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How a CMS Can Help Your SEO Efforts

by Dave Ross  |  
June 16, 2011

In this article, you'll learn...

  • Why simply using a CMS isn't going to produce SEO results
  • How to use a CMS to simplify SEO efforts and track results more accurately

A content management system (CMS) is not a search engine optimization (SEO) magic bullet, but it can make the SEO job less painful by standardizing format and structure; adhering to best-practices; making it easy to promote internal links; and ensuring easy, flexible integration with analytics tools.

Let's take a closer look.

Is Having a CMS Enough?

Lots of basic SEO checklists start out with the same list of to-dos: use descriptive title tags, use header tags (h1, h2, and so forth), and use a CMS. Some of those lists make it seem as though building your site in a CMS is enough, that Google will magically rank you higher if it detects your site is running Drupal or any of the many tools that have emerged for building content-rich websites.

Of course, we know that's not the case. Landing pages made of handcrafted HTML regularly rank high in search engines, and I recently encountered a site built in WordPress that fell to the fourth page of results for the company's own name!

Obviously, a CMS is not a silver bullet. But content management can work in concert with content creators to make sites that are attractive to not only people but also Google.

How a CMS Can Simplify SEO Efforts

Content management systems automate the repetitive work behind good SEO. It's what computers were invented for. After all, most of the editors behind our favorite sites' articles, blog posts, and photos just want to make exciting and useful content. They're optimizing for human beings, not machines. When they title an article, they're more concerned with a clever turn of phrase than a modern page title stuffed with keywords. And when they write an article, they pay attention to visual hierarchy and the rhythm of the text, not the heading tags, microformats, and other fiddly bits of metadata that tell the search-engine spiders what pages mean.
All major content management systems are backed by communities offering free or low-cost themes (design elements) and freelancers and agencies that can tailor a unique solution to reach a certain audience. They bake in the basics of good SEO and test their work across multiple browsers and screen resolutions. Some even go the extra mile to ensure that sites built with their themes are completely accessible by the visually impaired. In addition, modern content management systems will automatically turn a title into an SEO-friendly URL, and plugins can simplify the creation of title tags and meta descriptions. It's possible to finish half an SEO checklist before writing a single word.

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Dave Ross is lead developer at Straight North, an online B2B marketing agency in Chicago. Follow Straight North on Twitter: @straightnorth and on Facebook.

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  • by Caroline Thu Jun 16, 2011 via web

    Great topic and one that does not show up very often in the blizzard of marketing advice columns. CMS can help SEO only if the content manager is willing to think like a machine as well as a human. CMS prompts for keywords, descriptions, tags and titles, but what those words are still have to come from the content manager and relate to the optimized keywords for the site. Mastering this Janus-like approach will make SEO successful whether content managed or not.

  • by David Gerecht Sun Jul 10, 2011 via web

    I inherited the beautiful CMS that is MicroSoft SharePoint. Do you have any tips for using this leviathan for over 50 sites that need to be optimised for SEO?

  • by Derek Gilmore Sun Nov 20, 2011 via web

    Great post. A CMS is a must have for maximizing organic SEO. If you have a site with more than 100 pages I would recommend Drupal over Wordpress as the CMS of choice. Assuming you want to go down the open source route. Drupal has better content management features and it's a true CMS from the ground up. Also the guys over at Hubspot have some great posts and data on the volume of content required to generate SEO traffic to your site. The short story is the more content the better. According to their data, once you get over 70 pages you'll start to see a real pickup in organic SEO traffic.


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