Neil Patel

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What is an SEO Consultant and Do I Need One?

What is an SEO consultant and do I need one?

Do you need a little help improving your rankings? Then, you could use the services of an SEO consultant.

Chances are you already know the basics of SEO but may struggle to get the desired results, especially with all the other work you have on your plate.

SEO consulting services could be the answer. These independent experts provide a range of services to boost your rankings.

Being an SEO consultant is a multifaceted job that requires many different skills. Unlike an agency, they typically work independently and thus need to wear many hats. But they can be a perfect fit for businesses struggling to rank.

By the end of this post, you’ll know everything you need about what an SEO consultant is and what they do.

SEO Consultant Essentials

What is SEO consulting? Let’s get started with the fundamentals.

An SEO consultant is an independent expert who provides a range of services to boost website rankings.

  • SEO consultants can provide various services, including keyword research, on-page optimization, and backlink building.
  • Consider working with an SEO consultant if your website isn’t generating leads or conversions from organic traffic.
  • Flatlining website traffic and Google penalties are other signs that indicate the need for an SEO consultant’s services.
  • Hiring an SEO consultant can save businesses time and money by providing expertise and proven strategies.
  • SEO consultants can also provide monthly reports to clients, covering current rankings and any improvements made.
  • Choosing an SEO consultant with experience and a proven track record of success is important.
  • SEO agencies offer a more comprehensive and larger-scale alternative to the one-to-one style of an SEO consultant.

What Does an SEO Consultant Do?

SEO specialists provide a range of services to their clients to help them get better rankings. They implement a variety of strategies and best practices, including the following:

  • Conducting an SEO audit. An SEO audit is an in-depth analysis of a website’s ability to rank in search engines. It looks at your site’s content, technical SEO, backlinks, competitors, and more. An SEO audit also highlights ways a site can improve its SEO and provides a strategy for achieving those improvements.
  • Keyword research. Keyword research means finding relevant keywords that a website should aim to rank for. If a business hasn’t done any SEO before, it may not target any keywords. Even if they have worked with an SEO specialist in the past, it may not be targeting the best keywords.
  • On-page SEO. On-page SEO means optimizing the technical aspects of a website to meet Google’s best practices. This can include improving the site’s content, optimizing tags and metadata, improving site speed, and making the site more secure.
  • Link building. The more and better quality links a website has, the easier it is to rank for high-competition keywords. If a site’s authority is low, an SEO consultant may create one or more link-building campaigns to improve the site’s backlink profile.

An SEO consultant also provides a monthly reporting service to clients. The report covers current rankings, work completed by the consultant, and any subsequent improvements.

Signs You Need An SEO Consultant

It’s usually pretty obvious when you need an SEO consultant. If your website isn’t generating leads or conversions from organic traffic — and you consider Google and other search engines an important part of your marketing strategy — then working with an SEO consultant is a good idea.

Here are some other signs it’s time to consult a professional:

Your Website Traffic is Flatlining

Traffic from search engines is the most basic indicator of whether an SEO strategy is working. If your traffic isn’t increasing over time (or decreasing), you need to work with an SEO consultant or replace your existing one.

Search traffic won’t be important to some businesses. But those businesses are very rare. Even if you don’t think search traffic is essential for your business, it probably is. Did you know that Google accounts for almost 84% of the global search market (according to Statistica)? That’s a huge audience you’re missing out on if you don’t rank in Google.

Website traffic chart.

You’ve Been Penalized by Google

Have your rankings tanked after a Google core update? Google has likely penalized you for breaking its best practices. Google penalties are notoriously difficult to overcome without the help of a search professional, and there’s a risk you could do even more damage trying to fix the problem yourself.

If you get an email like the one below, hiring an SEO consultant may be your best bet.

An example of being penalized by google for something on a website.

As well as helping your site recover from a penalty, an SEO consultant can help you avoid getting hit with additional penalties in the future by abiding by Google’s webmaster guidelines.

Your In-House Team Isn’t Working

Some businesses try to build their own SEO team in-house or hire a marketing manager with experience in several areas of digital marketing. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always work out. An SEO consultant has more experience than an in-house team but can also be cheaper — even if your SEO department is just one person.

You’re Too Busy to Do SEO

Even if you or your marketing manager are SEO experts, there’s no guarantee you’ll have time to implement strategies to improve your rankings.

SEO is an important marketing channel, but other tasks take precedence. If you’re rushed off your feet dealing with customers, suppliers, and shareholders, outsourcing the work to an SEO consultant is smart.

You Want To Grow Operations

Whatever business you’re in, there comes a time when you want to level up.

You could market your business in several ways, like social media, newsletters, and sharing case studies. But it’s SEO that grows your online visibility and helps searchers find you.

While you could implement a strategy yourself, an SEO specialist has the knowledge you need to drive online discoverability.

Sold on the idea of hiring an SEO consultant? Read on for some tips on how to find one.

