July 19, 2022

How Many Hours a Week Does it Take to Run Your Own SEO?

How Many Hours a Week Does it Take to Run Your Own SEO?

At first glance, managing your own SEO may not appear to be a significant undertaking if you have some extra time on your hands, especially if you're a small or medium-sized business. Once you get going with an agency, it's tempting to believe that this task can be easily delegated to an employee or tackled with just a little effort each day.

However, as you dive deeper into the intricacies of SEO, you'll quickly discover that it's a multifaceted and a discipline that demands a considerable investment of time and resources to yield tangible results.

Article Update:

With the advancement of technologies such as GPT-4 in 2023, you may be inclined to believe that you can use these tools to create SEO content and speed up output. In each section below we have added a short blurb about how AI can save time on each task and where it will actually waste you time.

Tools Setup

Approx. 5 hours (one time) - Without AI Assistance
Approx. 4 hours (one time) - With AI Assistance

There is some setup time we should account for here. We will use this section of the blog to outline some free tools you can use. Most of the setup time will be creating accounts and installing one time codes on your site.

Do you own your domain and website?
The very first thing you need to do is make sure you have ownership of your domain and website. Many bloated marketing agencies will sneak you onto their GoDaddy account or BlueHost server and charge you monthly for maintenance and server use.

Not only will they upcharge you and make money off of no effort, but we actually had a client who was being charged, what can only be described as a ransom, to get their website files sent over to them so they could set up their own hosting. Our now client had paid what they were told was a one time fee for a website build and were also paying monthly for SEO services over the course of many years. Even so, they were required to pay $800 to move their website away from this agency.

At all times, you want to make sure you own your website and domain as well as having administrative control.

Once this is in place we can move to the most important (and free!) tool for SEO...

Google Analytics

Set up
“To start collecting basic data from a website:

  1. Create or sign in to your Analytics account:
  2. Go to google.com/analytics
  3. Do one of the following:
  4. To create an account, click Start for free.
  5. To sign in to your account, Click Sign in to Analytics.
  6. Set up a property in your Analytics account. A property represents your website or app, and is the collection point in Analytics for the data from your site or app.
  7. Set up a reporting view in your property. Views let you create filtered perspectives of your data; for example, all data except from your company’s internal IP addresses, or all data associated with a specific sales region.
  8. Follow the instructions to add the tracking code to your website so you can collect data in your Analytics property.

Configure your account, properties, and views to determine access to your data and which data is available.
For example, you can:

Modify your tracking code to collect additional data such as:

  • User interactions with links, buttons, video controls, and other dynamic elements of your site or app. Learn more about event tracking.
  • Ecommerce activity like user engagement with product lists and internal promotions, and how successfully users moved through your purchase funnel and checkout process. Learn more about ecommerce and enhanced-ecommerce data collection and reporting.”

For almost every web building platform there will be a plugin or section of that builder that allows you to install your tracking code on your website with a quick copy and paste. For WordPress sites we suggest MonsterInsights for its ease of use and clean presentation of relevant data.

You will next need to set up “Goals” inside of Analytics.
A goal is what you want your visitors to take action on while on your site. Do you want phone calls, contact forms, a purchase, or any other action? Visit this link here to set up your goals.
Now that you have Google Analytics taken care of, we can talk about a few key areas you’ll want to spend some time analyzing to make better decisions about your SEO efforts. We will talk about a few of the clickable menu items you’ll find along the left of Analytics.

Use this tab to find out who your audience is. Spend some time comparing this data month over month and track any fluctuations. Understanding who is viewing your website will help you create a better experience for the end user.

Pretty much every category here is self explanatory and if you’re willing to undertake doing your own SEO this data should be easily digested. Odds are most of this info will stay fairly consistent but it is a good idea to keep an eye here.

This is another section we should be benchmarking if we want to track organic growth. This section let’s you better understand where your users are finding you on the internet. Here you can connect your Google Ads and Search Console for an even better understanding of your data.

We will spend some time talking about “All Traffic”.
All Traffic shows you...all your traffic.. The section we like to spend some time in is “Source/Medium”. This page shows you a clear breakdown of the number of people visiting your website and where they came from.

