This is a question I get asked a lot, both as a business owner and an SEO consultant in my own right.

The truth is, it’s a great question. If you’re hiring someone to do SEO for you, you need to know what you are paying for. This is why I coach agencies and consultants to help you understand specifically what they are including in a scope of work for your business.

It’s also a great question because different agencies and consultants offer different things. So this post will cover the potential services an agency or consultant may offer.

So what can an SEO agency or consultant do? Any of these five things:

  • Provides SEO strategy and direction
  • Provides services to their clients
  • Provides one-time audits
  • Helps their clients get buy-in to put more budget towards SEO, or to get changes implemented
  • Keeps their clients abreast of changes in the search industry

Provides strategy

One of the major things that SEO agencies or consultants provide to their clients is strategy.

If you are a business owner, you’re likely not an SEO expert as well. I also wouldn’t expect you to be. You are the master of your domain, of whatever business you are running, and being that plus an expert in something like SEO, that you don’t do professionally, is a tall order.

This is where a good SEO or agency can provide immense value. They can help you with things like:

  • Who are your search competitors and why are they beating you?
  • How do you go about acquiring new inbound links to your website to improve your organic traffic and revenue?
  • What do you need to change on your website to make it more SEO friendly?
  • What new types of content can you build out to drive more organic traffic?

And of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Depending on your specific needs, they can also help you with technical implementations, content strategy, working with your teams to get things implemented or budget approved, and much more.

I should note that strategy is often billed at a higher hourly rate than execution on services, simply because strategy necessitates more experience whereas execution on SEO services can be done by less experienced agency team members.

Image via the 2017 Digital Marketing Industry Pricing Survey

Provides SEO services

Some agencies and consultants also offer implementation services, such as:

These are different from simply the strategy. In this case, the agency or consultant is actually executing upon to work to create and outreach new content, create/earn new links to your website to help you rank, cleaning up and building new local citations for local businesses, and much more.

This work usually does not cost as much as straight strategy, but it is of course more time intensive and often will also require some work from your (the business owner’s) end to do things like:

  • Approve content for publishing;
  • Approve lists of websites for outreach
  • Provide logins to places such as Google My Business or the Better Business Bureau
  • Create a new area on your site to publish new content
  • Provide logins to your website for your agency

While you can hire someone to do a job, just like hiring someone full time there will always be work for you to do to help them be successful.

Provides one-time audits

Some agencies and consultants only do audits, such as SEO audits or backlink audits. They make this choice specifically because they like to help businesses know what is wrong, and then not continue to manage the work through.

Agencies and consultants who do work on a monthly retainer will also do audits as part of the overall engagement to identify new issues, help you build out new sections of your site or make changes to better optimize your site, and generally be proactive about your SEO instead of reactive.

Audits of some sort are always a part of an SEO engagement, whether a large monthly retainer or a one-off technical audit.

Helps get buy-in for budget or resources

Agencies and consultants on retainers are often tasked with helping internal teams get buy-in for more budget or more hands on deck to implement the needed changes. This is one of the more challenging parts of a marketing consultant’s job as they are often tasked with building business arguments and pitching changes to executives, when the budget has often been set for the year already.

This is part of why SEO takes so much time. You can do the audits and strategize around links and content and identify the technical issues, but the business still has to:

  • Get the content written
  • Get the content outreached
  • Likely write more content to earn those precious backlinks
  • Get the developers to work on SEO-related tasks
  • Convince the developers why SEO matters
  • Convince the executive team why SEO matters
  • Convince the SEO team that they won’t rank #1 for “widgets” tomorrow
  • Convince finance to let you hire more developers to implement SEO changes
  • Convince finance to let you hire content writers for content marketing and SEO purposes
  • Convince the powers that be to open up the job openings
  • Find and hire the people
  • Train and onboard the people

You’re probably starting to see why SEO can take so darn long to really make a huge different for a company. It can and it will, if you give it the time and resources needed. And your SEO agency or consultant can and should help you with this.


Finally, part of your agency or consultant’s job should be keeping you abreast of industry changes. Google makes changes to search hundreds of times per year, and while many of these are small not felt by sites, many of them are quite large and even have names:

Look for an SEO consultant or agency who is writing about search engine changes, new opportunities, and is abreast of the latest changes in the industry. These are the ones who can help you long term.

What else do you want to know about what SEO consultants or agencies do?