SEO and CMS:How will a CMS impact my SEO efforts?

Search engine optimization is largely about good content, right?  So implementing a Web Content Management System (CMS) will be a big help to your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) efforts because it will help you create fresh, interesting content, right?  Not necessarily. 

CMS problems with SEO

Implementing a CMS can be a boon to SEO efforts, but it can be a disaster because many CMS systems were not designed with search engine marketing in mind. Some specific problems that content generated by this kind of CMS has in being indexed by search engines include:

Dynamic URLs. Search engines are programmed to limit the number of dynamic pages they index, and the primary way they determine pages are dynamic is through page URLs with special characters (%&=). A URL like http://sampleWebsite.com/page.asp?id=123&session=234234wrwresf&param=xsfdsd throws up red flags for search engine spiders.  A URL like http://sampleWebsite.com/products.aspx does much better.

Bad meta tags. Meta tags are the HTML code components that search engines use to evaluate what a page is about.  Many CMS systems do not allow users to assign unique, relevant TITLE and DESCRIPTION meta tags to content.  These are important tools to help search engines understand your pages.

Keyword poor URLs.
Even systems that do not use dynamic URLs often do not let you create URLs that include keywords. Keyword-rich URLs are an important step in optimizing your pages to rank well in search engines. 

Search engine unfriendly design.
  If a page has the look and feel you want, does the underlying code matter?  In a word, yes!  Search engines can't see the page, so all they have to go on is the code.  It is possible (and all to common) for designers and CMS systems alike to create pages that are virtually invisible to search engine spiders because of text in images, script-based navigation, overuse of AJAX and a host of other practices.  On the other hand, it is possible through practices like semantic markup and CSS based layout and navigation to create pages that search engines can easily crawl and understand.  

Search Engine Friendly CMS Systems

Lots of systems now advertise that they are "search engine ready" or "search engine friendly", but be sure to look at the fine print --- what they often mean is that a programmer can modify the system with add-ons (e.g. the Apache "mod-rewrite" extension) to not damage search engine results.  This kind of approach can certainly work, but it does require  need developers  available who know CMS systems and SEO as well as the ability to add modules or change the configuration of your Web server.  A much better solution is a CMS that directly implements common SEO tasks (human/search engine readable URLs, 301 redirects, meta tags) right in the tool with no additional server configuration required.

Content Authors, CMS Systems and your SEO Efforts

If you've figured out how to have your CMS create search engine friendly content, then your content authors should be able create great optimized content, right?  Again, not necessarily. Most CMS users are not knowledgeable about SEO and paying SEO professionals to learn your CMS and then use it to optimize all your content can be cost prohibitive.  This means that your content authors will need help to create optimized content.

SEO help for non-experts (and experts too) exists in the form of many, many online and desktop tools. These tools will analyze content and report on how it is likely to perform in search engines.  But, there is a limit to how many different tools your content authors can learn and are willing to use.  You should also not underestimate the convenience factor.  Studies have shown that exercise equipment that is always set up and available will be used on average more than twice as much as equipment that requires even minimal set-up.  The same holds true for using SEO tools while creating Web content.  Using external SEO tools creating content in a CMS is time consuming and repetitive. At the very least, users need to be in one tool to create content and another to analyze it. In many cases, the SEO tools cannot optimize content until the pages can be viewed live from a URL on the Web, so content that has not yet been published can not be optimized.

The solution: a Search Engine Optimizing CMS

In order to get the best of both worlds --- the convenience and management advantages of a CMS and the site promotion advantages of SEO --- you need a search engine optimizing CMS. At a minimum, the CMS should not create URLs and content that engines refuse to index because it looks dynamic. The system should also allow you to create relevant, per-page meta tags and titles. And, the system should present content using navigation menus that search engines will follow.

To really make the most of your content in reaching better search engine rankings, your CMS users must easily be able to optimize content as they create it. For this, you need a CMS that allows non-technical users to easily specify keyword rich URLs, title tags, descriptions and image alt text. The system should provide feedback on these elements in terms of how they will impact the page's performance for selected keywords. This kind of CMS allows users to create and optimize content in one tool rather than having to switch back and forth between a CMS and a set of SEO tools.

SEO and CMS: Sample of SEO Friendly CMS

This is exactly the approach that iData's Synapse Publisher CMS and Synapse Search SEO Toolkit take. Synapse Publisher CMS is a Web-based tool that lets you develop, publish, and maintain rich Web content. Synapse Search SEO Toolkit extends the Synapse Publisher CMS to include tools that let web content authors do their own search engine optimization as a seamless part of the content authoring process.

To learn more about these software solutions and how iData can help your organization, contact iData or view a demo of Synapse Publisher and Synapse Search.