How Do Successful SEOs Allocate Their Time?


SEOs should dedicate their time to four major areas: reading, data analysis, testing new tools, and monitoring/automation. Without a commitment to master the four key areas, an SEO is doomed to fall behind eventually. Continuous learning is the most paramount activity for an SEO.

Every morning starts with reading news, blogs (sometimes the comments too), chatter on social, and industry journals as well as outsider pieces. Though it’s sometimes hard to keep up with everything if you’re also the practitioner, it’s important to stay well-read on the topics that matter to your specific company or industry. Topics should definitely include search trends as well as top companies in the search industry, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.

Research can also be automated in many ways. Beyond search-triggered alerts, there are also social alerts and automated recipe alerts. Tools like IFTTT are a great way to aggregate content about a given topic on infinite mediums. I have some Twitter accounts that only exist to automatically feed me the information I want on a certain topic. The most critical thing to automate is competitor research. One should always keep an eye on those who want to take your spot.

Data analysis is another critical role for the SEO in charge of a search program. Understanding at all times what is happening with your site from both a webmaster and statistician’s viewpoint will only reap benefits. Data must be sliced and diced from different dimensions to show trends. Six months of data or more are typically needed to make significant organic revelations. In many cases, paid search is much faster for testing user flow or usability.

There’s a difference between knowing your data and suffering from “analysis paralysis” (i.e., the obsession with data to the point it is ineffective to attain positive business results). There’s another strong case for automation with data analysis. Building dashboards in Google Analytics takes minutes and they can then be emailed daily or weekly depending on the demand.


Aside from dashboards, it’s good to go into any analytics tool with a rough idea of what you want to learn or prove. Staring at overviews of data for the sake of it isn’t a good use of time. My terminology (borrowed from Sherlock Holmes) is that I like to step inside my mind palace.

Here’s what that means in practice:

  1. Make some assertions based on gut instinct and experience (i.e., for selling to businesses, LinkedIn is our top social lead converting source).
  2. Keep an open mind as you sift through different data sources and views.
  3. Study the data impartially to see what can be  proven or disproved with confidence.

Testing out new tools is one of my favorite things to do. So many tools promise one-size-fits-all analytics insights; some purport to tell the future with predictive analytics. Be leery of tools that produce junky code that loads slowly. Watch out for tools that attempt to capriciously control your future, like how some CDN’s hijack one’s link-juice via overzealous subdomains.

The best SEO colleagues I have worked with and studied under all have a handful of tools in their arsenal. It’s usually a blend of search engine hosted tools, third-party testing tools, and automation tools.

From news aggregation to data segmentation, many essential functions of the SEO brain-trust call for automation. To truly stay on top of everything, you will need the help of bots. Do not fear bots — they are your allies (most of the time). The SEO’s audience is generally half-human and half-bot/crawler/spider. So it makes sense to implore help from some of your cool bot friends.

The reason SEO caught my interest so many years ago is that, fundamentally speaking, search is a garden that’s always growing. The search field of practice introduces analytical thinking with creativity and a dash of data. Art meets science. You can write funny tweets and strategically unleash them at just the right moment and then watch your traffic soar. If you do not fight for your turf online, then other people will


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