7 Principles of SEO by Design: Optimizing Your Website for Success

“The best content isn’t just optimized for search – it starts with search”

SEO by Design is a proactive and preventive approach to search engine optimization that seeks to embed SEO principles into the design and architecture of websites and online business practices. Just like Privacy by Design (from which it is freely inspired), it is aimed at preventing issues from arising, rather than reacting to them after the fact. Here are the seven principles of SEO by Design that will help you optimize your website for search engines and user experience.

1. Anticipate and Prevent Rather Than Remediate

The SEO by Design approach is proactive and preventive, focusing on anticipating and avoiding potential SEO issues before they arise, rather than reactive and remedial, waiting to fight SEO fires after they have occurred. By optimizing a website for search engines from the outset, SEO by Design aims to prevent SEO problems and ensure that the site is search engine-friendly, rather than trying to put out SEO fires that may have a negative impact on the site’s performance.

2. Making SEO the Default Setting

SEO by Design aims to make search engine optimization (SEO) the default setting for any website or online business practice. By prioritizing SEO in the website’s design and development, the site is automatically optimized for search engines, ensuring that it has the best chance of being found and ranked highly in search results. Just like privacy is the default setting in Privacy by Design, SEO by Design ensures that SEO is always a top priority, without requiring any additional effort and investments from the website owner at a future stage.

3. Embedding SEO into Design

SEO by Design is an integral part of website design and development, informing and guiding the process from the outset. A well-developed SEO blueprint is created as the basis for page redesign, outlining the essential elements needed for high search engine rankings. This blueprint serves as a basis for discussion among marketing and tech teams, working together until the website is live. By embedding SEO into the website’s design, it becomes an essential component of its core functionality, without detracting from its overall performance, similar to how Privacy by Design is integrated into IT systems and business practices.

As an example, below is the process I’m following:

SEO by Design: 7 principles to optimise for functionality and user intent

4. Optimizing for Both Functionality and SEO

SEO by Design seeks to optimize both website functionality and search engine optimization in a positive-sum, win-win manner. Unlike an outdated, zero-sum approach that requires trade-offs, SEO by Design accommodates all legitimate interests and objectives, avoiding the pretense of false dichotomies. For example, SEO by Design shows that it is possible to optimize a website for functionality, user-friendliness and search engines, rather than forcing a trade-off between the three.

5.End-to-End Optimization — Full Lifecycle SEO

SEO by Design is optimized for search engines throughout the entire lifecycle of the website, from start to finish. This means that SEO is integrated into the website design and development process, and remains a top priority throughout the website’s existence. Just as strong security measures are essential to privacy, SEO by Design ensures that search engine optimization is integrated throughout the website’s lifecycle, from the cradle to the grave. This helps ensure that the website is consistently optimized for search engines and can achieve long-term success in search engine rankings.

6. SEO with Trust and Transparency

SEO by Design focuses on building trust and transparency with website stakeholders by ensuring that all SEO practices are visible and understandable. Just as Privacy by Design emphasizes independent verification and transparency in its practices, SEO by Design seeks to assure users and providers that the website is operating according to stated objectives and promises. All aspects of the website’s SEO are made visible and transparent to users and providers, helping to build trust and enable independent verification.

7. User-Centric SEO: Prioritizing User Intent and Experience

At the heart of SEO by Design is a focus on user intent. The approach aims to prioritize the interests and needs of website users, offering options that are aligned with their goals and preferences. This includes designing for strong SEO defaults, providing clear and appropriate notices, and creating user-friendly experiences that enable visitors to achieve their desired outcomes. By keeping user intent at the forefront, SEO by Design seeks to ensure that the website serves its audience effectively while also meeting its SEO objectives.

Applied example: during a website redesign

During a website redesign, it could be applying this principle by showing proactivity and transparency:

SEO by Design during a website redesign
SEO by Design in action during a website redesign project

In this example, for which the website redesign received the Friends of Search Award 2023, we used proactivity by developing internal resources to educate the development team about key elements of SEO, and conducting a content audit. The content audit particularly had a good effect on our relationship with the web team, as it helped position the SEO team in the best of light: “we could see that by removing 20% of pages, we won’t have an impact on our traffic; besides you don’t need to migrate them”.


In conclusion, SEO by Design takes a proactive approach to optimizing websites for search engines, ensuring that SEO is embedded into the design and development process from start to finish. By prioritizing SEO as the default setting and optimizing for both functionality and user intent, SEO by Design enables websites to achieve long-term success in search engine rankings while also prioritizing the needs and goals of users.