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Is your CMS helping with search engine optimization?

Is your CMS helping with search engine optimization?

  • If you’re using (or looking for) a content management system, what features should it provide to help with search engine optimization?
    senior editor, TechSoup
  • I am in the camp that content, and what you have as content is 90% of the SEO you will ever need. I have seen some pretty bad sites float to the top of important searches because the content is good.

    Also, I think your social strategy is more important than your pure SEO strategy (that is make friends, comment, word of mouth it, etc). But that is a different post.

    For a CMS you obviously need a place to put meta keywords/description as an editable field.

    You also should have some control over what an H1, H2,H3 are in the WYSIWYG editor so you can control that the search engines see the right things.

    By nature, CMS prevents a lot of the bad SEO mistakes, text/mission statements in flash or images, SE confusing layout, etc.

    Other features you need are an RSS feed on anything bloggy and if possible a keyword thesaurus would be nice so you can be competitive.
    nonprofithelpers.com - free nonprofit website
  • Content is important, optimized content is more important, but this is only part of SEO.

    To clear up any possible confusion, SEO is the process of editing a site so that it has what search engines need to index the site, and to index the site in the best possible way, so that when someone searches for something related to your site they have the best possible chance of finding your listing among all the others.

    The way this is done generally is by:

    1) Keyword research - You can guess at what people will use to search with, but if your site can exactly or closely match the keywords and keyword phrases that are used, you are more likely to be found.

    2) Tag Optimization - Using the results of the keyword research, you optimize the title tag, meta description tag, and meta keywords tag for each page of your site. You use keywords as much as possible, but also use good English to clearly describe what each page is about. Just using a bunch of keywords is not effective.

    3) Content Optimization - The same keyword research list should be used by the copywriter to optimize the site. While not done to excess, single words will be expanded into descriptive keywords, such as "our site" might be changed to "our tech support site", if that is appropriate.

    4) Architecture - The structure of the site should be examined to make sure that all the page can be indexed. Often a site map is used to make sure pages that are several clicks away from the home page can be found more easily and indexed. Links to pages that use JavaScript may not followed by search engine spiders, so text links may need to be added.

    This brings us to optimization of sites that use a CMS. In the past SEO was not a consideration and it was common to find all of the pages of a site would have the same title and meta tags. While this may not stop pages from being indexed or found, it generally renders the site much less effective. If you don't care enough about your site to make a title for each page, why should a search engine care?

    A CMS should have 1) some way to create unique title, description, and keywords tags for each page. Most should provide this as part of the system although you may have to look for where this information can be entered. I consider this the single most important aspect of optimizing a site, with the page content a close second.

    The next thing that relates to CMS SEO is 2) the way the page URLS are presented. Since most CMSs use a database, the URLs tend to look like "domain.com/?page=12&topic=87?g=about". The use of this structure is a clear indication that the site is dynamic, or contained in a database and may contain unlimited pages. If the URL can be presented more like this ""domain.com/page-12/topic-87/about" then it appears to be a "static" site which can help in the indexing process.
  • I would have to agree with both Mosey and Christian. I work for a firm that has developed a CMS from the ground up and we've been at it 7 years now.

    I would place meta data for each page and content optimization (H tags and usage of keywords) at the top of the list (for the purpose of this discussion).

    Most CMS's offer keywords, description and title options for each page now. However, there are still a good many out there which do not.

    Next in line though would be the ability to keep your content fresh and maintaining your relationships with people who link back to you.

    If you are using a CMS of decent caliber, you have a simple-to-use administration panel which allows you to quickly and efficiently update content, navigation, meta data and more. If your CMS does not allow you to update your content from where ever or when ever you want...find another provider.

    Your CMS will also provide detailed stats about who is looking at what and how often. You can then adjust the content and see what the results of the change are...both in hits to the site and your page rank.

    You should also be able to view stats and data related who your referrers are. Check out who is linking to you (and driving traffic to you) and establish a lasting relationship with that person or company. You can both benefit from this.

    Another tool which is very helpful is the ability to interface with Google Analytics and Google Site Verification. You can then use Google's free tools to see where your site needs help and where it performing perfectly.

    The beauty of a good CMS is the ability to quickly update content and therefore quickly respond to a rise or fall in the search engine results.
  • All of the above is spot on. I would just add to a point Christian made about the CMS URL's.

    JOOMLA provides custom Meta tags (Title, Description and keywords) for each page. It's easy to add the H1 and H2 tages etc. using a simple drop down in the text editor.

    In addition, the JOOMLA community of developers have produced several extremely versatile and effective components that generate SEF (Search Engine Friendly) URLS.

    As mentioned, the pages are built from a database and out of the box look like this:

    /index.php?option=com_content&task=blogsection&id=7&Itemid=29

    That's not a very handy nor Search Engine Friendly URL. Using the SEF Components for JOOMLA, you can actually name each page like so:

    www.yoursite.com/aboutus/board_minutes.htm

    Very handy, search engine friendly and simple to implement.

    Marc Trimble Director west7th.net [b] West7thDomains.net Hosting for NP's and NGO's worldwide.

  • Really great information. Especially regarding meta tags and URL's. I see this topic coming up more and more with nonprofits that I work with so I am glad that this information is getting out there.
  • When using Drupal, you can create extremely SEO friendly sites.

    The first step is to ensure that you enable clean URLS. This removes the ?q= from the URL and makes it more easily readable. Still, your site will still create URLs that look something like http://mysite.com/node/123 which, while better, is not ideal.

    The second step is to set up Pathauto on your site. This requires using Token and the Path modules as well. This creates URLs that follow a distinct pattern that you identify--for example, it could turn the title of this particular thread into http://mysite.com/web-building.

    Finally, use of XML-Sitemap will create a search engine friendly sitemap.

    http://www.dogstar.org 
    NonProfit Technology Consulting

  • A good tactic is using landing pages that are easily optimized for search engines. I use a product called x.Port CMS that allows you to create landing pages for just that purpose. You can see more functionality information at www.xportcms.com

    As well you can easily insert meta data such as page title, page description and keywords. The CMS will also create a static version of your page behind the scenes so that crawlers can easily find your page and don’t get stuck trying to look in a db for you r content. It also allows you to add alt tags to your images which help search engines as well. You can read more about alt tags and why you should use them if you go to http://www.searchengines.com/alttags.html

    But I digress, the main reason I like landing pages is for marketing special events or highlighting special services that should have specific pages dedicated to them. This is especially helpful if you have pages that are dedicated to making the ask for donations or other fundraising activities. For example, you can easily optimize a landing page such as www.yournonprofit.org/golftournament to be easily indexed by search engines. Visitors can go to that specific page without having to search for it via your home page. Pretty nifty.
  • Today, all of the major Open Source CMS's work great for SEO.

    Joomla and Drupal sites will rank fine for any keyword assuming your on-page and off-page SEO is done correctly and aggressively.

    Competing for rank these days comes down to on-page optimization and back links regardless of what platform you use.

    Marc Trimble Director west7th.net [b] West7thDomains.net Hosting for NP's and NGO's worldwide.

  • How do you do the SEO? Are the free plug-ins/add-ons generally good enough? Do you even need to deal with the plug-ins now? (i.e., Are the major CMSs good enough out of the box?)

    It sounds like Marc is saying that the content and links are most important, so any platform with basic SEO functions should be fine.

    David Janke