GrowTraffic is a leading award-winning SEO agency, but did you know it started out with just me working as a freelance SEO consultant? It’s been a long time since I’ve just been an SEO consultant but I thought I’d spend a moment and reminisce about what got me started in this game in the first place and the skills someone wishing to be a freelance SEO consultant would require in order to be awesome in the role.
Being a freelance SEO consultant isn’t easy. I’m not going to say it’s the easiest job in the world because it’s not. Whatever type of consultant you are, you’re going to have challenges, but being an SEO consultant brings with it a unique set of challenges. Saying all of that, it is incredibly rewarding and that’s why I’ve been doing this for the past 15 years.
If you’re reading this you may be hoping for some kind of secret sauce or magic recipe to help revolutionise your freelance SEO consultancy. Having been in your shoes I am sure I’ve got some hints and tips, but I can’t promise overnight changes. If you’re just getting started on the consultancy journey you should learn some decent insights though.
You know the old phrase everyday is a school day? Well this is going to be your mantra for quite some time to come. It needs to be. If you’ve decided to become an SEO consultant then I’m going to assume you already have a fairly high literacy in search marketing. You’ve probably been a marketing professional in some capacity in your previous role. That’s all great. If you’re lucky you’ll have worked in an agency before and you’ll have even more understanding about what it takes to make this kind of role work. But whatever you’ve done before you are going to have to start learning again because operating as a freelance seo consultant is something different again.
I’ve worked in both agency and inhouse roles. I saw early on the things that I needed to do to work with a consultant when I was a marketing manager and I was able to incorporate some of that perspective when I worked as a freelance SEO consultant.
One of the first things you’re going to want to think about is how are you going to stand out as a freelance SEO consultant? It was a crowded market when I first started to rank in the top spot for the term freelance SEO consultant and that was back in 2010! Now there are even more freelance SEO consultants in the UK and even more of us around the world! What’s going to make you different from all those other SEOs? It might be an industry niche, it might be the area you live in, it may be the technology you work with.
This is important because without understanding how you’re different you’re going to end up chasing everything that comes your way and believe me, it’s stressful working like that. If you know what you do best you can focus on getting even better at it. When this works it feels great and really makes being a consultant for SEO very rewarding.
You also need to set out what your client can expect from your relationship. Far too often clients just engage an SEO freelancer and they don’t really understand what they want but they know they want something. A few months down the line the client tells the SEO that they aren’t getting the results they want and the consultant is confused because they didn’t define what the results should be.
First thing you’ve got to understand is what their SEO goals are. Now most people’s SEO goals won’t be realistic. But if you can show them what they’d need to spend or the time it would take to achieve their goals then you can start to think about creating goals and objectives for their SEO activity that is realistic. As long as they accept this then you can start to plan.
It’s only through this that you’re going to be able to prove your value because even when you hit some amazing results unless you’ve defined what you’re going after it would never be enough. I remember increasing the traffic to a website by millions of visitors a month over a couple of years. I thought it was brilliant but the owners’ expectations were even greater, unrealistically high. But they didn’t define what they’d expected and I didn’t define what I felt was achievable. Always a big mistake.
Determine what the key metrics are going to be and keep coming back to them regularly, demonstrating how you’re tracking to them and letting the client know your worth.
Core metrics I would focus on:
- Click Through Rate
I’d steer clear of rankings where possible. It’s always going to be something that clients want to focus on but they shouldn’t be outcomes in their own rights.
You’ve also got to understand the type of consultancy you’re going to be doing. Being an SEO consultant means different things to different people. For some, you will just be providing advice whilst for others you’re going to be working hands on at the coal face. Make sure you understand the type of work you want to do and then ensure you’re explaining it to your potential clients.
If you’re lucky you’ll be working with marketing professionals who have some level of understanding about digital marketing, but on most occasions you’re going to find yourself working with business owners whose knowledge of SEO won’t be particularly great. At this point you’re going to have to educate your customers about what you’re doing and why, and how long this is going to take.
You’re going to have to educate them about everything from onsite SEO, to offsite SEO, content marketing and how SEO interrelates to all the other types of digital marketing your client should be doing.
And everyone thinks they understand SEO. They all have something that they absolutely insist that you should be doing. This tends to be something that worked a bit ten years ago and is something you absolutely shouldn’t be doing now.
You just need to ask loads of questions of your clients and your potential clients just to find out what they know and what you need to get them to understand. Then you’ll need to keep reinforcing them.
Whatever you do for your client you need to be constantly demonstrating your expertise. Afterall, your SEO expertise is what your client is engaging a freelance seo consultant for in the first place.
But don’t just be an expert in SEO, you also need to be an expert in your client accounts as well. You need to be able to really understand what your clients’ businesses are all about and how they work.
Good luck with it! Be an awesome freelance SEO consultant, feel free to give me a shout if you want some advice or help.