Finding Your Next SEO Consultant

Finding an SEO consultant isn’t hard. But finding a good one is. First, let’s look at some of the most common ways to find an SEO consultant:

  • Ask your network. Speaking to people you know and trust is one of the best ways to find an SEO consultant. If a fellow business owner or manager knows of a great SEO consultant, they’re usually happy to recommend them. As an added bonus, you’ll know they can deliver.
  • Run a Google search. Unsurprisingly, Google is a great source for finding an SEO consultant. A quick search for “SEO consultant” serves up over 57,900,000 results. If a consultant is ranking well on Google, there’s a good chance they know what they’re doing. However, this shouldn’t be the only factor you use in your decision. Just because they rank high on Google doesn’t mean they can do the same for your business.
Google results for "seo consultant".
  • Use online directories. Several online directories collect reviews about SEO specialists. For example, Clutch, UpCity, and G2 are great places to start. Once again, take these reviews with a pinch of salt. Just because a consultant is topping the rankings doesn’t mean they are the best for you. Like Google, they are a great way to get a shortlist of suitable candidates rather than pinpoint one.
Clutch SEO consultant online directory screenshot SEO consultant
  • Look through SEO blogs. Popular SEO blogs like Search Engine Land, Search Engine Journal, and The Moz Blog can be a great source of potential SEO consultants. They don’t just host the opinions of journalists; SEO strategists routinely write how-tos and thought pieces on these sites.
The moz blog.
  • Post on job boards. Job boards like Upwork, AngelList, and Dynamite Jobs are great places to post ads. The beauty of this method is that SEO consultants will come to you, meaning all you have to do is interview them. Moreover, many of these job boards vet applicants before they can even apply.
Up work SEO consultant.

Traits of A Good SEO Consultant

Want to know what a great SEO strategist is?

Several traits set great SEO consultants apart from the rest. I recommend you look for the following attributes when interviewing potential candidates.

  • Several years of experience. You don’t want a rookie SEO as your consultant. The more experience an SEO consultant has in the industry, the better. They’ll have worked on more sites, better understand what’s effective, and have more case studies to back up their success.
  • Proven results. Any SEO consultant worth their salt will have many case studies to support their work. They can show exactly what they did to improve a previous client’s rankings and the impact they had. They should also be happy to put you in contact with previous clients. Here are some examples from my agency:
NP digital clients.
  • A long-term vision. You want an SEO consultant who’s in it for the long haul, not someone who is going to leave you for a new client after a couple of months; choose a consultant who explains the long-term benefits of SEO to your business and has a roadmap of how you can achieve them.
  • Sees the bigger picture. SEO is just one part of a holistic marketing strategy, and a good SEO consultant will appreciate that. They should help you fold your SEO strategy into other marketing initiatives and be willing to work with other team members and departments in your company to improve your broader marketing goals.

SEO Consultants vs. SEO Agencies

SEO consultants aren’t the only professionals you can hire to enhance your rankings. You can also work with an SEO agency. While SEO consultants are usually one-person companies, SEO agencies can have five, ten, or even hundreds of employees.

While there are similarities in the services an SEO consultant and an SEO agency can offer clients, there are also some pretty big differences between the two.

SEO Consultants May Require Your Help, SEO Agencies Won’t

If you choose to work with an SEO consultant, you’re probably looking for a personal, one-to-one service. What you might not realize is that they will likely need your help to improve your rankings, too.

SEO consultants work on their own, so they typically don’t have the resources to provide a done-for-you service. That means they could ask your team to write additional content, change your website, or perform other SEO-related tasks.

That’s very different from an SEO agency that can perform every SEO task in-house.

Agencies Cost More, But You Get More For Your Money

Agencies will usually charge more for their time than SEO consultants. That’s because they have staff to pay and overheads to cover, whereas SEO consultants typically work from home. For smaller businesses, that may mean an SEO consultant is the way to go.

But other businesses may want to pay more for an agency because they know they’ll get more bang for their buck. That’s because an agency gives you access to dozens of experts rather than just one. Having more people working on your project also means you get work delivered quicker. There’s a good chance you’ll see results faster, too.

At the end of the day, if you choose a good SEO consultant or SEO agency, you’ll still be receiving excellent advice. Most consultants and agencies are dedicated to their craft, attend the right conferences, and test cutting-edge tactics. You may get access to a few more experts when you work with an SEO agency, but that doesn’t make an SEO consultant any less professional.


What is an SEO consultant?

An SEO consultant is an independent professional who helps businesses rank better on search engines. 

What does an SEO consultant do?

An SEO consultant provides a range of services to improve search rankings. These include an SEO audit, on-page SEO, and off-page SEO.

What skills should an SEO consultant have?

If you’re thinking about how to become an SEO consultant, you’ll need a range of skills. The most important include technical skills to improve on-page SEO, creating great content, and being a good communicator.
You can find more information by searching “What is an SEO specialist?” on Google, and you’ll find a ton of useful resources. Here’s one from me to start you off.

How can I find a good SEO consultant?

You can find a good SEO consultant by searching review sites, running a Google search, asking your network, and posting on job sites. 


SEO consultants can deliver incredible results to small businesses, helping them to improve every facet of SEO. A good SEO consultant can do everything from link building to on-site optimization.

But they aren’t always the right choice for everyone. For some businesses, working with an SEO agency is a better choice. If you have the budget, an SEO agency will help you get more done in less time, supercharging your results in the process.

Whether you’re hiring an SEO consultant or an SEO agency, you can look in many of the same places and search for similar traits. Or you can ask my agency for help.

What’s right for your business? An SEO consultant or an SEO agency?

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