There is a calendar in the top right hand corner where you can compare time frames from as far back as the code was installed. Here you can track your growth in organic as compared to all your other traffic sources.

An even more in depth approach to this section can be found under “Referrals” which is conveniently right below “Source/Medium”.

In Referrals you can get right down to the individual websites. This means you can track individual backlinks and the traffic they bring. This can be incredibly helpful when backlink building and paying for advertising space on other websites.

Behavior is where the SEO experts spend a lot of time. Here you can track the flow of traffic through your site and why they stay or go on certain pages. In 2020, things like page speed and time spent on page are 2 of the most important factors in ranking and Behavior is where you get this information.

Behavior Flow
In this section you can see a flowchart of all your tracked visitors and their drop off rate. From here you can make inferences on behavior and if you’re skilled enough, convert that inference into a page design that converts more sales.

This is a great area to track A/B tests for different clickable copy, page structure, and many other variables.

Site Content
Here you can break down your traffic by site content and assess which articles and pages are getting the most attention. This is useful for you when you want to create new content in the future. What works here will most likely work again. Copy what works!

Site Speed
Site Speed is something we put a lot of emphasis on because everyone loves fast sites. In this section you can see your page speed interpreted by Google and see which pages may be slowed down for any number of reasons. Luckily, Google will tell us these reasons! Whether they are feasible changes is another conversation.

This is a conversation worth having.

If you use a web builder like Wix of Shopify there are certain things that come out of the box that you can either never change or need to be a serious coder. The purpose of this article is assuming you will be paying no one to improve your SEO, this includes site speed. The best thing you can do here is Google search that recommended site speed changes and your web builder and see if there is a solution. You may find out there isn’t one and that is generally ok.

Google Search Console

Set up
“If you're interested in improving your site's appearance on Google Search, and you're willing to put in a little time learning about search engine optimization (SEO) and Search Console, here is your getting started guide. You don't need to understand HTML or coding, but you do need to spend some time thinking about how your site is organized and written, and be willing to make some changes to your site. The good news is that a little effort can go a long way in improving your search results.

  1. Sign up for Search Console. It's free, there are no upgrades or paid services, and you'll get alerts when Google sees unusual activity on your site, such as crawling problems or indications of hacking.
  2. Add and verify your ownership of your site. You'll need to prove that you are the owner of your website, because Search Console shows information about your site that only site owners should know, and allows you to make changes that can affect how your site appears on Google.
  3. Read our guide to basic Search Console usage. A basic user typically needs only a quick site check-up once a month, unless we alert you that we've found a problem.
  4. Learn the basics of how Google Search works. You'll understand a lot more of the information that you read here, and it will make troubleshooting much easier .
  5. Read our SEO starter guide. This is an introduction to best practices for your website to ensure that Google is able to find, understand, and present your site properly in search results. It contains a lot of information, but you can take your time working through it.
  6. Decide whether you want to hire an SEO expert. Many small website owners do all their own search engine optimization; in fact, if you read our documentation carefully, you can become an SEO expert yourself! But some small sites (and nearly all large sites) hire a professional SEO expert to help improve their presence on Google. Read this guide if you're thinking about hiring a professional SEO.
  7. If, after learning the basics, you decide that you want to learn more advanced topics in SEO or Search Console, you can continue with the SEO track."

Once Search Console is successfully connected there are a few key features you can take a look at when reviewing your SEO.

Much of the data you will find here is also on Analytics and may even be better reported on Analytics and for that we will keep this section on the shorter side.

It is worth noting that Google does plan on merging these 2 platforms together in the future at some point. For now, you can connect the two for better reporting.

Requesting a Page Index
This is the most useful feature of Search Console based on the available info on Analytics. Simply take a URL you want Google to crawl and paste it into the top search bar on Google Search Console.

Once pasted, you will be brought to a page where Google will either tell you that the page has already been successfully indexed or you’ll see a button to request an index.

Making sure that each page on your site is properly indexed is the first step towards getting ranked and appearing on the first page with this piece of content. Indexing a page allows Google to understand the information you are presenting and how best to present that to searchers.

Each new page or blog you create should be indexed but DON’T WORRY you don’t have to stress over this day and night. There is usually little reason to request an immediate index for a local business. If you have a sitemap successfully submitted (which we will talk about next) the majority, if not all, of your pages will eventually get indexed by Google and it won’t take that much time!

