The In-House SEO Life Cycle

Every in-house SEO program follows a typical life cycle that has for main phases: Courtship, Honeymoon, Reality and Synergy. The duration of time it takes to get from Courtship to Synergy varies with each company, and it can also very for each division within a company.

Today’s in-house article will give you an overview of the in-house SEO life cycle so that you can predict the road ahead, minimize the severity of the Reality Phase and sail into Synergy as soon as possible.

The four phases of an in-house SEO life cycle

Courtship Phase. Your company wants to find the best candidate to start up the in-house SEO program. For companies in this infancy phase, you are looking for the best SEO candidate for the job. In this phase many companies realize they can’t afford Michael Jordan, but you can hire a great SEO leader. Once your SEO is hired, set up all of the right introductions for when they start.

Honeymoon Phase. The SEO is in place and everyone wants to talk about SEO. Recommendations come from all directions, and getting priorities is a breeze. This phase seems to last about 3-6 months, depending on the company. The biggest advice here is to make the most of your honeymoon, read up to maximize the potential of this phase and to minimize the impact of the next phases.

In-house SEO Life Cycle

Reality Phase. This is when it starts to get challenging internally. The shape of the upside bell curve can vary significantly for this phase. It can be deep and wide, or shallow and narrow. It all depends on the company, culture, how well you prep for this phase and how you handle the bumps along the way.

After speaking with other SEOs, this phase seems to be the most challenging for the more traditional companies, where the website is not the primary revenue channel and management is competing for prioritization of their projects. Dotcoms on the other hand seem to barely experience this phase, if at all, likely because search engine traffic is a part of the business model and SEO is of interest to everyone.

To make your Reality Phase as short as possible, focus on educating the team and pre-selling ideas so that resistance and opposition is caught and addressed, before you pitch ideas in a meeting. Most importantly, during this phase you want to nurture the relationships you built in the Honeymoon Phase by transforming your acquaintances into friends—friends want to help each other succeed.

If you are finding yourself in the Reality Phase with no end in sight, focus on the human side of SEO, the art of getting people to want to help SEO. A great kick-start to get you on the right track with IT is to implement over-coffees and other tips from Duane Forrester with Sports Direct, LLC. If the challenge seems to be getting management’s attention and buy-in, let the numbers do the selling. Laura Forbes with Christian Science Monitor has an interesting approach for increasing visibility for SEO—she gets SEO to boost KPIs that management is monitoring; when these numbers start to slip, she knows its time to make the sell for SEO.

Synergy Phase. You figured out what works at your company. You have reached this phase when SEO and other departments operate with synergy. You’re operating like a well-oiled machine with an established process that keeps SEO in the loop, with ideas going back-and-forth between SEO and other departments. You’ll have a few bumps here and there, but overall, life as the in-house SEO is very nice. When you reach this phase, it’s easy to get caught up with the busy work and let your relationships become a lower priority. Just remember the relationships are what got you here and their absence can send you back.

Where is my SEO team in the in-house SEO life cycle? Synergy, and it’s a beautiful place when you get here!

Jessica Bowman is the Director of SEO for and an independent consultant and author of the SEM / SEO In-house Blog. The In House column appears periodically at Search Engine Land.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Search Marketing | In House Search Marketing


About The Author: is a free agent SEO strategist available for SEO site audits, SEO training and helping in-house SEO programs become a well-oiled machine that cranks out profits. The In House column appears weekly at Search Engine Land.

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  • David

    Superb article! I have tried “in house” for several companies and found that once it gets to the Synergy stage I tend to leave (walk – go) as the Synergy has never happened.

    The Synergy part seems to disappear when everyone that I try to work with start looking up “old info” and listening to “SEO Fairy Stories” from elsewhere – this really gets my back up and I end up out of there…..

  • ChrisTaylor

    Great article.

    I am yet to work for a company and do in house SEO therefore it’s interesting to get background on how these things are done.

    Good to see they go through just as many teething problems as consultants do.


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