Every now and then a client or other SEO will ask me which Content Management System (CMS) is the best for SEO? Unfortunately I am not going to tell you in this post. Because, like most questions related to SEO the best possible answer is “it depends on many different factors that fit the context of your situation”. I know that’s not a convenient answer and it may mean that you’ll have to do more research into finding the right system for your needs, but the truth is every business and website is a little bit different and therefore everyone’s needs should be accounted for when choosing an appropriate CMS.
Despite the ambiguity of this process there are some things that I think most businesses should consider when choosing a CMS for SEO. In this post I’m going to talk about what I think most businesses need to consider when choosing a CMS especially in regards to high performance SEO.
When deciding which CMS is the best for your website you need to focus primarily on the types of content that you will be creating and managing for the site. This seems obvious however many businesses make the mistake of looking at features that will support their marketing efforts with little regard to the types of content that will be managed.
Aligning the content that will be created with a specific CMS that specializes in that content will ensure that the content is well supported and developed to its fullest capability. Which inturn should help attract factors such as backlinks from other web sites and other authority metrics that contribute to the SEO process.
For example if you are an e-commerce business that sells products on your website it is possible that the majority of the pages on your website will be product pages. You could utilize a platform like WordPress along with a handful of different plugins such as woocommerce or others, to support these types of product pages. Or you could use a CMS that is specifically designed for e-commerce. By using the latter you will not need to adapt an existing system with additional customizations or plugins. Which means your primary content (product related pages) is less likely to have page load and performance issues, misaligned markup, and have integrated features that will support a rich user experience already builtin. While these things may not have a direct impact on your SEO they will help your overall marketing of content which in turn can provide SEO value in other ways.
Aligning your type of content with the best possible CMS to support it, is critical to building a strong foundation for SEO.
Normally when we talk about users we are referring to those that visit the website on the front end, such as customers or content consumers. However when discussing users in the context of a CMS we are going to focus on those that manage the website from the backend. This is a critically important area to consider when choosing a CMS. Good SEO is driven by smart people that utilize systems and tools that empower them to execute their goals and do their jobs effortlessly.
Depending on your business and the type of content you will be creating there may be many different types of users that will engage with your CMS. However generally speaking we can consider these three types when thinking about a CMS.
Content creators and managers are obviously one of the most important user groups to focus on when deciding your next CMS for SEO. Picking the perfect system that will enable your content creators to create robust and engaging content is critical for SEO. Your content should be the focal point of not only your marketing, from the SEO perspective, but also should drive external signals such as backlinks and citations that point back to the website. Choosing a CMS that enables your content creators to create the needed content to make these things happen is critical and ensures that the chosen CMS will allow for these creators to enable built-in SEO functions during their content creation process is also important as well. Ideally these should happen by default, however the option to edit or add additional SEO features during the content creation process can also be helpful.
Your company’s technical teams and developers should have access to the website’s CMS in a way that allows them to modify the website’s code as much as possible. This type of access will make implementing SEO audits and strategy easier, and will allow for customized integrations of other third-party systems and tools. Along with this level of access, a robust templating system built on an easy to use API will help your technical team members fully integrate your website’s content into the CMS, and build a customized user experience around the unique characteristics of your content.
Marketing teams should have access to the website’s CMS in a way that allows them to manage marketing initiatives, manage and create content, facilitate vendor access, coordinate with technical team members, and maintain project management. Sometimes this may mean having access to both technical features and content, other times it may mean having the ability to manage users and permissions. Either way, allowing for your marketing staff to be empowered by the CMS will allow for greater adoption of SEO best practices and implementing technical and content strategies for increased traffic from the search engines.
SEO Features & Functions
When most people consider which CMS is best for SEO they begin with analyzing SEO features first. This is the wrong approach which is why this section of the article did not appear higher up. While I do believe that including SEO features is critical with your consideration process other things that have been mentioned prior are just as important if not more beneficial.
