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Choosing a CMS (Content Management System)

Posted On 2008-07-15 by FortyPoundHead
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Content Management Systems (or CMS) have been in use on the web for some time now, however up until recently very few systems were considered search engine friendly.
The foundation of most CMS systems is simple: First one creates a template which will be used to display your pages. In general, one template is all that is needed for an entire site. From there one uses the provided software to add content to the site. This usually means entering the content in some form of dashboard. When completed the data is written into a database. When a site visitor requests a page, it is usually created “on the fly” by pulling the appropriate data from the database and displaying it in the template.
With that description of a CMS system in mind, one must consider what the CMS can do for them. Therefore some questions needs to be answered by the CMS provider:
Questions To Ask:
How search engine friendly is the CMS system?
There are a few CMS which are designed with search engines in mind. By search engine friendly one must know if it support unique meta tags for each page and are these tags easily modified? Can the CMS display static pages or does it require session variables and other dynamic variables to work properly? Can one apply a customizable file structure to the system or is it set to a default? In other words, can the system organize files in the top 2 or 3 folders, or does it bury content in some long obscure path like:
http://www.somesite.com/folder1/folder2/folder3/yet-another-folder/why-not-one-more-folder/filename.htm?
If the answer no to any of the above questions is “no”, then other options should be considered. Here is why:
Search engines consider the folder depth when assigning values such as link popularity and inheritance. And while you can minimize link popularity loss through effective navigation, ultimately the folder depth will impact your performance.
This goes back to the “old days” of the web, when many sites were hand coded and file and folder structure were managed by the webmaster.
Generally, less important content, or content which changed infrequently, was placed deeper in the site. Search engines soon figured this out, so appropriately assigned value to those pages. As such they continue to use this logic today when assigning values to pages.
Does the system support unique meta tags?
A site need unique meta tags because pages perform better on search engines if they are all unique – that not only means unique text content but unique meta tags that match the text content. The CMS should also have the ability to easily go in and modify the meta tags and content to help improve search engine rankings, and ultimately traffic (and hopefully sales).
Does the system support static pages?
One wants the pages to appear static to the search engines and be able to display without any types of session variable, or other identifiers needed to help build the pages. For example, the page called:
http://www.somesite.com/page.htm&sessionid=1&page=3&content=4
will not perform as well as a page called
http://www.somesite.com/content4/page3.htm
Not only will search engine spiders tend to leave a site when they see “seesionid” (because session ids tend to catch them in a never ending loop on the site) but the static pages tend to perform better in search results than dynamic pages. Even more so in highly or even moderately competitive search markets.
How flexible is the folder structure?
One should have the ability to organize the files the way they see fit. Ideally, it would be best if all the pages could reside in the root folder, or at the very least one should have the ability to organize them in subfolders off the root. It is generally accepted that all the site’s pages be no more than 3 folders deep. This is because the deeper the pages reside, the lower their relevancy is considered to be by the search engines.
What platform does the CMS need to run on?
Some CMS are built to run on a Linux or UNIX server while others are designed for a Microsoft IIS platform. Therefore the decision one makes on the CMS depends on what hosting has already been arranged (if any). If hosting hasn’t already been arranged, then there is more flexibility in the choice of system
What kind of customer service does the CMS company offer?
In other words, can the CMS provider build custom modules, or is the system limited to only what they sell? In many cases people will think they had purchased the perfect CMS only to find later that they needed features which were not available to them. In these cases, one may have to hire an independent programmer to build the custom application, which can get expensive.
As one can see, there should be many more questions asked when considering any kind of content management system. From the point of view of the search engine, these questions need to be answered first before getting into things like platforms, customer service and so on. After all, what is the point of building this great looking; customer friendly website which is packed full of useful content only to find out that it is virtually invisible to the rest of the web?


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