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SEO consultant or SEO agency: Which one should you hire?

If you’re reading this article, then you know your website needs SEO help, but you’re not sure which path to go down. You might be asking yourself: Should I partner with an SEO consultant? Or, should I hire an SEO agency? Should I work with an SEO freelancer? The answer is, you could, but it depends. In this post, I’ll share some answers to these questions. My hope is that by the end of this article, you’ll know how to choose an SEO consultant, SEO agency, or SEO freelancer, for your business.

I like definitions. They can be extremely helpful to get everyone on the same page, especially for a topic like this. We’ll start there.

What is an SEO consultant?

An SEO consultant is a professional SEO expert who provides SEO consulting services to one or multiple clients. You should look to partner with an SEO consultant who has a deep background in SEO and can bring years of experience to the table. A successful SEO consultant should be able to demonstrate results they’ve been able to achieve for their past and current clients.

You should think about hiring an SEO consultant, or an SEO consultant group, if you:

  • Understand SEO is a long-term digital marketing strategy that takes time to show results
  • Have a budget of $1k to $2k per month for SEO
  • Have a website or project where the scope doesn’t require an SEO team
  • Have internal development resources to implement SEO recommendations

If the project scope requires more than one SEO professional, but wouldn’t necessarily require an entire team of SEO experts, you might want to think about working with an SEO consultant group. This is a great option for medium-sized or enterprise organizations that may need to scale up quickly.

If your budget is extremely limited, and you’re not pressed on a timeline, you might want to consider hiring an SEO freelancer. Keep in mind, a freelancer does SEO on the side and might not be able to give the kind of time your project needs. Another consideration is the experience a freelancer can bring. If they only do SEO on the side, do they have the chops to help you be successful? Are they going to be able to deliver the quality of work you’re expecting?

Always ask an SEO freelancer the following:

  • What’s your project rate?
  • Are you able to give this project the time it needs?
  • What are some of the brands you’ve worked within the past?
  • What kind of results have you been able to achieve?
  • What type of websites have you worked with?
  • What platforms are you familiar with?

If after reading this article you feel an SEO freelancer might be the way to go, you might want to head over to Upwork. This platform where businesses can connect with digital freelancers. You might be able to find a freelancer for your project.

What is an SEO agency?

An SEO agency is a company of SEO experts, offering a wide range of SEO services. A digital marketing agency might also have an SEO expert, SEO team, or SEO teams, who work in a similar way. SEO services offered could include on-page SEO, technical SEO, link building, and other SEO services. Individuals who are a part of the SEO agency may have varying expertise and backgrounds.

The way an agency works with its clients can vary from agency to agency. Some agencies use a project manager or account manager to act as a liaison between the agency and the client. Some agencies might have an SEO team lead who interfaces with clients directly. This is an important consideration, especially for those new to SEO.

You should think about hiring an SEO agency if:

  • Your SEO budget is more than $2k per month
  • You have a large website with many SEO support needs
  • Your internal development teams are struggling to implement SEO recommendations
  • You need to produce SEO results in a limited timeframe

What’s good about working with an SEO consultant

  • One-on-one consulting: In my opinion, one of the biggest benefits of working with an SEO consultant is access. You’ll get to work one-on-one with the consultant or consultants you’re partnering with. Your project isn’t outsourced – it stays with the consultant you’ve hired. At Expander Digital, we feel this is one of the advantages of working with us.
  • Responsiveness: SEO consultants will likely provide you email and phone contact information. You’ll be able to connect on email, phone, or text. What’s more, is that when you send a message, you’re more likely to receive a timely response.
  • Cost-effectiveness: SEO consultants typically have lower business costs than an SEO agency. This translates to lower costs for clients. The caveat is the experience of the SEO consultant you’re considering. Some SEO consultants who are well-known and have produced amazing results for clients may have higher rates.

What’s good about working with an SEO agency

  • Full-service SEO: SEO teams can usually offer expertise in a lot of SEO areas, both on-page and off-page, respectively. Full-service SEO means you can sign up for a well-rounded SEO package. The SEO agency’s package will likely include a collection of SEO activities.
  • Everything under one roof: Many agencies offer a suite of digital marketing services. If you have paid search needs, social media marketing needs, or some kind of other digital marketing need, there’s a good chance the agency you’re working with can take on those activities and help. The other side of that coin is that you may find the agency to excel in one area but not all.
  • Scaling up: Agencies can scale up as your business scales up. Keep in mind, however, there’s more to SEO success than having additional resources assigned to your project or campaign. You’ll want to make sure that as you scale up, the agency is focused on the right activities and has the right people in place.

Wrap up

Which way do I think you should go? As I said at the beginning of this article, the ever-popular SEO answer applies here: It depends. Choosing the right partner, whether it’s an SEO consultant, SEO consultant group, or an SEO agency, comes down to your organization’s needs, timeline, and budget. If you have a small to medium-sized project or a smaller budget, and you’re able to complete work in-house, it might be a better fit to work with an SEO consultant or an SEO consultant group. However, if you have substantial SEO needs and a substantial budget, or you intend to scale up in the future, hiring an SEO agency might be a better fit.

Expander Digital is an SEO studio, focused on delivering SEO services that work. We absolutely love working with small businesses that are focused on growth. With that in mind, if you find yourself needing an SEO consultant, please reach out to us. We’d like to hear from you, and we’d love to help you.

Josh Gellock

Josh is the SEO and Content Strategist at Expander Digital, an SEO studio he founded in 2014. He's been in the SEO space since 2011 and helps businesses manage their SEO through projects, consultations, and campaigns. When he’s not meeting with clients, you can find Josh spending time with his children or on a bike.

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