The Mediocre Guide to Measuring & Developing Your SEO Capability

Hey, dudes and dudettes.

Here is the TL;DR for those who h8 8/8 m8.

  1. The Carnegie Mellon Capability Maturity Model (CMM) originated from software development.
  2. It describes. It does not prescribe.
  3. In software dev, movement from one level to the next may take years.
  4. Applied to SEO, we can move through some areas of the makeshift-SEO-CMM by establishing processes and gaining experience.

I’m going to try to cut most of the fat off this and make it as short as possible.

So let’s start with the Carnegie Mellon CMM.

What is it? It’s a model developed by Carnegie Mellon Software Devs to measure the maturity of a software organization. In immature organizations, Carnegie Mellon noticed that a bunch of processes were random and undoc’d. As organizations matured, they were able to establish and optimize their processes. Mature organizations were able to manage their software dev cycles with repeat success.

What plagued immature organizations most was that were deeply aware of their problems. However, they were unable to organize a strategy for improvement. Coworkers often disagreed with managers causing conflicting priorities.

The CMM was created to bring focus to a few core but critical processes. Focusing on these critical processes allowed software devs to continually improve and increase their capability as individuals and as an organization.

You can read the history and documentation of it all @

In a nutshell, the CMM diagnoses an organization’s maturity based on five stages: initial, repeatable, defined, managed, optimized.

(Take the rest of this with a grain of salt)

Think of the initial stage of doing things ad-hoc and without a plan.

Repeatable would be the first establishment of a process.

Defined would be documentation and standardization.

Managed would be a level where the process and quality are understood. The process can be measured and controlled. This is where organizations can start predicting how well future projects do.

Optimized would be a level where “Continuous process improvement is enabled by
quantitative feedback from the process and from piloting innovative ideas and technologies.”

Each level is meant to be a logical foundation for developing processes in the next level. You’ll notice that some organizations have processes in multiple levels of the CMM.

Bootlegging CMM for SEO Management

To bootleg the CMM model for SEO, let’s define some key process areas for SEO.

Let’s go with: Keyword Research, Content, Site audits, On-page Optimization, Link Building, Internal Linking + Site Structure, and Tracking/Measurement.

For the initial stage, we can say that key process areas are not managed or measured. Again, it should be descriptive and not prescriptive. You’ll do the hard work of creating processes and tools to help the team move to the Optimized level.

Fill it in like so:

Next, let’s go through repeatable and defined stages.

For the repeatable stage, think of it as being an intern and learning all you can. See it as SEO 101.

For defined, think of it as being a Jr. SEO. You should know what you’re doing and have processes established.

The key to the repeatable and defined stages is documentation. If you’re the only one on your team slaying, then long-term success will be a pipe-dream.

Fill it in like so:

Then we move onto the managed and optimized stage.

Managed and optimized are hard to explain on my own. For this, I will refer you to the CMM guide (the same one posted above) for reference. For SEO, managed is when your team can confidently predict the outcome of a project. Base your preditions on documentation and results of previous projects and processes.
For optimized, it’s simply: continuous improvement. Think of Toyota Production Systems in the optimized stage.

Fill it in like so:

What to do next?

Now that you have a CMM for your team, the next step is to identify where you and your team are.

If you see an area where you excel, offer to produce and run a process to help your team get up to speed and vice versa.

For example, say that you’re good with site audits. It would be helpful for you to provide documentation on how you do the site audits. Then, provide an example of how the finished product looks.

That would help bring your team to a repeatable level on the CMM for Site Audits.

A lazy example of creating a process for your team is provided below:

Audit 101


  1. Use screaming frog to crawl your site. For every item highlighted in green, export the items highlighted in red.

2. The result should look something like this. Use this template to guide all of your future onpage audits.

Thanks 4 Reeeding,


This Article was Originally Posted @

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