, all these other variables, your city, your niche, who the competition is and things like that.

Definitely a little bit of wiggle room on the front side though.

Sue Ginsburg: Jesse, I think you touched on something very, very important and what I say is one of the first things we start with is extensive keyword research. Choosing your keywords is not random, there's a workflow and a method to the madness, if you will, and I always say it's both an art and a science. There are a lot of people, business owners who want to go after the keywords that have the highest number of searches. Well, that's going to be the most competitive and can you deliver on those when they do land on your website? There's a lot of strategy and thought that goes into it other than just choosing the keywords that have the highest amount of searches. And absolutely what you discuss, decide, and agree on with the business owner has a big impact on when you're going to start to see those results.

Jesse Dolan: You're talking of this topic of choosing the keywords to then go after them? And that can mean maybe creating new content, adding content to your website where it didn't exist. Then there is the other side of that that we also do in the early stages, which is, okay, what are you ranking for? What does Google know about you? What kind of products and services are they associating with you? That's where you can find some quick wins saying, "okay, it looks like Google thinks you're about these red balloons. Instead of going after maybe the higher volume stuff, let's round this out because we're already getting traction with Google." There's that layer of it too. Again, all this just reinforces, like you said, right on the front side, Sue. The real answer for this, we probably could have made this about a two-minute episode and just said, it really does just, it depends, and that is the answer.

We try to have the right strategy to have this result in three to six months, but like you're asking Bob, if you had to pick a number, what do we tell this guy for landscaping and everything else.

That is our pat is three to six months, but it may not mean that we're going to "rank" in three to six months for the keyword that you wanted, but we will craft a strategy that starts to get some traction, some ranking in three to six months that will give you some ROI or look like you're getting ROI in short order, at least. Even if we're not attacking that number one keyword maybe.

Maybe not the answer and the conclusion to the episode that everybody is hoping for on the front side, but this is SEO. There's all these variables, and I think the biggest one, Bob, you coined this years ago as this is Google's game. We're just playing on their board, and that's a whole nother part. We don't control this. We try to manipulate and optimize with proven strategies, but we're still trying and competing, like we said earlier.

Sue Ginsburg: I think it's also wishful, but a bit unrealistic for a business owner to come to us when they're on the eighth page and ask how quickly we can get them on the first page.

There's a big difference if you're on the second page just outside it, or if you're on the eighth page and you have that many more to leapfrog over, many of them will notice and make a competitive move, back.

Jesse Dolan: I think we're good there, otherwise we'll keep talking in loops about reasons why it depends.

There we go.

Sue Ginsburg: We're we're not just making it up to try and avoid the answer, there really isn't a black and white answer.

If you remember one thing and one thing only, remember this. SEO is static. It is not black and white, and it is an ever-changing landscape. Taking actions based on the metrics and competitive analysis is the smartest strategy to go forward and will get you the best results possible in the shortest amount of time. It just isn't precisely predictable.

To go back to the quote of the day from Peter Drucker, the greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence, it is to act with yesterday's logic. We all resist change and the unknown and what we don't know about, but if you want to move forward, that's the way to do it, and in this case, SEO does help.

Jesse Dolan: All right, everybody, hopefully that gave you some insight if this was a question you've been asking others yourself or just general knowledge.

If you've got a question you want us to answer, go out to local SEO tactics.com, scroll down to the bottom, click the link to submit a question. You can submit it with a text form or you can call it in and leave a voice recording. If you do that, we're going to play it on the show. You can give a shout-out. Plus, it's awesome, your significant other is going to think you're famous and we'll send you off a water bottle, which is great for everybody. Yes, says Local SEO Tactics. It's awesome. If you're an SEO nerd, you definitely want a water bottle that says Local SEO Tactics on it. Check it out, localseotactics.com down at the bottom, click the link for questions, submit it, and we're happy to answer them on the show.

Sue, thanks for setting it up with the good context, the quote of the day and the background.

As always, Bob, thank you as well for your insight, I guess we'll catch you all in the next episode. Take care.

Bob Brennan: See you guys.

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