CMS SEO Quick Reference Guide - For Websites That Rank At The Top Of The Search Engines
If you are qualifying an off-the-shelf content management system (CMS) system or creating your own custom CMS system then the capabilities listed below are imperative to achieving maximum organic search engine rankings.
A couple excellent open source CMS systems are Drupal and Joomla. It is easier to configure Drupal than Joomla to meet the search engine optimization (SEO) requirements discussed in this article.
ON PAGE SEO FEATURES NEEDED FOR CMS SYSTEM
1. Page Header Information (not visible on the page and between the tags). Note that the title, meta-description and meta-keywords tags listed below do not allow html tags at all.
a. Title tag - the most important SEO attribute on the page. Summary of Body content, no more than 70 characters, most important keywords in front. Ideally the title will also be of a persuasive nature. The title of the page is what users see and click on in search engine results pages so you have to make your persuasive and sales case in the title.
b. Meta-keywords tag - only the keywords that are in body content (spelled exactly the same), all of the keywords on the page, most important keywords in front. Place above the meta-description tag and after the title tag.
c. Meta-description tag - summary of body content, no more that 200 characters, most important keywords in front. Since many search engines including Google sometimes use the meta-description directly in their search engine results pages (SERP) as the description of the page this tag should contain keyword rich and persuasive sales-oriented content.
2. Main Body Content - these attributes are all contained in the visible body content section. Note that all of the following content editing features are provided by the open source FCK Editor.
a. Text body content - most important keywords at the top, persuasive and benefit oriented, not feature oriented content.
b. Text anchor links -second in SEO importance only to the page title. Use keywords as the anchor text of the link and point to a page that is also focused on this anchor text.
c. HTML Head tags - keyword rich h1, h2 tags should be used at the top of the page to show the main page heading and subheading.
d. Bold targeted keywords - use no more than 3 times. Bold the first 2 instances of the keyword then place it in Italics if you use it 3 times.
e. Italics targeted keywords - place main keywords in Italics if a keyword is used a 3rd time. Also use Italics for emphasis as you do in normal writing.
f. Main body text - The XHTML of the page should be constructed so the main body text is as close to the top of the page as read from left to right, top to bottom. This can be accomplished using either tables or Cascading Style Sheets (CSS).
g. Footer - The last line in the footer (the last text on the page) should be a link to the home page using the full site URL, and using the same text as the title tag of the page.
i. Image alt tags - should have the capability to allow content creators to add text into these tags. The tags should be keyword rich, succinct, and should describe the image.
j. Image Links - capability to place a link around images that points to the same page as an accompanying text link that describes the destination page.
3. Page URL - fully optimized SEO sites need the capability to use keyword rich URL's. Here is an example of a search engine unfriendly URL. Note the extraneous URL parameters: yourdomain.com/public/default.aspx?id=185&category=285
Here are a couple examples of SEO friendly URL's. Note the efficient use of keywords and the separators between the keywords (forward slashes [/] and hyphens [-] are ideal, underscores are not advisable):
OTHER SEO AND USABILITY CONSIDERATIONS
1. Before any content is added, all pages and templates should have error free XHTML 1.0 Strict and CSS code, and the site should have no broken links.
2. Each website should use all of the following:
c. Visitor sitemap page that they can click on and get to their desired page within 2 clicks of being on the site.
3. Add analytics to the website before releasing it. StatCounter and Google provide free analytics. ClickTracks is a good tool that allows you to track multiple channels as well as monitoring for click-fraud in your Pay-Per-Click (PPC) campaigns.
4. Ensure that the background color of the page isn't the same as the color of any other text on the page - this can be construed as spamming and can get your website banned.
5. Do not use a flash intro page since search engines can't read the contents of it (or links out of it) and it forces the user to perform a click just to see your real content. Bad for both usability and SEO.
6. If you are considering using Really Simple Syndication (RSS) or Blogs then select a CMS tool with the capabilities listed in this document. Most of the top CMS systems provide these features with a bit of custom manipulation.
7. Avoid redirects for all pages on a new site. If you have to change pages or page names then leave the old page on the site and place (only) SEO friendly 301 redirects into the page so SEO importance isn't lost.
8. The pages should be designed for a 1024x768 resolution. This is the most used resolution today, and all new monitors support this resolution.
9. Frames or IFrames should not be used on any pages because their content can't be indexed.
CMS SELECTION TOOLS AND CRITERIA
This website lists all of the features of current CMS systems and allows you to select and compare them by feature set: http://www.cmsmatrix.org. This site is a great place to start in your determination of your CMS requirements.
Below is a list of general CMS requirements I recently used in a review of CMS systems for a customer of ours:
· SEO capability
· Localization - (Internationalization) capability to use different languages
· Granular User Privileges
· Solid LAMP architecture (Linux, Apache web server, MySQL database and PHP language)
· Ease of use
· Capability to integrate with vTiger open source and enterprise quality CRM system
· Can use text, images
· Can use flash
· Flexible nav controls
· Professional looking website
· Templatized scheme
· Clean, friendly output with no errors
MAINTAIN SEO PAGE QUALITY THROUGH A REPEATABLE QA PROCESS
Once you have the CMS system installed and configured you'll be creating many pages of rich content. Keep in mind that the CMS system you get may be very SEO compatible, but the content you enter into it may not be.
Before you enter all content for your websites you should create processes that ensure that all of the content entered into your websites keeps the website at a high quality of SEO and your company's standards compliance. You should consider the following items in these processes. Each time the website is updated you can utilize online tools to verify compliance to all of these items:
· No XHTML, CSS errors or broken links
· Adherence to your company's aesthetic design standards and logo requirements
· Persuasive and sales oriented content where necessary. This can include flash, images and text.
Creating a Quality Assurance (QA) team that ensures all requirements are met is a great way to ensure compliance to all company and SEO requirements.
For more information about creating a content-rich website with SEO optimized CMS capabilities, Search Engine Optimization (SEO)/Internet Marketing, social marketing or software development and database design services contact Michael A. Cordova, Managing Partner, Mercury Leads, Inc. and President, 21st Century Technologies, Inc. at any of the links above or call him at (303) 744-2178.
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