SEO and web design are linked

We’ve all been through this. You have found the right keywords. Make sure they were too competitive. Wrote a great post or page, and even got perfect grades for Yoast or SEMRush.

But when it’s published, you barely break the top 100. The answer can be simple – bad web design, a topic that is often glossed over in search engine optimization guides.

Many believe that SEO and web design are separate. However, the opposite is true. The same content posted on a well-designed website greatly outperforms an unoptimized design.

To understand why this is so, you need to understand how search engines work and how to create a web design that takes advantage of these advantages.

How search engines work

Addiction theory

The principles of search go back to 1900. The math behind the search started, oddly enough, as part of industrial design and operation. This may not be as surprising as you might think.

Example building a car

For example, when you’re building a car. You need parts, manpower, and sales. Every element, every part, every work and every distribution carries some risk. For example, if you want to build a certain number of cars per month, you need to understand how these risks are related so that you can plan accordingly.

Although the models are complex, the point is how similar they look to user site usage and backlinks. Where certain paths depend on previous paths and some paths are more likely than others.

How does this apply to search

While the above is an over-simplification, it gets the point across. Information is organized in clusters. Each cluster has a probability or a weight for the relevance of a keyword. The links that are most relevant and the ones most likely to occur.

One thing leads to another

In the early search this was literally true, every link was taken as a vote of confidence. The higher the initial link for the rank, the higher the rank on the page it is linked to. While this doesn’t work that way today, it is still a useful concept when considering how information is organized and used.

What search bots are interested in

What search bots are interested in

Bots are simply programs that crawl the web. They perform the basic tasks or rank a page according to its relevance to a category. They work in three ways.

Classify the content using natural language processing and the use of keywords.

Uses its algorithm to create a rating based on ranking factors.

Indexes the page under a certain keyword in the order of its ranking.

Based on search theory and how bots work, it should be clear why choosing the right keywords, anchor text, and link building strategy is so important for search engine optimization (SEO).

Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) are provided to search queries in the order of the page rank of the keyword most relevant to the query.

What this means for web design – the basics

At its core, web design is about organizing information so that users can quickly find the information they are looking for. The navigation should therefore be structured taking into account a clear process.

Think like your user when setting up navigation

Most important information first – homepage

When creating a homepage and navigation, we communicate our algorithm. By placing certain pages before or after a page, their meaning is intentionally or not communicated. For example, the home page is seen as more important than something that multiple clicks click.

Site map conveys importance

Most important information first

By submitting a sitemap, we give a search engine our internal view of the relevance of our content. Hence, we should make sure that our site structure reflects our keyword strategy, user flow, and bot expectations.

The competitive and / or short-tailed keywords should be visible early in our design, while our longer-term, lower-volume keywords should be further behind.

Why SEO and web design should be done at the same time

Now we’ve shown you how bots work and why our site architecture matters. It should be clear how SEO and web design fit together at the waist.

Because of their close ties, our strategies for keywords, website hierarchy, link building, and internal links need to be as seamless as possible. It is best to incorporate them into your site rather than trying to optimize them later.

Start with your branding strategy

This might seem obvious. But when you consider

“Half of small businesses spend less than two hours a week doing marketing.”


It is highly unlikely that multiple small businesses have spent enough time making sure their branding strategy is high quality.

Marketing strategy drives SEO

Without a solid branding strategy, everything that follows is a little weaker. Both your website design and your keyword strategy are extensions of your branding strategy.

How to build a branding strategy

There are numerous ways to develop a branding strategy, and here are a few great examples: the balance between small business and hubspot. If you’re interested, this is our approach to branding strategy.

Develop your keyword strategy

There are just too many ways to develop a keyword strategy for this post to do the justice. As a rule of thumb, however, you should find the keywords that are relevant to your target audience, have the highest volume and the lowest level of competition.

Example of a keyword strategy

The majority of small businesses shouldn’t target keywords with more than 1,000 searches per month

The biggest mistake you can make is finding keywords that are out of reach. Few small businesses have the domain authority (DA) required to compete on short-tailed keywords or phrases.

Instead, look for 100-1,000 searches per month

For most small businesses, the DA is either below 30 or between 30 and 50. If your DA is below 30, even phrases with 100-1,000 are a challenge. This is why it is so important that you do your keyword research beforehand.

Influence of the domain authority on the KW volume

Focus on building your DA

Instead of trying to find challenging keywords, it is better to focus on building high quality links. Remember how addiction theory works. The more high quality links you have, the more authority your website will be given and the better your online presence will be.

Focus on Domain Authority

Build your website and content with keyword strategy in mind

Importance of the page assignment

Most people don’t invest the time in mapping their keywords to a specific page. There are two main reasons why you should take the time to do this.

  1. A clear indication of the relevance you attach to the given keyword (e.g. homepage or blog).
  2. Helps in minimizing keyword cannibalization (when two of your own pages compete against each other).

High keyword cannibalization is a clear signal of bad web design

A beautiful site with a sloppy organization ranks lower than a less visually appealing site with a smart design. As the Hubspot data shows, people come to your website looking for information. It is important that it be easy for them to find.

Therefore, your design elements should focus on helping the user find pages on your website, rather than just creating visual impact.

Make sure your preferred user flow is clear and easy to follow

After all, website design should have a natural flow that leads the user to the information they need as quickly as possible. The user path should be easy to follow. It has been reported that 60% of users leave a website when they cannot easily find what they need.

Mobile friendly

A high quality user experience is important. If your visual design and build isn’t responsible for mobile devices, you are likely losing significant traffic to your website.

Mobile friendliness affects the ranking

Measure and monitor your user flow

People can be difficult to predict. Even with the best of planning, the process is sometimes not quite right. The flow of users in Google Analytics can really help. You can see users browsing the site.


If you find that users are acting differently than intended. It is important to take note of this and make changes. Web design is never an activity that you set and forget. Monthly monitoring and testing is recommended.

The site usability at the navigational level is typically much more difficult once the site is online than when it is tested before launch. If the user flow clearly indicates that a change is needed, then consider making that investment.


Overall goal

Now that you know how to search and web design works, it should rank better in writing a great post or page. A design based on the principles described here should:

  • Rank better
  • Increase dwell time
  • Reduce bounce rates
  • Increase the pages per session
  • Increase the number of returning visits

Our recommended way is first the brand strategy. Use this branding strategy to develop your keyword strategy. From there, build the website and content with these keywords in mind. Finally, make sure your preferred user flow is clear.

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Author: Brian Cairns

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