If you’ve researched SEO at all, then you know it’s complicated, there are a lot of moving parts, and things change very rapidly.  Ultimately, all of that leads to frustration because it’s nearly impossible to know where to focus your energy to improve your SEO results.

Should you be blogging?  Do you need to edit your webpages?  Do you need to create new webpages?  Do you need to redesign your website?  Do you need more citations?  Do you need more links?  Do you need to be using social media?

Sound familiar?

If you’re frustrated, confused, and not sure where to focus, then I have good news for you.  In this article, I’ll explain how to narrow down your SEO options based on which “stage” you’re in.

As you’ll soon see, the secret to simplifying SEO is understanding this concept of the stages of SEO.  To help you better understand the SEO stages, let’s take a look at something I’m sure you’re familiar with…

The 3 Stages of SEO & Where You Need to Focus At Each Stage

Insights From the Stages of Child Development

I have two young children, so I’m reminded daily of the different stages of child development.  In case you need a refresher, here are a few important points:

  1. Children develop physically and emotionally in clearly defined stages.
  2. Each stage builds on the skills learned in the previous stage (e.g., tummy time leads to crawling, which leads to walking)
  3. Parental guidance needs to match the stage of development (e.g., parents shouldn’t try to reason with a toddler that hasn’t developed the capacity to reason yet)

OK, with that fresh in your mind, let’s refocus our attention to SEO…

How SEO Stages Are Similar to Child Development Stages

Just like child development, SEO also develops in clearly defined stages that I’ll walk through in a moment.  Plus, each stage builds on itself so it’s important to know where you are at any given point in time.  If you try to skip ahead without completing previous stages, then you’ll likely run into a host of problems.

Finally, by knowing which stage you’re in, you’ll know what you need to do to push your SEO forward.  Think of it like parenting.  You wouldn’t parent a 5-year-old the same way you would a 2-year-old.  Those children are in completely different stages so they require different parental skills to be effective.  The same is true when it comes to your SEO!

Introducing The 3 Stages of SEO

Right now your business is in one of the following 3 stages of SEO, and as we discussed above, the stage will determine where you need to focus.  The 3 stages are:

  1. Tune-Up stage
  2. Build-Up stage
  3. Expand-Out stage

Let’s walk through each stage in more detail…

The Tune-Up Stage

If you’re just getting started with SEO, then you’re in the Tune-Up stage.  This is where we all start so it’s like the infant stage of SEO.

The primary goal of the Tune-Up stage is to improve what you already have on your website.  For example, if you have 10 pages on your website, then you’ll focus on improving those 10 pages first before moving on to the next stage.

You’ll notice there is no discussion of links, content marketing, blogging, or social media in the Tune-Up stage.  The focus here is on your existing webpages because that’s the foundation of your SEO.

The purpose of this article to give you an overview of the SEO stages so I’m not going to dive into the nitty-gritty details of on-page SEO edits.  Just know that on-page SEO is where you should focus and also make edits to improve your website conversion rates.

Once you’re done with the Tune-Up stage, then it’s time to move on to stage #2…

The Build-Up Stage

For many businesses, the Tune-Up stage will not get you very far with SEO.  Again, you can think of it like the infant stage.  When you move past infancy, then you haven’t really made it too far along with child development. :)

That’s why the Build-Up stage is critical.  The goal of the Build Up stage is to create additional webpages and online business profiles to improve your chances of ranking in Google.  In other words, you’re going to “build up” your SEO web presence.

One of the best ways to do this is to create a Resource Center on your website that includes articles relevant to your target keyword phrases.  Plus, you’ll need to set up your profiles in all the major business directories with accurate and consistent information.  These profiles act as citations, which boost your rankings for locally-focused keyword searches.

OK, at this point your website is set up properly to rank in Google, but that doesn’t mean you’ll actually show up on the first page of Google.  You need to move on to the next stage to continue to climb up the rankings…

The Expand-Out Stage

The goal of the Expand-Out stage is to increase your exposure and your website domain authority.  If you’re not familiar, you can think of domain authority like a child’s maturity level.  As a child progresses along the developmental stages, she matures physically and emotionally.  The same thing happens with your website.

The higher the domain authority or the more “mature” your website is, the higher you’ll rank in Google.  One of the biggest factors in your domain authority is the quantity and quality of links from other websites.  That’s why the primary focus in this stage is to attract links.

How do you attract links?  In short, you use content marketing.  For example, blogging on your own website, contributing articles on other websites, and engaging your audience on social media are a few of the tactics you’ll want to focus on during the Expand Out stage.  Those tactics will increase your exposure so your business gets in front of more prospects, while at the same time attract more links to increase your domain authority.

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