Tips to Improve Search Engine Rankings of CMS-generated Content

What’s a CMS?

Much of the Web these days is organized within Content Management Systems (CMS’s) which help site owners and authors easily produce new content while managing the old. A good example of a CMS is blogging software such as Moveable Type or, my personal favorite, WordPress. Other examples include PHP-Nuke, PostNuke, Drupal, and Mambo. CMS’s are so widely used that you’ve probably interacted with one whether or not you run a web site of your own.

SEO and CMS

So with all this content being generated, site owners and CMS developers and users need to know: What can I do to better my search engine ranking through my CMS? Here are a few tips:

  1. Reduce code-bloat.

    Both end-users and developers can and should look over their page templates and cut out any unnecessary or extraneous (X)HTML that’s only adding to page weight. PostNuke and PHP-Nuke, for instance, are notorious for generating old-school nested tables through their various modules. Do everything you can to eliminate this tag soup.

    Also, take a look at the head section of your template. If you see a lot of JavaScript or CSS in there, you should cut it out and attach it to your page via an external document link or <script src="..." /> tag.

    Ensuring that your content is near the top of your document will help keep the spiders from getting annoyed. Plus, the reduction in bandwidth is often surprisingly impressive.

  2. Dovetailing off the previous tip, use semantic markup.

    It shouldn’t come as any surprise that a p tag tells the browser that the its content is a paragraph. Despite the obvious importance of this fact, all too often this paragraph tag is replaced by a semantically meaningless div or td element. When considering headers, this is especially important because search engines weigh the text between h# tags heavier than they do other elements of your page. So make sure your templates are using the proper element for your content!

  3. Use your meta tags to your advantage.

    In lots of cases there doesn’t seem to make a difference whether or not meta tags are accurate, or even exist. This is the result of search technologies getting better and of search engines distrusting authors (thanks mostly to spammers and porn mongers) from providing accurate information in their meta tags.

    Still, if you can use them, do so. Most of the well-ranked pages are well-ranked not because of their tags but because of their content and their referers, that is, because people linking to them. However, even they were once not-so-well-ranked, and meta tags do seem to make a difference when gauging smaller sites’ pages.

    As for how specific one’s keywords need to get, I think that’s a judgement call based on how specific the majority of your content for said page is. If you have a web site about cars with some general pages about how cars work and why you love them, then using “cars, Ferrari, Porsche” is fine as long as there’s at least a passing reference to Ferraris and Porsches. Then on your child, more-specific page, do the same, but omit “Ferrari” on the Porsche page and vice-verca.

  4. Create friendly URLs to encourage spiders to index dynamically generated pages.

    This one is aimed at developers of CMS’s, though sometimes a saavy end-user can accomplish this as well. I’m not sure how prevalent it is anymore, but I know that at least in the past some spiders wouldn’t index page content if it were generated by a query-string. That is, if your page’s addres ended with something like ?n=v&n1=v1 then the resulting page may not be indexed by search engines at all. Furthmore, that’s not the easiest page name to remember. All that extra stuff from the question mark on is called URL cruft.

    The Apache Webserver has an insanely powerful tool called mod_rewrite (documentation) which many sites (including this one) use to clean up that URL cruft and transform it into a clean address string for search engines and visitors alike.

    This tool is also exceptionally helpful because it means you can embed a page’s keywords directly into its URL, providing an exceptionally helpful hint for search engines.

There’s much more you can do, and certainly more developers can do to help CMS’s better integrate with search engines. Hot Banana is one such recent CMS endeavor that has generated some buzz lately.

2 replies on “Tips to Improve Search Engine Rankings of CMS-generated Content”

  1. I completely agree with you Meitar. The biggest advantage of using CMS is that you can create so many pages and fill your website with the useful contents. Contents are one of the main things which are looked by the search engines. If you have quality contents no body can stop you to get the higher ranking.

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