An SEO Consultant – What To Expect?

“An SEO consultant provides their knowledge and expertise in ranking websites for businesses wanting to raise their online traffic profile. The consulting is generally conducted on a 1-to-1 basis, or the consultant will provide the in-house marketing team guidance and knowledge to continue the organic growth of their business.”

An SEO Consultant Provides Search Engine Optimisation Services to Local Businesses and Website Owners

Suppose you’re thinking of launching a business and want to do well within the search engines. In that case, SEO (search engine optimisation) should be the foundation of how the website is planned, developed, operated, and expanded before you let any designer or developer near your website!

Your goal as a business owner needs to reach as many people looking for your services or products. That is where an SEO consultant plans everything initially because if you get this wrong initially, it’s far harder to correct and compete further down the line.

By hiring a professional SEO consultant in Auckland from the outset, you can avoid the potential costly mistakes that come with avoiding one, build your online presence naturally and get an understanding of what SEO is.

This article will aim to explain what precisely an SEO consultant is, what they do, how you can expect to pay to use one, what they can help you achieve, and how to find the right one for your business.

Whiteboard Planning Before SEO Campaign Starts
Whiteboard Planning Before SEO Campaign Starts

What Do SEO Consultants Actually Do?

In a nutshell, SEO specialists are responsible for the overall website planning and using their experience and knowledge to manage their client’s comprehensive online organic growth strategies. This will usually cover a broad set of duties such as keyword research, on-page implementation, technical SEO management, conversion tracking, off-page link building and monthly reporting of development and progress.

There are three main aspects of SEO: on-page, off-page and technical SEO.

A good SEO consultant should be covering all of these aspects to be successful at SEO and ensure that they are doing their consulting effectively.

Consulting for On-Page SEO

Although we consider many on-page factors, some are more vital than others and need to be examined first. On-Page SEO connects all of these factors that guide the search engines to what your website is about. These factors include the words written on the page, the images, the videos and some additional coding that Google wants to read.

A knowledgeable and skilled SEO specialist should be able to advise you on all known on-page components that the search engines use for ranking for SEO, including:

  • Meta Titles
  • Heading Titles
  • URLs
  • Description Tags
  • Keyword density
  • Latent Semantic Indexing

Consulting for Off-Page SEO

There are many times when we’ve come across a potential client dealing with another SEO agency, and when we mention examining ‘off-page SEO’ or link building, the potential client looks confused.

The potential client often mentions that their previous SEO company never said anything about ‘Links’, social media, or videos? Links are and will always be a ranking factor, and surprise surprise, it’s quite a bit one as well to boot!

There is a direct correlation between the number of links a website has and its ranking positions. Well, there are some caveats – search engines don’t favour rubbish links; good ones, however, are!

We look to get good links.

Consulting for Technical SEO

In addition to examining both on-page SEO and off-page SEO, a highly-skilled professional SEO consultant will also need to explore and evaluate the third aspect of SEO – Technical SEO.

To do this, the SEO consultant will look at the main factors that help a website load, run smoothly, function as expected. They will probably connect their client’s websites to an auditing software that brings weekly, monthly audit reports of technical errors that need to be investigated.

We know this because we do this!

SEO auditing software is essential to be a good SEO consultant; there is zero chance you can do it for free using manual techniques to find technical errors, hence the need for automation to find the errors.

Fees for Freelance SEO consultants will vary, but the best idiom to apply here is;

‘pay peanuts, and you get monkeys’.

An SEO consultant with extensive knowledge in local SEO, national SEO, international SEO and who uses professional services of experienced content writers will not be charging less than $1500 per calendar month as a retainer, PER website property.

Anything less than this is not worth their time, knowledge, and experience.
How much the monthly retainer is will largely depend on the scope of the project and the competitive factors involved.

SEO shouldn’t be the only marketing a company doesn’t, but one of many marketing methods.

If you follow large corporations and look at their annual reports, you will notice that most of them are spending 10-15% on marketing as part of their overall revenue.

A medium-sized business* earning over $10 million a year in revenue shouldn’t blink when given an SEO quote for $5,000/per calendar month as a retainer – it’s 0.6% of their annual revenue and still less than employing a full-time staff member to do SEO. And they still have an additional capacity of 9.4% to spend on marketing using Google Ads or other forms of paid advertising.

