Selecting a content management system can be a daunting task. On the surface, many of these systems appear to have the same level of functionality and the ability to accomplish many of the same tasks. While one blog post isn’t enough to compare each and every feature that a good CMS should have, it is perfect to discuss one subset – Search Engine Optimization capability. Since SEO is seemingly at the forefront of every site owner’s mind, here are five things that your content management system should allow you to do (in no particular order):
1. Create Search Engine Friendly URLs
Each time that you create a page, a new blog post, or add a product to your store (if applicable), your site’s CMS should create a search engine friendly URL for the new content. Not only does this make it easier for the search engine to determine the topic of the page, it is much easier for a human to determine if the page is applicable for their search. If you’re not sure if your URL is search engine friendly, take a look at a subpage, blog post or product page…if it makes sense to read, there is a good chance it is search friendly. If it contains strings of question marks and numbers, it may be time to look into a new CMS.
2. Create Unique Title Tags, Meta Description Tags, and H1 Tags for Each Page
Probably the most important aspect of on-page SEO is the ability to create unique title tags for each page. Title tags are still a determining factor for search rankings (although a bit diminished), and they definitely help with usability of the site as well. Meta description tags aren’t factored into search rankings any longer, but they can help increase the click-through rate to a specific page and feature calls to action. Each page should also contain one H1 tag to tell the user the exact topic of the page.
3. Manage Alt Image Tags
Accurate alt image tags help increase the chances that your website’s images will be returned in an image search. Alt image tags are simple 3-5 word descriptions for what the topic of the image is. Every image on your site should have a unique alt image tag.
4. Built In Blogging Software
Blogging is a great way to create keyword rich, sharable content around a certain topic. Your CMS should feature a built in blogging software that makes it easy to add blog posts to your site. These blog posts should be open to comments from readers, feature the ability to share on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google’s +1, as well as an RSS Feed. The content should be displayed in a chronological order, be searchable, and created with friendly URL’s as described above.
5. Create Permanent Redirects
One of the often overlooked aspects of creating content using a CMS is the ability to set up permanent redirects. 404 errors are unacceptable as far as good SEO’s are concerned, so having the ability to create permanent (301) redirects to live content is a must. This is especially important for larger sites that are updated often.
Side Note - Keep in mind there are more factors that go into a CMS selection than just the SEO capabilities of the platform. The fact of the matter is that the selection of a CMS should go hand in hand with website design, SEO vendor selection, social media strategy determination, and overall online branding evaluation. These different aspects of Internet marketing have become their own industries, with specialists excelling in each vertical. The most successful websites that we have seen have been products of collaborative efforts between software providers, service providers, agencies, and the client itself. After all, there is nothing worse than hearing the words “We just launched our newly designed website, can you help us with the content management strategy, SEO, or insert another service here. ”