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What is an SEO consultant and what do they do?

Do you feel like you could use a helping hand in SEO?

It's okay to admit it. 

An SEO consultant might be exactly what you need to push things forward. Whether you're a newcomer or an experienced marketer, SEO consultants can help fuel your SEO efforts, or diagnose any site issues. 

What you will learn

  • Who is an SEO consultant?
  • When might you need to hire one?
  • What responsibilities and skills do SEO consultants have?
  • What is the optimal consultant tool stack?

Who is an SEO consultant?

An SEO consultant is a specialist who specializes in optimizing websites to increase their visibility in search engines. SEO consultants can work as freelancers or be a part of a marketing agency or company's digital marketing team and are usually hired for a short period of time to increase a client's organic traffic. 

They do this by analyzing a website's structure and content to spot opportunities to improve and address any potential issues.

They are required to possess a deep understanding of how search engines work, current SEO trends and best practices, and the knowledge to adapt to changing search engine algorithms. 

A day in the life of a search engine optimization consultant can include client meetings and SEO related activities like developing an SEO strategy, conducting keyword research, conducting website audits, and even providing SEO training. 

Do you need an SEO consultant?

You may need an SEO consultant for several reasons, such as if you're launching a new website or if your current website is ranking poorly in search engine results.

An SEO consultant can help identify why and suggest a strategy to improve your website's organic presence. 

Here are a few more reasons why hiring an SEO consultant can help.

You lack in-house expertise

Conducting SEO services is not something that takes a half hour a month or is something you do as a one-off. 

To succeed with SEO, you need time and resources. 

If you don’t have these, it's best to outsource your SEO tasks to an SEO consultant. 

Your website is underperforming

Has your traffic recently plummeted, or did you lose a lot of keyword rankings? 

Google Search Console shows you impressions, but you're not receiving enough clicks?

An SEO consultant can help you understand why your website is underperforming and suggest improvements. 

You want to grow

There's no better reason to hire an SEO consultant than if you want to grow your organic presence. A good SEO consultant can lay out a path to success with your website that can translate to more visitors and conversions. 
You may find that you have reached the limit of your digital marketing efforts and could use some external help.

Or perhaps you are launching a new product and want to enter new markets. 

In either case, hiring an SEO professional with the right knowledge and industry expertise can help your business grow.  

7 responsibilities of SEO consultants

The nature of what an SEO consultant does will depend on their industry and scope of work.

Although an SEO consultant must be competent at every stage of the SEO workflow, they are often hired to perform a certain task or complete a project. 

Here are 7 things that SEO consultants do.

SEO Audits

In many cases, an SEO audit is the first thing an SEO consultant does.

An SEO audit is a thorough review of your website's structure and content to identify areas for improvement. 

An SEO audit often includes evaluating the following: 

  • Checking page indexation issues 
  • Evaluating the link profile, 
  • Identifying page load speed and web vitals,
  • Examining content and keyword gaps
  • Uncovering low-hanging optimization opportunities

For example, a page level audit with a tool like Surfer Audit can uncover missed internal linking opportunities.

An SEO audit is often the first step of analysis because it can guide the rest of the partnership by telling the SEO consultant what the status of your website really is. 

Setting an SEO strategy

One of the most important tasks of an SEO specialist is to come up with an SEO strategy that fits with the overall business goals of the company. 

This requires the consultant to understand the business, its goals, its target audience, and the landscape of its competitors.

Doing so can help them figure out what the business's biggest opportunities and challenges are when it comes to its online visibility.

Creating an SEO strategy is a complex process that requires a deep understanding of SEO best practices that are relevant to the client's website.

An SEO professional must consider the client's industry, website authority and topical expertise in the eyes of search engines. 

For example, a well established website ranking for thousands of keywords will require a different approach than a newer website that operates in a finance or healthcare niche. 

When done effectively, an SEO strategy can significantly improve a business's online visibility and success.

Conduct keyword research

During the keyword research process, an SEO consultant will identify the terms and phrases that potential customers are likely to use when searching for the products or services that the client offers.

The goal is to create and optimize the website's content around these keywords to improve its visibility in search engine results.

