SEO For Consultants: How To Write Thought-Leadership That Attracts Clients

Tsavo Business Strategy, Marketing Leave a Comment

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the BEST marketing method for consultants.

Over the last several years, I’ve written hundreds of articles.

Many of them have ranked 1st for competitive keywords.

For example, here’s an article I wrote on “best consultant websites” that is the first organic result:

seo for consultants first page ranking

I first published the article 5 years ago.

And it STILL sends several thousand visitors (and hundreds of leads) to my website every single month.

In terms of generating business, SEO outperforms other marketing channels.

For example, in financial services, SEO converts customers at 7.3x the rate of paid ads.

So, if a potential client comes to your website via Google, they’re much more likely to sign up to your email list or book a free consultation.

Why?

An organic search signals higher stronger intent to purchase.

And as a consultant, your product is expertise.

What better way to demonstrate your expertise than by publishing helpful articles?

Writing — combined with SEO — will be the most effective marketing you do.

By the end of this article, you’ll understand how to write SEO content that will help you attract organic, high-quality consulting leads every day — on autopilot.

Let’s dive right in.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

What Is SEO (Search Engine Optimization) For Consultants?

Search engine optimization is the process by which you rank your website highly on search engines like Google.

For example, with this article, I’m targeting the keyword “SEO for consultants.”

I’m doing “SEO” on this post so that it will rank first on Google.

(Talking about doing SEO on a post about SEO? Very meta, I know 😎)

The SEO process is made up of many different aspects, some of which include…

  • Keyword research
  • Writing
  • Link-building
  • User Experience
  • Site-speed
  • On-page optimization

…and more.

As far as SEO for consultants goes, my point of view is this: consultants will get the best SEO results by combing content marketing (writing articles) and SEO.

So, I’ll help you rank highly more so for the articles you write rather than the pages you create.

Pros & Cons of SEO For Consultants

Before I walk you through my SEO process, I want to share the pros and cons of SEO.

Remember: SEO is one of many marketing methods.

Every marketing method has its trade-offs:

  • Direct outreach is a spammy numbers game.
  • Pay-per-click ads cost money and tend to convert at a lower rate.
  • Social media puts you at the mercy of algorithms.
  • And SEO is a long-term game.

SEO is NOT a get-rich-quick scheme.

(There are no such things.)

However, despite its trade-offs, SEO is still the best marketing method for consultants.

Cons of SEO For Consultants

  • SEO is a long-term game. You’re not going to shoot to the top of the first page right after you hit “publish.” You have to do it consistently.
  • SEO takes work. You have to know your subject well and be willing to write about it.
  • SEO requires your input and expertise. It’s not something you can completely outsource like social media marketing. However, you can outsource many parts of it.

Pros of SEO For Consultants

  • SEO creates massive leverage. You can write an article once, and it will generate traffic and leads over several years.
  • SEO traffic converts at a much higher rate. By sharing what you know, clients will begin to know you, like you, and trust you based on the value you create. They’ll be more likely to reach out for your help.
  • SEO forces you to write. Writing will benefit you and your business in more ways than you can imagine. You’ll create marketing collateral that you can use in your follow-ups, in sales calls, to test out new service ideas, and much more.

The pros of SEO far outweigh the cons.

Next, I’ll share how I do SEO in a way to minimize the cons and maximize the pros.

Step 1: Research

The first step of my SEO process is to research what your clients are typing into Google.

What you want to do is know exactly what they are typing in. Then, you can write about that exact topic.

If you’re publishing articles on your website — and you’re not gaining any traffic — you’re skipping this step.

If you don’t do research before you start writing, you’re flying blind.

However, by doing research, you’ll know…

  • The exact keyword to target;
  • How many people are searching for that keyword per month;
  • What Google is already ranking on the first page (and thus how to model your article);
  • How difficult it will be to rank on the first page.

…and much more.

I use Ahrefs to do my keyword research. Specifically, I use their Keywords Explorer tool.

Here’s an example.

Let’s say I’m a sales consultant who helps B2B SaaS companies improve their sales teams’ performance.

