Lee Odden

Advantages of Ongoing SEO Consulting

When companies consider search engine optimization as a service, it’s important to understand that this kind of consulting comes in a variety of forms with the most popular being: phone consultations, site audits/reviews and ongoing SEO consulting.

Businesses that are very early in their stages of search marketing and not entirely “sold” on SEO as a channel seem to gravitate towards short term engagements. “Can we test SEO for a few months?”, they’ll say. Also, companies that perceive SEO as a set of IT and web development focused tactics also tend to see the promotion of a web site via search as a one-time set of recommendations.

There are serious flaws in the thinking that improving on-page content optimization as a single exercise is going to deliver the ongoing competitive advantage possible of improving bottom line sales that most companies have in mind when they hire an outside resource.

I see examples either personally or hear from our account teams every week, of how having a SEO consultant either saved the client considerable expense or provided insight for creating significant competitive advantage. Such a topic would make for a very good Reader Poll, but for now, I think we’ll start with five good reasons for ongoing SEO consulting:

  1. Oversight of implementation – Most companies do not implement SEO recommendations they’ve paid to receive most of the time, correctly or at all. SEO implementation isn’t just the first pass at content optimization and making the site more spider friendly. It’s an ongoing process of adding new, search engine friendly content, making sure that content stays search engine friendly, promoting and monitoring. Not implementing SEO recommendations properly can mean the wasted investment in SEO in the first place.Ongoing SEO oversight gives another pair of eyes, focused expertise and resources for the completion of tasks that overworked, multiple-hat wearing company webmasters are expected to perform. With multiple people responsible for web site content creation and maintenance come the opportunity for error like overwriting all the SEO title and meta data recommendations. Oversight also provides a site SEO quality control element that if left unchecked, can undo months or years of previous SEO investment. Over the past 2 years we’ve noticed that while many organizations are bringing SEO as well as PPC in-house, they continue to retain an outside agency for both strategic direction as well as a helping hand on production.
  2. Link acquisition – Links drive traffic, they promote brands and search engines recognize links in their various forms as signals in determining the best search results for a given query. TopRank’s opinion is that you can never have enough links. A vibrant, relevant and popular web site is in part characterized by the quantity and quality of links pointing to it. With many web sites, this is a chicken/egg situation where there might be useful content being created, but because the site is new, there is limited distribution. If no one is aware of the great content, then there’s no one to link to it.Therefore, active and ongoing promotion of a web site is necessary in the form of link acquisition.Very few companies persist at any kind of proactive link building (directories, content promotion, profiles, press releases, link bait, social media) or even bother with creating passive link acquisition efforts (bookmarks, widgets, RSS, etc). Ongoing outside consulting services provide the resources for persistent best practices link acquisition, content promotion, analysis and measurement. This is where the notions that “search marketing is a form of PR” and “PR is the future of SEO” come into play in a very big way.
  3. Professional consulting – The search marketing industry moves fast, changes often and can consume an incredible amount of a company’s IT and marketing department’s time. Many search engine optimization companies will provide up front consulting offering keyword research, content optimization, code and/or template optimization, inclusion assistance, paid links (TopRank doesn’t do paid links), directory submissions and monthly ranking (or similarly automated) reports. To some that might seem like a lot, but it’s just a start. Getting the most out of search engines as a marketing channel is a process, not an event.Professional SEO consulting includes strategic direction as well as ongoing education for the client side staff responsible for content creation, web site administration, marketing, public relations, business development and even customer service. Providing clients with technical as well as creative expertise along with the processes that can bring measurable accountability to the search marketing investment are all key components to proper ongoing consulting. Not only does the SEO consultant need to justify the return on their own efforts, but provide the advice, processes and reporting that makes the client side contact look like a rock star to their management team and the company the most relevant resource to online prospects.
  4. More hands on deck – Most companies have IT and marketing departments, or at least individuals filling those roles. Some even have dedicated in-house search marketing professionals. However, for anyone with client side experience, you know how thinly spread technical and creative staff can be. Search engine optimization is just another check mark on their long list of tasks to complete.SEO agencies provide the additional expertise for implementation of certain tasks so that in-house web teams can focus on their internal customers and keep the web site running properly.
  5. Pipeline and search marketing analytics – “The devil is in the details”, they say and analytics for search marketing is no different. After 10 plus years in the search marketing business, many companies still report they do not actively use web analytics information for marketing or that they do not have a clear understanding of the conversion process for online lead generation.In direct marketing, knowing cost per lead and cost per acquisition is fundamental. Why not for natural search or PPC? Monitoring keyword traffic trends, referral trends, time spent on site, visitor interaction with calls to action, conversions and many other metrics provide invaluable insight into a successful search marketing program. The ability to attribute (correctly) revenue or lead generation outcomes to search marketing expenditures provides the fundamental feedback loop that should be an expected component of just about any search marketing program.Search marketing analytics consultants bring years of “been there, done that” experience to organizations still making sense out of search as a channel. It’s not all about lead generation either, since “brand” is still one of the leading reasons companies invest in search. The importance of branding brings into play the need to understand how the search experience, from query to conversion, impacts the consumers brand experience.

