8 SEO Issues We Consider When Evaluating a CMS

Matt Crowley - June 4, 2015

Choosing a CMS is a careful balance between what you need in terms of functionality, what’s functional with your existing technology and platforms, what’s best for your users, and of course, SEO considerations. When evaluating content management systems for clients, there are more than 70 aspects we take into consideration. Some of those considerations have to do with SEO, but there are many that do not. It is important to consider your goals and what you are hoping to gain by choosing a new CMS:

  • Are you hoping to grow your organic traffic?
  • Do you need advanced functionality that will reside behind a log-in (and be hidden from search engines)?
  • Does the new CMS need to tie into existing technologies that your company is using, such as a CRM system?

In this post, we’re providing you with a rundown of a few of the SEO aspects we look at when choosing a content management system. Although these are not the only aspects to consider when choosing a CMS, they are extremely important.

#1: A Customizable URL Structure

Some CMSs will automatically create a URL based on the page’s location within the site or on-page elements such as the title tag or the H1. Sometimes, this is fine. But there are other times when you would want to have greater control over your URLs, including when your page title is particularly long, or when you have a product that is contained in multiple sections (such as a product that is in a main category and also within a “gifts” category).

Note: When customizing your URL, make sure you use URL best practices such as:

  • Removing conjunctions (and, or, but, so) and prepositions (before, after, within, between, etc.) as these words unnecessarily add length to URLs.
  • Using hyphens ( – ) instead of underscores ( _ ) as word separators.
  • Using lowercase letters instead of title case.

#2 A URL Structure that Uses Folders, Rather than Parameters

A CMS that groups “like” content into folders is more optimal, from an SEO perspective, than one that uses parameters. Folders give the search engines an indication of how your site is structured and how the content is related. Search engines love structure, and the more they can use structure to ascertain what your website is about, the better they’ll be able to understand your site and its content.

#3 Customizable Meta Tags

Some CMSs will automatically generate your website’s meta tags (including your title tag and description tag), but it’s important to make sure that you can customize your meta tags, so that they can be ideally targeted to your keyword, and conform to your website’s branding standards.

In addition, it’s important to be able to add custom meta tags – including canonical link elements – to your website’s header.

#4 The Ability to Make Changes to the Page without Changing the URL

This is a big one. You should be able to make changes to on-page elements such as the title tag, and H1, etc. without changing your URL. Any CMS that would automatically change your site’s URL when you change key elements on your page should be avoided, as this could invite disaster in terms of future website updates.

#5 The Ability to Use Alt Attributes for Images

Alt image tags help the search engines to understand what the imagery on your website is about. For that reason, it’s very important that your CMS allows you to add Alt attributes to your website.

#6 Duplicate Content Issues

Duplicate content can be like kryptonite to proper SEO. This is why it’s important to avoid duplicate content whenever possible. Unfortunately, a lot of CMSs create duplicate content by displaying the same content on multiple URLs. For this reason, it’s important that your CMS doesn’t allow for the same page to generate multiple URLs, or it should provide you with the ability to use canonical tags.

#7 The Use of Heavy or Extraneous Code

Extraneous code often makes a page heavier and slower to load. Your CMS should allow you to limit the amount of code that’s on each page so that you can minimize page load time (especially important for mobile users). For example, the Viewstate field is an often misunderstood piece of code that doesn’t need to be on every page. It can slow down the time it takes for users and search engines to load every page on your website. A good, SEO-friendly CMS should allow you to remove this code where it’s not necessary.

#8 The Ability to Add Textual Content, Where Necessary

Without content, it can be very difficult for search engines to properly understand the theme and goal of your web pages. An SEO-friendly CMS should allow you to add content to your website’s blog and product category pages.

These are just some of the primary SEO elements to consider when evaluating a CMS. Because every CMS has its quirks, it’s important to understand that the ideal CMS for one company won’t necessarily be ideal for you. For this reason, it’s important to consult an expert when choosing a CMS.

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