SEO consultants need to be strategic in there thinking, If you are not strategic you can’t be a good SEO consultant. I know numbers of good SEO operatives who think tactically not strategically so I would say until they start to think strategically they can never move up to being a decent SEO consultant.
What do I mean by strategic, I mean a big picture thinker, someone who looks at the whole SEO campaign when they think of any particular component of the campaign, someone who has a game plan, and will then focus any day to day action towards that game plan. Someone who understands there are multiple SEO techniques and can choose the appropriate one for the situation.
Digging deeper the first requirement for a strategic thinker is thinking in the long term, tacticians are short term thinkers, they want to know how to complete their task, in SEO game this means moving up a few places, competing for a new keyword, doing the component parts that make up the long terms strategy, but without linking this to a longer term sets of goals.
In SEO I would expect a strategist would have an outline of a long term plan that would span 2 to 3 years, have numbers of tactical stages which can be measured by milestones, and all tactical decision will be made in pursuit of this longer term strategy. Failure to have the strategic view will lead to pointless tactical successes, wasted resources and campaign under achievement over the longer term.
The second requirement is a commercial focus, SEO is not about positions and traffic it is usually SEO is about sales and profits. If it is not about sales and profits it is about another business goal which is more often not at least one step removed from positions and traffic. A tactician will judge success in terms of what position he has achieved and what traffic he has generated, a strategist will look at how much he has sold and what revenue has generated for his client.
An SEO strategist needs to be able to identify and recommend the right SEO techniques for the right campaign. There are many variations of SEO techniques none are correct for all circumstances, and most techniques have applications in some circumstances. I have seen SEO operatives blindly use the same technique that worked for the last campaign on any other campaigns that they run when it was completely the wrong technique for the campaign.
The worst example was this was an SEO operative who went from aggressive link building on new sites, which he had successfully done, then spent 2 months aggressive link building on a campaign for an old site which already had 200,000 back links but no on page optimisation. His days of worked bore not fruit and had no success. When he changed tack and spent 1 hour doing on-page optimisation and saw the site come in top 10 for most terms within 48 hours.
SEO is not about machines it is about people, this is a much a people business as it a technical business. To be direct a good SEO consultant should be able to consult. Most importantly this means to understand your client, his or her requirements and be willing to learn as much about his business as possible, it is also being able to communicate to your client in language he can understand, and on points about which he cares about (we are talk pounds not positions.)
This is the role on managing expectation, gently correcting misconceptions through education, sharing knowledge, allowing the client to apply the knowledge about his business than he has.
These to my mind are the differences between a strategic thinker ( an SEO consultant ) and a tactical thinker (an SEO operative); any thoughts?