Effective keyword research is important for all kinds of websites.

Newer websites may require a long-tail approach while they are still establishing their brand authority, while older websites will require uncovering keyword gaps.

SEO consultants consider factors like topical coverage, competition, and existing opportunities when picking the right keyword.

An SEO consultant's work will involve identifying the most suitable keywords for the business and then creating topic clusters for the website to attain subject authority in the eyes of search engines.

Surfer Keyword Research can automate this process in a matter of seconds. Here for example, we generated 93 keyword clusters for a website in the photography niche.

Their goal is to find keywords that have the right search intent for the business.

On-page optimization

On-page optimization can often be the reason why a competitor's website outranks your pages, all other things being equal. 

SEO consultants can help you optimize your URLs, titles, headings, keyword usage, and internal links—all ranking signals used by search engines.  

Surfer's Content Editor can also help you identify which keywords to use in your content for search engines. 

The content score above can be a useful metric to judge optimal on-page keyword usage.

You'll also notice the suggested word count, headings, paragraphs and images that can affect your page's quality in the eyes of Google.

Off-page optimization

Off-site optimization includes all the external efforts that push your site to be ranked even higher.

This might be link building and mentions, PR, or guest posting, as long as they drive traffic and results to your website. 

Because off-site SEO requires a lot of outreach, it's best to hire an SEO consultant who can leverage existing relationships in the industry to benefit your website.

They'll be able to identify referring domains that are common to your competitors and get in touch with them for backlinks.

SEO training

SEO consulting services can often be tasked with the responsibility of SEO training, especially when working with businesses that have in-house digital marketing teams. 

The goal of this training is to give the team the information and digital marketing skills they need to put SEO best practices into action and manage them well.

SEO training typically covers a variety of topics, such as keyword research, on-page optimization, off-page optimization, and technical SEO.

The consultant may use real-world examples and "over the shoulder" exercises to help the team understand and use what they've learned.

By providing SEO training, the consultant ensures that the company's SEO efforts will continue long after the consultant's engagement has ended. 

SEO Reporting and analysis

Consultants are expected to provide reports that cover tracking, measuring, and interpreting data related to a website's performance in search engine rankings, user behavior, and overall traffic.

The consultant may collect this data using a variety of tools, including Google Analytics and Google Search Console.

Metrics like organic traffic, bounce rate, conversion rate, page load speed, and the position of particular keywords are all monitored by them. 

The SEO consultant then puts all of this information together into detailed reports that show how well the website has done over time.

These reports are given to the client, so they can see how their SEO investment is doing.

The consultant will also use these insights to improve and change the SEO strategy as needed.

The SEO consultant makes sure that the SEO strategy is still effective and in line with the business's goals, even as search engine algorithms and user behavior change.

This is done by constantly analyzing the data and making decisions based on it.

SEO consultant skills

SEO consultants possess a unique set of skills that allow them to navigate the complexities of search engine algorithms and obtain meaningful results.

We'll discuss the essential skills that define a competent SEO consultant, including technical expertise, strategic thinking, analytical prowess, and a deep understanding of user behavior. 

These skills enable them not only to optimize websites for search engines, but also to align SEO strategies with broader business objectives, ensuring long-term growth in an increasingly competitive online marketplace.

Technical SEO knowledge

Technical SEO knowledge is crucial for an SEO consultant. 

This skill is about being able to understand and use things that affect the technical performance of a website, like how fast it loads, whether it works well on mobile devices, whether it has an XML sitemap, and how structured the data is. 

These elements are necessary for search engines to effectively crawl and index a website. 

A skilled SEO consultant uses their technical SEO knowledge to ensure that a website's infrastructure is optimized for both search engines and users, thereby improving organic search performance.

Understanding of SEO best practices

An SEO consultant must be well versed in the best SEO best practices, which include both on-page optimization using keywords, meta tags, and high-quality content and off-page optimization activities like building links and using social signals. 

By keeping up with the latest SEO trends and algorithm updates, a consultant can make sure that a website follows these rules and avoids penalties that can hurt its ranking.