I expect a counter to listing these five of many reasons for ongoing SEO help would be that you can hire and train staff for these responsibilities. I suppose that’s possible, but good luck in today’s marketplace with “real” search marketing experts in very high demand by top agencies of all kinds as well as companies brining search in-house.

The other issue is that it takes a pretty strong commitment by an organization to be able to justify the expense of expertise and time it would take to stay on top of what’s working as well as implementation. There are only so many conferences you can send your employees to and only so much time in the day to read blogs, forums, newsletters, publications and web sites on top of internal testing and measurement.

I’m not saying it’s impossible to do all SEO in house with the desired long term results, but like any specialized knowledge area, an ongoing relationship with a trusted expert offers clear and distinct quality of work and process advantages over doing everything yourself.

What are some of the most important reasons you’ve experienced for ongoing SEO consulting?

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on integrated content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely on a beach somewhere doing absolutely nothing.

Comments

  1. I actually think one of the key benefits of being in the SEO field is ongoing work. Consistency is a hard thing to muster in any industry, and if you don’t understand SEO the chance that you consistently keep up to date is greatly reduced.

    I think that is a key in the blogging field as well, if you don’t “get it” then you chances of performing on a weekly or daily basis becomes a massive undertaking.

  2. Hiring an in-house SEO is different than hiring an accountant or even an IT person, in the respect that you are always destined to get [how can I say this nicely?] lesser talent. If a person has the skills to perform all the SEO requirements on a site with regards to content, ranking, marketing, and technical aspects, the barriers to start their own sites and be successful is very low. If they have the ability to help a site rank and generate conversions it won’t be long until they are spending a few hours at night building their own web presence. The accountant can be excellent at their job but never have the ability to go out on their own. An excellent SEO will always have the ability, and more than likely the motivation, to start working for himself.

    By hiring an outside SEO you know that the hours and hours a company has spent on the SEO becoming familiar with your sites particular market aren’t going to go to waste, they will always want to be your provider (there are rare occasions where you need to fire your customer).

    Continued SEO work is a must for the many reasons you gave, but also because it becomes cheaper the longer you stay with the same team. A new relationship between client and provider takes a while to build up steam, both have to learn each others business. For an established SEO familiar with a site to make a few tweaks and adjustments based on the latest trends is much easier than hiring a new one to start from scratch. Easier costs less.

    Having a continued SEO also has the advantage that even though you may not being paying the SEO at the moment, he/she is always looking out for you. In my daily travels watching trends I am always reading an article and thinking to my self,”Gee, I know a site that could really benefit from that change” You don’t get that kind of intangible support just hiring out the word periodically.

  3. Chad Mauldin says:

    I completely agree with you on this point. I have meet several site owners that think they know what SEO is, and could have been hired doing internal SEO for some companies, but really all they know is how to fill out some meta tags and count server hits. Yes, server hits.

    I have also run into this type of person with clients, normally the IT guy that took the site as a project and feels he’s being replaced or something. Almost always has some kind of friction towards my recommendations, but luckily the clients have seen past the IT guy and did what I recommended.

    I think a lot of the notion of being able to do SEO, either in house or as a DIY, comes from the abundance of resources avalible on the web. I think a lot of people do some searches and some poking around, maybe find this site or an article like SEOmoz’s ranking factors and, POOF! they are experts. They think thats all there is to it, and don’t bother calling in body in untill they’ve wasted lots of time and money, of got a penalty of some kind in Google.

