Been saying this for years. Glad someone else is saying it as well.
This is the question I set out to answer during my recent Mozinar about designing for SEO.
To be a true king of the SERPs, you are, of course, going to need more than a well-designed, search-optimized website. You are probably going to need a ton of social mentions, quality links, citations and co-citations, etc. The problem with these ranking factors is that they are difficult to accomplish in volume and generally require a lot of work to achieve, and, subsequently, the vast majority of websites don’t have them.
You can, however still achieve big wins with great design and on-page optimization. [read]