Updated: This post has been updated from its original version from July 29, 2007.
There is a common website design and marketing issue I come across often. The majority of website design firms have a proprietary content management system (CMS) for the websites they develop. The challenge working with many of these systems is that they’re not always set up to be search-engine-friendly (SEF). As a result, what often happens is that companies have websites designed and then search engine optimization is an afterthought. They then contact a firm like Bluetrain to optimize their website and the first thing we have to tell them is that their new fancy CMS needs to be overhauled. You can imagine that most clients are not pleased about this reality.
My goal with this post is to recommend some basic CMS features that should be a requirement to provide a platform for a search-engine-friendly website. My hope is that some companies can educate themselves prior to dealing with a Web design firm and that some Web design firms enhance their proprietary CMS so their clients don’t have to ask.
In a perfect world – here is our baseline wish list for a SEF Content Management System:
- The ability to write custom Title tags for each website page
- The ability to write custom Heading tags for each page (ex. H1, H2, H3 tags)
- Search-engine-friendly URL writing. URLs should be automatically generated but can be manually edited
- The CMS allows the user to manually edit all menu text and links
- Menus generated by CMS are ideally text-based (usually styled via css)
- Pages can optionally be hidden from menus (better yet if option also exists to exclude a page from XML sitemap)
- CMS is set up to have no duplicate content issues across website
- Website is set up to only allow one form of URL slash ending (end with trailing / or end with no trailing / across all URLs)
- CMS is set up to allow dynamic parameters at the end of any URL without providing a 404 error. This will ensure clients can perform online advertising tracking in the future if they so choose.
- Allows you to change Meta info for each individual page (ex. Meta description)
- Offers full blogging capability with standard category, tagging, commenting, author, and sharing features
- Allows content creators to put a new page in Draft mode so editing and review can be done within CMS without publishing page
- Flexibility to add static text to any page, even form pages
- Ideally allow any Footer text and links to be edited
- The CMS generates code that meets the latest W3C Internet standards (HTML & CSS)
- Allows simple addition of Web Analytics code snippet across all website templates
- Allows you to customize alt text for each image placed on the website
- Updates and provides a website Sitemap page (HTML and XML versions)
- Allows a custom 404 (Error) page to be created and edited
- Generates coding that is Mobile-friendly, ideally responsive
- Provides a simple method within CMS for editing robots.txt
- A user friendly method to create URL redirects when necessary
I realize there are often valuable factors influencing how a Content Management System is set up for a client that I am not acknowledging above. However, I still feel that many of the above features can be added to the functionality of a CMS without too much difficulty while still keeping a simple user-friendly experience for the user.
I hope this information can be useful to some who find themselves in the initial stages of developing a new website. Best of luck!