Which Comes First, Keyword Research Or Website Design?

Picture this, you have recently launched a new website. It looks great with all its pictures and fancy graphics that move around as you scroll. Your audience is going to love it.

A few months down the line you realise that the website design you invested so much money in isn’t getting the traffic you hoped for and it doesn’t seem to rank for your keywords. What’s happening?

You decide to hire someone to work on the SEO to uncover what’s wrong.

Can you guess the first thing that SEO person is going to look at?

I can tell you they are going start by looking at the keywords that site should be ranking for.

This is because everything about being found online in organic search results is about keywords. Keywords are the most important asset a website has. Keywords are the bait we put out there to lure in prospective clients and customers.

Google might tell you to focus on great content but if you want that content to be found on their search engine you have got to optimise it. It has also got to be organised in a certain way or people are not going to find it.

Yet all too often those building a new website will focus only on the design and leave the details until later. They sweat over photographs. They spend hours deciding on the best colours. They spend even more time crafting that great content they think Google wants.

Design or SEO


Sorry to tell you Google isn’t going to reward good design in its organic search results . It only cares about what it can generate from advertising revenue. They’re not interested in videos and your brand story.

That said there is nothing wrong with crafting a nice website, image is important even if it isn’t as important as keywords. So is telling your brand story and all the other parts you need to engage your audience when they arrive.

Keywords are your bait  – If you have ever been fishing you will know how important bait is

I don’t go fishing very often. Probably twice in my life and I managed to catch one trout after spending 6 hours sat in the rain by a lake somewhere in North Wales.

I remember that day. I was 14 and getting up at 4.30 am was a struggle. So was carrying a bucket of worms or maggots I had to use as bait to catch that one fish.

You see trout likes bait and this is what lures them onto the hook. All you then need to do is reel in the fish.

It’s like that with keywords. If I can find the bait my customers like then I’m going to attract more of them. Fishing is going to be easy from then on.

Now had I gone on that same fishing trip with the best fishing rod in the world, an expensive reel and top of the range waders, is that going to make any difference to the trout?

No the trout are only interested in the bait so the bait is the most important thing as keywords are to a website.

Now there is a school of thought that says keywords are added naturally as you write the content for your website. To a certain extent this is true but only if you are razor sharp focused on what that page is actually about.

If my business has that one product or service I really want to push out to people above all others shouldn’t the most important page of your website i.e. the homepage have it featured prominently along with keywords associated with it?

The most common mistake you see on a website homepage is generalisation. Yet the homepage is the page most likely to rank on the first page of search results for primary keyword targets so why generalise?

So here too, keyword research is important. In the following example a family law firm may specialise in the following areas. From the data below I can see from the average monthly searches for each keyword which keywords are going to drive the most traffic.

Keyword Research


So in this case keyword research can be used to decide which are the best search terms to go for. If more traffic is the aim then keywords such as ‘divorce lawyers’ and ‘separation agreements’ are clearly better targets.

I can then use this keyword research to put together a site plan that has all the pages in the right places with a structure that will provide a strong base for any SEO work the website might need in the future.

So before you even start on a new website or even if you are considering a website migration, make sure you know what your most important keywords are and let that form the structure of your website.


Unfortunately, all too often keyword research is forgotten and sometimes left for months or even years until the reality dawns that the site is not performing as well as it should. SEO and keyword research should be a part of your project from the start.

Doing the keyword research from the beginning will not only give you a head start with SEO, it will also avoid having to restructure the site later on.