Expected SEO Consultant Hourly Rates

$20 - $40 Less than 2 years Low One-Man Bands
$40 - $60 3-4 years Medium One Man Bands/small businesses
$60 - $100 5-7 years Good Small Business
$100-$160 7-10 years Very Good Medium Sized Businesses
$160-$250 10-15 years Exceptional Medium/Large Businesses
$250+ 15+ years Exceptional Large/Enterprise

Monthly Retainers for SEO Consulting

$200 - $1000 Less than 2 years Low One Man Bands/small local business 5 - 10 pages
$1000 - $2000 3-4 years Low/Average Small Business 10 - 25 pages
$2000 - $6000 5-7 years Good Medium Sized Business 25- 100 pages
$6,000 - $10,000 7-10 years Good – Very Good Medium/Large Business 100 – 500 pages/multi-national
$10,000 - $20,000 10-15 years Very good/exceptional National Business 500 – 1,000 pages/multi-national
$20,000+ 15+ years Corporate Business Large/Enterprise** 1000+ pages/multi-national/multi-language

Points To Consider When Thinking About SEO Budgets

The higher the monthly retainer you pay for an SEO consultant, the more resources they will have at their disposal to:

  • know and find issues quickly and resolve them for your business.
  • will have access to premium auditing tools and software to diagnose issues
  • Be part of SEO consulting networking groups internationally
  • They have testing knowledge on how to manipulate the rankings
  • Be aware of algorithm changes
  • Have a larger budget to use for on-page content development
  • Have a larger budget that can be allocated towards off-page links.

By choosing an SEO consultant at a low budget level, you’ll find they have issues moving forward because:

  • They have no budget to work with to expand your website – slow content growth
  • They have a limited budget to develop your link profile
  • Limited software available for researching and investigation
  • Might not be part of SEO consulting networks

*The definition of mid-sized businesses in New Zealand is annual revenue between $5m to $30m, or 20 to 100 employees. 75% of those sized companies are based in Auckland, Canterbury, Wellington, Waikato or Bay of Plenty. Source: https://www.grantthornton.co.nz/globalassets/1.-member-firms/new-zealand/pdfs/gtnz-msb-2019-pr.pdf 

**At a corporate level, where the client requires multi-national and multi-language most companies will have a large in-house team to manage the website.

How Long Do You Need To Work With An SEO Consultant?

Let’s be clear on this; successful SEO campaigns aren’t going to happen overnight.

Nope, they take several months to play out and fully stay high in Google rankings. Companies need to consider SEO as a long-term marketing strategy achieved through ongoing, consistent action to obtain results.

If an SEO provider or agency promises you results quickly (within weeks) and even mentions they guarantee rankings on page one, we suggest you back away slowly and smile…

Skilled SEO requires patience; we expect businesses to commit to a minimum of 12 months with our services at a minimum.

Depending on the competitive nature of the niche you’re operating in, results from SEO might take 12-24 months of extensive on-page efforts and off-page link building. Initial results could take several months to be noticed.

How Long Should You Use An SEO Consulant
As long as a business is operational then it will need to have a presence in the search engines.

We cannot tell you how long you will work with your SEO consultant, but we can only advise that you choose them for a long-term partnership. Someone reliable to help your business grow and keep competitors from stealing your gained rankings, traffic, and ongoing revenue.

Imagine a billboard in Auckland city that provides consistent leads for your business. It costs $3600/month to keep it there – do you take it down?

Billboard Advertising vs SEO Consulting

Why Should You Hire an SEO Expert?

Some business owners or those with tech-savvy knowledge will have a basic grasp of how SEO works – BASIC is the keyword here. However, most business owners working in fields unrelated to computers have no idea what a search engine optimisation consultant is or how using a search engine optimisation consultancy can help their business grow.

If you’ve been attempting to run your SEO campaigns in house and haven’t managed to get the results or number of leads that you thought were possible, then it might be best to let an experienced search engine consultant delve into your website. They will be able to see things from a different light know exactly what you’re doing wrong (or right!).

An experienced search engine consultant will diagnose issues and fix them without much thought. They are saving your in-house marketing team time and money needed to be invested in finding and fixing the problems themselves.

You will find that experienced, and seasoned SEO consultants will have access to a plethora of SEO tools that can be used to find issues. They remove the need for guesswork, as they know how to set up pages, how to obtain links, how to conduct internal linking and how best to get your website in Google’s good books!

What SEO Consultants Should be Doing?

SEO Consultants do a fair amount of work to raise the rankings of a business across the search engines and have to manage many moving parts of a project in coordination. In conjunction with organising the project, they will also need to report back to the client and meet the expectations that they’ve agreed with the client.

SEO consultants need to be honest with their client’s and explain if a project is viable and not simply think of the money involved. Some SEO projects might not be feasible, and the client might want to rank in a highly competitive market.

