Choosing the right SEO consultant can have a major impact on your website’s search engine rankings and overall success online. With so many options to choose from, how do you know which SEO expert is truly the best for your specific needs? This comprehensive guide examines what makes a great SEO consultant, how to vet potential candidates, key factors to consider when hiring, and profiles of some of the top SEO consultants in the industry today. Follow along for tips on finding the ideal search engine optimization partner to boost your website traffic and meet your business goals.
What Makes a Great SEO Consultant?
The best SEO consultants have a proven track record of generating significant results for clients through ethical and sustainable techniques. When researching candidates, look for these key characteristics:
Technical expertise and experience: They stay on top of constant algorithm updates and have in-depth knowledge of both on-page and off-page optimization best practices. This includes keyword research, site architecture, speed optimization, content strategy, link building, and more. Many have backgrounds as developers, programmers, or digital marketers before specializing in SEO.
Strategic thinking: The ability to take a high-level view of your overarching business goals and develop an SEO strategy tailored specifically to you. They align SEO efforts to your target audience, brand messaging, and objectives.
Communication skills: An SEO consultant should clearly explain technical topics in layman’s terms, setting appropriate expectations and keeping you updated on campaigns. They actively listen to fully understand your needs before making recommendations.
Familiarity with your industry: Look for SEO consultants experienced in your specific niche. They understand the competitive landscape and what it takes to rank in your field. The best will have case studies, client lists, and proven ROI from optimizing similar sites.
Data analysis: SEO consultants rely heavily on data tracking and analytics to measure results. They continuously analyze performance to refine strategies over time. Strong math skills, attention to detail, and analytical thinking are key.
Creativity: Ranking algorithms favor websites that publish new, useful content on an ongoing basis. A top SEO consultant will have creative ideas for content that targets relevant topics and keywords your audience cares about.
Ethics: Simply put, the best consultants get results through ethical, “white hat” strategies rather than resorting to risky shortcuts. They follow search engine guidelines and avoid practices like keyword stuffing that can jeopardize your rankings.
How to Find and Vet Potential SEO Consultants
SEO consultants come from a variety of backgrounds, specialties, and experience levels. Here are some tips for narrowing down the list and vetting candidates:
- Ask for referrals: Speaking with past clients can provide tremendous insights. Look for consultants with genuine reviews, testimonials, and case studies detailing their successes.
- Interview thoroughly: Have an open conversation about your goals, needs, and their specific approach. Get a feel for their personality and communication style.
- Verify credentials: Many reputable SEO professionals have certifications from industry organizations like Search Engine Land, HubSpot, Moz, and more. While not required, certifications indicate a commitment to continuous learning.
- Examine track record: Look for tangible examples of positive impacts made for other clients, such as increased organic traffic, lower bounce rates, and improved keyword rankings.
- Review proposals: Quality consultants will provide a detailed proposal summarizing your discussed needs, their planned solutions, reporting processes, and pricing breakdown.
- Check references: Speaking with past clients can offer insights into work style, ethics, responsiveness, and other important factors.
Key Factors to Consider When Hiring an SEO Consultant
Finding the best match requires understanding your specific goals, priorities, and preferences:
Not all SEO consultants offer the same services. Consider which are most important to you:
- On-page optimization (keywords, site architecture, metadata, etc.)
- Content strategy and creation
- Link building/outreach campaigns
- Technical website audit
- Speed optimization
- Local SEO tactics
- Reporting and analytics
- Junior/Associate Consultants: Lower rates but also less experience. Best for smaller budgets.
- Senior Consultants: More proven experience but higher rates.
- Agency: A team of consultants with varying seniority levels. Offers diverse expertise.
- Niche-specific consultants that specialize in your industry
- Generalists that have worked with diverse clients and projects
- Do you prefer frequent updates or minimal touchpoints?
- Email, phone, video conferencing preferences
- How often do you want performance reports and metrics? Weekly, monthly?
- Will they proactively offer optimization suggestions or only report data?
SEO consultant fees vary widely depending on experience, location, scope of services, and other factors. Be clear on your budget constraints when interviewing potential candidates.
Profiles of Leading SEO Consultants
Now that you know what to look for in an SEO pro, here are some of the top consultants that display the key characteristics of expertise, ethics, experience, and proven ROI for clients:
Company: Ignite Visibility
Specialties: Technical audits, enterprise SEO, link building
Location: San Diego, CA
Certifications: Moz Associate, numerous awards from Search Engine Land
John Lincoln is the Co-founder and CEO of Ignite Visibility, an internet marketing agency. Lincoln has an extensive technical SEO skillset and specializes in executing international SEO campaigns and link building for large enterprise companies. His high-level strategic thinking has led to major successes for clients like LegalZoom, Honda, Quiznos, and Intuit.
Specialties: Content strategy, technical SEO
Location: Seattle, WA
Certifications: Moz Associate, Moz Local, numerous industry awards
Muller is an accomplished Senior SEO Consultant and trainer for Moz with extensive expertise in local search marketing. She frequently speaks at SEO conferences and events across the country. Muller takes complex technical topics and makes them easy to understand for any audience. Her specialties include content strategy, site architecture, and keyword optimization.
