Search engine optimization (SEO) can feel like navigating a minefield, with regular algorithm updates and complex technical issues. But an SEO consultant can help demystify the process.
In this article, you’ll learn the role of an SEO consultant and how working with one can help you improve organic rankings and drive traffic.
What Is an SEO Consultant?
An SEO consultant is a professional you can hire to help improve your website’s organic rankings—and more.
By identifying various on-page, off-page, and technical aspects of SEO for improvement, these specialists can make recommendations to boost brand awareness and generate revenue by way of organic traffic.
An SEO consultant can help you dig into data, diagnose underlying issues with your website, and spot opportunities for growth.
Here are a few of the common roles you’ll see across SEO consultant services:
Roles and Responsibilities of an SEO Consultant
Perform SEO Audits
One of the most important actions in any SEO strategy is a website audit.
SEO consultants take stock of your website and assess its performance. Not every site needs an audit, but it’s a good first step in many cases.
The SEO consultant will draw conclusions about what’s working and what needs to improve.
Some of the key areas covered in an SEO audit include:
- Indexing and crawlability
- Keyword targeting
- On-page SEO
Create a Backlinking Strategy
An SEO consultant can help you formulate an effective backlinking strategy.
Backlinking is an off-page SEO strategy where the goal is to have as many relevant, high-authority websites link to your content as possible.
For example, if you run a barbershop in New York, a mention in an article from a reputable business publication about the “top 25 barbers in Manhattan” would be a great backlink. By linking to your website and highlighting your brand in a positive light, Google’s algorithms (and users) recognize your authority in your industry.
This Semrush blog post has 3,817 backlinks from 457 referring domains (at the time of writing). That means 457 websites included one or more backlinks to this post, which increases its authority and ranking in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
But, how do you know if you’re getting good backlinks? A high-authority backlink comes from a website with high domain authority that’s topically relevant to your niche. It should also have the potential to send referral traffic to your site.
Of course, not all links are good.
Semrush’s backlink audit provides a toxicity score, which relates to how many suspicious-looking domains backlink to your website. You want your site’s backlink toxicity score to be as low as possible, as the wrong kinds of associations can harm your business reputation and overall authority.
With a detailed backlink audit, an SEO consultant can provide a toxicity score and tell you whether your current backlinks are hurting or helping your SEO strategy.
Conduct Keyword Research
Keywords are the terms prospective customers type into search engines to find information. For example, they could be searching for a new pair of running shoes, a project management solution, or a dry cleaner in their local area. Keyword research is identifying the right keywords to reach your target audience.
As you can see in the below keyword overview, there’s a lot to take into account with every term.
Understanding how search volume, keyword difficulty and search intent all play a role in identifying the right keywords to target. Mapping content to keywords in a way that generates the right kind of traffic isn’t as easy as it seems.
Say you run an ecommerce business that’s struggling to sell products.
Instead of compiling reports on various keywords and finding ways to optimize your current strategy, you can outsource the work to an SEO consultant. A wealth of industry-specific expertise coupled with an eye for what works is a great recipe for an effective keyword targeting strategy.
Traits of a Quality SEO Consultant
Level of Expertise
Consider how long the consultant has been in the industry and the results they’ve delivered for notable clients.
For example, SEO consultancy OuterBox boasts a near two-decade run in the industry, including winning multiple awards:
Its site also showcases results with ecommerce giant Shopify, boosting organic traffic by 350% in less than a year.
Do their previous clients provide glowing recommendations? Or is their track record patchy and incomplete? If an SEO consultant can’t share clear evidence of how they’ve helped previous clients, they likely aren’t worth the risk.
Look for evidence on their website and in any reviews you can find:
Image Source: SEOworks
Find an SEO consultant who can point to past projects to back up their capabilities. If they brought more organic traffic to a client’s website in the past and can prove it was due to their work, there’s a good chance they can do the same for you.
Image Source: Daniel Foley
Receiving regular updates is crucial, as it lets you know what the consultant is working on, how much progress they’re making, and whether you’ll have the opportunity to raise a concern or add input.
Even after the work is complete, SEO consultants should let you know the reasons behind their choices. For example, they might tell you they chose a long-tail keyword over a short-tail one to increase conversions.
What they tell you about the decisions they’ve made can and should influence next steps.
How Does SEO Help Your Business?
Google is one of the most important drivers of traffic—more than 85.3 billion searches are conducted there each month.
Investing in an SEO strategy can help you improve your website’s organic rankings, which makes it easier for potential customers to find you via search engines. Which means working your way toward the first page of SERPs.
Because that’s where customers are clicking.
In a study of 4 million Google search results, Backlinko found that less than 1% of searchers clicked on something from the second page of results.
For example, Cycleverse came to market in 2020 with the ambition of becoming Germany’s go-to cycling hub.
By investing heavily in SEO and using Semrush to carry out keyword research and competitive analysis, Cycleverse grew traffic by 200x and revenue by 1800%, becoming an industry leader just two years after launch.
Do You Need an SEO Consultant?
Although hiring an SEO professional means your to-do list is much shorter, doing SEO in-house may be a more budget-friendly solution.
What’s more, no one knows your business as well as you do—if you hire an SEO consultant, it will take time for them to understand your organization. In the process, they may make recommendations to create content that isn’t on-brand or suggest you use tactics that aren’t viable for you.
