Should you become an SEO consultant?

I’ve been working in marketing since 2003. I created my first website in 2000. Sometime around 2004 / 2005, I started to get interested in SEO. It was during this time that I was managing a magazine called Professional Van and Light Truck Magazine. It was also around this time that I started noticing the impact promoting press releases had on our website’s rankings.

Before long the company I was working for was building the odd website and I was fascinated by putting the right structure in place to get a site to rank

After a stint as the Brand Manager for We Buy Any Car, I was back in an agency environment. This time I was working as an internet marketing account manager, specialising in search marketing. Whilst I’d always done freelance work (often doing market research), from this point onwards I specialised as a search marketer with a focus as an SEO consultant.

Whilst working as a freelance SEO consultant I’ve always worked my day-to-day marketing role as well. However as GrowTraffic evolved, things have become a little more formalised, with GrowTraffic becoming a limited company, the appointment of directors and full-time employees.

Not bad for a business that was essentially a hobby to generate a bit of spending money and to try out new ideas and SEO strategies.

I’ve done all kinds of SEO as well. Some of it I’m proud of and other SEO I’m not so proud of.

GrowTraffic now uses a content marketing orientated approach to SEO, which fits in really well with the skill sets of our MD Rachel, who has a degree in English and wanted to focus on a career in which writing was a major element. Using content marketing for SEO is also a really sustainable approach to search marketing. Of course we still do the technical side and generally, I’m up all hours working on people’s websites in one capacity or another.

You don’t have to a be writer or a marketer either. If you flagged down your average SEO consultant you’d find they all had a different route into setting up, or working for an SEO consultancy.

Although we concentrate on using a content marketing approach to market websites and generate backlinks, there are a number of different strategies implemented by SEO consultants. Depending on your way in to SEO will probably determine what type of search engine optimisation you focus on.

Some skills an SEO Consultant Needs

SEO experts may be employed directly in a client-side role, or indirectly through an agency or just as a freelancer. Here are some of the skills you may need as an SEO Consultant:

    • Analytical Mind – I think this is one of the most important things you can be as an SEO Consultant. If you aren’t analytical you probably should start figuring out how to get there. You’ve got to be able to research and spot trends and emerging patterns.
    • Content Creation – After being analytical I’d say one of the most important skills is being able to create content. Now I’m not necessarily taking about 10,000-word eBooks or even 1,000-word blog posts. I mean create copy that can be applied on an optimised page. That’s a good start. After that, then you should be learning to create huge amounts of copy.
    • Interested in technical changes – you’ve got to keep abreast of what’s going on in SEO. If you don’t you’ll find your skills become antiquated, fast. I’ve worked with SEO consultants who have been firmly stuck in 2009 or 2011. You’ve got to keep moving and learning in this game. Spend a bit of time every day reading blogs.
    • Account management – as well as keeping on top of everything happening in SEO, you’re going to have to be able to communicate that with your clients. In addition to being able to communicate all these little intricacies, you’re also going to have to be able to manage the relationship and keep the friendship going. You’ll need to be personable and interested in them. You might have to meet clients at antisocial hours etc.
    • Project management – project management is important for SEO. If you’ve never done project management before, get yourself on an online course. There are a number of stages in project management that you need to be aware of in order to be an effective SEO consultant.
    • Ability to influence – you’re going to have to build a lot of links as an SEO. If you want to be a decent link builder you’re going to have to learn how to influence people who are relatively influential in their own sphere. Often it’s good marketing and being organised, but it can take that bit of persuasion and relationship building to actually get the links you need from their website.
    • Coding – you are going to need to know a bit of HTML, PHP, .NET, Java and CSS. You’re also going to need to figure out how a server works. All these things will come in handy when you’re spending hours searching Google for how to fix a certain problem.
    • Marketing experience – I definitely think you need to get some experience in marketing before you set off on your journey as an SEO consultant. This will give you the insight and experience to really get the most for your clients in your SEO consultancy.

There are some really smart and compassionate people within the SEO world. You’re going to want to meet with them and discuss with them what’s working and what’s not. This will be a great help to you in the coming years. You’ll be surprised how much people are willing to tell you as well. We all want the SEO industry to succeed and to do that the SEO experts and SEO consultants need to be able to work collaboratively to determine what’s going on.

If you’ve got any questions about what it’s like to work as an SEO consultant be sure to get in touch. I’m confident I can give you some interesting and valuable insights.

There are a number of forums out there to get information about SEO. By all means, ask questions on Quora. You’ll get some good answers. I’d recommend getting an account with Moz at some point and use their Q&A section. You may also want to see what’s going on in the darker side of SEO, perhaps just to make sure you don’t stray too far from the light! But don’t get tempted.

It’s also important in the SEO sphere that you’re prepared to change and adapt. I’ve been through a great number of changes in this game and believe me, it doesn’t get any easier.

You can always give it a go. The skills you’re going to pick up as an SEO consultant are going to give you loads of opportunities. Think about it, what other types of job lets you learn and practice how to write, how to code, how to manage accounts and how to manage a server. All very transferrable skills if you did decide SEO isn’t for you after all.

One of the things  I love about SEO is that it merges art and science. I’m not sure there are very many other industries like it, to be honest. And that kind of role isn’t for everyone. Some people find it too technical whereas some people find it too creative. I love the mix of the two. And there’s never a dull day to be had. Rankings fluctuate on a daily basis, Google updates regularly so you really do have to fight to determine what needs to be done.

And you’re going to have to be able to prove your own ranking success too. That means constantly working on your own keywords and key phrases and trying to come up with new ideas that will help you rank. After 8 years of running the Grow Traffic website. And after having achieved some seriously valuable rankings over the years I know how difficult it is not to lose sight of your own site whilst you’re working on your clients.

An integrated digital marketing approach

I also love to mix SEO with other kinds of digital marketing. I think this is really important and something that many SEO consultants even today forget about. SEO should be integrated into your overall marketing strategy. PR and outreach are essential for SEO success for example. I like the content marketing element of it. I like the social media side too. I like conversion rate optimisation and usability testing – but I know I need to constantly work on my ever expanding skill set in order to be the best SEO I can be.

I also think being able to run a PPC campaign is important if you’re in SEO. I’ve been running PPC campaigns for over a decade. I’ve managed individual campaigns of up to £90,000 and have managed campaigns concurrently equating to hundreds of thousands. These campaigns, whether they’re big or small can give you some great insight into what works and what doesn’t. They can point you in the direction of keywords. Likewise, your organic activity can also help your PPC campaigns by finding keywords you’ve not yet been able to rank highly for.

The future of SEO Consultancy

I’ve been fortunate enough to class myself as an SEO consultant for many years. If you’re thinking about coming into the industry you need to understand a few things. It’s competitive. There are a lot of people out there legitimately (and often unwarrantedly) calling themselves SEO consultants. If your SEO consultancy is going to be a success you’re going to need to be able to get demonstratable ranks for your business and the businesses of your clients. If you can’t do that fast you may find things start to dry up.

You should also recognise that the way we consume information is changing. Social media is getting better at putting the content we want to find in front of us when we want it. Mobile has changed the way we find things, making local businesses much more important. All these things will have an impact on the future of the SEO consultant. That’s why I used to refer to myself as a Finding Strategist because I didn’t care how I helped users find my clients. It’s bound to change but there will always be an appetite for a good search marketer to help grow traffic for businesses online.

It’s a great career. Enjoy your time as an SEO consultant. Hopefully, we’ll catch up at some point. Please feel free to give me a call is you have any questions or would like to collaborate in any way.

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