I want to write an article on sales consulting to attract leads for my sales consulting services.

Here’s what I’d do.

First, I’ll open up Keywords Explorer.

Then, I’ll type in “sales consulting.”

keyword explorer sales consulting

Here’s what I get.

seo keyword research results

4.8K people search for “sales consulting” per month.

Ahrefs estimates I’ll need backlinks from ~16 different websites to rank on the first page for “sales consulting.”

(A backlink is when another website links to your article)

I can also see the current results on the first page for “sales consulting:”

serp results for sales consulting keyword

And I can also see more keyword ideas containing the phrase “sales consulting:”

sales consulting keywords

Based on this research, I can answer the following question:

From an SEO perspective, is it worth writing about “sales consulting?”

Yes.

Here’s an “SEO keyword research checklist” I like to use before writing an article with a focus on SEO:

  • Do I have genuine expertise on the topic of this keyword?
  • Is the global volume more than 100?
  • Is the keyword difficulty less than 20?
  • Am I excited about the prospect of writing the best article on the internet on this topic?
  • Does the keyword connect to one of the services I offer?

For our example, our “sales consulting” example keyword passed the checklist:

  • As a sales consultant, I have genuine expertise on the topic of this keyword.
  • The global volume is 4.8K.
  • The keyword difficulty is 14.
  • I’m excited about the prospect of writing the best article on the internet that is better than anything in the current top 10.
  • It connects directly to my sales consulting services.

I follow this step for every article I write.

(Sometimes, I’ll have the itch to write about something that people aren’t searching for. I’ll still write about it, and use it in other ways. I just won’t expect much organic traffic from it.)

If I’m building out a content calendar, I’ll do this for dozens of keywords.

And by making sure every keyword passes through my checklist, I ensure that my writing will generate organic traffic over time.

Now that we’ve established “sales consulting” is the keyword we’ll target, we can move into the next step: outlining the article.

Step 2: Outline

The second step is to create an outline for your article.

Your outline is the “structure” of your article. It supports your writing and keeps you on topic.

Creating an outline makes the next step — writing — much easier.

But before you create your outline, think about what you want your article to accomplish.

Google wants to help its users find what they are looking for.

Therefore, their algorithm is designed to rank the content that fulfills search intent.

Thus, we want our article to fulfill search intent.

When someone searches for “sales consulting,” we want to provide them with the most helpful article on the internet.

Doing that will give us the best chance of fulfilling search intent — and ranking highly.

Now, back to your outline.

Before I create my outline, I always look at what’s ranking in the current top 10 for my target keyword.

serp results for sales consulting keyword

We see an interesting mix of results here:

  • blog posts about sales consulting;
  • lists of the best sales consulting firms;
  • and landing pages for sales consulting services.

From these results, we can deduct that when someone searches for “sales consulting,” they are looking for a variety of different things related to it.

We’ll use this information to inform our outline.

Ultimately, many searches indicate a desire to learn: the searcher wants to get an answer to something or understand it better.

We want to use our article to teach, provide clarity, solve problems, and eliminate pain.

Let’s start to build our outline.

We’ll work backward from the result want: an in-depth article that covers our keyword in-depth.

According to an experiment run by Backlinko, the average Google first page result contains 1447 words.

We’ll shoot for 1500 words for our article. Our outline will help us hit that target.

I’ll begin all of my articles with an outline like this:

  • INTRO (125 words)
  • HEADER (250 words)
  • HEADER (250 words)
  • HEADER (250 words)
  • HEADER (250 words)
  • EXAMPLE/CASE STUDY (250 words)
  • ACTION STEP (125 words)

Each of these headers will be an H2 tag. H2 tags help organize our post and make it easier to read.

If my article were a book, the H2 tags are my chapters.

These tags help the reader navigate the article. They also help search engines understand and index our articles.

The intro and the action step sections are straightforward and will be similar in every article.

But what will we use for the headers?

Start with questions about the keyword. Questions indicate problems, confusion, and pain.