If you decide to lead the SEO charge for your business, Semrush can help. Tools like Site Audit doesn’t only tell you what issues your website has—it also tells you why things like duplicate meta descriptions are problematic and how to fix them.
The Semrush suite also includes tools like:
- Position Tracking: To monitor the organic rankings of your target keywords over time
- On Page SEO Checker: To get actionable advice including keyword suggestions, content length and readability recommendations, and more
- Organic Research: To analyze your competitors’ organic keyword rankings and top-performing pages
How to Work with an SEO Consultant
There are several things you should know before and during the process of working with an SEO consultant. The following factors can help you make the right choice and get the most out of the working relationship.
Find the Right Person for the Job
One of the best ways to find an SEO consultant is through a search engine.
If an SEO consultant is struggling to rank on the first few pages of Google, it’s a red flag. You’ll often find those with a deep understanding of SEO will leverage that knowledge to promote their business and showcase their skill set before you even meet with them. This applies to social media platforms such as LinkedIn, where an optimized profile is prioritized in results.
Use Your Network
Word of mouth is a great strategy for finding an SEO consultant. Ask fellow business owners about their experiences.
A post on a social media platform such as Twitter or LinkedIn can yield helpful responses as well. Consider joining Facebook groups with local business owners to get honest reviews.
Look at Online Directories
UpCity has a large pool of curated B2B service providers that focuses on digital marketing. Clutch can connect you with a range of IT, business service, and marketing professionals in your area.
Be Transparent About Goals
The way an SEO consultant approaches their work will change depending on the client’s goals, which might include:
- Boosting conversion rate
- Decreasing bounce rate
- Developing domain authority
- Increasing SERP visibility
First, outline your goals so that both you and the SEO consultant have a clear idea of where you are now and where you want to go.
SMART (specific, measurable, actionable, relevant, and time-bound) goals encourage you to set realistic and relevant targets to share with your SEO consultant.
From there, you can draw up your key performance indicators (KPIs), which are the metrics used to measure progress toward your goals. SEO consultants can help you track milestones along the way.
What Type of SEO Consultant Do You Need?
SEO Consultant or SEO Agency?
When looking for help with SEO, you have the option of working with either an individual or an agency. Both can spearhead an effective SEO campaign for your website, but they vary in how they can help you.
Agencies and consultants can each dig into website traffic, carry out audits, provide a complete diagnosis, and handle the necessary improvements (though pricing may vary).
But the role of an SEO consultant implies a deep understanding of SEO, and many consultants are industry veterans who left big businesses to work for themselves.
They will create a detailed plan for you and your team to follow based on their research. That can be helpful if you need to train in-house staff to follow SEO best practices.
A consultant can come in and create example blog post briefs for your business that you can then templatize and use to provide a clear framework when writing for SEO.
For example, Fili is an SEO expert who rose through the ranks at Google as an engineer before leaving to set up a consultancy business. Using his knowledge of Google’s algorithms, webmaster policies, and more, he helps businesses identify and solve issues related to on-page SEO.
To evaluate the level of support you get with a consultant or agency, you need to think about the specific services you require.
For example, if you need something straightforward such as keyword research, there will be dozens of viable options, including performing it in-house with the aid of SEO tools.
But, if you have more complex needs such as white-label services, an SEO agency is more likely to have the bandwidth and bespoke packages to handle your content writing for you. Typically, agencies have the resources and bandwidth to handle your content strategy over the long term.
SEO Consultant for Small Businesses
SEO consultancy can work for businesses of all sizes.
Say you run a small bakery, but you’re not sure how to drive local traffic to your website. You’ve hired a writer to produce a couple of blog posts to little effect.
In this instance, an SEO consultant can show you how to increase the impact of your content. Through local SEO, your consultant will help you target potential customers in the area to find your business on Google more easily.
Case studies prove this approach works. For example, when Edelweiss Bakery, a local artisan bakery in Florida struggled to make a name for itself online, the store sought outside help from an SEO agency.
Through a multi-pronged approach, which included using the Semrush organic research tool, the agency helped boost the bakery’s online presence. And organic traffic to the bakery website increased by 214% in four months.
SEO Consultant for the Enterprise
Instead of focusing your energy and resources on building a clear brand identity and reaching a broad audience, your attention will likely turn to making the most of your current exposure and increasing your conversion rates.
To see how this plays out, let’s examine the case of HoneyBook, a client management software solution.
In 2018, Honeybook found success by offering a series of free templates and resources to support business owners. This approach focused on the users rather than the core HoneyBook product, however.
In 2021, the company identified the need for a change in direction and worked with Semrush’s tools to pivot to a product-focused campaign.
By evaluating HoneyBook’s target keywords’ difficulty and identifying opportunities to gain more backlinks, they experienced a 7% increase in visibility on those keywords and its newer posts were, on average, 30 positions higher than before.
That is a great example of how large businesses can review existing strategies and refresh them for better results.
Work with an SEO Consultant to Grow Your Online Presence
Working with an SEO consultant is the best way to grow organic website traffic. When you hire a consultant with expertise in SEO, they can provide pointers on how to optimize your content strategy, drive traffic through effective backlinking, and map out keywords you should target to connect with customers.
Once you have a clear idea of your goals and KPIs, use social media and online directories to track down the perfect consultant or agency for your needs.
Or, sign up for a free trial of Semrush to diagnose and amend on-page and off-page issues for yourself.