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Over the past 10 years I have worked as both an in-house SEO consultant for agencies as well as a freelance SEO consultant and think it’s time to share some information about the two as I am often asked by potential clients what the difference is between a SEO Company and a SEO Consultant, besides the price.

Truth be told, there are advantages and disadvantages to working with both as they they differ not only in the fees, but also in how they work. I thought I’d crack my knuckles, settle down with a cup of coffee and share the pros and cons of each with you so that you can make the decision that’s right for your business when the time comes to call a SEO professional.

As mentioned the two main differences between SEO companies and SEO consultants are the way in which they work and how they charge. Understanding the differences is essential to making the right right decision and ensuring that you meet your SEO objectives on time, and within budget.

How Does a SEO Consultant Work?

As an SEO consultant, I tend to focus more on a high level SEO strategy. I assist clients with the development of a solid action plan for achieving better rankings for their target keyword phrases, driving traffic to their website and monetizing it through conversion optimization. Myself, like many SEO consultants, tend to be jacks of all trades and masters of some depending on theor level of experience and which field they have spent the most time in. SEO consultants can assit with the creation of effective SEO campaigns, but often lack the resources to execute them alone. When an SEO consultant work’s with theor own contractors to deliver projects, this becomes a lot more like the traditional SEO company / SEO agency model which revolves more around a team of people.

As an example, a SEO consultant will typically look for some low-hanging fruit as far as keywords go and generate quality traffic from those to build leads. More often than not, it’s not a huge amount of traffic, but it will be wuality traffic. Often SEO consultants also frequently have theor own network of media contacts and webmasters which makes it possible to deliver some basic link building services too.

However, if a SEO consultant recommends any large scale (often automated) link building which involves forums, social bookmarking, or directories – don’t do it. The yield of such a campaign is often lacklustre and the time and money would often be better spent investing in content creation or doing quality link building with a smaller group of quality partners willing to link to your content.

Advantages of an SEO Consultant

Cheaper Rates

Hiring an SEO consultant is often cheaper than a hiring a SEO company or agency because they don’t have a large office, full time staff and large overheads to pay. In most cases, an SEO consultant will charge by the hour, which allows for a lot of flexibility in the business relationship.

More Flexibility

SEO consultants are usually very flexible in terms of availability. SEO consultants are more likely to be handling a smaller client portfolio than that of an SEO agency, and as a result, generally have more time. This flexibiliity makes a consultant a dynamic resource who can come to your office if needed, and even work in conjuntion with your existing team to leverage resources, streamline processes and get the job done.

Honest Advice

SEO consultants are not governed by company policy or locked into the use of any proprietary software which means that you’re more likely to get honest, unbiased strategic advice about SEO tools that will help your SEO goals. In addition, a typical consultant would also provide the required training on how to use these SEO tools as well as how to analyze and react to the data.

Smart consultants more often than not belong to an affiliate program for the software they recommend which means that they get a commission if you buy the software. Good consultants will disclose this affiliate relationship if they have one in place and explain to you why it’s the right software for the job.

Disadvantages of an SEO Consultant

Limited Resources

A consultant is a one man band and often cannot deliver the same level of skill as a well structured SEO company. Consultants can help educate and train your staff about SEO, build a comprehensive strategy and teach you how to use SEO tools, but may have trouble executing a SEO strategy if it requires massive amounts of content and backlinks.

Dependence on You

Because of  the nature of consulting, there will be a lot of collaboration between you, your team and the consultant, making time management an important issue. Even though a consultant can do brilliant work with a business, a campaign can end up adding little value for the business if the business is unable to allocate time and resources to fully implementing the suggested strategies.

How Do SEO Companies and SEO Agencies Work?

Companies are self-sufficient organisations which normally possess a depth of resources and skills. They’re even able to provide a dedicated project manager to assits clients with executing SEO projects. Companies are good for tapping into a deep and diverse skill set and operating long-term SEO campaigns where reporting, campaign evaluation and continual campaign refinement are required.

As an example, a good SEO company will assign a project manager who will spend time getting to know your business; in addition to learning about your products, services and target markets. A dedicated project manager provides a single point of contact, making it easy for clients to review campaign strategies and reports together. A project manager will then work with various internal company resources such as a developers, graphic designers or copywriters to execute and refine the SEO campaign.

However, as is the case with consultants, if they suggest any kind of large scale automated link building which involves forums, directories and siocial media – just say no.

Advantages of SEO Companies

Specialised Teams of Experts

There’s a very good chance that a dedicated team of experts is going to produce better content and be more adept at project management than a person doing it alone. So, when it comes to long term SEO campaigns  which require extensive technical SEO, mass content development for SEO purposes and ethical link building, in most cases, it’s better to work with a company who have a better chance to deliver a successful campaign.

Efficient and Effective Processes

Effective SEO companies that have been in the game for a while develop efficient processes for project management and workflows, making them capable of delivering quality work at competitive rates. Many SEO companies and agencies will often outsource some processes to developing countries in an effort to reduce their overheads and offer a cheaper price. However, if they outsource everything, they are probably not worth working with.


When dealing with a reputable SEO company it is likely that they’re going be around for years to come and are not going to be taking a vacation anytime soon. SEO consultants can come and go for many reasons, and although you can get the next person up to speed it’s not the same as having the stability and peace of mind that comes with having the dedicated team of a larger SEO company working on the project.

When your SEO company leverages analytics data to produce thorough reports and refine SEO strategies, the work you are paying for after 12 months usually holds more value than that of the work you were paid for in the beginning.

Disadvantages of SEO Companies

SEO Companies are More Expensive

SEO companies have big overheads including rent, staff salries, tax and software expenses, all whilst maintaining a decent profit margin. This usually makes dealing with a company a more expensive excercise (unless they’ve managed to streamline costs without skimping on quality) than hiring a SEO consultant. That said, some more experienced consultants still command a pretty hefty fee.

SEO Companies can be Rigid

The goal of a good business should be to streamline processes while minimizing costs. This can lead to inflexibility on the part of the company if you wish to try something out of the box. As an example, if you wanted to launch an integrated campaign that integrated AdWords, SEO, content and social media, a company may be unable to adapt their resources and processes to accommodate your request. Conversely, a consultant is usually flexible enough to offer staff training in those areas so your team will be able to execute and manage such a campaign.

Lack of Personalization

Big SEO companies seek to bring as many clients as possible onboard, especially ones with deep pockets. HAving a portfolio of big clients paying premium fees guarantees them longevity in the marketplace. This also often leads to the clients with smaller budgets being marginalized as attention and resources are diverted to satisfy clients with bigger budget. Conversely, a good SEO consultant will offer you a lot of time and personalized attention because they depend on a smaller portfolio of clients to earn a living.

In Conclusion

The way in which SEO consultants and SEO companies operate differ greatly and there’s upside and downside to dealing with both. If you’re looking for a someone that will customize your SEO campaigns and educate your team, then a consultant may be the way to go. If you’re a huge multinational requiring a more extensive, more costly campaign which incorporates massive content development and link building, without the need for personalized service, then a SEO comapny might be the right fit for you.

Still have questions?

Hopefuly this post clarifies some of the major differences between SEO consultants and SEO firms as well as some of the potential advantages and disadvantages to dealing with each of them. If you still have any questions about differences between SEO consultants and SEO Companies please let me know by sounding off in the comments below. I’ll seek to clarify any issues you’re still having when it comes to choosing the right one for you.

Alternatively, why not schedule a 30 minute consultation with me and let’s discuss your project so that I can assess your requirements and help you find the right resource to help you execute your SEO campaign.