Analytical skills

SEO experts need to look at different kinds of data, like website traffic, bounce rate, conversion rate, and keyword rankings, to figure out how well their SEO strategies are working. 

They can gain insights from this data by using tools like Google Analytics and Google Search Console to make informed decisions. 

Also, they must be able to compare datasets, pull information from different tools, and present all this information in a way that everyone involved in the implementation can understand and use.

With these skills, they can figure out what's working, what's not, and how to improve the SEO performance of a website.

Problem-solving skills

SEO is a complex field with numerous potential challenges.

For an SEO consultant to handle these problems well, they need to possess strong problem solving skills. 

Whether it's a sudden drop in rankings, technical SEO issues with the website, or a search engine penalty, a consultant must quickly identify the issue and find a solution. 

Communication skills

An SEO consultant needs to be able to explain complex SEO ideas and strategies to clients, team members, and stakeholders.

They also need to tell people about the progress and results of their SEO efforts. 

Good communication helps make sure that everyone is on the same page and understands the value of SEO, which is important for getting buy-in and support for SEO projects.

Understanding UX and SEO

A good SEO consultant knows how user experience (UX) and search engine optimization (SEO) work together.

Search engines prefer websites that provide a good user experience, have quick load times, easy navigation, and mobile compatibility. 

By improving the UX, they can boost the site's SEO performance and provide users with a better experience.

Project management and self discipline

Great SEO consultants frequently juggle numerous tasks and projects, such as conducting keyword research, optimizing content, building links, and analyzing data.

Good project management skills enable them to stay organized, prioritize their work, and meet deadlines. Self-discipline is also important because SEO is a long-term process that requires consistent and ongoing work. 

These skills help ensure that an SEO consultant can effectively manage their workload and deliver results.

How much do SEO consultants get paid?

According to Glassdoor data, the average salary for an SEO Consultant in the United States as of June 2023 is approximately $63,249 per year, with additional pay of approximately $11,686 per year. This brings the total average pay to about $74,935 per year. 

However, these figures can vary greatly depending on factors such as the consultant's level of experience, the complexity of the projects they work on, and the region in which they work.

SEO Consultants in the information technology industry, for example, earn a median total pay of $100,269, while those in the media and communication industry earn a median total pay of $84,477.

Sources: Glassdoor - SEO Consultant Salaries

If you're worried about costs, You don’t have to hire an SEO consultant full-time. 

As the name indicates, they are “consultants.” 

That means that they can help you when you need them by the hour or for a specific project.

SEO consultant tool stack

SEO consultants will often use several SEO tools to automate their tasks and make their jobs easier. Here are 4 tools we recommend for SEO consulting services.

Surfer

Surfer offers several tools that an SEO consultant will require. 

Its suite helps SEO professionals automate keyword research, website audits, content plans, and even writing content. 

Asana

Asana is a productivity tool that can make colalboratio easier. You can assign tasks with just a few clicks and then get notified when they're done and ready to go. Similar tools in the space are Notion and Trello.

Google Analytics

For any SEO consultant, Google Analytics is an indispensable tool. GA4 can reveal detailed insights into website traffic, user behavior, and conversions. 

Google Search Console

Google Search Console reveals how Google perceives your website, highlights issues related to rankings, and provides insightful information on keywords and impressions. 

Key takeaways 

  • An SEO consultant’s job is to help businesses make their online presence stand out and rank higher on search engines.
  • SEO consultants assist with SEO audits, keyword research, off-page and on-page optimization, SEO training, reporting, and analysis.
  • With the right tool stack, SEO consultants can create better SEO strategies and assist with strategy thanks to data-driven insights. 

Conclusion

Is an SEO consultant or SEO agency necessary to succeed with your company? 

No. 

However, having the right SEO person on your team can help you grow faster and more efficiently. 

SEO consultants are like chess players in that they plan each move strategically, think about how the search engine will react, and always think a few steps ahead to win the rankings.

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Screenshot of Surfer SEO Content Editor interface, displaying the 'Essential Content Marketing Metrics' article with a content score of 82/100. The editor highlights sections like 'Key Takeaways' and offers SEO suggestions for terms such as 'content marketing metrics