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The 5 Stages of SEO Maturity

November 29, 2013


I’ve attended quite a few conferences over the years and although sessions that talk about the latest industry news, trends, and search engines updates are interesting, the discussion can become very dated, very quickly. The sessions that I’ve found most useful are those that provide lessons which you can take with you and apply right now, or even several years down the road.

One session in particular, at SES San Jose, talked about the 5 Stages of SEO Maturity. Even though I heard this talk at one of the first SES conferences I went to many moons ago, I found myself referring to it just the other day. So I wanted to share this in a blog post, and also thank Alex, as I’ve found it to be such a useful model over the years. I’m sure you will too.

Stage 1: TRY

This is when an organization has heard about SEO and wants to try it out. As part of experimenting with a SEO program, they allocate part-time resources (often adding these duties to an existing employee’s role) and focus on a small selection of striking distance keywords that can help to increase visibility in the search engine results and bring in website traffic.

Try Checklist:

  • Part-time in-house SEO resource
  • Strategy: Focus on low-hanging fruit and priority keywords

Stage 2: INVEST

At this stage, the organization realizes that SEO has the potential to really benefit the business and so they start to take it more seriously. They go beyond priority keywords and simple on-page optimizations, and delve more into content development efforts as well as the wider education of the company. As they invest more resources, time and money, there is the need to show the value of the program (beyond traffic), often through conversion and lead tracking.

Invest Checklist:

  • Full time dedicated in-house SEO resource
  • Strategy: Expand out keyword set to more than just priority keywords
  • Allocate dollars for content and link development
  • Invest in technology to track success
  • Pro-active site audits
  • Ongoing training and education for content providers

Stage 3: MEASURE

As the organization becomes more advanced in SEO practices, measurement becomes even more important – particularly the need to tie SEO directly to overall business measures, including sales, revenue and ROI.

Measure Checklist:

  • Bring on additional SEO resources
  • Strategy: Efficiently monitor and tie SEO metrics to business metrics

Stage 4: SCALE

At this stage, the organization is pretty well versed in the SEO space, and so the focus is on how to better scale company efforts. There are specialized SEO roles within the team, including strategists, writers, and analysts, with the goal to dominate the search engine results.

Scale Checklist:

  • Specialized SEO resources (strategists, dedicated content writers, outreach specialists, analysts)
  • Strategy: Organize and prioritize – make all keywords winners

Stage 5: COMPETE

At the compete stage, organizations don’t just want a great presence within the search engine results, they are out to crush the competition as well as stay ahead of the game by planning ahead for future trends. This seems very unicorn-like, and although I’ve never experienced a company who is anywhere near this stage, it certainly provides a great goal to strive towards.

Compete Checklist:

  • Multiple SEO teams
  • Strategy: Crush the competition — predict the future using existing data
  • Monitor SEO market share

From → Search Marketing

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