Key Features of a Search Optimized Website Management System

You’ll find there is loads of stuff to think about while you’re deliberating the choices for what Content Management System to work with for your new site or redevelopment. Off the shelf or custom designed? Free or paid for? Perl or Coldfusion? Linux or Windows server? Large web sites will often have lots of things to think about when preparing for a new Content Management System. When it comes to small business sites you might have different requirements but you’ll still want to be sure you’re coming to the correct choice.

At the scoping phase you will need to be certain you’re factoring in the search engine optimisation considerations for the new site. Leaving the SEO expert out of the negotitaion at this part of the process can end up having financial effects at a later date.

Below we explain a few of the most often missed SEO factors to look at while short-listing your content management system.

Clean code

Modern CMS’ are getting better at outputting clean and compliant code with design driven by CSS. However if you’re opting for an older content management system its worth asking a developer to review the code which is output from the CMS’ or running it through a validation tool. Although totally semantic markup is not required for effective SEO, sites with clean code are generally easier for search engines to read and load faster, both of which will help your pages rank.

Search engine friendly URL’s

Because most content management systems create dynamic pages on the fly some use ugly url strings like http://www.mysite.com/?p=123456 – although Google can read and index this type of URL, dynamic URL’s often cause other issues for search engines for example creating duplicate versions of the same page accessible by different URL query strings. It may also benefit your SEO to have keyword rich URL’s like http://www.mysite.com/keyword-1-keyword-2/.

Blogging features

Having a blog or another type of content area on your site where you can upload regular entries, without having to build new pages into your main navigation each time, can be really useful for your sites SEO. On one hand it allows you to create more fresh content quickly and easily which may drive more long tail search traffic to your site. Posting useful content on your blog is also a great way to attract links to the site. That isn’t going to happen by magic, but its useful to have the option of a blog built into whatever CMS you choose.

Non Flash

Search engines have historically found it difficult to spider web content which isn’t formatted in standard hyper text markup. The biggest stumbling block with this is adobe flash based content management system which are fairly uncommon but still need to be watched out for when assessing your platform. Also of note is to ensure that your website won’t be overly reliant on documents such as PDF’s and Microsoft Word files to display key content on your website – search engines should be able to index this type of files, but are less likely to rank them in results because they are usually badly linked to and don’t provide a good user experience for searchers.

Simple crawlable navigation

Be sure your CMS doesn’t use any navigation or menu systems which could confuse search engine spiders. Use of flash for animated menus or an over reliance on javascript are common symptoms here but also look out for navigation which relies on user input (like search forms) or anything to do with calendars. Of course its fine to have this functionality, but just make sure there’s also a navigation path which Google can follow to your content.

Mobile friendly

Websites aren’t just about PC’s anymore. Making sure your site works on all devices, including mobile phones and tablets will mean that mobile searchers who find your site will have a better user experience and will be more likely to buy from you. Serving a fully fledged mobile site could also help you rank in mobile search.

Image optimisation

It goes without saying that you’ll want to be able to upload and control the images which you use on your website. You’ll also want to be able to optimise those images so that they appear in Google image search. Flashy image galleries and slideshows are all well and good but many can’t be read by search engines. Look for a CMS which uses a javascript based gallery (if any) and make sure you can add titles and alt text to each image you upload to the system.

Content managed titles and meta descriptions

To be able to SEO your site you need to be able to specify the HTML page title on a page. You also need to be able too add a custom meta description to each important SEO page on your site. If the website is large you won’t want to write a unique page title for every single page so the content management system should provide default titles and meta descriptions if there is none manually entered.

Own Domain or subdomain

Most web businesses will prefer to have their own domain name rather than hosting the site on a subdomain of the CMS provider. Sites on subdomains or on real domains can both rank in Google, but its important to have the option to move away from the subdomain later if you want it. Also if you want to migrate to a new CMS later you’ll want to take your domain with you, rather than being confined to a subdomain on someone else’s website.

WYSIWYG editor

You’ll want to make sure your website’s CMS has a WYSIWYG editor which is capable of adding in custom formatting like heading tags, anchor text links, bold and italic text. Most systems these days will have this sort of thing as standard but its always worth checking. You want to have as much control over your pages as possible when editing them in the CMS.


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