The “5 Ws & How” provide a great starting point for brainstorming your outline:

  • WHO
  • WHAT
  • WHEN
  • WHERE
  • WHY
  • HOW

For our “sales consulting” article, we might use these to construct the following questions:

  • WHO would benefit from sales consulting?
  • WHAT is sales consulting?
  • WHEN is the right time to invest in sales consulting?
  • WHERE can you find sales consulting?
  • WHY might one invest in sales consulting?
  • HOW does sales consulting work?

Let’s use these questions to build our example outline:

  • Intro (125 words)
  • What Is Sales Consulting? (250 words)
  • The Benefits Of Sales Consulting (250 words)
  • How Sales Consulting Works (250 words)
  • Sales Consulting Case Study (250 words)
  • When To Invest In Sales Consulting (250 words)
  • Action Step (125 words)

Instead of writing on a blank page, we now have a solid structure to help us complete the next step: writing.

Step 3: Write

The third step is to write your article.

But forget about “writing” for a second.

Simply focus on “sharing what you know” about your target keyword.

That’s a better way to approach writing.

Writing is hard work. There’s a reason why so few people do it.

And this is where a lot of people get stuck.

But remember, as a consultant, there is no excuse not to write.

“Experts are not too busy to articulate thought leadership. There are many reasons why experts don’t write and speak, but none of them are legitimate. If you don’t have the time you aren’t making enough money. If you don’t know what to say, you arent’ an expert. If you don’t know how to say it, you haven’t practiced enough. If you find too many audiences when directing your writing, you haven’t focused enough. Aside from the content itself, having the time to write itself sends just as powerful a message. Developing and sharing insights not only implies that you make enough money to engage in this activty that doesn’t generate immediate cash, it also positions you as someone who wants to help.”

-David C. Baker, The Business of Expertise

However, unlike most consultants who write, we…

  1. Understand exactly what our prospects are searching for, and know people will be reading it
  2. Have an outline and constraints that will help us break our writing down into manageable chunks

My goal is to make writing and editing as easy as possible for you.

Here’s how I make writing relatively easy:

  • I only write in the morning. That’s when my brain is the most “fresh.”
  • I only write using the Pomodoro technique: in undistracted, 25-minute chunks.
  • I only write for a maximum of 3 Pomodoro per day. That’s about 90 minutes of focused, undistracted writing.
  • I do not write and edit at the same time. I write without caring about grammar or spelling. Remember, this is the first draft. We will clean it up in the next step. Trying to edit it now will only trip you up and slow you down.

That’s it, really. Armed with the constraints of your outline, you’ll know exactly what to write.

So, when it comes to writing, it’s about doing it first thing in the morning, shutting out distractions, and only doing as much as you can handle.

If you stick with these constraints and write for a little bit every day, your first draft will be done before you know it.

For example, let’s say you do 1 Pomodoro of undistracted writing per day. And with each Pomodoro, you write 250 words.

After 7 days, you’ll have written 1500 words — and will have completed your article.

And that’s doing the absolute bare minimum.

Picking a target keyword that you’re interested in — and creating an outline around it — is half the battle.

At this step, focus on getting the words on the page.

Remember: share what you know. You’ll clean it up in the next step.

Step 4: Edit

The fourth step is to edit your article: to polish your first draft and make it read well.

That means…

  • re-reading each sentence;
  • making sure you’re using the right words;
  • and making sure each sentence is in the right order.

Editing is also where we cut all of the “fluff.”

We want to cut out as many words as we can while maintaining meaning and clarity.

The goal of editing is to make your writing easy to understand.

Here’s how to do that.

Just like I do with writing, I edit using the Pomodoro technique: editing my article 25 minutes at a time, section by section.

I’ll bring up my draft and then copy and paste the first section into Hemingway Editor.

hemingway app for editing

Hemingway Editor is my preferred tool for editing. It helps you make your writing bold, clear, and simple.

By editing, I want my article to score a “Grade 9” on readability — or lower.

Of course, your readers are more intelligent than a grade 9 reading level.

But remember: most readers don’t know you, like you, or trust you yet.

