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An SEO Consultant, SEO Agency, and SEO Specialist: What’s the difference?

An SEO consultant, agency and specialist will all help you increase your search visibility but the way each one’s works is different, and you may require a different type of SEO service provider depending on your business and requirements.

An SEO Agency

An SEO agency is like a travel agency, they supply most things you’ll need for SEO in one place. Some agencies are strictly agents and outsource their work to SEO consultants and specialists, others SEO agencies have their own teams of SEO specialists and SEO consultants.

The benefit of an agency is they tend to be available at short notice and will have a range of options for your project.

An SEO Specialist

It’s often used to mean SEO consultant but in my opinion an SEO specialist is a specialist in a particular area of SEO. Think tech SEO specialists, backlink building specialists and content specialists. Some agencies are specialist agencies and focus on one area of SEO and some consultants are specialist consultants and consult in one area of SEO in the same way a as specialist agency.

SEO specialists are useful if you know about SEO and what you need to achieve your goal. If you’re not experienced in buying something from a specialist that you don’t need could end up a waste of money.

An SEO Consultant

SEO agencies usually have SEO consultants on their teams (I used to be one). An SEO consultant’s role starts with new SEO projects. They define SEO goals that need to be achieved to achieve a brand’s growth goals. It’s aligning SEO activity with business strategy.

Once an SEO Consultant defines objectives, they plan the work required to achieve them. Once a campaign begins the SEO consultant in the team monitors activity and results and adapts plans if things aren’t on track.

SEO consultants can usually supply specialists and as most consultants started out as specialists themselves, they can usually do the work if they can’t find anybody suitable.

The benefit of an SEO consultant is they make their money of advice, not supplying as many SEO services as possible, so you may pay more for their advice, but you’ll save a lot of money on delivering the campaign if you can use your own team or the consultants freelance network instead of agency prices.

When to hire an SEO Consultant, agency, or specialist

If you want your SEO taken care of with minimum input from your side, you should consider hiring an SEO agency or an SEO consultant that can provide and manage their own specialists.

If you’ve been doing your own SEO and you know exactly what you need to do to improve your site’s search visibility, it’s probably better for you to define your own goals and deliverables and find a specialist to achieve them.

How an SEO consultant, agency, and specialist work

The way your SEO service provider will work with you and your team may impact your decision. If you or your team have marketing skills that, with the right advice, could be used for SEO (for example, writing, blogging, social media, web development and digital PR) an SEO consultant would be the best use of your budget. They’ll provide that advice and make the most of your own resource, usually saving money in the process.

If you’re looking for someone to take care of every aspect of your SEO and organic traffic growth, you’ll need an SEO agency or an SEO consultant that will also manage and fulfil the deliverables of the campaign they plan. If you have growth goals that you think you can achieve with SEO but don’t know where to start, a consultant would be the best person to speak to first. 

Agencies prefer to provide most aspects of your campaign and they make profit on the planning and delivery of SEO. Most consultants don’t mind if you want to use or source your own specialists as they make most of their income from providing advice and strategy and don’t have teams of specialists on staff that they need to provide work for.

If you’re managing your own SEO campaign, and know exactly what you need, a specialist would be the most cost-effective option. Before you pursue working directly with specialists, you should train yourself in SEO, so you are specific about what you’re ordering. Beware of just buying backlinks, ordering someone to improve your tech score or asking someone to write a batch of content for you.

If you’re working with specialists, you will need to know which type of backlinks, which context, which authority and where they should link to. With tech, you’ll need to know where you focus your energy. Asking some to fix everything to get a full audit score may not be necessary and whatever you do, don’t ask someone to write a batch of content for your site. Content should be planned around a strategy of keywords that will bring visitors into your site at various stages of the customer journey. The keywords should indicate the searcher requires your product or service and most importantly keyword research ensures you pursue keywords that people are actually searching for.  

Content is the backbone of SEO and unless you’re an expert in keyword research, you should get an SEO consultant or SEO content agency involved in your content plan.

Team size of an SEO service provider

SEO agencies, specialists and consultancies are big and small.  There are individuals that call themselves agencies because they operate in an agency model and there are agencies with thousands of team members. Consultancies tend to be smaller than agencies and it’s more common to find a one-person consultant than a one-person agency however there are large SEO consultancies that have hundreds of employees.

Like SEO Consultants, specialists tend to be independent or freelancers but there are lots of specialist agencies that have large teams and focus exclusively in one area of SEO.

About Mr SEO Consultant

I’m Matt, aka, Mr SEO Consultant. I’ve been working in marketing and SEO for over 14 years. Before starting Mr SEO Consultant, I was an Account Director and Head of SEO at a marketing agency in London and prior to that I was head of marketing for a charity and leisure group.

I’ve achieved top ranks in some of the most competitive industries in the world and my experience working in different industries means I provide a custom s to SEO with the goal of increasing traffic growth.

I’m a one-person operation. My objective an SEO consultant is to help businesses define how they will grow using search engines and ensure they focus their SEO budget on activity that will have a positive impact on organic traffic growth. I have a network of SEO specialists so if you’re looking for someone to plan, oversee and deliver your campaign I can do that.

Want to know what an SEO Consultant could do for you?

Book a free 30-minute SEO consultation and I’ll tell you where you should be increasing organic traffic, and how.