The 5 Tiers of SEO Consultants

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Andrew Copeland
By Andrew Copeland

May 2, 2023

SEO has the power to be one of your most important marketing tactics. When done right, it can expose your brand to new audiences, provide a stable and predictable source of leads, and will even continue working for up to a year after you stop producing content.

But the key phrase there (pun intended) is “when done right”  and not everybody who calls themself an SEO will perform at the same level.

There’s a hierarchy to the people that do SEO and they all have a place in this world. Knowing what your needs and goals are can help you select the right candidate for the job.

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The 5 Tiers of SEO Consultants

In order to illustrate the different levels of SEO proficiency, I’ve created five different categories of SEO consultants and the types of jobs they are best suited for.

1. SEOs That Only Read SEO Articles

These people are entry-level SEOs and generally work as freelancers. They tend to call themselves “SEO Content Writer,” “Blogging Specialist,” or other similar titles. They may produce average results, but they aren’t competitive and will focus on deliverables over strategy.

With these types of people, you can expect:

  • Surface-level knowledge
  • Decent content writing skills
  • Implemetation of current best practices
  • Lack of technical knowledge
  • Inability to troubleshoot or problem solve

There is nothing wrong with hiring these people - I even encourage it - as long as you have realistic expectations. If you have a limited budget and unclear marketing goals, this may be a good fit for you. 

2. SEOs That Only Talk To Other SEOs

These people will often call themselves “SEO Gurus,” “Search Engine Whisperers,” or other wacky titles. They are usually freelancers or part of a small 2 - 3 person team. They can help you rank your content, but it has a short lifespan and won’t generate new leads.

With these types of people, you can expect:

  • Varying levels of technical knowledge
  • Competitor research
  • Content for search engines, not customers
  • No understanding of your product, buyer personas, or industry
  • Content that ranks, but does not convert

These people may be able to help you to an extent. The problem is they exist in a bubble and only care about rankings and search algorithms. They won’t understand your customers or your business as well as they should.

If you are in a tight spot and need to show results to your boss, this may be a good fit for you. 

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3. SEOs That Have Their Own Websites

These people will have a decent track record and enough success to turn their trade into a working business model. They will usually call themselves “Founder,” “Expert,” or something similar.

With these types of people, you can expect:

  • Semi-professional approach
  • Good writing skills
  • Several years of experience 
  • Content that ranks and converts
  • Above-average technical skills
  • Limited understanding of product, buyer personas, and industry
  • Limited understanding of other marketing channels and tactics

These people are a good fit for small businesses that want to ramp up content production without hiring a full-time employee. They can also help with some technical issues related to website architecture but they are not full-blown developers.

4. SEOs That Understand Other Marketing Channels

These people will often have titles like “Content Strategist,” “Brand Strategist,” or something similar. They have a strong track record of success at reputable companies. You may find them employed at an agency or running a private consultancy. They are comfortable working independently or as part of a team.

With these types of people, you can expect:

  • Experienced and professional approach
  • Excellent writing skills
  • Technical knowledge
  • Understanding of how SEO fits with other marketing channels and tactics
  • Detailed reports and recommendations
  • Some difficulty attributing SEO to revenue growth 

This is who you should look for. They are professional, resourceful, and have expertise than extends beyond SEO into other areas such as email, social media, and brand messaging.

5. SEOs That Understand Product, Sales, and Business

These people often have a long track record of success and are running their own agencies. Otherwise, you may find them at well-known companies with a title like “Director of Content,” “VP of Marketing,” or even “Chief Marketing Officer.” They are usually specialized to work with specific business types such as SaaS, FinTech, or eCommerce. 

With these types of people, you can expect:

  • Highly professional demeanor. 
  • Highly competitive approach.
  • Top of their field. Usually at the senior or executive level.
  • Deep understanding of product, buyer personas,and industry.
  • Reports than connect SEO to revenue growth

This is the holy grail. These people are great fits for companies that are rapidly scaling and see content marketing as a key part of their growth strategy. 

If you find this person, hire them immediately, pay them whatever they want, and keep them for as long as you can. The only catch is that this kind of talent is rare and hard to come by.

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If you’re hiring for SEO (internal or agency), go for that 4th one. Those people are easy to work with and will get you the results you need. The 5th one exists, but it's pretty rare and may be more than what a typical SMB requires from SEO and Content Marketing. 

At WEBITMD, we have helped countless businesses build stable, predictable, and scalable content funnels. If you want to take your lead generation to the next level, get in touch with us or download your free Growth Stack Guide below to learn how we do it.

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