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Customize Your Existing Content Management System to be SEO-Friendly

If your Web site already has a content management system (CMS), you can customize it for better search engine optimization (SEO) results. To do this, there are two main principles you need to follow:

  • Set up rules that allow every page to exist with unique SEO elements.

  • Customize these individual page elements as needed to optimize them against your competition for the search engines.

Creating rules for each of your important SEO elements is a key part of making a CMS work for you. You should be able to define how the CMS puts together the Title tags, Meta description and keywords tags, heading tags, hyperlink anchor text, image Alt attributes, and everything else on your pages.

For instance, if you have an e-commerce store, you have many fields in your database that pertain to each product, such as the product name, product ID, and product description. You’ve also done some categorization work and probably have each product assigned to a product category, style, type, size, color, flavor . . . you get the idea.

Often, manufacturers require that all retailers use their predefined product descriptions. You might be struggling with this very same problem because obviously it's hard to rank well for product searches if your page just duplicates the same text shown on countless other sites. Here’s what you can do to make your product pages stand above the rest:

  • In addition to the mandatory product description, include more descriptive text on the product page itself. How-to instructions, useful historical information, even just a paragraph about a hands-on viewpoint are all options for adding keyword-rich content.

  • Make sure you fully optimize the other on-page factors and use these to help increase keyword effectiveness on the page.

  • Make sure the image Alt attribute is unique and contains keywords.

  • Customize the Title, Meta description, and Meta keywords tags on the page.

  • Enable users to write product reviews on your site. This adds content about the product in the users’ own words, which can potentially match more search queries.

Create rules that define how the Title tag, Meta description tag, and Meta keywords tag should be put together on each product page. These rules should produce tags that meet the best practice guidelines for SEO, including the proper length, capitalization, ordering, and so on.

Also create rules that apply heading tags H# appropriately throughout your page. Headings should be hierarchical, with a H1 at the top of the page and other heading tags (H2, H3, and so on) throughout the page. Search engines look at the heading tags to confirm that the keywords shown in the Title and Meta tags at the top are accurate, so make sure that they contain the page’s main keywords and are unique to that page.

You should specify rules for every output element possible. You want to take advantage of the CMS’s ability to automate your site, but control that efficiency. Make sure that your resulting site is search engine-friendly and user-friendly, full of pages that are each unique.

After you have rules set up for how the CMS should construct your pages, the second part is customization. You should be able to tweak individual pages. Here are a few scenarios to consider:

  • Single page tweaking. Your online shoe store might carry a shoe that’s a hot seller in brick and mortar stores, but for some reason you aren’t getting much traffic for it online. You might want to do some competitive research and keyword research, and then manually modify the keywords in the tags and body copy of that particular product page to see if you can improve sales through that page. (You could also consider creative marketing options to attract more business for that product, such as adding supporting pages with articles, video, images, reviews, links, and so on.)

  • Long-Tail keyword targeting. If your tags and headings contain specific product information, this helps you rank well for Long-Tail searches (search queries that contain multiple specific terms, rather than generic words). For instance, someone who searches for a particular shoe with a specific search like Rockport Navigation Point brown tends to be a serious shopper ready to make a purchase. It’s beneficial if your pages are optimized for long-tail searches, in that case, because the lower amount of traffic they generate is offset by the high potential for conversion. Make sure your CMS doesn’t build only generic tags and headings.

  • Generic word targeting. To balance out the previous scenario, you also may want to bring in more traffic to your site by optimizing for generic words and phrases. For instance, the pages on your shoe store site that have Rockports could also be optimized for the phrases Rockport shoes or mens shoes or leather shoes. In those cases, you want the ability to tweak certain things on the individual pages in order to rank for generic keywords as well, and capture more traffic to your site.

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