How much time should you spend on SEO?

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How much time should you spend on SEO?

Here’s a question we get all the time: how much time should you spend on SEO?

Really though, people are asking “how much time do I need to spend on SEO for it to work?”. As SEOs love to say, it depends. But really, it depends on your schedule.

You should spend as much time on SEO as your schedule allows. That is because the more time you spend on SEO-related activities, the quicker you can expect to see results.

If you’re juggling a few (or all) marketing hats, don’t stress it. Unless you are an SEO manager you should not be spending 40 hours per week on SEO. In this article we’ll break down how you could spend your time on SEO, and how to prioritize SEO work given the amount of time you have.

What should you be doing for SEO?

When we say “spend time on SEO” what do we mean? 

SEO is extremely broad, but usually I mean doing things like:

  • Keyword research
  • Content creating
  • Link building
  • Reporting
  • Auditing/reviewing website performance
  • Meeting with stakeholders

Those are the ‘meat and potatoes’ of SEO work, and for most people performing SEO duties, that is what you will do. There are other things that you could do, of course, but let’s keep things simple for this article. 

How long does it take to build an SEO strategy?

Before you do any “SEO activities”, you need a strategy. 

We’ve written out our process for building an SEO strategy in-depth, to summarize we define an SEO strategy is making 5 key decisions:

  • What is your goal?
  • Who are you targeting?
  • What questions are they asking online?
  • What content will you create to answer them?
  • How will you measure progress?

This can take you hours of research and white boarding, though we have a 4-session program that we’ve taken dozens of companies through to build unique and effective SEO strategies with them. 

How long does it take to do keyword research?

Keyword research is an essential part of building an SEO strategy, and an essential task to keep up as your strategy evolves.

When building a strategy, it can take a few hours to dive deep into the questions your audience is asking. As an ongoing task, I try not to obsess too much on keyword research on a daily or weekly level, however every 4-6 weeks it is good to review the keywords you are targeting and examine others you should consider. 

This usually amounts to 3-5 hours every month (depending on how deep down the rabbit hole you like to go).

How long does it take to create content?

I don’t care what the internet says, content is still king.

Your ability to create content will directly impact how quickly you can see a return on your SEO strategy. As a result, I recommend publishing a piece of content at a minimum. 

Why?

Google favors sites that are fresh and authoritative, by updating your website with new content (whether it be aa blog post, pillar page, or landing page) you are signaling to Google that this site is being maintained. 

Publishing content also allows you to target more keywords, which will translate into your site being seen more often in search results and getting traffic as a result. 

If you’re publishing one piece of content per week that may take 3-5 hours depending on the content. Increase your frequency and you could easily spend 10-15 hours per week creating content. 

How long should you spend on SEO?

As you can see, there is no set time you need to spend on SEO. Instead, think go it is the more time you invest the more rapidly you will see results.  

Ideally, it’s a constant process week over week, that means publishing content every week. That could mean as little as a few hours per week, but the more time you spend the quicker you will get results.

Put a lot of time in, you’ll get pretty good results faster than if you spent one hour/week. The real question though is, how do you prioritize SEO activities with the amount of time you have?

To answer that, let’s explore a few different scenarios.

Busy founders

Suppose you’re a founder who wears many hats. 

Maybe you’re running your business full-time with contractors, or have a few full-time employees. 

Side note: If you’re indie-hacking, I’d strongly suggest choosing another marketing channel, at least for now. SEO requires consistent work, and if you haven’t committed to your business full time, it’ll take a while for SEO to make a difference. 

Back to the busy founder. As a founder of a small business/startup your business is highly linked to you and dependent on you. You know your customer better than anyone else, and where you want your business to grow, but spending hours creating content or building links is hardly worth your time. 

Do the upfront work of identifying:

  • Your SMART goals
  • Your personas
  • The questions your personas are asking

And outsource content creation, either to an intern, an employee, or a contractor. With a few hours of upfront work, and a budget dedicated to content you can have a steady stream of content published with a few hours per week reviewing drafts, publishing content, and checking in on your analytics.

Marketer on a small/medium-sized team

Say that busy founder hires a marketer, now SEO is your job. Well, one of them. If you have a marketing team of 1-3 people then you’re going to wear a few hats. 

Marketing is extremely broad, you’ve got:

  • SEO (duh)
  • Social media marketing
  • PPC
  • Email marketing
  • Community management

Just to name a few disciplines. If you’re on a small marketing team then your SEO efforts need to be balanced accordingly to your best growth channel. It does not make sense to spend an excess amount of time on one channel if that channel is not going to bring results. 

At the bare minimum though, you should spend time regularly reviewing your performance for target keywords, newly created pieces of content, and how SEO is driving your business forward. 

You should also spend time writing content each week (ideally 1 content piece per week, or a few if you have time), as well as working with your team to maintain a content calendar to support your strategy. This could be anywhere from 3-10 hours per week. 

If you have the appetite for it, link building is a great way to accelerate your SEO strategy forward. As said above, I like to approach link-building hand in hand with content creation, though the relationship building aspect of it can take a few hours per week at a minimum up to 10. 

The larger your team the more specialized you will be, so on specialized marketing teams you my be dedicated fully to content creation, link building, keyword research, or analytics. 

So for a full-time marketer, you could easily spend anywhere from 10-30 hours per week on SEO-related activities.

Content marketing managers/SEO managers

If you’re a full-time content marketing manager or SEO manager, then SEO is going to dominate your work week, and your team’s.

Managers won’t be in the weeds as much as busy founders or individual contributor marketers. Instead, they get to delegate. 

Folks at the manager level should spend more of their time strategizing. Coming up with and managing the content calendar, executing on link building campaigns, diving deep into the data and reporting to stakeholders, and keeping their team on track. 

At a manager level, most of your job impacts SEO-related activities, but you’re at a much higher level than someone who is doing the SEO day in and day out. 

So… how much time a week should I spend on SEO?

At a minimum you should:

  • Do keyword research monthly
  • Review your analytics monthly
  • Write content weekly

Which adds up to around 3.5 hours/week (if you’re doing the bare minimum). I’d recommend doing a bit more than the minimum though, going in-depth in keyword research and creating more than one piece of content per week which can stretch things out to the 5-10 hour/week range. 

The bottom line is this though: do as much as you have time for that allows you to be consistent.

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