This section is similar to requesting an index of a page. On the left hand side, under “Coverage”, you will see “Site Map”.

Depending on where your site is built you will need to go fetch the link for your sitemap and submit it here. Once your sitemap is submitted Google will crawl your site much more frequently and pick up new keywords and information to provide the searcher.

There is so much on Search Console, like Featured Snippet info, in between “Sitemap” and “Links” but we are going to skip ahead.

Links is a page where you can see your top external, internal, and sites. You can also see the anchor text most used to link to your site.

Although much of this info is on Analytics it is better presented in Search Console. Use this page to assure you have an organic mix of external and internal links as well as a diverse range of anchor text.

Pro tip: Don’t be afraid to use small and maybe on the surface “meaningless” words for anchor text. If you’re an electrician and all of your guest posts use the anchor text “best electrician”, Google may be inclined to penalize you because it assumes the post was paid for. Use words like “website”, “blog”, “here”, “read”, etc to keep everyone on their toes.


This is the last free tool we will discuss for now when setting up your website to be tracked for SEO.

Ubersuggest has grown with time and now there is a paid feature however, many of the key features you will need for basic, local SEO can be accessed for free when you login with a Gmail account.

The first thing you need to do is create a project. This will encapsulate all of the info you need to manage your SEO. Simply follow the steps as Neil Patel guides you along the process of establishing keywords and setting up a location. We like to use counties for local businesses as it’s rare a business will serve just one town.

After you have set up your account you can start looking at a lot of really in depth data and information about your backlinks, keywords, pages, and content.

We will briefly talk about the sections for backlinks, keywords, and content ideas.

This part of Ubersuggest is where we can track all of our valuable backlinks we’ve spent so much time on. If a link is taken down or now redirects to a page that no longer exists, you can address the issue here.

You want to check up on your backlinks every now and then to make sure everything is still working as designed. If you lose a backlink, reach out to the site owner and see what you can do to restore the link. If your rankings drop suddenly after a lost backlink this can very well be the cause and you will want to do everything you can to get the link back and live.

Pro tip: Type in your competitors URL and go see all of their broken links. Reach out to the sites and see if they’d be interested in linking to you instead. No one wants a dead link on their site and these could be some of the easiest backlinks you’ve ever earned.

This section is very important when setting up your game plan for SEO. You want to find the right balance between long and short tail keywords, their difficulty, and the competition of who currently holds the top couple spots.

For a local business, odds are your KD (keyword difficulty) are relatively low on the 0-100 scale and the competition should be the competition you already know exists simply by conducting business. Long and short tail keywords refer to the length. A term like “plumber” (which is short tail) may have you competing against Wikipedia's page on plumbing. This word is going to be very difficult to rank for depending where you are. A term like “24/7 plumbing in New Haven” (which is a little bit longer tail of a keyword) may have you competing with just these types of service providers in your area.

Give a search to some broader, short tail, keywords and see if there are any long tail keywords you can use to create a blog, video, or page to address. If you can drive enough backlinks to this page you can start to rank not only for the long tail, but eventually the short tail as well!

Content Ideas
Now that we have our mix of keywords we want to go after we need to create a content calendar. You should shoot for anywhere between 1 and 6 pieces a content a month if you’re an average local business.

Content can be anything from a video to a blog, an online quiz, a PDF/infographic, or a page on your site dedicated to providing a specific answer.

Take your keyword list and input them one by one into the Content Ideas section. You will then see all sorts of content (mostly blogs) from across the internet with similar topics. Figure out which one is performing best in their area by searching for these keywords.

Now that we know Google is rewarding one piece of content with a top ranking they are likely to rank our very similar (but better) post.

Take what this leader has done and expand on it. Write more, link more (when appropriate), provide better images and videos, use good meta descriptions and alt tags and then start sharing!

Pro tip: Now that we have this great piece that is better than anything out there online you can start reaching out to the websites that were referring to the post we just mimicked. Offer your post as a new fresh link to better help their readers understand the topic.

