Choose a CMS that Works with SEO

Written by: Jason Bayless | December 03, 2012

Many of this blog’s readers already have a website in place, either with or without a web content management system (CMS). But for those who are creating a new website (or revamping an older one that’s gotten outdated) and want the ease of use a CMS provides, you’ll want to be sure the CMS you choose is one that will work with your SEO strategy and goals – not against them!

Why are CMS systems often a problem for SEO? Often it’s because they haven’t been designed to work well with SEO tactics. For example, CMS software often generates dynamic URLs with special characters (such as %, & or =) that Google and other search engines see as red flags. Or the CMS might not allow you to create URLs that include search engine-friendly keywords. Or the CMS might not give you the option of editing the HTML meta tags that tell search engines what to expect from a web page’s content. And sometimes, the code generated by some CMS systems is a mess!

But CMS software has definite benefits, not the least of which is the ability for you to add new web content or edit existing content without being a webmaster yourself. So if you want to use a CMS for the ease it offers but still want the ability to make SEO-enhancing modifications to your site, you need to choose a CMS that plays nicely with SEO.

The common consensus is that WordPress is one of the best CMS options for SEO purposes, especially if you use a WordPress SEO plugin. WordPress is great for bloggers and Google seems to like it. But for those with more complicated or technical website needs, Joomla or Drupal might be a good choice (although more difficult for the novice to get started with them).

Whatever CMS platform you’re considering, make sure it can avoid some of the common SEO pitfalls that often come with using a CMS:

  • Multiple URLs per page of content. Make sure your CMS doesn’t generate more than one URL per web page, which can sometimes happen when you assign a product page to more than one category. And if the CMS does create multiple versions of the same content, make sure it also supports the rel=”canonical” tag – a tag you insert in the header of the page you’d prefer to see show up in search engine results instead of one of the copycat pages. That tells Google which of the many similar pages of content it should pay attention to.
  • Lack of an XML sitemap creation function. If you can automate XML sitemap creating within your CMS, that’s good for SEO and makes your job easier.
  • Ability to customize meta data and page titles. You should be able to edit meta data such as the meta description tag, meta keywords tag, page title and header tags (such as H1).

There are many other SEO considerations when choosing a content management system, such as the need to avoid drop-down menus built with JavaScript or Flash instead of a CSS. To be certain you’re choosing a CMS that will work for your SEO strategy and not sabotage it, ask a trusted SEO professional for advice before you make your decision.