You know, strangely the biggest issue we often face when SEO’ing a new client’s website is their Content Management System.

That’s why we nearly always insist on an SEO Audit before we do anything! CMS systems can make or break your ability to properly optimise your site for search engines.

And it really doesn’t matter how big or small your business or your website is. We’ve been limited by what we can optimise from sites as big as the State Government, major corporates, right down to SME’s.

Usually the biggest issue we usually face is the lack of independent control of Title Tags, Headings, Navigation, bread crumbs, page URL’s etc. It drives us mad.

What this means is that we often find a shared ‘variable’ is created which means the title tag, is the same as the navigation link, is the same as the Page heading, is the same as the breadcrumb (if one exists) and finally the page url. Check out Business Victoria’s website for example.

See the connection?

I’m not going to debate the merits of an Open Source vs. Propriety CMS so here’s a basic 8 point Check list to cover off when selecting a new CMS for your next build:

1. Full and independent control over Title Tags, H1 headings and meta descriptions. This is simply critical; if a CMS vendor wants to charge you extra, go with someone else.

2. Ability to create new pages on the site. This is critical too! You don’t want to have to contact you developer every time you want to create a new web page. You also want to be able to adjust the structure or move pages within your site without breaking it.

3. Control over image alt attributes. This is where you can accurately describe what an Image is for search engines and accessibility reasons. You should also be able to easily embed YouTube videos if you want to.

4. Custom anchor text. You must be able to change link text to something meaningful, so when you create a link to an internal or external web page ensure you’re able to create links like this: “learn more about our widgets” rather than horrible long links like this: “learn more about us here: www.your-site.com/company/about-us.html”

5. Clean URLs (without session parameters, Id’s). What looks better to you (and makes more sense about a page’s topic or theme)?

www.your-site.com/company/about-us.html or


6. Breadcrumbs. These are really helpful for two reasons, 1. They allow humans to reference where they are on your website and 2. They provide search engine robots a clear picture of the structure of your site and allow another way to robots to find all your content.

7. Auto XML Sitemap generation. This is a nice feature (but not critical). Every time you create new content (or a web page) an XML sitemap should be generated and updated automatically helping Search Engines find your new content quickly and easily (provided you have a Google WebMaster Tools Account for your site and you tell Google the Sitemap is there).

Speaking of which, a great CMS system will allow you to install Google Webmaster Tools Verification meta data into the home page header, as well as install your Google Analytics tracking code in the footer for every single page on your website. In a perfect world, it would also include provision to add a Google NOODP tag etc, Google Website Optimizer script and more.

8. 301 redirect Handling. This enables you to redirect pages from your old website (or broken Pages/expired content on your existing site which have may have been indexed by Google and other engines) to relevant new pages in your site.

If you’ve got any others, or would like to critique/recommend the CMS you’re currently using – feel free to post a comment below!

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