Top SEO Factors For Choosing A CMS

A quick Google search of “which CMS is best for SEO” reveals a wealth of results claiming content management systems (CMS) don’t impact SEO. Many bloggers—and even site managers—don’t factor in SEO when choosing a CMS because they believe all CMSs render content. To them, that means a search engine will be able to crawl the site.

While this statement is true, content isn’t the only factor that plays into search rankings. And with more than 1,000 CMS choices, some of those choices allow for better search optimization than others.

Here are five quick SEO factors to keep in mind if you’re building a new site or migrating to a new CMS.

Page titles, meta descriptions, and h1 tags

When Googlebot crawls a website, it’s not just looking at on-page content; HTML plays a large role in determining search rankings. Page titles, also known as title tags, signal to search engines the topic of a page. And since page titles are the first thing a user sees in a search engine results page (SERP), they also play a big role in click-through rates (CTR). This means that being able to create custom page titles is a top concern for SEO. Similarly, meta descriptions impact page relevancy and CTRs, and the h1 tag serves as the on-page relevancy indicator.

So, being able to create custom (read: optimized) page titles, meta descriptions, and h1 tags should be a major concern when choosing a CMS. Even if SEO isn’t your top priority, getting organic traffic impacts your bottom line and ability to reach online audiences. These three simple HTML elements can go a long way in boosting your site’s search visibility and organic traffic even if you don’t have an in-depth SEO strategy.

If you decide to choose a CMS which uses themes or templates, make sure to check that the theme you choose allows for custom title tags, meta descriptions, and h1s as well. WordPress, the most widely used CMS, uses themes.

Plugins, modules, and add-ons

WordPress calls site add-ons Plugins. Drupal calls them modules. Regardless of how a CMS refers to these enhancements, they can be essential to creating an SEO-friendly site. When vetting a CMS, make sure to check out what add-ons have been created for it. Top SEO add-ons include automated SEO-tagging, keyword management tools, XML sitemap creation, and page speed tools. SEO add-ons can help simplify optimizing a site for search and conversion.

Page Templates

While custom HTML elements like h1 tags should take top priority, examining templates can help determine if a CMS is SEO-friendly. For instance, if pages use the same template, determine if you can change one page without adjusting the entire template. Not every page will need to be identical, so while site templates are great for UX and consistency, some pages might need minor tweaks, such as site navigation and custom links. Choosing a CMS that allows you to adjust pages without screwing up the template site-wide will not only help your SEO, it will also save you a lot of headaches.

Dynamic URLs

Dynamic URLs can result in poorly structured and optimized URLs and Google has clearly stated how URLs should be structured to make a site easier to crawl. If a site pulls URLs dynamically from page titles or h1 tags, make sure the automated structure follows Google’s best practices. This is ideal for sites that will host thousands of pages. For smaller sites, a CMS with custom URLs will allow you to adjust URLs to the exact configuration you want.

Duplicate content and canonical issues

As content is a top relevancy indicator for search engines, Google places a huge emphasis on unique content. Ripping off a competitor’s content or, in a more likely instance, repeating content within a site is considered duplicate content. Sometimes URLs get adjusted or pages get moved around. Or you syndicate a blog post on an industry publisher.

These are all fine things—as long as you use a rel=canonical tag to indicate which post is the original piece of content. This tells search engines which page to give “credit” to. Not all CMSs allow HTML to include canonical tags. Look for a CMS that allows you to adjust this and other HTML elements.

For a more in-depth analysis of the SEO potential of a CMS, you can also look at the type of redirects used, breadcrumbs and lots of other SEO elements of a website. For a quick once-over of SEO capabilities focus on the above five elements. And don’t forget to examine other aspects of a CMS such as user capabilities (whether it is built for a developer or a marketer) and add-ons that support your website needs.

Image credits: DavidHayden.me, Internet Marketing Ninjas

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