We recently started working with a new SEO client, whose very nicely designed and laid out website was built with a Content Management System (CMS) we’d not worked with before (it wasn’t one of the CMS systems we provide at Insight). This isn’t normally a big problem but we’ve discovered that this particular CMS package has some serious shortcomings that mean optimisation is very difficult.
Some of these issues and why they are important for SEO are:
Image File Names
When Google is working out what your page is about, one of the things it looks at are image file names. If your page is about green dresses and your lovely image of your green dress has a file name of 2456435.jpg, this isn’t helpful at all for SEO and doesn’t pass any information to Google. But if your image is called green-dress.jpg, then Google knows this is relevant, especially if green dress is mentioned in the page name, the meta title and the page url. We started renaming the clients’ images and uploaded them to their CMS so that they had meaningful names. Imagine our shock when we discovered that the CMS system was renaming the images all on its own, so our lovely image called green-dress.jpg was being renamed to 324555667.jpg! Disaster! But surely this can be rectified? A quick call to the CMS company to check, but no, it is not possible to have a proper file name, the CMS does actually rename all the images to numbers.
This particular website has a News and Articles section and the client has written some very nice articles about topics of interest to their market. This is great for SEO and it’s lovely as an SEO to have some material like this to optimise, so we got going and started on the first article. We changed the Meta Title to incorporate the relevant key search term for the article, then changed the Meta Description, and then changed the page main heading from a generic “News” to the title of the article. All seemed fine until we went to work on the second article. This seemed to have the same Meta names and page headings as the first article we’d just done. Another call to the CMS company told us that every single page in the News and Articles section has to have exactly the same Meta Title, Meta Description and Page heading. So they are all going to be just called “News” and there will be very little to tell Google what the page is about. The pages are also going to be seen as duplicates so Google isn’t going to know which page to bring up to relate to the search term being typed in.
The url you give your page is also important for SEO. Using our example, our page could be called www.company.co.uk/green-dress. This tells Google exactly what this page is about and is consistent with the content and meta data for the page, strengthening the page’s overall optimisation score. But say you have 2 pages about green dresses: 1 page is about a long green dress and the other is about a short green dress. So you want to rename your page url. If you rename your page from /green-dress to /long-green-dress, it will take a while (it can be weeks) for Google to update it’s index. So in the meantime, if someone searches for “green dresses”, Google will still be bringing up the old page url called /green-dress. But this page doesn’t exist any more, and if you have the wrong sort of CMS package, the visitor will click on the /green-dress link in Google and then see the dreaded “Page Not Found” error – you’ve lost your chance to capture that visitor. This needn’t happen if you’re using the sort of CMS that automatically deals with this. Just to get a bit technical here, when you rename page url names, your web person would normally need to create what’s called a “301 redirect” and put some code on the page to tell Google that all searches for the old page should now be forwarded to the new page url (/long-green-dress). Good CMS packages do this automatically as soon as you rename the page url. And WordPress offers easy-to-use plugins that allow a non-technical user to redirect an old url to a new one. However, this client’s CMS package doesn’t do this, so it turns out we have to create a manual 301 redirect table for all the pages we want to rename and send it to the CMS company for them to change. This all has to happen instantaneously to minimise the chance that someone will click on the old page name after we’ve changed it, but before the CMS company has put the 301 redirect code in. It also means that the client can’t just rename a page as they’re not technical users (and why should they be?) so can’t do the 301 redirect table themselves.
Ask the right questions of your CMS provider
These are just three examples of why it’s so important to thoroughly check out the CMS package that will be used to build your website. It might not occur to you to ask this level of detailed question when you’re selecting your website builder, but if you end up choosing the wrong package, you could be severely restricted in how your website appears to Google – and that could mean that Google ranks your site lower because it can’t work out what the site is about.
If you’re buying a CMS or if you’re hiring someone to build a website for you using a CMS package – ask lots of questions. You should make sure that the user can customise each page individually for content, for meta tags, for page names, image file names, alt tags, url names, H1, H2, H3 etc headings. Make sure you find out how easy all of those things are to do.
CMS websites – where to find help
We design and build websites using CMS packages which allow all this flexibility for SEO – so if you’d like some more advice on this, we’d be happy to talk to you about how we can help you build your website, maximise your Google rankings and increase traffic to your website. Email us to talk about it further.