AI Update: 

Google Analytics: 

AI-powered solutions can automate the process of setting up Google Analytics by identifying the necessary tracking codes and giving you simple instructions to implement them on your website. Some AI tools can also analyze your website's data and provide insights on user behavior, such as which pages are most popular and which pages have high bounce rates. This information can help businesses optimize your website and marketing strategies to improve engagement and conversion rates but will not necessarily speed up set up time.

  • Google Analytics tracking code identification
  • Direction on E-commerce tracking setup
  • Direction on Goal tracking setup
  • Direction on Event tracking setup
  • Direction on Site search tracking setup
  • Direction on Cross-domain tracking setup
  • Direction on Referral exclusion list setup
  • Direction on Bot traffic filtering setup
  • Analysis of user behavior data

Google Search Console: 

AI can assist with Google Search Console by identifying and suggesting fixes for technical issues with your website, such as broken links and crawl errors. AI will not be able to assist you with set up past basic instructions 

  • Simple instructions for set up


AI-powered solutions can assist with keyword research by identifying high-potential keywords and phrases to target for maximum impact. AI tools can analyze search volumes, competition, and other metrics to identify keywords that are likely to generate the most traffic and conversions for your website.

In summary, AI can automate the setup process for Google Analytics and Google Search Console and provide valuable insights to help businesses optimize their SEO strategies.

Content Creation

Approx. 4-6 hours a week - Without AI Assistance
Approx. 2-4 hours a week - With AI Assistance

Now that we have our tracking tools in place on our website and understand how to interpret some of the data provided by these tools we need to create content worth sharing. Content can be a video, a blog, an infographic, a meme, a gif, or a standard website page.

Your content should be built around two important questions.

Is this content accurate, informative, and unique?


Is this content easily digestible and shareable?

If you can build a piece of content that answers “Yes!” to both questions that you will have no problem getting other authoritative websites to refer to your content and create a backlink network worthy of the top of Google.

Selecting a Topic
This article already assumes you have great services pages on your website that talk about how and where you conduct business. You should use your blogs to link to an average of 1 service page, 1 other relevant blog on your site, and 1 off-site authority on the topic per approx. 700 words.

We know what our content needs to accomplish now. It should be unique, informative, accurate, and shareable. But what should our content be about???

What we like to do is Google a service we provide. You can then scroll down and see something like what you see below on your screen.

Google Suggested Questions

Google is hungry for these answers. These are questions that Google gives attention to. This is a great start to find a question that needs to be answered or a topic that should be covered by everyone in this industry.

How long should my blog be? What should I talk about?
The most important thing to remember when writing is that you need to write about your own experience. Google loves long form content in 2020 and what you have lived, you’ll be able to write the most about. Talk to the reader like you’re talking to someone you are trying to sell in person. You can use jargon on occasion and write in a conversational fashion.

If you are still stuck, try taking a look at the website that already is ranking for this answer. Click on the question, go to the link, and see why Google loves it! How is it laid out? How long is it? Are there videos or pictures? What you want to do for your article is top the ranking article in every way. If their post is 800 words, make yours 1,200. If they are linking to authorities you consider important you should think about also linking to these sites or similar sites.

How do I structure my content to rank?
Each platform/website builder has their own way of marking up content for Google’s eyes. If you are on WordPress, the Yoast plugin does a great job of allowing you to easily edit the slug, meta description, and schema in one place. Yoast also does a great job of making sure your content is well balanced.

No need to live or die by the little red, orange, and green lights on Yoast. Plenty of content ranks at the top of Google with orange or red marks by Yoast. There are many other factors worth considering.

If you aren't using WordPress, heading over to YouTube would be your best bet to figure out where to access similar features that Yoast provides WordPress users.

How often should I post?
Now we know how to select a topic and properly mark up said content we need to create a schedule. This all depends on what you can handle and the industry you are in. Most businesses can see positive growth with 2-4 pieces of content a month.

The most important thing is that you don’t repeat yourself over and over. If you can’t come up with anything unique to say, you are better off doing a recap of a recent job or posting about some recent reviews.

If you’re an HVAC company you can only write about replacing air filters so many times before Google starts to grow weary.

Visit other sites (preferably ones that rank above yours) and get inspiration. There's no reason you can’t write about the same topic as your competitor except make it even better.