Specialties: International SEO, analytics, mobile optimization
Location: London, UK
Certifications: Google Analytics Individual Qualification
Aleyda Solis is an International SEO Consultant and Founder of Orainti. Fluent in 5 languages, she focuses heavily on multilingual and multinational SEO campaigns. Solis has two decades of experience collaborating with global companies like Disney, Swedbank, HSBC, and BMW. She is also a distinguished author and speaker at over 200 SEO conferences worldwide.
Specialties: Local search, link building, content marketing
Location: Atlanta, GA
Certifications: Moz Local certification
The Founder and CEO of LSEO.com, Jones has spent his career solely focused on local search optimization and rankings. He offers extremely specialized expertise in local SEO audits, citations building, Google My Business optimization, and map pack domination. Jones frequently contributes to publications like Search Engine Journal on local search topics.
Company: Whit spark
Specialties: Local SEO, link building
Location: Vernon, BC Canada
Certifications: Moz Associate
Darren Shaw is the Founder and CEO of Whit spark, a local search agency, where he oversees link building and local SEO campaigns. Shaw also founded MozCon Local and the Local Search Forum event. He is one of the foremost minds in local SEO and frequently speaks at industry conferences and Meetups.
Company: Spark Toro
Specialties: On-page optimization, keyword research
Location: San Diego, CA
Certifications: Moz Founder
Rand Fishkin is renowned for co-founding Moz, one of the most trusted names in SEO. Their tools and training materials have been trusted by millions globally. Fishkin is now focused on Spark Toro, a suite of tools for audience research, brand monitoring, and competitive analysis. His new book Lost and Founder details his entrepreneurship journey.
Key Takeaways for Choosing the Best SEO Consultant:
- Vet consultants thoroughly – examine credentials, reviews, case studies, and track record
- Look for expertise in your specific niche or industry
- Choose an SEO pro that communicates clearly and sets realistic expectations
- Make sure your goals, budget, and preferences align
- Build a relationship of trust, transparency, and shared objectives
- Emphasize sustainable results through ethical white hat techniques
Choosing the right SEO consultant is a key investment when it comes to maximizing your organic search visibility and traffic. The consultants profiled here and other experts that exhibit strong technical expertise, strategic thinking, communication skills, and proven ROI should top your list of candidates. Interview potential consultants to get a sense of their approach, personality, and suitability for your specific goals. Verify credentials and examine case studies to ensure a solid track record. When you find the ideal consultant that aligns with your needs and priorities, they can become a trusted partner in boosting your website performance and achieving long-term success.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What qualifications should an SEO consultant have?
A: Ideal qualifications include SEO certifications, training credentials like Google Analytics IQ or Moz Associate, a technical background in website development/digital marketing, and 5+ years of hands-on experience.
Q: How much do SEO consultant services cost?
A: Average monthly costs range from $750-$5,000 based on experience level, scope of services, and geographical location. Packages usually start around $1,500/month.
Q: How can I evaluate an SEO consultant’s skills?
A: Review previous client case studies, organic traffic growth, and improved keyword rankings as evidence of their capabilities. Also have a discussion to assess technical expertise.
Q: What questions should I ask when interviewing a potential SEO consultant?
A: Key questions: How will you audit my site? What will your keyword research process look like? What is your link building strategy? How will you communicate/report progress? Can you optimize for voice search?
Q: What is the difference between an independent consultant vs an agency?
A: Independent consultants are individuals who may offer more tailored services. Agencies have multiple consultants with varied expertise but higher minimum spends.
Q: What are some red flags to watch out for?
A: Guaranteed #1 rankings, keyword stuffing, “black hat” techniques, lack of references or case studies, poor communication.
Q: What is white hat vs black hat SEO?
A: White hat follows search engine guidelines through ethical strategies like high-quality content. Black hat uses spammy, questionable short-cuts like keyword stuffing.
Q: How often will I need to meet with an ongoing SEO consultant?
A: Most consultants touch base every 4-6 weeks over email, phone, or video chat to discuss strategy and reporting. In-depth strategy sessions can happen quarterly or as needed.
Q: Should I hire a generalist SEO consultant or a niche-specific expert?
A: Niche consultants are ideal if your field is highly competitive or complex. Generalists can still do excellent work with proper research into your industry.
Q: What strategies should a good SEO consultant use?
A: Effective strategies include keyword research, on-page optimization, technical fixes, secured links from trusted sources, speed enhancements, quality content creation, local SEO tactics.
Q: How long will it take to see results from an SEO campaign?
A: Most campaigns take 3-6 months to begin seeing measurable organic growth. Max results often take 12+ months for major ranking improvements.
Q: How can I track my SEO consultant’s performance?
A: Require regular reporting on organic traffic, rankings, keyword progress, site speed, link building, and other key metrics to quantify their impact.
Q: What is an SEO audit and why is it important?
A: An audit examines technical issues, site architecture, keyword gaps, etc. This establishes a benchmark to measure against and identify site improvements needed.
Q: Should my SEO consultant create content or just advise on strategy?
A: Either approach can work well. Some create content while others solely advise clients who handle content internally or use freelancers.
Q: What SEO pricing models are most common?
A: Monthly retainers, project-based pricing, and hourly consulting rates are among the most common pricing models. Avoid “pay per ranking” models.