How Long Does Local SEO Take? Real Timelines Proven by Actual Digital Marketing Experts

May 2, 2024

It takes 1 to 6 weeks for local SEO to show results and up to 12 months to see increased traffic and establish presence. Local SEO refers to the optimization of a business' online presence aimed at increasing its visibility, brand awareness, and traffic. Statista's data shows that in January 2023, 21% of consumers in the US search for local businesses online daily. The question of how long does local SEO take for different SEO experts yields different answers.

Krista Greener, a digital marketing expert, shared initial visibility for local SEO results could take 1 to 2 weeks. Within this time, you could find your business' website in the search engine.  


For search engine optimization specialist Matt Diggity, it takes an average of six to twelve months for localized keywords to rank. His research further reveals an average of 8.6 months to hit 5,000 visits through SEO efforts. 

But, several factors affect an SEO timeline. Matt adds that the period depends on the level of competition in a particular keyword. Longer and more specific keywords rank quicker than more general ones. Understanding the factors that influence local search rankings can help beginners improve their SEO strategies.

In this article, I will discuss the common timeline of local search results, the factors that influence local SEO ranking, and reasons why SEO takes so long. We'll also cover ways to make money with local SEO and discuss which SEO revenue model is the most profitable.

How Long Does It Take for Local SEO to Work? Insights From Reddit and Quora Users

It takes one week to 12 months for local SEO to work. This will depend on the goal and the competition a keyword faces. Semrush conducted a poll on LinkedIn and X to see the average length it takes to see SEO results. It revealed that it takes 3 to 6 months for SEO efforts to work. However, Semrush maintains that there is no definitive timeline.

Quora and Reddit users share varying timeframes. Krista Greener, an affiliate marketing expert, talks about how long does SEO take to work. She states that there can be a noticeable improvement in the initial visibility for local search rankings within 1-2 weeks. She adds that through consistent effort, long-term growth follows 4 months.

Other Quora users say local SEO takes 4-8 weeks if you already have a claimed Google listing. Or 3 months since websites need to build credibility. 

On Reddit, some say it takes a new site 2 to 3 months to see results with SEO. Another user shares that a page with good keyword density on a subject can rank as soon as the page gets indexed. For posts that your website has not published before, local SEO takes 2-3 weeks. As a long-term strategy, SEO may take six months to more than a year to see significant results.

Why Does SEO Take So Long To Work?

SEO takes so long to work because it is a continuous learning process that involves understanding technical concepts. Besides the 7 factors that influence local SEO ranking, here are other aspects of SEO that can affect your timeframe:

  • Keyword competition. The complexity of the keywords affects SEO timelines. This is the most common answer to the question why does SEO take so long. Highly competitive and general keywords might take longer to rank than localized or long-tail keywords. For example, the keyword "essential oils" will take more time to rank than "best essential oils for sleeping and anxiety." Search engines prioritize websites that show a strong topical relevance to user queries. 
  • Technical issues. Broken links, duplicate content, or crawl errors can slow your SEO progress. It prevents search engines from efficiently indexing and understanding your website. It is crucial to fix the issues immediately after discovering they exist. 
  • Black hat tactics. Earning Google's trust back can be difficult if your website has dabbled in black hat SEO statistics. These statistics include keyword stuffing or buying links. Google prioritizes high-quality content and user-experience. Black hat tactics do the opposite. You would need to rebuilding trust with Google through genuine SEO practices to improve your ranking.

How Long Does It Take to Learn Local SEO?

It takes at least 15 hours to 6 months to learn local SEO. However, industry experts from BKA Content believe that it takes 6-12 months to learn and become skilled at SEO. There are several online courses for those who intend to offer SEO services or build an SEO agency. Here is a quick rundown of available courses:

  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Specialization: University of California, Davis (Coursera); 3-6 months
  • Introduction to Google SEO: University of California, Davis (Coursera); 1-4 weeks
  • Search Engine Optimisation: University of Cape Town (edX); 10 weeks
  • The Complete SEO Course From Beginner To Professional: Mark Williams-Cook (Udemy); 15.5 hours on-demand video

An SEO expert on Reddit shared it took him around 2 years. He shares that he coded a large website from scratch and learned a lot about technical SEO, backlink building, SEO tools, and even black hat concepts. He believes that you will learn much more about local SEO by having your own website and working to rank it, than by coaching other people, including auditing other website. 