When choosing which CMS to work with you should of course focus on SEO best practices and look for both features and functions that support each. A feature is a specific addition to the CMS that will enable users in a specific way. A function is how that feature is implemented. Understanding both of these elements is critical.
This is an especially important thing to understand because many CMS vendors utilize SEO feature sets as a selling point within their sales process however do not provide any indication if those features function correctly and while it may seem counterintuitive to include features that do not function, it is all too common for this to happen as many CMS vendors include features as an additional add-on after a core infrastructure is already created. Which oftentimes can lead to problems with successful implementation especially if they aren’t implemented by engineers that understand technical SEO caveats.
Now I’m sure you’re probably asking yourself which SEO features should be included in a CMS? The truth is that will greatly depend on the type of content and the type of CMS you will be working with. For example a different SEO feature set will help e-commerce websites more than publishers. However, following best practices can help you understand all of the unique SEO elements that should support the type of content you’re working with. This is why utilizing an in-depth technical SEO audit before and after CMS selection can help influence your process of deciding which is the best CMS for you by providing a list of requirements for your unique content.
Does it Scale?
Typically when we talk about scaling in the context of a CMS we are referring to the ability to create content and grow the size of the site over time. While that is an important aspect of any CMS, it’s important to consider with regards to SEO how well we can maintain SEO best practices as the content scales and the site goes through different design and development iterations.
This is an important thing to consider when choosing a CMS because problems with SEO scalability oftentimes do not become obvious until an SEO audit is performed. By then it becomes costly and almost impossible to change CMSs just to satisfy an SEO requirement. For example a business may perform an SEO audit that uncovers problems with title tags found on every page of the site. The required recommendation in order to address this issue maybe to update title tags sitewide to include a different format or other characteristics that are beneficial for SEO. If there are thousands of pages where this change needs to be applied it will be helpful if the CMS supports making these changes in bulk versus having to go through each page by hand to change each title tag. Having this type of scalable SEO can be beneficial to maintaining ongoing SEO best practices for key content elements, indexation, site speed, and other elements that can impact all content.
One way to ensure that your CMS is able to scale it’s SEO operations is if it is released as an open source project. Open source CMSs allow for in-house or contract programmers to modify the code base to suit the needs of the organization utilizing the CMS. Popular open source CMSs such as WordPress or Drupal have large communities of pre-built plugins and extensions that can scale a CMS’s operations without any additional programming. This level of flexibility and extensibility can have a significant impact on implementing SEO best practices sitewide and extending the SEO feature set as needed. While these plugins and extensions can empower site owners to better manage their SEO operations it is generally recommended that organizations develop their own plugins and site customizations internally to ensure internal performance, security, and management standard operating procedures.
The quest for the ideal Content Management System (CMS) hinges on numerous factors specific to your business’s unique needs. Content compatibility takes precedence in this decision-making process. It’s not just about what features a CMS boasts; it’s about ensuring these features align with and support the types of content you aim to publish. This alignment is crucial for not only maintaining performance standards but also for enhancing SEO through well-supported content.
Another pivotal aspect is the user experience from the backend. The CMS should facilitate a seamless workflow for all teams involved—content creators, technical staff, and marketers. A system that is intuitive and empowering for these users is fundamental for smart SEO practices. It’s not just about having SEO features; it’s about how these features are integrated and function within the system. A technical SEO audit can help delineate the features that will truly benefit your content and help avoid the common pitfall of selecting a CMS based on face-value features alone.
Scalability should never be an afterthought. As your content and website grow, your CMS should be capable of keeping up, ensuring that SEO best practices can be sustained through growth and evolution. Open-source CMS options such as WordPress or Drupal typically offer the flexibility needed for such scalability, thanks to their extensive communities and plugin ecosystems.
Choosing the right CMS for SEO is a nuanced task that should be approached with a thorough understanding of your content needs, backend user requirements, SEO feature functionality, and scalability potential. It’s a decision that sets the foundation for not only current SEO success but also for the adaptability and growth of your digital presence in the future.