They won’t spend a ton of mental energy to read your work yet.

So, when you edit to make your article easy to comprehend — especially when explaining complex topics — you’re respecting your reader’s time.

Good editing communicates this to your reader: “I’m going to do the hard work of making this article easy to read for you. That way, you’ll quickly grasp the concepts.”

And when you edit for simplicity and clarity, your time-pressed, busy reader will more easily understand how your expertise can help their business.

Paste a section of your article into Hemingway Editor. Set a 25-minute timer.

Then, re-read each sentence, and…

  • Remove adverbs
  • Replace instances of passive voice with active voice
  • Use the simplest phrases
  • Make each sentence easy to read
  • Cut out any unnecessary words

When you do this, your readability score will improve. The lower the grade, the better.

Editing for simplicity and clarity will help your SEO.

Improving readability makes your article easier to read. The easier it is to read, the more your ideal clients will actually read. The more they read, the longer they stay on the page.

Session length, or how long readers stay on and read your article, signals to Google that this article fulfills search intent. That’s a ranking factor that will boost your chance of ranking highly.

The first few times you edit, it will take longer than the actual writing. But like anything else, the more you do it, the quicker you’ll get.

Once you’re satisfied with your edits and you’ve improved your readability score to a grade 9 level or lower, you’re ready to publish and promote your article.

Step 5: Publish & Promote

The fifth step is to publish & promote your article. Ultimately, this is where you market your writing — you send readers to it.

We’ll break this step down into 3 different sub-steps:

  1. On-Page SEO
  2. Distribution
  3. Post-Publication.

1. On-Page SEO

Before you publish, run your article through an on-page SEO checklist.

On-page SEO refers to things on the page you do to your article to make it more search-engine (and reader) friendly.

For example, include the target keyword in the headline of your article.

Check off all on-page SEO factors to give your article the best chance of ranking highly.

I use Yoast to optimize all my articles for on-page SEO.

Here’s my “on-page SEO checklist for consultants” based on Yoast’s criteria:

  • Have I included the keyword in the URL?
  • Have I included the keyword in my meta description?
  • Is my meta description between 50-160 characters?
  • Have I included the keyword in the title?
  • Is my article 1500 words or more?
  • Have I included the keyword in the introduction of my article?
  • Have I included the keyword in my H2/H3 tags?
  • Have I included the keyword at least 6 times in my article?
  • Do I have an image with my keyword included in the alt-text?
  • Do I have an internal link in my article?
  • Do I have an outbound link in my article?

Once you’ve gotten an SEO score of “Good” using Yoast’s checklist (or have checked off all the points above), hit the publish button.

2. Distribution

Now that your article is published, distribute it as far and as wide as you can.

Here are some practical ways to market your article:

  • Write an email to your email list telling them about the article, linking to it, and asking them for their thoughts.
  • Add your article to your automated email series for new subscribers.
  • Write a LinkedIn status post to promote the article to your followers.
  • Send an email to people in your network (past clients, referral partners, etc) and ask them to share your content.
  • Use parts of your posts to answer relevant questions on Quora.
  • Build links: build relationships with people in your industry who run websites whose users would find your article valuable, and ask them to link to your article.
  • Direct outreach: use the article as a way to follow up with leads who’ve gone cold to warm them back up.
  • Create a video version of your article to put up on YouTube.

Those are just some examples of things that I’ve done to promote my articles upon publication.

But there are endless ways to drive traffic to your articles.

The more people who read your articles, the more signal you can send to Google that your article is high quality (like session duration or time-on-page) — and increase its chance of ranking highly.

3. Post Publication

You’ve spent a lot of time on this article, and you want to get the most out of it.

Once you hit publish, you’re not “finished” with the article. Come back to it, add more to it, and continue to make it better.

Think of it like a product you are constantly improving.