Some views on how long it will take to learn SEO include the idea of it as a never-ending process. A Reddit user shared you can gain a good understanding of SEO basics after around a year. But applying the SEO concepts and learning from that application will have a different timeline.

7 Factors That Influence Your Local SEO Ranking

1. Google Business Profile

An updated Google Business Profile means having an accurate business name, address, phone number, business categories, photos, and reviews, among others. This helps Google to share the correct information with potential clients. Besides business name, Google Business Profile signals include proximity and categories. According to Google, the local results that appear are based primarily on three factors:

  1. Relevance
  2. Distance
  3. Prominence

To show up on Google Maps, the business must have a claimed Google Business Profile. In addition, Google explained that you can only edit information about your business when you are verified. You can verify it with Google Search Console. The Google Business Profile Help page has full instructions and video tutorials on how you can edit your profile. 

Microsoft's Bing also has Bing Places, similar to GBP. You can add a local or small business and update old business name or address information on Bing Places. In an article on how to climb Google rankings for Search Engine Journal, Chuck Price writes that Bing rewards websites which feature location details. For local rankings, Bing's algorithm also considers social signals from third-party sources like social media platform, Facebook.


Fully complete and optimize the Google Business listing, including business name, category, description, services, hours, and images. Link the Google listing to the most relevant page on the website.

2. On-Page Optimization

On-page optimization strategies help search engines understand that your clients' businesses are local and relevant for location-based searches. It influences local SEO process and ranking because it helps search engines to identify your business as locally relevant. Adding relevant local keywords such as your city, neighborhood, or region names in titles, headings, content, and meta tags is helpful. It signals to search engines that your page is associated with those specific geographical areas.

Some techniques for on-page optimization include adding location pages for each location you serve. These pages must contain your business' name, address, phone number (NAP), business hours, directions, and other relevant information. Your NAP should also be consistent across all pages on your website. 

Google also suggests adding photos to your GBP to show customers that your business offers the services or products they are looking for. When adding images or videos to your content, you can also include geotags and locally relevant alt-text names. However, take note that geotags do not result in higher rankings according to Local Marketing Institute and Darren Shaw of Whitespark. The results of Whitespark's 2023 Local Search Ranking Factors Survey showed that geo-tagging received a low score of 2 from survey participants.

3. Citations and NAP Consistency

Citations and NAP consistency are among the top ranking factors considered by SEO experts as they build the foundation of your local SEO. The Search Engine Journal says citations are the mentions of a business's key information, including the NAP, on sites other than its own website. You can use SEO results to check citations. 

In an article for WordStream, SEO expert Justine Borge wrote that citations in local SEO communicate the prominence and legitimacy of a business in a certain geographical area. He says small businesses can benefit from having consistent and accurate citations as these factors boost online credibility.

The SEO process takes 3 to 12 months. But, a study by Ahrefs involving 2 million keywords showed that there is no fixed timeframe to rank your page. Mailchimp explains that citations are key factors for relevance. Remember that relevance is one of the three local ranking factors that Google checks.


Use listing management tools like Moz Local, Whitespark, or Semrush's to ensure accuracy of citations. These tools can allow users to correct errors in entry and update information across all local directories. Using them can benefit your performance in local search engine ranking.

4. Online Reviews

Online reviews not only shape consumer behaviors. They also influence your local SEO ranking. Google recommends managing and responding to reviews to improve your local ranking. Google explained that replying to reviews shows that you value clients and their feedback. Ross Pike, Operations Director of Quadrant2Design, wrote in a 2022 Forbes article that people are more likely to visit pages with positive reviews. 

