SEO strategies are vitally important to digital marketing, but they tend to get less discussion these days because it’s no longer considered practical to achieve optimization by “gaming the system.” With search algorithms being as sophisticated as they are today, it’s generally understood that the main thing they pick up on is great content. So that is the main thing that websites need to offer in order to have successful SEO strategies.

This is essentially the correct way of thinking about the topic, but it’s easy to take it too far. SEO strategies should be primarily concerned with the quality of a site’s content, but that shouldn’t be their only concern. No site owner or marketing professional should feel compelled to cut out other aspects an optimization strategy in order to focus exclusively on content. Successful marketing will start with great content and then build beyond it, filling out site structure and design with tricks of the trade which have a secondary or tertiary impact on SEO.

While there’s a great deal of overlap between structure and content, the two features are commonly understood as separate. Two sites can have exactly the same information, written in exactly the same way, with the same pictures to accompany it, but the user experience can be completely different based on how that content is organized on site.

Sites with more successful SEO strategies are liable to have more success in converting visits into sales, as well. This is because when a layout is more pleasant for the user while providing them with quick access to the information they wanted, it tends to direct potential customers more quickly and reliably toward the endpoint of their visit. This is the “purchase funnel” that is so familiar to marketing professionals and has been mentioned before on this blog.

But even though the funnel is technically a feature separate from raw content, it still isn’t among the design elements that have traditionally been specific to SEO strategies, and might have been used long ago to “game the system.” In order to prevent that sort of trickery, those have moved far down the hierarchy of elements that search algorithms look at when determining which sites rank highest for the same keywords. But this isn’t to say they have disappeared completely.

Core Web Vitals – the design elements that load before any of the substantive content on a website – still have a role to play, however small it might be. These things aren’t examples of great content in and of themselves, but they are the sorts of things that search engines tend to recognize as likely indicators of good design. By and large, a well-designed website is more likely to have great content, so until the algorithm comes up with additional data, Core Web Vitals can give certain SEO strategies a leg up on others.

Of course, that advantage is almost certain to be erased if the trailing site ends up having content that is more appealing to users, but the best SEO strategies leave nothing to chance. There’s always a possibility that one site’s content will be of precisely the same quality as another’s. And in that case, the higher ranking will go to the site whose design team delved into all the minutia of what normal visitors don’t see, but algorithms do.