If you’ve been following me for some time, you know I used to be a marketing consultant and switched gears to offering strictly SEO consulting. Since then, some have asked me “What does an SEO consultant do, exactly?”
I realize that maybe some clarification might be helpful. Plus, if you were considering hiring an SEO consultant to help strengthen your online presence and boost your traffic, this might give you some direction.
First, as I’m sure you’re aware, a consultant is someone who consults, an expert on a particular topic who gives advice related to that topic.
An SEO consultant is no different.
When I was a generalist, I often labeled myself as a full-stack marketer. I was consulting on everything related to marketing, from copywriting to coding. For most of my career, my services were all custom-quoted with variable pricing.
Today, I consult only on search engine optimization for plastic surgeons, cosmetic surgeons, and medical aesthetic practitioners who hire me to get higher rankings, more targeted traffic, and greater revenues.
But the way I price things is a bit different.
SEO Consulting: A Tiered Approach
In recent years, I’ve been offering packaged services based on a three-tier structure — something I teach my clients called “Olympic Factor Pricing” (i.e., bronze, silver, and gold). As a consultant, they are based on project phases. I refer to them as the “Three Ps” of consulting:
When I decided to specialize in SEO, I realized that the model was just as applicable and even more so. In fact, based on my experience as an SEO manager working with digital marketing agencies, SEO jobs generally all fall within three categories: SEO analyst, SEO strategist, and SEO manager.
The SEO Analyst
For the SEO consultant, this is the “probe” phase. It’s the assessment phase where I do a complete analysis. Just as every doctor, including every plastic surgeon, does, I need to diagnose first before I prescribe. So I must do this first before I make any recommendations.
(If an SEO service provider approaches you trying to sell you SEO tactics before doing any kind of assessment, don’t walk… Run. Either they don’t know what they’re doing or they’re spammers who will cause more harm than good.)
In my service offerings, I call this the 360° SEO Audit. The reason I call it “360 degrees” is because it is a multifaceted look into the all three levels of SEO:
- Technical SEO
- On-page SEO
- Off-page SEO
Technical SEO refers to optimizations behind the website (e.g., server, coding, scripts, etc). On-page SEO refers to optimizations on the page (e.g., content, HTML tags, internal links, etc). Off-page SEO is optimizations off the site (e.g., backlinks, brand mentions, external signals, etc).
By the way, off-page SEO also includes local SEO, such as ranking on maps, listings in directories, feedback from review sites, and so on.
During this phase, I scrutinize your website’s analytics and all the data available through analytical tools. Then, I draw conclusions, point out any errors or snags, and brainstorm ideas for improvement.
The SEO Strategist
This is the “plan” phase. Consultants often refer to this as roadmapping. While the probe phase uncovers issues, pain points, and opportunities, the planning phase is where I develop a roadmap to address them.
It’s also the phase where I do topical research, analyze the competition, develop a content strategy, and more. I then put together a strategic action plan based on my findings. I call it my 360° SEO Strategy as I offer recommendations and an action plan with checklists that will address all three SEO levels.
Depending on the complexity of the project and the goals you want to achieve, it can be as simple as modifying existing content to a complete site overhaul. Some of my clients had projects that took several weeks. Others had substantial websites (e.g., 80,000 pages) that took several months.
In any case, you can bring this roadmap to your team to implement it in-house or you can outsource it. It doesn’t matter either way, and I’ll soon explain why.
The SEO Manager
This is the “pilot” phase. It’s the phase where the plan gets implemented. I don’t execute anything personally but I can steer the project. In other words, once I finish the SEO strategy, you may want some guidance and direction during its implementation — whether you deploy it internally or hire contractors.
Perhaps it’s training your team on best practices. Perhaps it’s quality assurance (QA) checks on your team’s deliverables. Perhaps it’s participating in supplier calls and emails. Or perhaps it’s regular reporting and analysis to ensure key performance indicators (KPIs) are met.
Either way, my 360° SEO Advisory is a program where I pilot the project and provide ongoing guidance during its execution.
Why don’t I do any implementation work?
As a consultant who works in the best interest of his clients, I prefer to avoid any perceived conflict of interest as much as I can. And I do so by not having any financial incentives tied to the execution of my plan.
My goal is to help my clients objectively, regardless of who they choose to execute my plan with. It’s the same fiduciary standard that licensed advisors must comply with. I see it no different in the SEO consulting space. Many marketing advisors like Kevin Whelan work this way, too.
Nevertheless, once the plan is deployed and fully delivered, you may choose to keep me on as an ongoing advisor to make sure all the buttons are pushed and knobs are adjusted moving forward.
The role of the SEO consultant is that of a conductor — to direct SEO efforts from start to finish, from analysis to management. Some clients choose audits only. Other clients hire me as their SEO expert for months or even years.
Sometimes, it can be a bit cyclical, too — from analysis, planning, and execution, to rebuilding the plan again. But it is also highly strategic.
Any SEO consultant worth their salt is a true expert who understands and keeps up with the tools, technologies, and trends in the world of search marketing, including having an ear-to-the-ground awareness of algorithm changes, so that their clients can always be prepared.
I often say this to my clients: algorithms can change. Overnight. Search rankings are as volatile as stock prices. They can go up and down, and they can shoot up or crash down in a blink of an eye.
Sure, clients can lose rankings. There’s no guarantee in SEO just as there are no guarantees in aesthetic medicine. But if you’re in good hands, the losses will likely be minimized or mitigated by an expert SEO consultant.
Stated differently, the clients of an SEO consultant — someone who understands what users want, abides by Google’s quality guidelines, and stays on top of changes — will always be better off than going at it blindly.