SEO Consultant vs. Agency: Which One to Choose

SEO Consultant vs. Agency: Which One to Choose

Growing your online visibility is the currency to today’s business success. By tapping into the power of search engine optimization, or SEO, you can give your business an edge and make sure your content gets the hype it deserves.

An SEO consultant plays a pivotal role in this process. With the right support, you can elevate your website’s presence in search engine results pages (aka, SERPS), multiply your organic traffic, and create a brand that people can’t stop talking about.

Below is everything you need to know about hiring an SEO consultant and the tremendous impact they can have on your digital marketing efforts.

What Does an SEO Consultant Do?

An SEO consultant is a specialist who evaluates your website’s current position in the search rankings and formulates strategies to improve it.

The role of an SEO consultant is multifaceted. They focus on everything from your site’s technical setup to your user engagement metrics. By taking a holistic approach, they ensure your website not only ranks well, but offers an unparalleled user experience that wins the favor of both users and search engines.

Let’s look at each of these areas in greater detail to understand how an SEO expert can benefit your business.

1. Website Audit/Optimization

When you begin working with an SEO consultant, they typically start with an SEO audit—a thorough, technical review of your entire site. Much like a doctor needs to diagnose an issue before treating it, an SEO consultant requires a clear baseline to effectively implement changes. This step is essential for pinpointing areas that need enhancement and improving your search rankings. 

Plus, these factors have a strong influence on Google’s algorithm, so they must be up to par if you want to grow your online presence.

Here are the key areas that an SEO audit might touch on:

  • Site architecture: Evaluating your site structure to ensure it’s logical and easy to navigate for both users and search engines.
  • Content quality: Assessing the quality, relevancy, and structure of your content, including the use of relevant keywords and meeting SEO best practices.
  • Meta tags and titles: Reviewing and optimizing title tags, meta descriptions, and header tags to include target keywords.
  • User experience (UX): Identifying elements of your site design and functionality that might be confusing to users and finding opportunities to make site navigation more seamless.
  • Backlink profile: Analyzing the quality and quantity of external sites linking back to your website to evaluate strengths and potential pitfalls in your backlink profile.
  • Technical issues: Monitoring for technical issues that might impede search engine crawlers, such as broken links, issues with robot.txt files, and duplicate content issues.
  • Page load speeds: Checking the speed at which your pages load on different devices, including desktop and mobile. Slower pages can negatively impact your user experience, and therefore, your rankings.
  • Mobile responsiveness: Ensuring the site is fully optimized for mobile, a significant ranking factor for search engines like Google.

By catching and promptly resolving any issues, an SEO consultant can lay a strong foundation for your SEO success.

You can also check out our full website audit checklist to make sure your website meets all your customers’ needs.

2. Keyword Research

After gaining a basic understanding of your business and website, an SEO consultant will likely turn their attention to finding relevant keywords to target in your content marketing.

Keyword research goes deeper than simply identifying trending search terms. It’s about understanding your customer journey and crafting SEO campaigns designed to move people through your sales funnel.

The best SEO consultants are masters at balancing competitive top-of-funnel keywords with less competitive, long-tail keywords that are more likely to convert visitors into paying customers.

By striking this balance, you’ll be able to develop content that appeals to a wide target audience, while capturing leads that are further down the sales funnel. This knowledge is critical if you want to increase your site’s conversion rates.

If your business has a geographic component to it, your SEO consultant might also opt to incorporate a local keyword strategy. This involves targeting location-specific keywords to attract more traffic in your area, and strengthens your overall SEO efforts.

3. Content Marketing Strategy

Good SEO thrives on captivating, high-quality content. A seasoned SEO expert knows that when it comes to effective content marketing, quality beats quantity every time.

With the right consultant by your side, you can develop a content strategy that not only speaks right to the hearts of your target audience, but also follows SEO best practices to improve your SERP standing.

An airtight content strategy might include:

  • Content creation: Developing articles, blogs, and other forms of content that deliver a ton of value to your audience.
  • Variety of content formats: Utilizing various content formats and channels, including videos and infographics, to boost online engagement.
  • Keyword optimization: Strategically incorporating relevant keywords into your content to maximize visibility and drive more targeted traffic to your site.
  • Content schedule: Creating consistency through a regular publishing schedule to keep content fresh and generate a steady traffic flow.
  • Backlink outreach: Enhancing domain authority by creating shareable, high-quality content designed to attract backlinks from reputable sites in your niche.
  • Monitoring and adjustments: Using Google Analytics data to track content performance and adjust your SEO strategy based on what’s resonating with your audience.

4. Measuring Impact on Organic Search Rankings

Hiring an SEO consultant can dramatically impact how your website shows up in organic searches.

Utilizing a variety of SEO tools and techniques, an SEO expert can increase your website’s visibility in less time than you might be able to on your own.

They might aim for Google SERP features like featured snippets to get prime search real estate, or improve on-page SEO elements like meta tags and headers.

