Is Your CMS Hampering Your SEO?
Search engine optimization has become a critical component in publishers’ online toolkits, but successfully making your content visible to the universe of searchers is largely dependent on the capabilities of your content management system. A legacy CMS can do serious damage to any formal search optimization project.
David Newcorn, VP new media at b-to-b publisher Summit Media, may be happy with the CMS he has now, but it’s been a rocky road to this point; he’s on his third. And the old systems, among other annoyances, prevented any meaningful SEO efforts. "SEO was always one thing that we, with our previous versions of our Web sites, didn’t do well. It’s a function I think a lot of publishers struggle with. It’s a function of the content management system that you use. So most of us were struggling with legacy systems that just frankly sucked when it came to making our content visible on the Internet," says Newcorn.
After updating his CMS, Newcorn says his flagship site, Packworld.com, immediately registered a 30 percent increase in traffic.
Outdated systems have at least three problem areas that could easily be addressed by upgrading to a more robust and modern system. And each of these areas forms the bedrock of any SEO program.
Search engines like simple URLs, old content management systems apparently don’t. Too many parameters, descriptive elements that trade information between the page and the server, and a search engine will simply ignore the page. "A URL with a lot of different parameters or variables, the less likely it will be indexed. You’re basically risking unnecessarily making your content invisible by having a content management system spit out URLs with a lot of different parameters," says Newcorn.
Take categories for example. Many publishers divide their site content into various categories for easier navigation. Older content management systems will display an overly long URL with many parameters, which is less likely to be indexed by the search engines.
Title tags should accurately describe the content of an associated page. Title bars that are too general will not help yield effective search results. "You’ll still find some publishers’ Web sites where the title bar is ﾑXYZ Magazine,’ on every single page. That’s a no-no," says Newcorn. "Two [CMS] versions ago for us, every single page in our site was like that. That is a function of the content management system because it generates those titles."
A cross-linking feature, related articles, most popular articles, etc., is not just a helpful reader function, it helps the search engines crawl through more of your site. Without this, search engines may not be indexing as much of your content as you’d like. "This is a very common function in any modern content management system. But again, it has to be built in and the old ones we all had didn’t have that," says Newcorn.
[For more on the small publisher SEO experience, watch for the June issue of Folio: magazine.]