ReviewTrackers' 2022 online review statistics showed that customers apply filter to see only companies that have at least 4-star ratings. In addition, data shows that 94% of consumers would avoid a business with a bad review. 

Darren Shaw also highlighted in Whitespark's 2023 report that the top 30 local search ranking factors that experts consider include sustained reviews. Darren says: "A business that is continually getting reviews on a regular basis sends the right signals to Google that it is an alive and active business that the public still cares about."


To boost your local search rankings, include review acquisition in developing your marketing strategy. For new businesses, target a minimum of 20 Google reviews as quickly as you can. Ask your customers to include photos when leaving their reviews.

5. Backlink Building

Backlinks refer to links from other websites that point to yours. A combination of all the backlinks or inbound links makes up your backlink profile. The links should have the anchor text containing your target keyword. They can influence your local SEO ranking as they act as endorsements. Views on how long for backlinks to take effect varies. The overall estimate is that it takes 10 to 15 weeks for backlinks to impact rankings.

But there are different views on the role of backlink building in local SEO ranking. Some SEO experts recognize the role of backlink building in increasing local SEO rankings by improving domain authority. NP Digital founder Neil Patel, for instance, emphasizes on the role of backlink building in establishing relevance, and acting as a vote of confidence for your site. 

Dhruv Nimbark, an SEO expert, explains that backlink building can help search engines understand a website's popularity. It can also send signals of your website's relevance, thus serving your domain authority. 

But you might come across opposing views from other SEO professionals who believe the best strategy is still content creation. 

On Reddit, a user adds that focusing on optimizing your service or product pages, and delivering page experience and relevancy is better. 

6. Social Signals

Social signals, according to Wix, are the forms of engagement that your content receives from social media. These signals include likes, shares, or comments. But social does not directly affect local SEO rankings, but they increase the visibility of a local business. Improved visibility allows more potential customers to discover your brand.

Citing Google's Senior Search Analyst and Search Relations team lead, John Mueller, Semrush explains that more likes and shares on social media won't affect rankings. But indirectly, social signals help a business's reputation. Semrush adds that, in the long term, they can improve a website's search performance. And for some SEO professionals, they say that even if social signals are not ranking factors, they still build value and trustworthiness, which Google is after. 


Post relevant content that meets the search intent. And post regularly. Aim to post 1 to 2 times per day on Facebook, 3 to 5 times weekly on TikTok, and 2 to 3 times daily on X (rebrand of Twitter).

7. Local Content

Local content can influence SEO ranking. Search engines prioritize showing results that apply to users' location. You can produce local content that is valuable to your target market in a certain geographical area. Some examples are event listings, local news, or neighborhood guides. This increases your chances of appearing in search results for local searches. Google's engineer and analyst Gary Illyes explains that the quality of page content is a factor for a site to be "Google-able". He says: "For example, large amounts of gibberish text will do poorly in Search results."

Is It Easy to Start SEO Business?

It is easy to start SEO business because it is not capital intensive compared to other business models. You can easily start SEO business by taking an online course. In Udemy, they offer a course on starting your own SEO agency at home for only $50. Online courses will introduce you to various concepts of technical SEO, like link building, and how search engine works. They can also teach you a SEO strategy to help you get faster SEO results. 

However, the complexity and technicality of the SEO field can be challenging. The most common challenges in starting an SEO are:

  • Constantly adjusting strategies to align with search engine algorithms.
  • Mastering Core Web Vitals or the factors like page speed and responsiveness essential for a better user experience and ranking.
  • Outranking other competitors through strategic keyword research, high-quality content creation, and innovative marketing tactics.
  • Optimizing websites for mobile devices.
  • Building backlinks from authoritative sources and establishing credibility.

On Quora, users share different views on how long does SEO take to pay off.  If you're starting a local SEO business, learning the basics could take 1-3 months. This covers getting a web design, setting up, and optimizing website. Some say the most significant results in ranking, traffic, and income could take you 6 to 12 months of work. 

