Why Is a Good SEO Professional So Hard to Find?

Wanted: A reputable freelance SEO consultant who can both advise and implement website optimization. Who enjoys solving problems, has a nice bedside manner, is under $100/hour, and is looking for a long-term (professional) relationship. Long walks on the beach optional.

In the past week, I’ve been approached twice asking if I know of an SEO professional who has the following qualifications:

  • A freelance SEO Consultant (does the work himself/herself and doesn’t have a team)
  • Based in the US
  • Who can both advise AND implement
  • Who is under $100/hour
  • Is looking for a long-term relationship
  • Nice to have: a pleasant bedside manner

This seems like a reasonable request, right? Shouldn’t I have lots of fantastic SEO colleagues I can heartily recommend?

Sadly, no.

The problem I’ve primarily found is with these two qualifications in particular:

  • Who can both advise AND implement
  • Who is under $100/hour

I’m sure you have your hypothesis for why this mythical creature is so hard to find.

Now that I’m 10 years into my SEO career, I no longer meet those qualifications. But because I’m constantly asked, it’s important to me to get to the bottom of this. Responding with “I don’t know anyone, best of luck out there” is not the route I prefer to take.  So I set off to poll my network and dig in, and the very informal findings are below.

Why It’s Hard to Find an SEO Pro Who Can Both Advise AND Implement

I am a firm believer that I need to go full force into SEO as soon as I enter an engagement. Why hire an SEO for growth unless you’re ready to get after it with gusto?

An SEO engagement needs to mean all hands on deck.

We need to get through a lot of one-time work before we can get into “maintenance.”

If SEO has never been done, if it hasn’t been done in a few years, or if the focus of the organization has changed significantly, it is going to take a lot of one-time work to get the wheels in motion. A lot to even becoming a candidate worthy of starting to rank for multiple terms.

When you hire an SEO professional, here are a few essential things both parties need to be prepared for:

  • Foundational SEO implementation takes an incredible amount of collaboration. I can’t do effective SEO, or make decisions and recommendations on behalf of a company, unless they will have regular communication with me, and they have subject matter experts readily prepped and available.
  • Implementation might fall outside of the skillset or scope of the SEO consultant: SEO technical work, and content creation, for example. SEO is waayyyyy more involved than it used to be and requires many disciplines coming together.   
  • Most of the time, you won’t see SEO results from Foundational SEO. Results come in during the “maintain, iterate, and enhance” phases. And when SEO pros implement but don’t have anything to show for their efforts right off the bat, the business isn’t going to want to pay monthly for continuous improvement. It’s a vicious cycle.

For an independent SEO professional who doesn’t have a team to assist, this process is incredibly time intensive and can last months. There is less friction for a consultant to come in, assess, put together a plan, and hand it off to be implemented by the right people within an organization.

Conversely, once an SEO person who does both the strategy and implementation gains a reputation for being good, they get busy. Often very busy. And they have no choice but to raise their rates.

Or burn out and pull a disappearing act or switch professions. This is the case with many people I knew who did SEO with me 10+ years ago. Many jumped ship to other professions and other marketing channels that don’t make you want to bang your head against a wall.

Why It’s Hard to Find an SEO Pro Who is “Affordable”

I think many people imagine SEOs greedily charging insane amounts for SEO services. Rolling around the bed in our cash.

Maybe some SEO people are like that. Most aren’t.

SEO can be perceived as expensive because it takes time and patience, continuous experimentation, resources to build and maintain campaigns, and the expertise of a professional who can keep analyzing and iterating

The truth is, 10+ years ago, SEO involved mostly technical checklist items. Today, it’s a combination of technical, business and marketing know-how

What does this mean?

  • Doing SEO on behalf of another business is a very specialized skill. It’s not a skill newbies can master if they’re not up to speed on SEO best practices, and if they don’t have a solid marketing or analytics mindset. Throw in a love of learning, tolerance for change and uncertainty, and a competitive drive as well to round out a great SEO person.  
  • Many solopreneurs, small businesses, and yes, even inexperienced SEO professionals (or those who haven’t developed a solid network of peers to collaborate with), give up when SEO is in Plan B or C and results haven’t come in. When really it’s going to take getting to Plan F before results are finally seen. The in-between will involve a lot of sweat equity, experimentation, and pivoting. Or, it could be you need to switch SEO professionals. That happens frequently and there are no hard feelings if you need a fresh perspective or set of skills.
  • Affordable SEO does exist. It just might mean fewer services performed regularly. Making slower progress. Waiting longer for results. And as I mentioned above, I believe in jumping all in. I’ve seen too many SEO initiatives fail from inertia and from gaining enough proper traction from the get go. Side note: local SEO can be more affordable, as there are more checklist best practices that can take businesses a long way.

Continuing the Conversation

If you’re a business owner or marketer looking to hire an SEO professional, I do like to point people towards this Google resource and video to help you get started:

This is not so much an article trying to justify why SEOs charge high rates, as it is an article to explain why affordable, honest SEO freelancers are so hard to find. I really wish it weren’t that way. And if you have a solution, I am all ears. This is a regular conversation topic senior SEO professionals have, and nobody has come up with a solution that checks all of the boxes above.

What do you think? Do you agree? Disagree? Come join the real-time conversation over in my LinkedIn post about this.

And if you know this mythical fantastic SEO creature, please send them my way. But if you want to keep them to yourself, I understand that too.   

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Jenny Munn

Jenny is an independent Digital Marketer and SEO Consultant with more than 10 years of experience helping companies and content creators generate brand awareness, traffic, and conversions with SEO. She is a frequent speaker and is on the faculty for the AMA (American Marketing Association) and has taught SEO to thousands of marketers over the past 10 years.

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