The 3 Stages of SEO: A Complete Breakdown

by | Jul 7, 2021 | SEO | 0 comments

SEO (search engine optimization) is the process of improving a business website’s visibility, authority, and user experience online, to achieve more traffic, impressions, and conversions for that business. If your agency offers SEO, you likely have a certain set of white hat SEO strategies and techniques you use to achieve results.

But not all SEO results are equal — not all businesses will see the same results at the same time, due to a variety of factors. The reality is that not all businesses start off in the same place, and actually fall into one of three “stages” of SEO.

These stages not only describe the state of the business or website, but also what metrics you’ll be focusing on for them to push them into the next stage.

Let’s explore the three stages of SEO: visibility, acquisition, and engagement/conversions.

Stage 1: Visibility

Who’s in this stage?

The visibility stage describes “new” SEO accounts. New accounts are not just accounts with a new website or a domain change, or businesses that have never done SEO before. If your client’s site is not ranking for many search terms, they are also in this stage.

If they’re targeting a new service, your client wants to gain visibility for something totally fresh, so they would also fall into this stage.


  • Impressions
  • Queries
  • Pages

Actions to take

In this stage, you or your SEO specialist should create new content to target the keywords and queries in your strategy. You can create both informational content (blogs) to increase brand awareness and service pages.

You should fix topic mismatches. Topic mismatches are when a page is getting impressions from a query that the page doesn’t actually answer. You can create new content that answers that query, and you have a good chance of ranking for it.

Signs to move to the next stage

Your KPIs will help you see whether your client’s site has good visibility and you can start changing your goals. You can do this when:

  • Your traffic/clicks increase.
  • You’ve reached the goals you set for impressions.

Stage 2: Acquisition

Who’s in this stage?

Once your client’s site has good visibility on the SERPs, you can move into the acquisition stage. Accounts in the acquisition stage often have high impression rates from unbranded terms (queries that don’t include the business name), but are experiencing low CTR.

Basically, people are seeing their pages on SERPs but not clicking on them.

In this stage, it’s time to focus on improving that CTR.


  • CTR
  • Clicks
  • Traffic/visits

Actions to take

In this stage, you’ll optimize everything about the content to boost your client’s CTR. You should update the metadata on old pages and make sure all new metadata is also up to par, as well as optimize URLs.

You should also match your keywords with the content you’re creating, to make sure your content is on topic and relevant to the keywords you’re targeting.

You should be focusing on your structured data. Structured data is the code of a page, organized in a way that makes it easier for search engines to understand what your page and content are about.

Signs to move to the next stage

You want to see a clickthrough rate of 3-5% in a month before you can move into stage 3. Your traffic and clicks should also increase based on the goals you’ve set.

3. Engagement/Conversions

In stage 3, your client’s website has visitors. Now it’s time to engage them on the page and convert them, but for a variety of reasons the page isn’t accomplishing this.

Accounts in this page have high bounce rates and low browsing rate (they’re not looking at many pages each time they visit the site, and they don’t spend much time on each page).

Often the design and copy of the site itself is also unappealing, which is affecting the bounce rate and preventing your client from getting conversions.

KPIs to look after

  • Bounce rate
  • Browsing rate
    • Pages/session
    • Time on site
  • Conversions

Actions to take

The work you’re doing in this stage is all about improving the look and user experience of the site itself.


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