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January 5, 2009

Content Management Systems & SEO Revisited

Two years ago, I wrote an article entitled “Content Management Systems Equal Business Suicide.” The basic premise was that at that time, CMS applications were inherently devoid of basic SEO functionality. Building a new site, or converting an existing site to the existing CMS versions of 2 years ago was rapid way of consigning those sites to the oblivion of Google’s supplementary index. Lacking inbuilt search engine friendly URL’s, outputting duplicate titles, descriptions and keywords, no ability to have customised Titles that differed from Headings – all those things were extraordinarily bad elements.

Since then, things have changed markedly. These days, there are still deficiencies in evidence, but for the CMS applications that have survived the intervening 2 years, and those that have evolved since, most have addressed the basic SEO issues.

My personal favourite CMS is WordPress. Especially since version 2.5 there’s been a wealth of feature expansion in the core application, the availability of plugins that expand on the core functionality, and the advent of professionally designed Themes that have taken WordPress to new heights. All of this has allowed WordPress to blossom into a fully-matured CMS with exceptional Search Engine Optimisation features.

Lets take a closer look at the SEO functionality. As Google et al are attempting to analyse and categorise a web site, there are an estimated 200 individual elements that are calculated in the SE relevancy ranking algorithms. Every one of these you can get right improves your chances of attaining your full ranking potential. Individually, each element offers incremental albeit small gains, but collectively, they can add up to the winning difference in the ranking stakes for competitive search terms.  Duplicate content is Google’s pet hate, and its vital to every  site’s standing that every single page be accurately described and categorised. Here are 10 of the most prominent among the many opportunities to achieve this individualisation of pages are;

SEF URLS:

Search engine friendly URL’s are important, because inclusion of keywords in page URL’s are taken into account, and have a bearing on rankings – particularly on Yahoo. Being able to exercise total control over page URL’s is important, and WordPress allows this with Permalink mod_rewrite functionality, coupled with manual URL control on every page or post!

Meta-Tags:

There are several WordPress plugin tools to provide total control of title, descriptions and keywords, and these are easily installed and configured.

Titles:

Being able to control the off-page Title separately from the on-page heading is very important. The title’s 70 character limitation needs to be exploited to maximum effect, its the single most important on-site page SEO element! Page Headings are usually space-constrained, and in systems where the Heading automatically become the Title, you are deprived of a significant advantage.

Description:

The off-page Description (meta-tag) is a vital element in accurately describing the page contents. If each page has accurate, custom-written Description content, its used verbatim in the search engine results pages (SERP’s). In contrast, if you are forced to use a generic Description, then Google will helpfully do its level best to generate an ‘ad lib’ Description of the page based on content. The result of that ca neither be not so bad, or truly awful. Regardless, its essential that YOU have control of the Description, and that you use it to maximum effect!

Keywords:

Erroneously dismissed by some people as of no account these days, the Keyword (meta-tag) still has a part to play. Stuff it full of vaguely relevant garbage unrelated to page content and it will be ignored. Use it wisely, with specific / relevant long-tailed keyword search phrases and it can give you a little bit of SE traction – even on Google!

Image File Names:

Accurately name your image files, and include keywords relevant to the page. WordPress allows you to upload media and retain the original files names even when auto-generating thumbnail images etc.

Image ALT Tags:

Accurately describe your images using the Image ALT tag, and include keywords/phrases relevant to the page. WordPress Add Media tools allow you to add ALT text and captions, enabling inclusion of additional relevant text content. Used wisely, without spamming, its another useful element.

Anchor Text:

The words you use to link to other pages / sections of the site. WordPress Link Editor allows full control of anchor Text links, including the ability to specify “Hyperlink Title” which essentially work like Image ALT text – the title of the link pops up when the mouse pointer hovers over the link… Again, used wisely, its another useful SEO element.

CSS Dropdown Menus:

Many of the new, highly professional WordPress CMS Themes utilise CSS dropdown menus, which is extremely important in aiding search engines to locate and index internal pages. This also facilitates Google’s ability to pass Page Rank throughout the internal page structure!

Google SiteMaps:

Another delightful WordPress plugin is the automatic Google Sitemap Generator! Once installed and configured, every new page, post or edit of a page or post automatically updates the sitemap.xml page!

RSS Feeds: WordPress RSS feeds are easily extended by installation of an onsite Feedburner email subscription service, where your posts and pages are automatically distributed to subscribers by email. Moreover, your Feedburner account and site feed gives your site a pipeline directly into the Google index! I regularly see WordPress posts that make it into Google Alerts distribution in less than 4 hours!

So, on that basis I’m happy to accord WordPress 10 out of 10 for SEO functionality. Couple that with more than 3000 available plugins to extend the core functionality, the thousands of available design templates or themes, the ease-of-use factor, robust software, ease of installation etc, and I think we’ve got a winning CMS formula.

About The Author: Ben Kemp has more than 20 years of experience in the IT industry, including 15 years as a free-lance IT consultant. He is one of Australasia’s longest serving website seo practitioners, with clients throughout NZ, Australia, Thailand, UK & USA. He specialises in implementing CMS websites

6 Responses to “Content Management Systems & SEO Revisited

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    avatar Mark Stacey says:

    I’m using Kentico CMS and it’s 10/10 too.

    Good points.
    I’ve been also watching the evolution of various CMS for past few years and the way Wordpres shas evolved is amazing.

    WordPress remains my favorite too and specially w.r.t. title and metatagas.

    Other CMSs like Drupal etc still lack a clear and well defined title and metatag fields.

    Joomla is a flexible CMS as well. With SEO component installed it works really well and scores 10 of 10 on my quiz site as well.

    avatar green-energy says:

    i thought wordpress was just a blog software.

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