The most skilled consultants understand the power of a multi-channel content presence. By offering advice on how SEO integrates with other marketing channels such as social media, email marketing, and PR, they can amplify your overall impact and ensure your SEO strategy works in harmony with all aspects of your digital marketing.

No matter the path they take, their goal should always be to increase your site’s organic traffic and boost conversion rates, thereby improving content marketing ROI

Deciding Who to Hire: SEO Consultants vs. Other SEO Services

An SEO consultant’s value lies in offering expert advice that allows business owners to take a more proactive and strategic approach to improving their search rankings.

But SEO consultants aren’t the only SEO service out there. For instance, someone like a technical SEO specialist might focus more on improving nitty-gritty aspects of SEO such as site architecture, crawlability, or implementing a schema markup.

This role is crucial when it comes to addressing those little backend elements of SEO that make a big difference on your site’s ability to rank. However, their offering might not necessarily encompass broader marketing strategy, or services like content creation.

Then there’s SEO agencies. Marketing agencies that specialize in SEO generally provide a range of services that include everything from initial SEO audits to ongoing content creation and link building. 

Agencies often bring a team-based approach, coordinating specialists in various areas who work together to deliver you more SEO bang for your buck. Their services might also extend outside of just SEO to include PPC (pay-per-click) or social media management to ensure a holistic marketing effort that will help you scale.

So which option is best for your business — an SEO consultant or SEO agency? When considering this important decision, it all comes down to the length of the relationship and your business's needs.

Consultants often work on a project basis, meaning they come in, set up a strategy, and then leave your team to execute on the plan. This temporary arrangement might not suit every business’s needs.

On the other hand, agencies like ours provide a long-term partnership. We don’t just develop a strategy, we also take charge and execute on it. We handle everything from keyword research to hiring expert writers and uploading content to your site multiple times a week, for as long as you need. With a consistent partner, you know your SEO efforts are in good hands and you can achieve more sustained growth.

What Does It Cost to Hire an SEO Consultant?

The cost of hiring an SEO consultant can vary, depending on the diversity of service offerings and the level of experience they bring.

Additionally, how SEO consultants charge can vary. Some may offer flat-rate pricing for projects, while others might charge by the hour or use a retainer-based model for ongoing services. 

Here are some other factors that might influence pricing.

Years of Experience

Usually, the more experienced the SEO consultant, the higher their fee. Consultants who've been in the SEO game for years and have a solid track record tend to charge more than newcomers. They offer a wealth of knowledge that can help dodge expensive errors and apply strategies that get better results.

Certifications and Specialties

SEO consultants with certifications from well-known organizations or who specialize in specific areas like local SEO, e-commerce SEO, or technical SEO often charge more. These certifications usually mean they have deeper knowledge and a better grasp of the SEO landscape.

Scope of the Project

The size and complexity of the SEO project play a large role in determining cost. A major revamp of a multinational corporation's SEO strategy will definitely cost more than a straightforward consultation for a small local business. Projects might cover a variety of tasks like keyword research, content creation, backlink strategy, and technical website optimization, each adding more complexity and requiring more effort.

Custom requirements, such as integrating SEO with other digital marketing strategies (PPC, social media, email marketing), or addressing penalties from search engines like Google, can also influence the cost. The more customized the SEO services, the higher the potential cost.

Are SEO Consultants Worth It?

When considering hiring an SEO consultant, it's essential to not only look at the cost but also consider the potential return on investment. 

A solid SEO strategy can greatly increase organic traffic  and conversions, hopefully offsetting the initial costs of the SEO consultancy fees.

We might be a bit biased, but in our experience, hiring an SEO expert can give your business a significant edge when it comes to your search rankings.

Consider this: Google’s search algorithms are changing constantly. Given the complexity of SEO and the need for quality content, having a partner who understands the nuances of these algorithms can ensure your website stays visible and competitive.

Not only that, but it takes 10+ hours a week to invest in SEO in a way that will actually get results. You have 1,000 other things on your plate — SEO consultants can take some of that initial work off your hands and leave you with an actionable strategy that will work once they’re gone.

The investment is often well-worth the payoff once you see your site traffic start to rapidly grow and your ROI improve.

Instead of a Temporary Consultant, Work With an Agency Partner

If this is the year you plan to take your online presence to the next level, hiring an SEO consultant could be that cog in the machine that sets the entire plan in motion.

But an SEO consultant typically can’t stay forever. Their engagements are temporary and project-based, and your team has to find the resources to carry out their plan after they leave. An SEO agency fixes that. 

At Growth Machine, we stay on as a partner to not only make an SEO plan, but execute that plan. We do the keyword research, hire subject matter experts as writers, edit the articles, and post them to your site — multiple times a week, every week, for as long as you want.

We helped an e-commerce pet brand increase their site traffic by 11,212% in 10 months. At the end of our relationship, we left them with 2,538 keywords ranking in the top 3 spots. Just imagine what your business could accomplish with that visibility!

Contact us today and let’s talk about how we can help get your business onto the first page of search results for keywords in your niche.

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