AI Update:

Topic selection: 

AI-powered tools can assist with selecting relevant and popular topics for your blog, based on keyword research and analysis of search queries. These tools can also help identify related topics and subtopics to cover in your blog, ensuring that your content is comprehensive and informative.

Here are some prompts you can use that allow AI to assist you with topic selection:

  • What are the most popular search queries related to my industry or niche?
  • Who are my competitors in this industry, and what topics and keywords are they targeting?
  • What are the most popular hashtags or topics related to my industry on social media?
  • What are the trending topics and keywords related to my industry on Google Trends?

Content creation: 

AI can assist with creating high-quality content by providing recommendations on headlines, subheadings, and overall structure. Some AI-powered tools can also generate content based on specific keywords and topics, such as AI-generated product descriptions or blog articles.

This is an area where AI can cause you more work in the long run. AI generated content has to originate from somewhere on the internet for that AI brain to answer your question in the first place. This means you are unlikely to get unique and valuable data that others do not also have access to. Having original content is primary when trying to rank and you may create more editing and rewriting than if you wrote about what you are already an expert on in your own words the first time. And if you are not an expert, you probably should not be publishing content about the topic on your website.

AI serves content creation best when you use it to create outlines or basic research. Below are some questions you can ask AI bots to assist with content:

  • What are the long-tail keywords related to my topic or industry that I should target?
  • What are the most common questions or concerns my target audience has, and how can I address them in my content?
  • What are some attention-grabbing headline and subheading suggestions based on my topic or keywords?
  • Can an AI-powered content creation tool generate content for me based on specific keywords or topics?

Content optimization: 

AI can help optimize your content for search engines by providing recommendations on keyword density, meta descriptions, and other factors that affect SEO. AI-powered tools can also analyze your content and provide insights on how to improve its readability, relevance, and overall quality to increase its ranking in search results.

Here are some prompts you can use that allow AI to assist you with content optimization:

  • How can I optimize my website's metadata and content to improve its search engine ranking?
  • What are the most popular search queries related to my target keywords, and how can I incorporate them into my content?
  • How can I improve my website's readability and relevance for my target audience?
  • Can an AI-powered tool analyze my content and provide recommendations on how to improve its SEO performance?

Backlink Building

Approx. 4-10 hours a week - Without AI Assistance
Approx. 4-8 hours a week - With AI Assistance

You now have the tools to analyze your website and create content that is worth sharing. The last major piece of SEO you will need to spend time on is backlink building. A backlink is a link on another website referring to yours. We are going to discuss a few things you can do to help find these websites, reach out to them, and get those valuable links.

Initial Search
The best thing to do is to make a master list of sites and then reach out to them one by one once they’re all in one place. Reaching out to sites here and there will leave your inbox a mess and your backlink count low. What we like to do is make an excel doc and name each tab a search term with the word “blogs” at the end.

For example: If you are a full service salon you might have a few tabs on your document named “beauty blogs”, “makeup blogs”, “beauty products blogs”, “fashion blogs”, and more. When you search these terms into Google you will get hundreds of links to blogs from all over the internet. Copy and paste the URL’s into the appropriate tab.

Filtering Your List
Now that we have a few hundred blogs to reach out to we need to make sure these sites are worth our time. We recommend using this free tool to check out site health, spam score, age, and many more metrics. Enter 1 per line and check out the results. Anything with a spam score above 10% or an age under a year you may want to investigate further and consider deleting from the list.

Pro Tip: Having a higher spam score or being a young site does not mean it will be a bad link. Use your judgement. If the site is very specific and authoritative but has a lot of ppc ads all over their site they may show a high spam score and still be worth posting on.

We finally have our list of sites to reach out to. But don’t copy and paste the same email to everyone. We want to create some A/B testing so break up your list into a couple days worth of work and try out different subject lines, messages, attachments, and signatures. Some things work great for some and not so well for others. This is much more of an art than science.

As you send out more and more you will start to get some feedback. It’s not uncommon to get 1 or 2 responses for 100 emails. Establish trust with the site owner and understand what their needs are.

Mention to them that you just came out with a great blog that could be an asset for their readers. The more a user clicks around on their article the better results they will get so it can create a symbiotic relationship.