In general, though, SEO consultants will micromanage content writers, guide web developers to support layout and designs of web pages, engage with other website owners to obtain links, prepare monthly reports for their clients, and deal with their client’s questions. In some cases, the SEO consultant may even spend time on-site with the client explaining how to structure their website pages and what to write about.

These are the jobs we would expect SEO consultants to be performing for their clients and there are aspects of SEO that we hope your SEO consultant isn't doing on your website.

Here we make comparisons:

What SEO Consultants Should Be Doing

Things SEO Consultants Shouldn't Be Doing

SEO Consultants do a fair amount of work to raise the rankings of a business across the search engines and have to manage many moving parts of a project in coordination. In conjunction with organising the project, they will also need to report back to the client and meet the expectations that they’ve agreed with the client.

SEO consultants need to be honest with their client’s and explain if a project is viable and not simply think of the money involved. Some SEO projects might not be feasible, and the client might want to rank in a highly competitive market.

In general, though, SEO consultants will micromanage content writers, guide web developers to support layout and designs of web pages, engage with other website owners to obtain links, prepare monthly reports for their clients, and deal with their client’s questions. In some cases, the SEO consultant may even spend time on-site with the client explaining how to structure their website pages and what to write about.

These are the jobs we would expect SEO consultants to be performing for their clients:

  • Conducting initial Keyword Research for client’s websites
  • Optimising each page of the client’s website so that each page is targeted to meet the user's search intent – you’ll want to ensure that your content is ideally aimed at the targeted user and client of the website owner.
  • Benchmarking targeted Keywords against their competitors to ensure progress is made
  • Conduct ongoing Technical SEO support. The clients will add more and more content to a website with non-optimised images and over-optimised text. It is the job of the SEO consultant to ensure all the content on the website adheres to ideal optimised standards. This generally means that there are no broken links, limited re-directions, no keyword cannibalisation issues, or blocked resources.
  • Improving structured data, otherwise known as SCHEMA, across the website. SCHEMA is a language that the search engines understand to determine what websites are about, and it helps them categorise the relationship between the data.
  • Optimising the client’s Google Business Profile if the SEO involves Local SEO consulting.
  • Building Trust and Authority of the client’s domain, using PR and outreach.
  • Ensure their client’s website is running as fast as possible – this is where the SEO consultant will be using the skills and knowledge of a website developer.
  • Ensure that the client’s website has the correct keywords without any potential bloated content.
  • Interlinking all the pages across the website to ensure search engine bots can travel within the minimum use of their crawl budgets and crawl all the website’s pages.

This list isn’t exhaustive, but it's an indicator of the number of items an SEO consultant needs to consider for their clients.

Can You Trust Your SEO Consultant As Much As A Puppy Trusts You?

How Can You Find a Trustworthy SEO Consultant?

A trustworthy SEO consultant is like gold dust, and a business that finds one will want to keep utilising their services perpetually.

They will respond to business queries; they will advise a business on how to expand their services and customer base best, and they will be able to summarise how your website is compared to their competitors. They will be honest in their answers.

When you seek out a consultant who specialises in SEO, you’ll want to ensure they offer the following:

Data Driven Set-Up and Research

An SEO consultant will conduct sufficient research, determining if an SEO campaign is viable. Their research will be based on the latest traffic level information found in Google Keyword Planner. Once a website is established and up and running, the authentic traffic levels will be displayed in Google Search Console.

The SEO consultant will know this and make minor adjustments to align each page with the search terms that the target audience is typing into Google.

Transparent and Measurable KPIs

Any SEO worth their salt will understand KPIs and benchmarking from the moment they start the SEO journey.

SEO consultants primarily raise your ranking positions in Google and will look to benchmark everything before starting a campaign – where is everything right now?

A transparent consultant will openly provide as much data as is necessary so that a business owner can see the changes that are made and, therefore, measurable.

Data Driven Set-Up and Research

Your journey with your SEO consultant of choice will be a marathon, not a sprint and the whole process of working together needs to be a collaboration. The SEO consultant will want to set up pages in specific ways, and if they can explain why they want to do this in a way that you understand, you’re onto a winning process.

There might need to be considerable planning involved with an SEO campaign. In doing so, both the company using the SEO consultant will need to co-operate with the needs of where the SEO aims to drive the business.

Consistent communication is essential to move forward.

A business might not like what the SEO consultant tells them or might disagree with it, but the business needs to trust their professional option. The decision making will boil down to how well the consultant can convey the reasoning behind a particular SEO related decision.

Can Anyone Become an SEO Consultant?

This is a question that is often asked when we meet companies at meetings, how can you become an SEO consultant and what does it take. Are there are any qualifications involved?

