Full-Service SEO vs. “SEO Consulting”

Last night at SEMCLT, I spent a few minutes chatting with Corey Creed.  He asked if I was still doing full-service SEO or if I had moved to a consulting model.

I had never described what we do as “full-service”, but I probably should.  Its pretty accurate.  You’d think in 7 years I would have spent a few minutes thinking about how to describe what we do.  When talking with prospects, I would generally say things like “we don’t just give you a list of recommendations, we actually DO the work” and so forth.  I often used other verbiage around the same point, such as “we handle everything needed to produce results” and so forth, but the phrase full-service describes this more accurately and more concisely.

But now there is a new problem.  What exactly is full service SEO?

I guess let’s think about what its not.  Oftentimes when companies hire a consultant what they are looking for is strategic guidance, advisement, etc.  They want to know what to do, and maybe how to do it.  As such, many SEO consultants do exactly that.  They provide a written report and/or verbal communications in meetings, training sessions and so forth and basically tell the client what to do in order to increase their site’s rankings, organic traffic and (hopefully) conversions.  The deliverable may be called a “Site Audit” or “SEO Recommendations Report” or something like that.  The pro here is that the client can get high-level direction and recommendations without too high a price tag (as the time to create a plan is inherently less than the time required to create AND implement a plan).

But to me, that’s no fun.

When I have done one-time, consulting-only engagements I’ve provided a good report and the client has been pleased.  They paid me.  But they never implemented the recommendations.  I later inquire as to why they didn’t implement many (or any) and they’ve had a range of responses including technical limitations, resource limitations, etc.  Often though the real problem is that it simply wasn’t a high enough of a priority on someone’s list.

So I’ve generally taken a different approach.  We provide the high-level “what we need to do” consulting initially… but really the bulk of our value comes in helping to ensure the work is actually done.  Its a little bit different for each client, depends on their needs and requirements.  I see it as my job though to be the problem solver.

“SEO Consulting” RecommendationCreate 3 new pages about these 3 topics that focus on these 3 keywords that you are neglecting.

Client ResponseWe don’t have the time or resources to create this page.

“Full Service” SolutionFine we’ll do it for you.  We’ll learn about your business and market first, and the work with a really good copywriter in this niche.  Then we’ll send to you for a quick review and approval.

We’ll generally go further than this too.  We’ll typically then add the pages to the website using the client’s CMS or FTP.  If they don’t have a CMS, we can create one for them if that seems like a good idea.  If they have an in-house team managing their site than we’ll email the appropriate person asking them to post the pages.  Then we’ll follow up a few days later if they aren’t posted.  And follow up again.  And again :)  The point is this – do what needs to be done to achieve the goals.

I guess the idea of full-service SEO can take on different meanings.  To me though it means doing whatever needs to be done.  It means not allowing yourself to use the excuse “but the client didn’t ______”.  I think that’s where we add value.  For companies that have in-house resources and are willing to allocate those resources (time and money) to actually implement the SEO recommendations than we’re probably not the best match.  We’re not really set up to be efficient with the high-level consulting.  We’re far too custom and ad-hoc there.  Where we bring value is in the implementation phase.  We can code HTML in Notepad with a blindfold.  We have great programmers on call whenever we need them.  We have some great strategies for link building that we can actually implement.  We’ve got existing relationships with dozens of fantastic copywriters with experience across a variety of industries.  And we’re persistent.

Okay I’m going to go ahead and hit “publish” now even though I don’t really like the tone of this post.  Its far to “we’re this and we’re that”.  Sounds very self-promotional.  I don’t like that.  But I’ve spent too long writing this already and need to get back to actually doing some real work.  :)  Plus, while the style and tone here is not my favorite, the meat has meaning.  So now I want your opinion…

What do you think constitutes “full service SEO”?  How does it compare with “SEO Consulting”?  What are your thoughts on the topic?