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Selling SEO Consulting Services

Why Traditional SEO Consulting Usually Sucks

I do not like doing much traditional SEO client work, and see the business model as having limited longterm value for most SEO consultants. The best consultants could usually make more promoting their own sites and brands than they would working for clients.

  • Most prospective SEO customers are not ranked well because their businesses are unremarkable and have little to no competitive advantage. Worse yet, some of them have arbitrary constraints that hold back growth potential. In many cases it would be cheaper, easier, and more profitable building from scratch with a strong brand and domain name that was built around succeeding on the web.
  • Those who have not fully bought off on the power of SEO often end up underpaying the first time they buy services, which precludes honest consultants from working with them. After they got burned once, they want to minimize future risks, which sets off a market for lemons effect.
  • As the web gets more competitive many of the best SEO techniques are going to relate to content strategies and how a client interacts with the media and people in their marketplace...something that is a bit hard to control as an external consultant unless there is an internal team that also pushes to get it done.
  • Businesses that *really* get SEO and value SEO bring it in house.
  • The people with in house SEO teams sometimes hire 3rd party consultants, but there is a limit to what they *can* spend before their own competency is called in question.
  • Most the time clients do not want you to mention them, and if you do there is a risk that Google will edit the ROI right out of your service.

3 SEO Consulting Models That Work

If one wanted to sell search marketing services for the long haul then the best options are probably

  1. Quasi-Publisher: having an editorial position in a niche vertical (like automotive or consumer credit) where you act as both a thought leader and a promoter who monetizes through display ads, affiliate offers, and product sales. The diversity of revenue streams allows you to shift focus as desired or needed.
  2. Paid SEO Tools: some sort of tool or software product that adds incremental value to the SEO process, though this model is hard because so many people are giving away tools to gain mindshare. At the higher end this model can work for companies that get SEO but have temporary IT related roadblocks that prevent indexing, though it is hard for that to be a longterm strategy for clients because tool providers could keep hiking prices after the companies are dependant on them.
  3. In House SEO Training: some sort of training program where you help others succeed, but you offer guidance more than doing the work directly, though this model is also hard because there is so much free information, and most people do not realize the hidden cost of free.

Why I Still do Limited SEO Consulting

If it doesn't pay well relative to my other income streams, why do I still occasionally sell SEO consulting services?

  1. Projects where I feel I can learn: one of the things that attracted me to search is that it intersects with so many marketing disciplines and site aspects that it feels like I am always learning. Having a partner who is a 20 year veteran of the ad agency world that knows the algorithms better than I do makes it easy to learn something from every project.
  2. Projects where I feel I can have fun: when I was new to the market cash flow would have been a bit more of a criteria, but if client work is a pay cut (which it usually is for me) then it needs to be enjoyable.
  3. Ego and validation: I think more than most people I find a need for validation. This is still a bit of a remnant character flaw of mine that I have been quickly losing since meeting my wife. But it is cool to go to websites you know and patronise often, and see your ideas and strategies make their way into the source code and marketing.
  4. Diversity: variety is the spice of life, and if you sit and look at a computer screen far too long every day it is nice to mix up what you are doing from time to time.

When PPC is Better Than SEO

The complexity of SEO makes the barrier to entry much higher, which is why I like SEO so much from a publisher standpoint. But if you are selling consulting services PPC is a better market to focus on. Businesses using PPC spend lots of money and would look at any external help as a chance for cost savings on current spend, rather than an unknown investment or investment that had to be limited in scope for internal business reasons.

Are you still selling SEO consulting services? Do you still plan to do so in 5 years?