To become an SEO consultant companies hire, you need to appear as an authority in the subject. It would be best if you practised what you preach, in other words.

Publicly show or highlight potential clients your results, or better still, rank your website within the SEO industry, and this, in turn, will give you credibility that you know what you are doing!

First, though, you will need to learn the basics of SEO, how each website page needs to be structured so that Google can read it and understand what it is about and where it can be placed. Several videos are available on YouTube giving you this information, videos of training on Udemy where you can learn what is needed.

You then need to test, test and test different methods for setting up website pages. Once you find a technique that works, deploy it on your website. At this point, you can start to market your services for SEO confidently.

Many helpful websites can help you learn about SEO, such as Backlinko, Neil Patel, Mathew Woodward, MOZ, Ahrefs. – these are fantastic resources to start.

You will need to start using what you read and learn to memorise the methodology.

This process will not happen overnight, so be patient in your learning. But once you master it, an SEO consultant can work their preferred hours, around their family and remotely and how much they want. Highly sought SEO consultants can command high monthly retainers, especially once they’ve established solid high rankings in the SERPs for their target keyword phrases.

Do Professional SEO Consultants Need Specific Skill Sets?

Experienced SEO Consultants will bring their knowledge in the world of SEO to a business. Still, they will advise on business expansion and manage this when their services come to fruition.

A top SEO provider, who is at the top of their game, will need to know or have knowledge of how to deal with the following issues:

  • Understand the client’s business and know which phrases will need to be targeted to bring ideal traffic
  • Either make technical SEO changes or advise developers on what needs to be done to pass their technical SEO requirements.
  • Knowledge of HTML, CSS, and possibly Javascript to ensure the search engines crawl the website and index correctly.
  • Write original content for any business and company or oversee content creation using suitable content writers.
  • Consistently check search terms, rankings and analytics for their client’s website performance and then make recommendations on the fly.
  • Be part of SEO networks to ensure they know any changes that the algorithms unleash.
  • Explain User Experience (UX) to clients and why websites need to be set up in specific ways to ensure visitors are kept on-page and are sub conscientiously geared toward their targeted CTA.
  • Be able to write and create targeted Pay-Per-Click (PPC) adverts to diversify clients’ revenue and leads through sponsored advertising.
  • Reach out to other businesses that could provide suitable link building opportunities.
  • Drive targeted traffic to the website, in a local, regional, national and in for international SEO at an international level.
  • Being an SEO consultant isn’t an easy job; you will need to be organised, know your client’s business, understand their targeted niche, and feel the best way to bring their business success.

You need to show empathy and care for a client’s website as if it were your website.

Are There Benefits of Hiring An SEO Consultant?

When you deal with a digital marketing agency, you will deal with an account manager, or as they like to be called ‘success managers’. The account manager will manage several aspects of the client’s website and mini-projects within 6 hours PER client. Which, frankly, isn’t a lot of time!

We’ve interviewed a so-called SEO expert (Local SEO agency) here, and when we discussed a normal SEO term, the team manager looked somewhat perplexed. They should know this and track every internal follow link across their clients’ websites. You will find that dealing with an agency; they will only know ‘vanilla’ SEO ranking methods.

Your SEO consultant will be very aware of ‘vanilla’ and ‘non-vanilla’ ranking methods in Google. Because they are aware of different practices, they will better understand issues and how to remove them and prevent them before they appear. They will also know about advanced SEO tactics, which agencies will not know about.

Another benefit of using a consultant over an agency is that you're going to receive a far more personal and agile response to your queries and not have to deal with several people for a question.

With an agency, you will find there is a higher rate of staff turnover, and when a new hire arrives, they have to be educated in the world of SEO. Their knowledge will be minimum when compared to an experienced SEO consultant.

You will find that an SEO consultant gets to know your business personally, how your marketing can be utilised and, in turn, give you a better quality of service.

What Is The Best Way To Find a Good SEO Consultant?

Not all SEO consultants will be a good fit for your business, you might not get along, and there might be a personality clash!

First and foremost, we recommend that you ensure they know what they are doing by examining their websites ranking positions if they have a website. The SEO consultant that you choose will need to be at the very least ranked high on page 1 for SEO related terms with a location determinator.

Check reviews of their services, which can be found on their Google Business Profile and if they are good at SEO, they should also be good at Local SEO consulting. So, they should be listed high in The Google maps listings.

Some SEO consultants might keep their clients private in the same way doctors keep their client-patient interactions confidential.

Lastly, chat with the prospective consultant to see if you could be a good fit. You might find that they will want to ensure that your business fits in the criteria of what they seek as a potential client. Remember, they might be interviewing you as well!

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