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SEO Consultant vs. SEO Firm: What’s the Difference?

By Valerie DiCarlo on Jan 12, 2018

Your company is at a crossroads: You need an injection of expertise and capacity into your company’s SEO work. You’ve tried handling all of the SEO strategy and implementation through your in-house digital marketing team, but your team doesn’t have the time to learn or do everything needed to see real SEO results.

At this point, you need to bring in someone from outside. And you have a decision: Do you hire a large SEO firm or an individual consultant?

From my own knowledge of the industry, here are some things to think about as you’re making that decision.

Why not a big SEO firm with lots of capacity and different voices?

Now, I will admit here that I’m biased toward SEO consultants (since I am one). But I’m biased for a reason. I have seen a lot of companies who have had bad experiences working with SEO firms. Here are some of the major pitfalls that my clients have experienced with large SEO firms:

  • The person who sells you the package isn’t the person who delivers the service. Typically, the sales people at SEO firms aren’t the hands-on, SEO experts that will be doing the actual work. This can, potential, be a red-flag. Even if the sales people represent the possible services correctly, your concerns and needs have to be re-communicated to the team that will actually be working on the project. At the very least, this adds extra time. At the most, it results in an immediate fragmentation issue and possible miscommunication.
  • Your SEO project can be assigned to many people with unknown levels of experience and expertise. When you are working with an account manager or a sales person, you often don’t have direct access to (or knowledge of) the people working on your project. While the firm itself may have employees with vast and laudable SEO knowledge, you can’t guarantee that that’s true of the people working on your project.
  • Fragmentation and miscommunication within the firm, which leads to poor project management. You're hiring outside help because you need capacity, bandwidth, expertise, and efficiency. But if, as the saying goes, “The right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing,” within the SEO firm, then you don’t get the straightforward, low-maintenance help you need. You have multiple points of contact who are not always the implementers on the project. Enter confusion and chaos.
  • Poor communication with the client (you). With an SEO firm, there are often many hands working on the project and several people communicating with you. This can lead to crossed wires about what’s been done, why they are doing the things they are doing, and what needs to happen next (including action items for your team). That can be frustrating and time-consuming.

At the end of the day, I’ve talked to companies who’ve completely written off SEO as an online marketing tool because they’ve had a bad experience with SEO firms. And that’s a shame, because it means they’re missing the opportunity for a larger reach and increased sales, all because of a bad experience with an SEO firm.

What an SEO consultant can bring to the table.

As an SEO consultant, I’m passionate about providing effective SEO services to my clients. I work as a consultant, because I think it’s one of the best ways to provide the highest quality work possible. Here are some of the reasons why I love being an SEO consultant (and what my clients have said they appreciate about my services).

  • An SEO consultant is “hands-on” throughout the process. When people are exploring what my services will look like, they’re talking to me. So I can use that knowledge later on to customize the services I provide them. I have the flexibility to be nimble and quick, because I’m pitching the services that I will follow through on myself. I do both strategy and implementation, so there’s no chance that the tactics I’m implementing won’t mirror the strategy I set out at the beginning.
  • An SEO consultant can provide ongoing communication. Because I’m one person, my clients always know who to call, and I’m always fully briefed on what’s happening on their project. They also have the chance to evaluate before hiring me if my communication style and frequency will fit their work flow. That communication style is not going to change, because their point person for questions won’t change.
  • An SEO consultant spends time learning the client’s business and business model. Although SEO principles and practices are fairly consistent throughout industries, customizing an SEO strategy and game plan to solve a business’s needs can significantly increase the value of the service. Because a consultant is fully dedicated to the project, they can take the time to learn how to gain the biggest return on investment for the client.
  • An SEO consultant can become a valuable partner and resource in the long-term. The most successful projects come as a result of the consultant becoming a valuable member of the digital/online marketing team. I become their go-to resource for ongoing projects, new projects, online marketing strategies, brain-storming, and more. Because the consultant is one person (rather than a group), he or she can develop relationships with key players on the client’s team to build in knowledge that will sustain the benefits of the project long into the company’s future. And it’s so fun to watch the digital/online marketing team become more savvy and knowledgeable… it brings life to a project!

The bottom line is, your company needs results. And from my years of experience in the SEO industry the best way to get the most effective results is through experienced SEO consultants who can use their skills to increase your ROI.