Eric Wendt

Andrew Walters wanted to be the next Michael Jordan.

Alas, while his move from Barrington, Illinois, to Chicago seemed to support this childhood dream, the late-stage growth spurt he was banking on failed to materialize.

What did transpire, however, may be just as miraculous as Jordan’s six NBA championships with the Chicago Bulls (depending entirely on your definition of the word “miraculous” and your love of basketball).

Upon graduating from Ohio’s University of Dayton, Andrew first put his business degree and passion for marketing to work at Brafton as a content marketing strategist in 2014, and now he’s managing the company’s burgeoning Consulting department.

While it’s not quite helping Bugs Bunny take on the Monstars, Andrew’s career path did derive from his passion for all things His Airness.

“The old Nike commercials got me into marketing,” Andrew said. “I took a course in high school where you could create your own brand. I created my own basketball franchise.”

As the head of Brafton’s Consulting department, Andrew is now in a position to ensure his clients’ websites are a slam dunk (I’m truly sorry; I couldn’t help myself).

From b-ball to playing doctor

To hear Andrew tell it, it’s easiest to understand consulting in terms of health care.

When you visit a doctor, he or she attempts to diagnose your problem and prescribe a remedy.

A Brafton consultant works much in the same way, only with search engine optimization in place of cholesterol level management.

When a client need arises, whether based on Brafton recommendations or client requests, our strategists will reach out to Andrew and the rest of the Consulting department to review the case and task it out to someone on the team. Often times this comes down to whose specific expertise is required, whether it be in the realm of SEO, UX, paid search or more.

Brafton consultancy runs the gamut from content auditing to website redesign, and is gearing up to expand offerings into email marketing automation and persona development in the new year.

“As we get into 2017, one of the bigger pieces in play is how many competitors are out there,” Andrew said. “Everyone has a website. Does yours stand apart? Is it healthy? That will give you a leg up over competitors. The content you’re creating won’t be seen if your site isn’t healthy.”

Breaking the bad news

While prescribing ways to improve SEO may sound like a job tailor-made for client gratitude, Andrew shed some light on the inherent awkwardness of pointing out problems.

“It’s difficult to tell a client their baby, their website, is broken,” he said. “But it helps that we can tell them we can fix it.”

Of course, prescribing medicine is much easier than swallowing it.

Some people take the view that consultancy best practices are the same for everyone, making for a one-size-fits-all approach.

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

“Every project’s a little different,” Andrew said. “[You have to] learn about a client, its business, its website, its goals.”

You also have to set expectations. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither were Google rankings.

“Organic search is difficult to achieve,” Andrew said. “You can fix a site and it’s not something where the next day you’re going to be the top result on Google. It takes time, constant maintenance, constant review.”

This also means Andrew and his team must continually update themselves on the latest industry changes and search engine algorithm updates. Still, it helps knowing he’s providing a valuable service.

“As much as every client needs eloquent writing and beautifully designed graphics and videos, consulting can help that content rank better,” he said. “Every client has issues they are unaware of. In some capacity, every client can use consulting. They know their website, they know their brand and their product, but not necessarily how other people look at it, including search engines.”

Third from left, Andrew takes a break from perfecting client SEO to enjoy some good times with his colleagues.

Third from left, Andrew takes a break from perfecting client SEO to enjoy some good times with his colleagues.

Looking ahead

So what does the future hold for marketing consultancy, both at Brafton and in the wider world?

First, search engines will only continue to become more sophisticated, making the role of the consultant all the more integral to achieving SEO.

“Google algorithms are constantly looking out for spammy sites,” Andrew said. “Google’s artificial intelligence system, RankBrain, which will eventually replace algorithms, is really good at it.”

Second, the focus on user intent will grow.

“Voice search will [be a big piece of that],” Andrew said. “Long-tail keywords are going to become much more important than standard terms.”

However, one thing that won’t change is the pursuit of steady progress to create real, impactful change for client websites, whether the goal is ranking higher in search, providing a better user experience or simply maximizing paid marketing campaigns for utmost return on investment.

“Everything takes time,” Andrew said. “There’s no one button to fix everything.”

Still, concentrating on the fundamentals and dedicating yourself to improvement pays off, as any of Andrew’s clients can attest to.

It’s appropriate a quote from Michael Jordan would so neatly sums up Brafton’s Consulting department:

“Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.”

It’s a sentiment Andrew is likely to share. See, buddy? You and Jordan have more in common than you think.