Pro Tip: After you get that link, ask if they have any other sites they manage. They may have access to 100’s of other worthy sites that will save you a lot of work in the future.

AI Update:

Initial Search:

To find potential backlink opportunities, an AI-powered backlink building tool can help you identify the most relevant search terms related to your industry or niche. With the help of AI, you can quickly and easily search for blogs and websites that are most likely to be interested in linking to your website. AI-powered tools can analyze your website's content and suggest relevant keywords and topics to target for backlinks, helping you prioritize your search and find the best opportunities. Tools like Ahrefs, SEMrush, and Moz can automatically identify and compile potential backlink opportunities from all over the web based on your desired keywords and filters.

Here are some prompts you can use that allow AI to assist you with your initial search:

  • "What are the most relevant search terms related to my industry for backlink opportunities?"
  • "What are some blogs and websites that are likely to be interested in linking to my website?"
  • "What keywords and topics should I target for backlinks?"
  • "Can you suggest some AI-powered tools for automatically identifying potential backlink opportunities based on my desired keywords and filters?"

Filtering Your List:

After compiling a list of potential backlink opportunities, you'll need to filter out low-quality or irrelevant options. AI-powered tools can analyze potential backlink opportunities and provide insights on the quality of a website's backlink profile, including metrics like site health, spam score, and age. This can help you identify which websites are likely to be the best fit for your backlink building strategy. Some AI-powered backlink analysis tools can estimate the potential value of a backlink from a particular website based on factors like domain authority and relevance to your industry or niche. Tools like Majestic and Link Research Tools can help you filter out low-quality or irrelevant backlink opportunities, ensuring that your efforts are focused on high-quality, authoritative sites.

Here are some prompts you can use that allow AI to assist you with filtering your lists:

  • "What metrics should I use to filter out low-quality backlink opportunities?"
  • "What are some AI-powered backlink analysis tools that can estimate the potential value of a backlink from a particular website?"
  • "How can I filter out low-quality or irrelevant backlink opportunities using AI-powered tools like Majestic or Link Research Tools?"


Once you've identified a list of potential backlink opportunities and filtered out low-quality options, you'll need to reach out to these websites and request a backlink. AI-powered tools can analyze the content of your outreach emails and provide suggestions on subject lines, messages, attachments, and signatures that are likely to be effective. This can help you craft compelling outreach emails that are more likely to yield a positive response. Some AI-powered tools can automate the process of sending outreach emails to potential backlink opportunities, saving you time and effort. These tools can also track responses and engagement from potential backlink opportunities, helping you identify which outreach strategies are most effective. By utilizing AI-powered tools for backlink building, businesses can save time and effort while identifying high-quality backlink opportunities and establishing valuable relationships with other websites in their industry.

Here are some prompts you can use that allow AI to assist you with outreach:

  • "How can I craft effective outreach emails that are more likely to yield a positive response?"
  • "What are some subject lines, messages, attachments, and signatures that AI-powered tools suggest for outreach emails?"
  • "What are some AI-powered tools that can automate the process of sending outreach emails to potential backlink opportunities?"
  • "How can I track responses and engagement from potential backlink opportunities using AI-powered tools?"


Approx. 10-16 hours a week - Without AI Assistance
Approx. 6-12 hours a week - With AI Assistance

  • You now have the information needed to run a reasonable SEO campaign for your small business.
  • You have the tools to make sure your website is up to industry standards.
  • You know how to create great content.
  • And, you know how to reach out to other sites to get them to link to your content.

SEO can get much much deeper than this but for a local business, if you put in consistent work, you will see results over time.

These results are much more impactful than paid ads because they have lasting power and are usually trusted more than the advertisements Google produces above the map pack.

Using AI is a great starting point for many SEO campaigns and can do a great job of getting you in a position to rank, but it is important to remember that often times the highest ranking content for the most valuable search terms has had years of human effort and continuous improvements behind it.

If SEO seems like too much for you, consider calling the SEO experts at Mad Mango Marketing.

We have years of experience and paid systems that make everything above much more efficient. We have moved clients from spot 100 to page 1 for very competitive keywords in a matter of months and look forward to providing your business the same quality work! Contact us here.


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