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Where do SEO professionals spend their budget and time?

What SEO tasks do you spend the most time working on?

Everyone has their own way of working, but there are some key areas of SEO that seem to have more time for them than others.

For anyone in control of digital marketing budgets, where do you think the most money is being spent right now?

As part of our Search Engine Journal SEO Status Survey report series, we looked at how SEO professionals allocate their budgets and time between digital marketing and SEO.

Read on to learn:

  • Where budgets are allocated in digital marketing.
  • Which SEO tasks have the most time allotted to them.
  • Where the focus of digital marketing is shifting away.

How Do SEO Decision Makers Allocate Digital Marketing Budget?

In the past 12 months, 6.2% of SEO professionals said they spent their entire digital marketing budget on content marketing. With a grade point average of 2.98, content marketing has the highest budget allocation in digital marketing.


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Meanwhile, 17.9% of SEO professionals said they did not allocate a budget for digital public relations and 30.4% said they allocated little budget. With a grade point average of 2.55, Digital PR has the lowest budget allocation in digital marketing.

(We asked: How do you allocate your digital marketing budget? Matrix selection, one per line. Open to all respondents, 2,369 responded.)

Content Marketing Is The Dominant Field Of Digital Marketing Right Now

When we asked our audience about where they apply their budgets for digital marketing, surprisingly, SEO was not the area where most digital marketing spend is applied.


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Content marketing was the dominant area of ​​budget allocation.

According to the State of SEO survey, content marketing was found to be dominant in many results and is an area in which many SEO professionals are currently investing.

One thing to take away from this result is that with large budgets applied to content, your competitors can invest heavily here.

The focus seems to be shifting away from digital PR and connection building

If we take a look at the results of digital budget allocation above and time allocation below, it shows that digital PR and link building has the least budget and time spent on them.

Digital PR (as a way to build high quality connections) may be the subject of a lot of discussion on social media, but it’s not where decision-makers allocate their budgets.

That doesn’t definitely say that link building is no longer part of SEO.

But with Google’s shift to brand awareness and page experience, the results point to a shift from link building to content and user experience.

This shift in focus is supported by Barry adams, founder of Polemic Digital.

“Recently, Google seems to rely less on off-page ranking signals (ie links) and has put more emphasis on relevance and quality of content,” Adams said.

The web is built on a linking system – and you’d expect links to still factor in ranking to some degree, but recent updates from Google are pushing for on-page user experience.

That would be the area to focus on right now.

B2B and B2C, agency and freelancers compared

To examine our data in more detail, we filtered the results to compare different cohorts to see if there were any statistically significant differences.

The difference in budget allocation between agencies and internal brands

  • An agency is 29% more likely to spend most of its budget on SEO than an internal brand at 29% vs. 20%.

The differences between B2B and B2C for digital marketing budget allocation

  • 19% of B2B SEO professionals spend no budget on digital public relations, compared to 14% of B2C.
  • 17% of B2C SEO professionals spend most of their budget on digital public relations, compared to 12% of B2B.
  • 23% of B2C SEO professionals spend most of their budget on social media compared to 18% of B2B.
  • 28% of B2C SEO professionals spend most of their SEO budget compared to 23% of B2B.


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When we work on SEO, where do we allocate our time to tasks?

  • 36.3% of SEO professionals say they spend most of their time on keyword research. With a grade point average of 3.28, keyword research had the most time allocated to a task for SEO.
  • Local SEO has 11.4% of SEO professionals who don’t apply time and 7.1% who apply all their time. This polarized division of the results indicates that local SEO is an area of ​​SEO specialization.
  • 8.2% of SEO professionals said they spend all of their time on analysis and this is the task that is most likely to have all the time allocated to SEO.

When we work on SEO, where do we allocate our time to tasks?

(We asked: When working on SEO, how much time do you spend on each of the following activities? Matrix selection, one per line. Open to all respondents, 2,369 responded. )

SEO professionals spend most of their time on keyword research

Based on the results of our survey, keyword research is identified as an important task.


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This result is supported by some SEO experts, such as Suganthan Mohanadasan by Snippet Digital.

“Keyword research is the most important SEO task,” Mohanadasan said. “When done right, it can map your content timeline for the next 12-24 months and quickly show gaps and opportunities…. With this information, you can make good, data-driven SEO decisions.

However, Dave Davies, founder of Beanstalk has a different point of view.

“Personally, I don’t agree with a work process that [spending the most time on keyword research]”Davies said.” Now that doesn’t mean keyword research isn’t important, it’s very important. But spending most of your time on keyword research seems a bit like to me. take the “measure twice, cut once” to a damaging extreme.

What Mohanadasan and Davies agree on is the importance of spending time making sure client sites are technically sound.

“I spend most of my time doing technical research and implementations,” Mohanadasan said. “My main responsibility is to make sure that all of our clients’ sites are technically sound and optimized within the limits of the platform and sometimes to look beyond and find new and alternative ways to overcome the limitations.”


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What we need to remember with our results in this survey is that they are self-reported by our audience and based on what an individual is best or specializes in.

What makes SEO so interesting is the divergent opinions and the constant discussions.


Content marketing is the dominant area of ​​digital marketing today and an area in which to spend budgets to keep up with the competition.

The focus seems to be shifting away from digital PR and link building to on page content and experience. Think about how you can improve the user experience and create better content experiences.

SEO professionals spend most of their time on keyword research and on-page factors.

If everyone is spending time on keywords, think about how you can take your keyword research to the next level. Think about emerging research and new opportunities such as transactional and geographic niche keywords.

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Download your copy of the full report to access all data from the Search Engine Journal 2021 SEO Status Survey.

Featured Image: Paulo Bobita / SearchEngineJournal
Images created by author, September 2021

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