If you have the budget, you can spend on tools to boost local ranking. You should pay $20 to $900 monthly for local SEO depending on your needs if you’re a small business. There are local listing management tools that offer $129 a year, or $30 per location, like Moz Local and Synup. Affordable tools like SemRush’s Listing Management tool give free local citation scans. Their basic location plan also costs $20 per month. The cheapest plan already covers tracking local rankings, managing reviews, and optimizing for voice search.

Is Doing a Local SEO Worth It?

Yes, doing a local SEO is worth it and it is a vital factor in ranking websites. SEO specialists and writers like Muhammad Imran Hussain Warsi from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan, and Claudia Kozeny-Pelling from Greater Oxford Area in the UK, recognize the value of local SEO for businesses with local clients.

According to Muhammad, focusing on specific geographic areas narrows down the competition. Claudia adds that businesses can maximize free tools like the Google My Business (now Google Business Profile) accounts. These tools can help you get positive testimonials from your current customers and increase sales. 

The Gitnux Market Data Report for 2024 showed that 64% of consumers use Google My Business to contact local businesses. Meanwhile, the same report noted that GMB can bring 94% of calls to local businesses on weekdays.

What Are Some Ways to Make Money With Local SEO? 

Local SEO expertise is valuable. Here are a few ways to leverage your local SEO skills and start generating income:

  • Become a Local SEO Consultant. Businesses are increasingly aware of the power of local SEO.  This creates an opportunity for you to offer your consulting services.  As a consultant, you guide businesses in using local SEO. A local SEO specialist in the US earns $67,388/year or $32/hour. As an expert, you may offer your clients competitor analysis or SEO audits. In SEO audits, you provide thorough analysis of a business's current SEO standing. It includes keyword research and an assessment of their website authority. The higher a website's authority, the more likely it is to rank well in search results.
  • Freelance SEO Services. Becoming an SEO freelancer involves the implementation of SEO campaigns. You can offer a variety of services, including link building, citations, on-page optimization, and content creation. In Upwork, there are SEO professionals who offer specific local SEO services starting at $50. 
  • Sell Digital SEO Tools and Products. If you have a knack for explaining complex SEO concepts,  consider creating and selling digital SEO products. These could include online courses and ebooks and guides. The best SEO courses we reviewed costs between $97 monthly to $25,800. 

Local SEO Pros and Cons

Local SEO Pros

Local SEO increases business visibility online and local search rankings. By using local SEO, you can drive more traffic to your website, resulting in increased sales. 

Local SEO offers cost-effective marketing. Unlike other marketing channels, local SEO is inexpensive. 

Local SEO allows smaller businesses to compete with bigger brands. 

Local SEO helps build trust and credibility. Positive online reviews and prominence in local searches boosts a business' reputation.

Local SEO has long-lasting benefits. Once a local business achieves high local rankings, it becomes more sustainable. 

Local SEO Cons

Local SEO results take time and consistent work. You need to understand content creation, link building, and citation management. 

Reviews largely affect local SEO ranking. As positive reviews boost rankings, negative reviews can also deter potential clients. 

Local SEO might be challenging for businesses without physical stores.

Local Lead Generation Is the Most Profitable SEO Business

Local lead generation is the most profitable SEO business because of its scalability and complete control. In an SEO agency, clients would pay you upfront, but it is they who own the assets you built. In local lead generation, you build the websites that you rent out to local businesses. To build a WordPress website really costs at least $100 to $3,000, but you get to own it.

Running a one-man social media marketing or SEO agency can earn you $800 to $8,000 a month. However, there's nothing stopping your client from ending the contract once their website is ranking. All your SEO effort for the client's website goes to them. In local lead generation, you could earn between $500 to $3,000 monthly from each ranking local site. Since you own the assets, the control you have in local lead generation is unlike that of other SEO business model. By building multiple authoritative sites, you scale your business steadily. If you want a more predictable result to your SEO strategies, learn a revenue model that's for long-term from our local lead gen program.

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Ippei Kanehara

$52K per month providing lead generation services to small businesses is for digital hustlers, industry leaders and online business owners.

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