Content management systems are very appealing. Being able to give our clients the ability to make simple text changes and content updates on their own saves time for us and money for them. They’re also a slick way to manage large websites with lots of content, and can make theming a cinch for your designer/developer.
Once you decide to use a content management system, you have to choose one of the many available to you. Some are free, some are paid, and many have restrictions and flaws. Most systems are built to work very well with a specific subset of sites, and can be adapted for others (eg. WordPress.org is a blogging platform, but makes an excellent CMS with few modifications).
Factors to Consider
As you are exploring your content management system options, you should take into consideration what your website needs from the CMS and how it can make your job easier, faster, cheaper, or better.
Consider these questions when you are investigating:
- How does this system work for the type of website you run (ecommerce, blog, forum, etc)?
- How easy is it to install, administer, and update? Can you or do you know someone who can do this?
- How strong and helpful is the user community for this CMS?
- Is this CMS still updated, or is it on its way out?
- Is this CMS SEO-friendly?
This last item is very important to the success of your website. By not considering SEO-friendliness as one of the most important factors, you may end up stuck with a beautifully functioning website that no one can find.
By choosing a CMS that is SEO-friendly, you ensure that your optimizer can effectively market your website and the search engines can crawl and display it correctly.
Some of the most important CMS features include:
- Clean URLs – Session tracking or dynamic URLs make it difficult for search engines to crawl and properly link to your website. Without clean URLs, you may end up with duplicate content problems or incomplete indexation. This includes customizable URLs, so you can reference the article name instead of database ID number. URLs that look static are best.
- H1 tags – Header markup is important to split your content appropriately. Having an H1 instead of strong text at the beginning of a piece of content signals that this is the title of the content.
- Redirects – 301 redirects are essential to SEO if the content on your site might ever change (this is everyone!). If your CMS can automatically handle changes in URL structure and content with 301s, your life will be much simpler.
Not essential, but if your CMS can gracefully handle meta tags, robots.txt files, and bulk uploads, you will thank yourself later.
Content Management Systems
There are quite a few content management systems to choose from:
- Expression Engine
- and many more
Each system is built to suit a different type of consumer, and most have dedicated followings.
At Page 1 Solutions, we use Drupal as our CMS of choice. We now program all of our new designs into Drupal, and have spent many hours training the company and our clients on how to use it.
Drupal was a great choice because it is pretty SEO-friendly out of the box. With just a few additional free modules available through the community, it is highly customizable and ready for search engine optimization. The Drupal community is also very active and helpful, and have always come through for us if we had a question.
Drupal Modules for SEO
Drupal already offers clean URLs and tight, clean coding out of the box. Fellow ninja, John Donnelly and I presented at this year’s Drupal Camp Colorado, going over basics of SEO and modules we recommend for Drupal. See the video and slides for our presentation by visiting the Drupal Camp Colorado 2011 site.
The modules we recommend are:
- Nodewords/Meta Tags
- Site Verification
- XML Sitemap
- Page Title
- Global Redirect
- Search 404
- Path Redirect
- Service Links
- Link Checker
- Google Analytics
As a Drupal fan-girl, I will recommend Drupal to nearly everyone. It is highly customizable and can handle the most important of websites, including the White House’s website. The community is very supportive, and folks who can help figure out Drupal problems are easy to find.
Choosing the right CMS is personal, though, and it is important that you choose the right content management system to run your website. Do not forget to consider SEO when making a selection, and choose wisely!