Hurry Up and Wait: How Long Does It Takes To Improve Search Rankings?

Hurry Up and Wait: How Long Does It Takes To Improve Search Rankings?

slow search rankings

Why does it take so long to improve search engine rankings for your clinic? It seems to take forever to move your website or web pages higher in the search engine results pages (SERPS). SEO can be frustrating in this way.

Here's the good news – SEO is slow, but it is a powerful and effective strategy. For example, this graphic shows the week-by-week ranking of a brand new physical therapy website:

You can see clearly how they steadily moved up the rankings, going from being buried on page six of the SERPs to the number three position on the very first page, all in just over four months.

Why SEO Takes Time

But can SEO be speeded up? There are a number of influences on how long it takes to rank your site and pages. They include:

  • Website age.

  • Size of website.

  • Type of content.

  • Complexity of site.

  • Historical SEO methods used.

In general, new sites take longer than older sites to rank. In addition, no site operates in a vacuum. Many physiotherapy clinics are competing for the same consumers. Depending on the market, it can take a long time to make a dent against long-established services.

Patience is Key

The key to effective SEO is patience. Think of it as a cross-country foot race than a 100-yard dash on the track in the stadium. Even when you get higher rankings and increased traffic, you must have content that not only engages, it compels people to take the actions you suggest.

Let's talk about why SEO takes so long to take effect. The reality is that most business category search rankings are filled at the top with entrenched competitors that have been there a while. No matter how you approach it, this is a challenging task. A full analysis of these top-ranked sites will show they have links from a large number of high-quality sites.

Long-Tail Keywords

Because it is difficult to take on entrenched competitors, it is often more beneficial to go after less competitive "long-tail" keywords and try to rank those. What is a long-tail keyword? These are keyword phrases that are longer and more specific. For example, "sports injury" is a broad term. "Sports injury rehabilitation" is more specific. A long-tail keyword might be "football shoulder injury rehabilitation in Chicago." These phrases have less competition and are a good way to start attacking your competition.  

Although Google makes continual tweaks and changes to their algorithms, high-quality links are still important. Once you determine what long-tail keywords you can target, you can find out what sites and pages link to similar pages on your competitors site. Then you can take steps to garner some of the same links for your web pages. Another good tactic is to look for relevant pages that are not linked to any of your competitors, or to very few, and try to garner links from those sites. You can see that this process takes time!

Gaining Links

Once you determine which off-site Web pages will help you, how do you gain links from these pages? There are a number of tactics including:

Each of these methods is time consuming. Content creation, for instance, might take the form of writing compelling, useful articles targeting a specific topic matched with an attractive, engaging image. You might have hundreds of topics you could discuss, each using several important keywords and concepts.

Consider this: It is actually a benefit to you that this process takes a while. Why? The truth is that Google and other search engines don't trust it when you suddenly have many new links to your content in a short time frame . It makes them think someone is "gaming" the system with discredited SEO tactics. In the old days, you could easily blast a ton of new links at your site and rise in the SERPs. If you try that now, you will be severely penalized. Slow and natural is the way.  

Search Engines Change Constantly

Google, Bing and Yahoo are unpredictable. They are constantly changing their search formulas such that it is difficult to guess what they are going to do next. However, it is safe to say that slow, steady publishing of quality content will be rewarded. The reason is that good content is what your clients want when they use search engines. If you provide patients what they are looking for, search engines will reward you by moving your content to the head of the class.

Deep Crawl

You may be familiar with the major Google algorithm updates like Panda and Penguin. These changes helped move high-quality content up in rankings, and made it harder to try to take shortcuts by using questionable backlinks. But Google is constantly tweaking their methods every day.

For example, they have both a "fresh crawl" and a "deep crawl." The deep crawl takes on vast expanses of the Internet. It takes time for the system to evaluate the links, pages, and websites the crawlers sniff out. And no one really knows the exact search factors affecting all these elements over time.

Work on What You Can Control

As much as you might want to sometimes, the truth is you can’t control what competing physiotherapists are going to do, or how Google changes its approach. What you can do is work on areas that will give you the most likely chance for success. By taking constant snapshots of your metrics, and then making measured adjustments and changes, you can see the development over time. Good tactics include:

  • Publishing great content consistently.

  • Creating the proper context by utilizing keywords you are trying to rank on.

  • Adding images and video to posts.

  • Making your website easy to navigate and find content.

  • Creating a variety of content including infographics, audio recordings and checklists.

Engaged Customers

As you can see, gaining higher rankings in the SERPs is an involved, step-by-step process that takes time. When all is said and done, a high ranking is not the most important result. The end result you want is happy, engaged customers that trust you and turn to you when they need your physical therapy products and services. That comes from slow, steady, and consistent content publishing, marketing, link-building and branding.