Here’s are a few things you can do 3 months post-publication to increase its value and ranking:

  • Build links: build relationships with other websites so that they promote and link to your post (this is the biggest thing you can do to improve it’s ranking)
  • Every few months, add 250-500 words of new content to the post
  • Be consistent and publish more content on related topics — and add internal links to your article
  • Repurpose your content and market it on different social platforms
  • Add relevant examples, case studies, data, and answer FAQs on the article once you get feedback on it

And it’s worth mentioning my Daily Marketing Habits, as your article will play a big role in your marketing:

  • Write 250 Words: Write 250 words for an article.
  • Publish Content: Publish a short-form piece of content.
  • Self-Promote: Promote one of your articles, your services, or your website in general.
  • Direct Outreach: Introduce yourself to someone new in your market.
  • Network Tap: Follow-up or check in with someone in your network.

You can and should use your article in each of these different habits.

By doing on-page SEO, distributing your article as widely as possible, and then continuing to make it more valuable over time, you’ll give yourself the best chance of ranking on the first page — and ultimately, showing up as the first result.

5 Must-Have SEO Tools For Consultants

Here are the 5 SEO tools that I use in this process to get the best results for myself and my clients.

1. Ahrefs

Ahrefs is a must-have tool for consultants serious about their SEO.

I use it for competitor analysis, keyword research, rank tracking, and site health.

It’s essential for step 1: research and step 2: outlining.

Without Ahrefs, it’s very difficult to get the data on what your prospects are searching for. And gathering said data is essential to any SEO content marketing strategy.

There are alternative tools like Ahrefs. But from what I’ve seen, Ahrefs is the most robust — and the most accurate.

2. Roam Research

Roam is technically not an SEO tool. It’s a notetaking and journaling application.

However, it makes curating information about a topic — and then writing about it — much easier than a word processor like Microsoft Word or Google Docs.

I use it for step 3: writing and step 4: editing.

With Roam, you can instantly bring up your notes and references on a certain topic whilst writing. Thus, you never feel like you’re starting from a blank page.

I also find that writing in bullets and dragging my sentences around whilst editing make it easier to compose my articles.

Ultimately, Roam makes writing easier and more fun. And that ensures I do it consistently — which is a big part of SEO.

3. Hemingway App

Hemingway App is what I use for step 4, editing.

It gamifies the editing process.

By shooting for a grade 9 readability score, you have something objective to aim for.

Now, you don’t have to follow all of Hemingway App’s suggestions. But it is a fantastic tool to help you edit.

Grammarly is also helpful for writing/editing, and Readable is a solid alternative to Hemingway App for editing.

4. Yoast SEO

If you’re using WordPress for your consulting website (which I recommend and use myself), Yoast SEO is a fantastic plugin.

The plugin makes it very easy to optimize your articles for on-page SEO.

By providing you with a best practices checklist and an SEO score, you’ll make your articles SEO-ready in no time.

For reference, see the image below for their on-page SEO checklist:

on page seo checklist

Shoot for an SEO score of “Good” — the nice little green dot. Then you know your on-page SEO is good to go.

5. Google Analytics

Google Analytics is great for understanding your website and article’s performance.

It helps you answer questions like:

  • “How many people are coming to my website via this article from Google?”
  • “How long are people spending reading my articles?”
  • “What percentage of readers are taking the action I want them to take, like signing up to my email list or viewing my related service page?”

What gets measured gets managed.

When you understand how your articles are performing, and which ones are performing best, you can do more of what works, and less of what doesn’t.

This is also helpful motivation for writing.

When you see the tangible results that your writing creates (traffic, sales, etc), you’ll feel incentivized to do more of it.

Action Step: Get My Help With Your SEO Content

If you’d like my help running you through my entire SEO process, I’ve created a private, 1-on-1 workshop.

It’s called Cornerstone Content: Get Consulting Leads With Your Content.

It’s a “done-with-you” service where I guide you through every step.

By the end of the workshop, you’ll publish a high-quality piece of SEO thought-leadership.

And I’ll give you a promotion plan so you can use the article to market your services, generate more leads, and win more clients.

You’ll gain practical experience with my process which you can repeat (or outsource) — and create your most powerful marketing channel for your consulting business.

Interested?

Check out the landing page here to learn more — or, shoot me an email and I’ll send you more details about the workshop.