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Finding SEO Success Using a CMS

Posted on 1.25.2012

A lot of websites use content management systems (CMS), for good reason. A CMS is an easy way to create an interactive and fully-featured website with little to no prior programming knowledge, and cleanly separates the site’s design and content, making it easier to change one without affecting the other.

However, for some, there is one pretty glaring drawback, specifically when it comes to marketing one’s site: SEO. More accurately, that without being right in the thick of things in creating and managing the HTML for their site, owners have less control over how search engines will see their content. With hand-coded sites, one has complete control over every page and every tag on that page, but it’s (usually) not that flexible when using a CMS.

How can websites that use a CMS, or want to use a CMS, overcome this problem to improve and maintain search rankings?

Know What to Look For
It should go without saying that every CMS is different, and thus some of them are more cooperative when it comes to SEO. Obviously, there are a wide array of features that a good CMS could have to conduct a successful SEO campaign. Here’s a list of just a few things your CMS should be able to do:

-          Customizable URL structures

-          The ability to edit headlines, specifically the use of

tags

-          Add text to images, so their content is more accessible to search engines

-          301 redirects back to a canonical URL to stifle the existence of duplicate content

-          The ability to add analytics to track site visitors and their behavior

Of course, there are plenty of other SEO-friendly features that your CMS can provide, such as RSS feeds, customizable anchor text, pings and much more, but the above are crucial to launching a basic SEO campaign.

Plug In
Though not every CMS offers plugins (or modules or extensions, whatever you want to call them), most of the major ones do have some variation of add-on features that users can incorporate into their systems to improve their capabilities. Many of these add-ons can greatly improve SEO.

The most well-known and highly regarded of these is the WordPress plugin the All in One SEO Pack; partially because it’s a free plugin, but mostly because it’s just a great, feature-rich solution that covers almost every component of running a strong SEO campaign.

Among the many important features included in the All in One SEO Pack are the automatic generation of meta tags, advanced canonical URLs, the ability to override any title and fine-tune meta descriptions and meta keywords to exactly what you want, a built-in API, support for Google Analytics and a lot more. As you can see, this plugin (and others) can provide a great boost to your SEO; in a way, using a CMS with the option of an extensive SEO add-on is an ideal solution for website owners who aren’t practiced in running an SEO campaign, as it gives them the necessary tools to get started and find success optimizing for search engines with the usefulness of a CMS.

For Joomla users, SEO Simple is probably the best SEO extension, while Drupal users will want to gravitate towards SEO Friend or XML Sitemap, which helps generate, maintain and submit a sitemap to all major search engines.

Choose Wisely
WordPress is, relatively, pretty bare bones when it comes to built-in SEO features, but this is because the platform was designed with extensive plugin architecture in mind to allow website owners comprehensive customization of their websites. Generally speaking, this is also the case with Joomla and Drupal. These systems work for a site owner thinking about SEO, because they will be able to include important SEO features (through add-ons) while utilizing three of the best content management systems available in terms of customization, usability and support.

However, there are some systems available that come ingrained with SEO features right off the bat. One of these, possibly the best in terms of SEO, is MODx, which doesn’t require users to make theme alterations or use add-ons to improve site performance, allowing them “to control 100% of what is output with virtually no effort.” MODx users don’t have to learn “complex theming engines,” but rather just work with basic HTML. They’ll be able to build a SEO-friendly site in no time and it’s super easy to make alterations to the site.

Other great options for SEO-optimized content management systems are concrete5, SilverStripe and, for those in ecommerce, Magento.

It’s totally possible, even easy, to run a successful SEO campaign using a CMS; you just have to know what features a CMS offers in terms of search optimization, and how you can best take advantage of them.

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