Choose an SEO-Friendly Content Management System - dummies

Choose an SEO-Friendly Content Management System

If you need a content management system (CMS) for your Web site, you need to choose one that is SEO friendly. The main thing you want to find is a customizable system so you can change anything and everything on a per-page basis and not have your hands tied.

Search engine optimization (SEO) requires a lot of tweaking as you monitor each page’s performance, your competitors’ pages, the user experience on your site, and so forth. You must be able to modify a Title tag here, a Meta keywords tag there.

Here are some things to look for when you’re shopping for a CMS:

  • Customizable look and feel. This isn’t SEO really, but it’s important nevertheless — you want to be able to choose a “look” for your site that fits your subject matter and appeals to your audience. If the design turns off your target visitors, or it looks like a bunch of other sites, you’re sabotaged from the start. Be sure that you can modify the HTML templates (page layouts) and CSS styles (formatting of fonts and so on, using Cascading Style Sheets) so that you can ensure an appropriate look and feel that’s consistent throughout your site.

  • Ability to externalize CSS and JavaScript (JS). Look for the ability to set up external JS and CSS files. You need to externalize it to keep your code nice and tidy and keep your pages running fast. Plus, if your CSS is externalized, you have to make changes to only one file instead of hand-editing every single page each and every time you want to tweak the look of your site.

  • Customizable directory structure. You want to be able to control how your files and directories are organized. Ideally, when you categorize your Web site into subject themes (which is called siloing your Web site), this is reflected in the physical file structure as well as in your internal linking scheme. Deciding how to categorize your Web site is an SEO activity, based on how people search and what brings in the most traffic. You don’t want your CMS dictating, for example, that your files should be organized by brand and then by product type, if your SEO research tells you that you’ll get more search traffic organizing by product type and then by brand.

  • Customizable page elements. Your CMS must allow you to customize the Title tag, Meta description tag, Meta keywords tag, heading tags H#, link anchor text, image Alt attributes, and every other element on your pages. You need this flexibility for every page, whenever needed, as you see fit.

  • Customizable HTML output. You need to be able to control the HTML output of pages on your site. How the HTML is structured matters because that’s where the search engine spiders crawl. You want to control, for example, the order of tags in the head section (Title at the top, followed by description, keywords, and then any other Meta tags you need). You may also need to do content stacking, which moves large blocks of HTML coding down to the bottom of the page so that the spiders can get to your rich text content as soon as possible. You want to ensure the other SEO-friendly guidelines are followed, such as using an external .CSS file to control formatting, and an external .JS file to house JavaScript if that’s used on your site.

  • Ability to include analytics tracking codes. You need to know what is happening to your site, where your visitors are from and where they’re going to, and what their behavior is, and follow each visitor through a conversion.

  • Customizable rules. Your CMS should let you specify rules that can be applied across lots of pages at once, especially if you have a site with thousands of products. You don’t want any factory presets spitting out the same Title tag on every page, for example. Instead, you should be able to write a rule for how each product page’s Title tag should be created to ensure each tag is unique and SEO-friendly (for example, “Item Category Brand” or “Category Item”) and the ability to change any element by hand if necessary.