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May 29 2009

Content Management Systems and SEO Part 2

by Jordan Sandford

This is part two of a two-part topic.

In my last post, I introduced content management systems and listed a few of their benefits to a web site creator, including search engine optimization benefits. To review, a CMS organizes and stores the content portion of a website, separating the content from common visual page elements and from the inner-workings of the system used to organize and display your content. It can standardize a content creation workflow that simplifies can allow multiple authors and multiple site administrators. Standardizing your processes, as well as having organized content saves you time. Whether it is starting a website from scratch, or updating many pages at once, using a pre-built CMS can help you move towards your goal faster.

SEO benefits of quality content management systems include being able to easily and quickly create keyword-rich, SEO-friendly URLs and remembering to create accessible and valid HTML code when you forget. It can also help maintain and properly display your articles’ meta information and titles. The ease and speed in which a CMS will allow you to update meta information, titles, URLs and content can be a huge time saver, but can get you into trouble quickly if you’re not careful: the automatic and global nature of a CMS will multiply effects of any un-optimized aspects of your website.

For example, if you don’t realize that your CMS is not using search engine friendly URLs, (out of the box, many of them do not) every page in your website can suffer. An inflexible CMS may reduce the effectiveness your site if it does not support SEO-friendly html code such as alt (alternate text) attributes or allow you to control what text goes into the H tags. In addition, possible ‘code bloat’ may occur from including useless features which causes the user to wait for unneeded features to download. By its very presence, this extra code will reduce the effectiveness of your valuable content on your web pages, especially since it’s likely that your content will be pushed further down in the HTML code. A CMS can readily propagate all these problems to every page of your site instead of potentially only a few if you did not use a CMS.

You should be aware that without a solid transition plan, changing URL patterns (or structure) after your web site has been indexed can be extremely detrimental to your SEO efforts.

Before using a CMS, I recommend that you spend plenty of time evaluating different systems while considering your requirements. Also weigh heavily the skill level of the people who will be using the content management system day in and day out.

There are three final suggestions I’d like to leave with you:

  1. Be prepared to spend time tuning your CMS for the best SEO results possible.
  2. Remember that the more flexibility you require, the steeper the learning curve.
  3. It’s likely that someone has already developed a solution for the problem or CMS customization you’re working on.
May 28 2009

Content Management Systems and SEO Part 1

by Jordan Sandford

This is part one of a two-part topic.

The first commandment of a successful website is that you must have content. So, you’ve realized that maintaining that content is taking a lot of your time. You don’t want to keep track of URLs and meta data for all your pages. You need a content management system, or CMS.

In addition to helping you with the above tasks, a CMS can provide an efficient way to syndicate the content you create to other websites. Similar to a blog, it can also keep track of who created the content when.

Essentially, a CMS allows you and your staff to create and update content quickly and without the use of a stand-alone program like Microsoft FrontPage or Adobe Dreamweaver (and the maintenance and expensive licenses of such desktop software). The content you create can be web pages, sections of web pages such as a common footer, stories, blog entries, news items and pretty much anything your e-publishing workflow demands. A CMS can keep track of those content types (or custom content types) and whether a specific piece of content is viewable (or “published”) to your visitors or just in the draft stage, as well as putting content behind secure sections of your site. The CMS will automatically integrate the common sections of your web pages with your content so you only need to create clean and search engine-optimized code for your common sections once.

Using a CMS has benefits for your search engine rankings as well. Each content type or content category can be assigned its own section of your site even though it’s managed in a central location. This allows the CMS to create keyword-rich, search engine friendly URLs easily. Your meta data and title tags can be managed in a central location also, making changes simpler and faster.

While using a Content Management System can make your life easier, there are a few significant gotchas to be aware of including how they could become SEO unfriendly. Stay tuned next time when I review those pitfalls and offer helpful suggestions. While I can’t promise you’ll get a raise when you implement a CMS at your office, I’m sure you’ll wonder how you got along without a CMS.

August 6 2008

Emphasis in Design

by Shawn Escott

Imagine for a minute that you’re watching your favorite band in concert and everyone is playing their instrument as loud as possible and in a random manner. The result would be a noise that is almost intolerable. The same goes for design and usability.

A well structured and organized website with good eye flow is essential to getting your message across to the user as quickly as possible. You must have a hierarchy of importance with content, photography and graphics. This relevancy is also a key ingredient to Search Engine Optimization.

Over this 3 part series we will focus on Emphasis in Design using content, photography and graphic elements.

Let’s get started by covering a few text formats to be aware of when designing your web page.

(Known as an “H1” in html. H1’s are highly important in SEO)
Ask yourself this question: What is my main message? What do I want someone to read if they are only on my site for a few seconds? This is where you place all of your emphasis. Emphasizing a headline doesn’t necessarily mean making it big, bold and bright yellow. That would be the equivalent of someone shouting in your ear. It’s not very pleasing and can be quite an eyesore. A better way to grab someone’s attention is to use a more elegant font with a lot of white space. Ever heard of the saying, “Less is more”?

(Known as an “H2” in html. Also very important in SEO. It is possible to have H2, H3, H4, H5, H6. Keep in mind that the relevance is reduced by the higher number.)
The subhead is the supporting message to the headline. It gives a little more information in regard to the main message and entices the reader to continue on.

Body copy
This is where you provide complete information about what you want to communicate. It is subordinate to the headline and subhead and should reflect that.
This is a simple concept but often abandoned. I’ve seen companies, even Fortune 500 companies, miss the mark on this. Design is a “give and take” and sometimes you have to give a little to make your content interesting enough to look at.

Lets take a look at some examples:

Here is a prime example of how NOT to layout information. Everything has the same emphasis and wants all the attention.

This is a Headline
This is a Subhead
This is Body Copy

This Example is a little better but still confusing as to what gets the attention.

This is a Subhead
This is Body Copy

In this last example, we can clearly see what content is relevant and important.

This is a Headline
This is a Subhead

This is body copy. This is body copy. This is body copy. This is body copy. This is body copy. This is body copy. This is body copy. This is body copy. This is body copy. This is body copy. This is body copy. This is body copy. This is body copy. This is body copy. This is body copy.
This format is exactly how search engines read your content. Now you can see how important it is to have correct emphasis on a web page. Not only will your users thank you, but the search engines will love you!

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