SEO-friendly Website CMS Attributes
Content Management Systems simplify the work of staying in control of a website- particularly when there are large numbers of pages, products or editors. Instead of having individual pages for each URL, the CMS builds the page dynamically from pre-defined components. The SEO characteristics of website building platforms like WordPress, Magento and Joomla are good- but not perfect. If you’re considering a new website, an eCommerce site or migrating existing content over to a CMS, choose carefully! We’ll look at the individual systems a little later on. Here are some general observations- as presented within our SEO courses held regularly in Melbourne.
Far worse- are those systems or platforms which offer hosting, simple website building and domain management- all for one easy monthly fee. Here’s what you should look for, when selecting a CMS:
All the SEO elements within every page should be customisable by you. These include:
- Browser Page Titles, within the <title> tags in the head code;
- All headings- see below
- Heading tags – from h1 right through to h4
- All heading text
- Heading Text should be Unique from URL Slug or Browser Page Title
- Browser Title text should be unique from URL or Heading text
- URL should be customisable and not be category dependant or use symbols
- Image File Names, Paths, Titles and Alts
- All asset ownership should be attributed to your domain- not the hosting platform or website building application
- This sequence of tags should appear early in the head source code: Browser Page Title, Meta Description, Meta Keywords- in that order
- Meta Descriptions should be unique at page level, without character limits
- Meta Keywords should also be unique, per page
- Schema Micro Data should assignable
- You should be able to modify the robots text file
- The ht access file should be modifiable by you
Let’s have a look at the characteristics which define the ideal CMS to use for SEO.
Title and Meta Tags Within the Head of the Page
There are three important elements which appear between the head tags of every page. Of these three, the “Page Title” should appear first. The meta description tag should appear next- and the third item of the three, should be the meta keywords tag. If a CMS doesn’t present these items in that sequence- then either correct it within the core files- or use a different platform. This is the first of a number of problems which often plague ‘closed’ systems, like all-in-one site builders.
You can’t customise any core files.
On-Page Content: Headings, Text and Images
These on-page elements should be editable by you without any constraint. Text usually is. Headings need to have tags assigned to them- only one set of h1 tags per page and h2 or lower- tags as required.
Images are a whole new arena.
They should be attributed to your website domain- that is the absolute location of the image should be yourdomain.com/images/the-file.jpg and nor commence with the hosting provider or website builder’s domain.
Here’s an example. If you look at the source of Leon Bridges’ website you’ll see that the images’ paths contain the words static.squarespace right at the start. The asset is not automatically assigned to Leon Bridges’ domain.
We’re not getting any alt text for the image, either.
While you’re in there- check the code to content ratio -there is way too much code for so little content. This is not good for SEO!
Working Around the Limitations
The good news is, that the big 3- WordPress, Magento and Joomla all use PHP- an open source code. To the user- this means the most popular website CMSs can all be customised to overcome the limitations! When you install any of these platforms on your web server, you have access to all the core files. Nothing is brought in from ‘somewhere else’ at run time, to create your pages.
It should also be mentioned- that the template you select can often be guilty of less-than-ideal coding. Templates- or Skins- should also be checked for correct heading tags, schema and responsiveness. they should provide a seamless user experience across all mobile devices.
Search online for an instance of the template in use on a website. Use Firebug from Mozilla to see if any extra stylesheets have been assigned or populated with css to correct errors with responsive design. Let’s look at the platforms individually.
Joomla SEO Tweaks
Joomla lets you quickly customise the appearance of a page using modules and positions, without having to build a new template for a layout change, like you do in WordPress.
Although having said that- Joomla has its quirks.
Don’t make every page module-based!
Remember that articles add structure and most importantly- a means of allowing search engines to understand what the most important part of your page is.
With Joomla, you can really roll your sleeves up and get customising, quickly.
It’s important to mention that with updates to the core Joomla system, you should be checking for overrides to the core php files.
The main items you’ll need to watch out for, with Joomla are as follows:
- That the head.php file contains the output code for browser title, meta description and meta keywords in the correct order
- The inclusion of schema markup within the template used by the CMS
- That SEO-friendly URLs are being used
- Check that Joomla’s options have been configured to not show your article titles as headings- because they will render as h2 not h1
- Ensure that link title text from certain brands of Joomla templates do in fact, render within the code and are visible on hover
While some of these adjustments- like modifying core php files- might seem daunting to newbies, they don’t pose any problems to experienced webmasters. These items are part of the syllabus of our intermediate SEO course.
Watch Your WordPress SEO
It can accept an online shop extension, which could put it in the class of “poor man’s Magento”.
WordPress was originally developed as a blogging platform, and grew from there.
Significant layout changes are best controlled using new templates configured within the theme being used.
There are an abundance of extensions available, to add functionality or bling to the website, and extensions can be major sources of SEO problems.
Often, extension authors just want to bring the extension to market as quickly as possible, and start making sales.
Website owners don’t consider extensions to be contributors or detractors to the main search engine optimisation effort of the website- but they can be!
Check these elements are working and configured properly within your WordPress installation:
- Ensure you have a plugin to handle your SEO- this gives you SEO-friendly URLs, allows you to override site-wide meta tags and more
- You’ll be able to set open graph descriptions for Facebook and Twitter
- SEO friendly URLs will populate your website
- If you run slideshow widgets or extensions, check that they allow you to customise file names, paths, titles and alts
- Use an ftp client to upload your images and specify a short, sharp relevant path, no more than two layers deep
- Check that your theme doesn’t have styles within thesource code- when those styles could be externalised on separate files
WordPress is a great platform, however its file uploader creates cumbersome paths and doesn’t allow you to customise the directory structure. Using an ftp client will alleviate that problem, although you’ll have to write the image paths manually within your content.
Magento SEO Pointers
Magento is resource hungry- it uses lots of server power to deliver a website but it’s the gold-class open source shopping platform in use on the web today.
The SEO adjustments required for a Magento store can be made through the admin interface.
Magento allows you to set SEO friendly URLs, and it has excellent capability for page level meta tags, page title and heading customising.
Given that Magento is an online selling platform- it’s important that you think about your category and directory structure before uploading your very first product.
Although you can’t always anticipate your stock inventory down the track, some careful allocation and setting up of top-level categories will pay dividends later, as your inventory grows.
Look out for these items, when configuring your Magento website:
- Check any slideshows, carousels or image rotators, to ensure that image titles and alts can be set properly
- Watch your canonical URLs- set weak product pages to canonicalize to stronger category pages
- Take advantage of Magento’s excellent interface for adding meta tags, page titles and headings
- Remember to use the special formatting for URLs Magento prefers- these will work fine for SEO
- It’s worth mentioning this here- don’t ever copy product descriptions from manufacturers’ websites
It should also be mentioned- if you plan on setting up a blog within your Magento store- set this up as part of your primary domain- not as a sub domain.
Search for current appraisals of the best blogging extensions for Magento. We can set one up for you and configure it to be SEO friendly. It’s one of the SEO services we offer.
Having your blog configured within your root domain as opposed to a sub domain or external domain- keeps all SEO link juice within your store.
It also builds the domain authority of your primary domain, instead of competing against it, if the blog were to be hosted outside of your primary website.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our outline of search engine optimisation enhancing attributes of today’s popular content management systems. Selecting the best CMS from an SEO perspective is a matter of weighing up the quirks of each platform, and assessing what you can fix yourself or how much you want to involve professionals in the setup.
If you need help with installation, configuration or customising any website or platform we can assist you at any level. From simple adjustments, to complex programming- we do it all in house.