Those working in the world of search engine optimisation will know that it is a bit of a balancing act. There are over 200 ranking factors set out by Google, and covering all of these is necessary to usurp the competition and achieve your SEO goals. Yet with so many ranking factors, it is all too easy for certain aspects to be overlooked or even forgotten.
That said, many businesses overlook the impact that their CMS has on their websites’ performance.
When someone chooses a content management system, the main objective will be finding a platform that supplies the right tools and solutions to facilitate their web design vision. Unfortunately, SEO is rarely at the top of the list of priorities when picking a CMS. This oversight can end up costing you in the long run.
Understanding the ways in which a CMS can affect SEO is crucial for businesses hoping to rank well on Google. To better comprehend this relationship, we spoke to Paul Morris, managing director of Bristol SEO agency Superb Digital. Paul explained how a CMS can have a positive, or negative, impact on search ranking and what to do if you feel you’ve made the wrong decision.
Table of Contents
What is a CMS?
First things first, and to avoid any confusion, it is important to know what a CMS is and how it functions.
A content management system makes it possible for users to create and manage a website with relative ease – no coding required. Rather than toiling with confusing code that takes ample time to study and understand, a CMS presents you with a user-friendly interface. This interface allows a user to produce, modify, manage, and publish content on their website.
This also extends to deciding on the overall design of the website. With a CMS, it is possible to use templates and extensions – whether these are included or downloaded/purchased from an external developer – to craft a site that perfectly matches up with your vision.
While a CMS is built to essentially hide the confusing code from users, it is still possible with certain platforms to directly view and edit a site’s HTML and CSS. As a result, you are able to make small alterations and fine-tune certain elements of a site. This means you’re not restricted in your site building endeavours.
There are many CMS software options available on the market today. Popular choices include:
- HubSpot CMS Hub
Aside from the fact they require no prior knowledge of coding or script, there are numerous benefits gained from using a CMS. It is easy for multiple users to access and collaborate through a CMS – all at the same time. They incorporate built-in security features, updates are easy to make, and most major CMS providers offer dedicated customer support.
Another positive with CMS platforms, and most pertinent for this very guide, is the integration of SEO features and extensions.
How can a CMS affect SEO?
What many CMS users fail to consider is the impact that a system can have on their wider SEO strategy. As for which camp your CMS falls in, this is dependent on numerous factors. These include:
Built-in SEO features and plug-ins
In terms of the SEO friendliness of a CMS, this starts with what built-in features – if any – they include.
Certain platforms offer built-in optimisation features from the get-go. Joomla, for example, provides users with a chance to add meta descriptions and keywords to each web page before publishing. However, this alone isn’t enough to truly optimise your content. Fortunately, Joomla offers SEO extensions like EFSEO and Google Structured Data, giving you additional power and specialised features to push your search optimisation to the next level.
Unfortunately, not all CMSs are created equal. Even those with built-in SEO features have their limitations and often require plug-ins to bridge the gaps. If additional plug-ins are not an option, this will seriously limit what you can achieve with your on-site SEO efforts.
For your content to be considered by Google for its search rankings, it needs to be crawlable by Google’s search bots. After all, if Google cannot find your content, it doesn’t exist as far as they are concerned.
While a CMS typically won’t get in the way of your website being crawlable, there are situations where it can affect this area of your SEO. That’s right – your CMS can cause various elements of your website to become uncrawlable.
One of the main culprits for this is when duplicate pages are generated by your CMS. This can occur if a visitor’s ID is added to every URL on your site. Google doesn’t like dynamic URL strings like this. It confuses their bots, which, in turn, results in your site not being ranked correctly.
With the right CMS in place, you don’t have to worry about your content being avoided by Google’s crawler bots.
Out of the 200+ ranking factors, there are certain ones which take priority over others. Website performance is one of those factors. If your site is sluggish and unresponsive, wave goodbye to any thoughts of landing on Google’s first page of search results.
When it comes to website performance, this can be impacted in different ways. The website host you select plays a big role in load speeds, for instance. With that said, another key aspect is the CMS you have chosen.
The best CMS platforms are built with site speed at the forefront. They include elements – whether this is themes or plug-ins – that intend to do the opposite of slowing down your pages being loaded. They cover all of the technical aspects in the background, ensuring your site is firing on all cylinders externally.
On the other hand, there are CMS platforms which can have a negative effect on your site’s performance. They can utilise themes that are overloaded with components which take a relative age to load. Considering even a one second delay can have repercussions for your SEO efforts these days, that’s bad news.
What you need to do if you have a bad CMS
Identifying a sub-optimal CMS is the first step on the road to better ranking. While a bad CMS isn’t great for your SEO efforts at present, there’s good news: there is light at the end of the tunnel. First, however, there are certain steps to be taken.
Assess the situation
Before you move from your perceived ‘bad’ CMS, ensure there’s nothing that can be done to improve the SEO situation on this platform. For instance, it may not supply you with SEO tools right out of the box, but there could be an all-in-one SEO plug-in available that solves all of the issues with your current system.
Okay, that’s unlikely. Yet it is important you fully assess your current situation before deciding to proceed.
Understand the effort required to move
So, you have come to a decision: you will be moving your website to an entirely different CMS. That decision was likely an easy one to make. What’s less easy, however, is actually completing this move successfully.
Make no mistake, switching to a different CMS – particularly if you want to keep your website in its current form – is a difficult, time-consuming, and costly procedure. Make sure you account for all of this before you venture forward with this massive undertaking.
Select your new CMS
If you’re moving to a new CMS, it’s well worth doing your research. That said, with so many options available, it can be tricky to select a CMS with full confidence. Different systems have different pros and cons, so trying to weigh up all of these is not straightforward.
When we spoke to Paul, he recommended two main CMS platforms: WordPress and Shopify. These are among the most popular systems on the market today, and for good reason. They pack in a lot of features, including the necessary tools required to improve your website’s SEO.
Ask An Expert
A good CMS exists as a foundation for an SEO campaign to be built upon. For this reason, it’s important to choose a system that benefits your strategy. If the technicalities of web development and hosting aren’t your cup of tea trying to tackle a CMS transfer on your own is likely too much. This is where receiving assistance from a professional outlet is highly recommended.
When you pass on this task to a professional agency, this instantly takes a lot of stress off your shoulders. Just make sure you opt for an agency which knows exactly what it’s doing when it comes to switching CMS platforms. The last thing you want is for this transfer to go wrong, which will only cost you further time and money – and it could further impact your SEO strategy.