More on Content Management

I talked a few weeks ago about how important it is to consider your network capacities when moving to a new CMS. For unrelated reasons, we've been in a lot of talks with clients this year about considerations for content management systems which has me thinking more about this. Don't get me wrong, the scope of what goes into selecting a CMS for an enterprise website goes far beyond just how SEO-friendly it is (or isn’t as the case often is). But we're fortunate enough with our clients that these decisions are being made with natural search in mind. Some professional CMS tools are very search friendly, and even marketed as such. Some are not – focusing their efforts on other user-experience/content-delivery assets.

Perhaps I’m overly optimistic, but I’m generally of the belief anything can be optimized, so long as you are willing to take the necessary steps to do so. Based on what I've been seeing recently (albeit less often recently), I made the following list of things that your CMS system can do that produce positive and negative effects for SEO and rated the scope to fix the issue (your mileage on that may vary, however, depending on the infrastructure, IT expertise, etc.).

- Dynamic or static URL structure – If the URLs passed by the CMS have session IDs, database queries, etc, they may be difficult to crawl. In these instances, URL rewriting will be necessary. How flexible the CMS is in allowing this can be a major issue as well as the technical expertise on hand. PROJECT: MODERATE/HEAVY LIFTING (depends on how many URLs we’re talking about)

- Rendering content via AJAX or on a single URL – This can be very problematic if your site's content can't be indexed based on URLs. In addition, this can have adverse effects on the user-experience if your site receives traffic from browsers that aren't capable of using this technology PROJECT: EASY FIX

- Pages are W3c compliant – This isn't as vital to crawl-ability as it once was, but there's no doubt fully compliant pages shouldn't pose problems for spiders to crawl. PROJECT: EASY TO HEAVY LIFTING (varies based on how ‘non-compliant’ the pages rendered are)

- RSS/Syndication capability – This tends to be more prevalent in blog-oriented systems, but the degree to which your users can access your information on their terms can directly improve your traffic. Plus syndication is important in improving keyword relevance and attracting links PROJECT: MODERATE (when not present)

- Video/multimedia integration – This sort of plays in line with what's above. But the degree to which your CMS can integrate video and tag them properly/optimally is important in gaining traction in video engines. It will also be interesting to watch how the current crop of CMS tools integrates with the YouTube API :-) PROJECT: EASY/MODERATE

- Uses temporary redirects on permanent pages – For some reason, there are still some tools out there that temporarily redirect pages by default. I'm not exactly sure why that is (and I'm sure there's an entirely valid reason), but anything that is temporarily redirected won't pass page rank and link popularity. This can be a major problem in winning on highly competitive queries. PROJECT: EASY

- Is not installed on the root – This is a pretty easy fix (in most cases I can think of) and not as common with higher end CMS tools, but there are still systems that create their own directory and then base the structure of the site within there. It's just one more level from the root that doesn't necessarily have to be there. Certainly not the ideal scenario for a new launch. PROJECT: EASY/MODERATE (depends on the server type/structure)

- Does not allow for unique title writing – I'll be honest I'm not personally aware of any systems that still do this straight out of the box, but I've certainly seen sites that appear to have generic title tags over-written (or written by default) by the CMS. This can wreak havoc on optimization efforts. PROJECT: MODERATE/HEAVY LIFTING

This is by no means a comprehensive list, but these seem to be things that crop up. Like all software, there are pros and cons to each system, and with a CMS it’s a great idea to weigh how search engine friendly they will present content.

Posted by: Dave McAnally, Product Specialist, Natural Search


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