How Much Time Should a Local Business Spend on SEO?

For a local business owner, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) can be a daunting endeavour, but it’s also essential. Not only is there a lot to learn, but there is also a lot to implement on both an immediate and ongoing basis.

What’s more, if you choose to do it yourself or hire somebody to do it for you, it’s hard to judge how much you or they should be doing to get the results you want. This is particularly concerning for local businesses implementing SEO on a budget.

While SEO can seem like a bottomless pit, this article will help to explain how long local SEO tasks really take, as well as why they’re so important.

For this article, we’re specifically considering SEO for local businesses targeting important business keywords (e.g, plumber, plumbing etc.) in their local towns or cities.

Invest Time Into Both Getting Started and Continuous Improvement

One important thing to note is that SEO should not be a task you just set up and leave. When we talk about how much time to invest, we need to consider the amount of time it takes to do the initial SEO work, i.e. an SEO setup, and how much time you should invest into ongoing SEO, e.g. x number of hours per month.

seo setup followed by continuous improvement

How Long Does SEO Take to Setup for a Local Business

For a local business, a thorough SEO setup takes around 22-36 hours.

An SEO setup includes planning, structuring and building the website, writing the copy (i.e. the text), implementing a combination of SEO techniques for the site and its pages, plus setting up a selection of necessary tools and software.

Depending on the size and scope, an SEO setup could range from a week or two to several months’ worth of work. 

For many local businesses with relatively small websites (e.g. approximately 10 pages), a digital marketing agency will carry out an SEO setup with 22 to 36 hours of focused work. These hours are split across multiple members of staff with different skill sets and scheduled across a certain time period. 

The time required is likely to be higher if you’re inexperienced with SEO and attempting it yourself. Agencies or contractors may say that they can do all of the above more quickly, but they’re probably cutting corners or not following best practices.

Local Business SEO Setup Tasks

timings for an seo setup

Tasks involved in a local business SEO setup include, but are not exclusive to:

Keyword Research

Keyword research is the process of determining what keywords your website and its pages are going to target. Keyword research for a local SMB takes a minimum of 2-5 hours.

Website Design and Building

Website design for a local SMB takes a minimum of 10-15 hours. The manner in which a website is built (e.g. coded from scratch, built from a template, etc.) influences the length of time required

Website Copy (Text)

Copywriting is the term used for writing the text for your website. The copy (text) is written to target your chosen keywords. Website copywriting for a local SMB is a specialist skill and will take around 5-8 hours.

On-site and On-page Optimisation

On-site and on-page SEO refer to the processes involved in optimising pages on your website for search engines. Such elements include title tags, meta descriptions, URLs and internal links.

On-page optimisation for a local SMB will take a minimum of 3-5 hours.

Tools Setup

For any SEO implementation, we recommend you set up and configure a combination of tools to help you carry out tasks and monitor results. Such tools include analytical tools (e.g. Google Analytics), monitoring and maintenance tools (e.g. Google Search Console) and rank tracking tools (e.g. SE RankingAccuRankerSEMrush, etc.).

Tool setup and configuration for a local SMB will take 2 – 3 hours, depending on the number of tools used and amount of configuration required.

Google Business Profile (GBP) Setup

Google Business profiles play a very important role in local business SEO. Having an optimised Google Business profile vastly increases your potential visibility for local business searches. 

Google Business profiles offer a lot of features. There are many fields to fill out and a lot of content you can add.

Setting up and properly filling out (optimising) a profile requires a 3-5 hours of work at a minimum.

How Much Time Per Month Does SEO Take?

After your SEO setup, we recommend carrying out ongoing SEO tasks to maintain and improve performance. Similar to an SEO setup, the time required can range from a few hours per month to a full-time role, depending on the business and website.

For many of the local businesses we work with, we recommend a minimum 5 to 10 hours of monthly SEO work. This gives us the time required to cover at least some of the most important recurring tasks for both the maintenance and growth of your SEO.

Naturally, investing more time on an ongoing basis will help achieve desired results more quickly.

Monthly SEO Tasks

monthly SEO tasks

Tool Audits

As mentioned previously, it’s important to use several tools for performance and maintenance in your local SEO strategy. You should check these tools regularly in order to observe effectiveness, spot potential issues and identify opportunities.

You should also revisit tools regularly to take advantage of new features as and when they’re released.

Responding to Technical Issues

When it comes to managing websites and local SEO, issues come in many forms. For example, you could spot technical problems with your website’s speed, notice a drop in your rankings or realise that some links are no longer working.

Depending on the complexity of your website and the issues that arise, on average, you can expect to dedicate at least a couple of hours per month to deal with problems as they arise.

Building Backlinks

Backlinks play an important role in SEO and often make the difference between beating the competition and falling behind in search results.

The more hours you can dedicate to effective, authentic link building, the better, but we recommend devoting at least a few hours per month to this task. Local directories, partnership links, community engagement and sponsorship links can help boost your local SEO results significantly.

Content Writing

Having a blog with relevant, unique, helpful and local content can significantly bolster your local SEO efforts and results. Even if you dedicate time to researching and writing just one article per month, it could help your business to stand out against the competition. Expect to spend a few hours on this.

Google Business Profile Management

Having a Google Business profile is a necessity for any local business. Every month, you should dedicate time to Google Business tasks such as replying to reviews, adding relevant media and utilising new features as they get added. 

Why Does SEO Take a Long Time?

SEO takes time for two reasons.

Firstly, you need to carry out a significant amount of work both upfront and on an ongoing basis. 

Secondly, Google doesn’t rank your site and its content immediately. Amongst many things, it needs to crawl content, analyse it and test it in search results against other results. This all takes time.

How long it takes to get results (e.g. rankings, traffic and enquiries) from your local SEO efforts depends on multiple factors, including the competitiveness of the keywords you’re targeting, the quality of your website and its content, and how much time you dedicate to SEO tasks.

If you’re up against strong competitors and are targeting competitive keywords, you can expect to dedicate a lot of time to your SEO efforts if you want to see results. 

Once you start achieving these results, there is the potential to reap the benefits for a long time if you keep on top of your SEO strategy.

If the keywords you’re targeting are less competitive and the competition is less fierce, you can expect to dedicate less time or budget to your SEO to get to where you want to be.

How Much Time Should a Local Business Spend on SEO? Final Thoughts

For a local business to get started with its SEO, it needs to invest time into setting up a website, Google Business profile and SEO tools. Together, this will take a minimum of 20 – 30 hours of work.

From there, work should be carried out each month to maintain and build the business’s SEO. We recommend a minimum of five hours of ongoing SEO work per month for local businesses to help maintain and improve SEO.

Every local business is unique, and the time commitment required for SEO varies significantly from business to business.

SEO is not an immediate solution. It does not provide immediate visibility in search engine results like PPC ads. The sooner you invest in SEO efforts, the sooner you can benefit from them.

We recommend thinking of SEO as a long-term investment where you will most likely see significant improvements within the first year and continue to build on the results. As your SEO strategy helps to bring in more business, it justifies the time and cost required to maintain and grow your online presence.

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