A high quality, SEO friendly Content Management System (CMS) can significantly benefit your company by saving precious time and resources, increasing production, and reducing down time. More importantly, SEO CMS web development can bring your site valuable exposure from search engines if it is built according to their standards.
So how can you ensure the CMS solution you choose will turn into a healthy investment for your company?
To start with, no system out there knows your site better than you do, so one of the first few steps you should do is map out a clear hierarchy of your current web site, including any and all categories, sub-categories, product listing pages, product or information detail pages, etc. This will help you visualize what your end results will look like and whether or not it’s something you can easily achieve through a new content management system.
Next, generate a list of everything you currently struggle with or would like to see changed or enhanced, and make sure the company you’re working with can customize something that addresses all of your concerns and is search engine and programmer friendly which the rest of the article addresses on a greater level.
An SEO friendly Content Management System should include all of the following functionalities:
- The ability to generate static URLs that are search engine friendly by utilizing main keywords from the actual page within the URL. This reduces the number of directories and eliminates long dynamic URLs which to a certain extent are spider-able but not a great SEO practice.
- The ability to add unique page titles on all pages throughout the entire web site
- The ability to add unique Meta information such as Meta Keywords, Meta Description, etc.
- The ability to hard code HTML into the content section
- The ability to manipulate HTML tags within the content
- Full access to the site’s main navigation and the ability to manipulate and apply code changes to it when necessary
- Automated XML site maps
- 301 redirection: say you decide to rename a URL on your site, allowing you to customize your CMS to automatically update any links targeting the old URL throughout the entire web site helps save you great amount of time and effort. It should also generate a 301 redirect rule which is useful for end users who have the page bookmarked and helps search engines find the replacement page quickly and easily and ultimately preserve existing rankings or established page authority.
- The ability to generate breadcrumbs throughout the entire web site, maintaining consistency and different possible paths going to different internal pages without confusing the end user.
- Compliant with W3C standards that might affect or influence the site from being validated by including certain HTML tags and reducing back end code weight on pages such as unnecessary white space, in-line Java Script, in-line CSS (Cascading Style Sheet) and more. Not having these factored in might not negatively influence rankings, but they will definitely help with your site’s overall accessibility, and ultimately, if done right, will reduce the size of the document (ideally it should be less than 100kb), improve the end user experience by reducing loading times on the site, and improve search engine experience by allowing search engine spiders to crawl pages faster and easier.
- Avoids using non-search engine friendly features such as flash or frames within navigation or content sections, or anything that would be of use to search engines
- The system should provide SEO statistics for every page in form of pop-ups next to the page link or any other form that could help replace multiple tools but also save you money and effort among many other reasons. Common used statistics include:
- Page Rank
- List of keywords on page
- Keyword density next to each term
- Total number of sub pages that fall under that page
- Whether 301 or 302 occurs on the page
- Total number of characters within the body section
- Keyword rankings on major search engines if any
- Number of pages indexed by search engines for that specific directory and its sub pages
The ability to customize the template comes in handy most of the time, but many companies might need programmers doing the customization for them, which by itself contradicts the whole idea of moving to a CMS solution. However, if you choose this option, look into these factors in regards to the content management system’s usage of templates:
- CMS should make use of different templates that can be associated with different level directories
- Templates should be fully customizable
- CMS should provide the end user/Programmer with the ability to choose the required template for newly created pages depending on where these pages fall. This way every directory is unique enough, has its own look and feel, and its own pre-defined templates
- The ability to turn the appearance of a specific page on and off as well as the ability to remove it from listings
- The ability to associate pages with different parent directories (one or many) or even change from one parent directory to another.
Finally, these features are not directly associated with the search engines, but are still critical to finding a good content management system:
Good tech support: I have had the opportunity to work with many different CMS solutions, and one common issue for many clients is a lack of technical support and available resources. A lot of people still rely on open source content management solutions developed in PHP simply because of the size of the PHP community and the amount of documents available to the end user, so search for a CMS with good technical support and a decent size community.
Ability to create multiple user accounts with different access permissions: If more than one person is to drive your system then this feature can really come in handy. Depending on your needs, you can even have reports sent to the admin detailing all the changes applied by different users along with the time spent while making the changes.
Alternative attributes for images: Some systems don’t necessarily utilize alternative attributes for images. This is something important for you to look into before choosing a system since there are many benefits to having “alt” associated with your images whether you look at from an SEO perspective or simply a site accessibility side benefit of it
CMS and hosting: Another very important thing to be aware of is that some content management systems are hosted directly on the developer’s server, which means you are not just getting a content management system but rather a package that includes hosting. While this may seem like nothing more than a question of financial and whether or not it’s the right package for your immediate needs, but what if you decide to switch systems one day? what if you wanted to change hosting companies? There is a good chance that you would lose your entire web site if you were to decide change either one of the above mentioned items, so investigate into the company’s process towards transitioning your web site and whether or not it’s even possible.
Site back up: Last but not least is the ability to maintain site back up which definitely works to your favor if things ever get out of control. You never want to lose your site files or deal with down times, so if I were you, this would definitely be an integral factor in choosing a CMS.
If you read this article, you are now qualified to negotiate a content management solution for you or your company. Moreover, you should now be able to invest in something that will not only save your company time, resources and ultimately expenses but also help bring enough exposure to your web site from all major search engines, and only then; I would consider it a healthy SEO investment which I hope this document can help you achieve.