    In fact I feel thats the number one driver for my clients. They aren’t ranking because they screwed their sites up so bad they got dupe filtered, or hit with the spam hammer.

  4. Ive gone from IT to sales to SEO its not easy.

    Anyone that says or thinks it is hasn’t started!

    Thanks
    dan

  5. Doing all of thise SEO stuff in-house would be an absolute pain in the rear and no where near as effective as a consulting firm such as TopRank. I like having an expert we can turn to who sleeps, eats and breathes this stuff.

  6. Nice write up, Lee. This is a perfect article to refer SEO customers after they receive a site audit or a strategy document. Yes it’s a good way to get started with an SEO pro, but if it’s good work, there should be some sort of continuing engagement.

    I am reminded of a choice piece of prime rib; you can thank the butcher for his expertise, but improperly cooked, it’s no better than a London Broil.

  7. Well put, Lee. Recurring revenue is always a good strategy for the SEO company, and the client is like the interior designer’s customer who keeps messing up their home and has to call in the designer frequently to bring it back into line.

    I had inherited an SEO delivery model where the client paid the second 50% of the fee upon achieving “success” (top 5/10/20 as contracted). Often, this relationship ended within 2-3 months. I changed it to a 12-month contract with monthly review points, which improved customer relationships and enabled us to upsell other services.

  8. Ash, I realize there is a business reason on the part of the consultant to engage on a retainer basis, but this post provides examples of why it makes business sense for the client to do so.

    Most SEO firms are not just good at marketing via search engines but good at marketing in general. This overall expertise at helping companies maximize their search marketing channel in the context of an overall marketing mix is a large part of the value they bring.

  9. Another advantage of ongoing SEO consulting is “commitment to results”. This works well for both parties as the consultant must strive towards keeping the customer happy by delivering results consistently and in turn receives adequate and constant remuneration for his efforts.

  10. Going from sales to SEO is a wild task. SEO is CONSTANTLY changing and in order to keep up you have to consistantly learn and act. Long live SEO 🙂

  11. Great post here – I definitely agree with what is being said. One of the key difficulties I’ve seen as the sheer demand for SEO work has increased, is in understanding and managing client expectations which in turn leads to effective delivery and ultimately results.

    It’s still difficult for a lot of business owners I talk to to really comprehend that SEO is an ongoing process and not just a set of web page changes, meta tags and copy suggestions. The difficulty (from the business owners perspective) arises in the fact that there are usually immediate things that need/should to be done, and there are also ongoing, continual events and responsibilities that have to happen as well. Of course both of these things cost time and money and if the prospective business owner is not aware of these expectations and challenges, then that is where trouble arises.

  12. I have both sites in my server that I handle, and sites outside of my servers. I agree, they hardly ever implement the things needed for success, then fail to see the connection with reduced or slowed progress. But I will tell you this, I would deal with an “in house” company person ANYDAY…over a Web designer hosting a clients site. They are completely uncooperative in most of my experiences…they have the hosting locked up, nothing to lose. A company employee still wants to succeed and maybe get a promotion.

    Peace
    Baby

  13. Brian Rubin says:

    Good article! I should show this to folks who wanna be #1 on google for “shirts” by tomorrow. 😉

  14. Great points, Lee! I’d like to add that ongoing SEO Consulting is also beneficial because the search landscape can change very often and very quickly. While there may not be life changing events every week, new changes/additions/modification of various rules/formulas/directives can help immensely. You don’t want to be left in the dust, do you? 🙂

  15. Great article Lee thank for such a nice article and i beleive in what you said above. Since i am also a new in seo industry and acquiring and building my knowledge base day by day. It is not an easy job it’s really tough for the begginers basically.

    After one has made a site ranked higher in SE’s the actuall work begins from here. All the if and buts of seo comes to play from now onwards as all the top 10 sites will be trying to reach the NO.1 position.

    SEO have to keep its knowledge base updated as Se’s are very much dynamic these days. Link building and content are the major parts of it.

    Thanks for sharing the knowledge with all the seo’s.

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