In the late 90s, search engine optimization (SEO) was just a set of techniques to game the search algorithms at the time. It was all about loading your site with keywords and getting backlinks to your site.
Since that time, search algorithms have gotten a lot smarter, and among web professionals, the term SEO still sends shivers spines and elicits the response, "all you need for search optimization is good content."
While good content is key to winning the search engine game, relevant content is even more critical. As search algorithms have advanced, they continue to redefine their ideas of content relevance, becoming more and more human-like in their ranking with every iteration. But that's not what we're here to talk about today.
There's a technical side to SEO, and your content management system can make or break your SEO efforts. (Or at least make them a pain in the neck.)
Sometimes more important than what parts of your site get indexed by search engines are the parts that don't get indexed.
The primary methods through which you can control what gets indexed by search engines are the robots.txt file and your robots meta tags.
While it's simple for a developer to drop a robots.txt file into a site, this often removes it from the control of the site content editors, unless they have FTP access to the server, or know how to use your version control system. For our clients, we like to bring a robots.txt editor into the CMS, allowing even novice editors to update the rules on the fly. This can be easily accomplished with sites built on ExpressionEngine or Craft CMS snippets or globals, respectively.
As for robots meta tags, we add two checkbox fields to each piece of content in the CMS, for NOINDEX and NOFOLLOW. These checkboxes allow our clients to have granular control over search indexing on a page-by-page basis. For non-editable pages, like those listing blog posts, events, etc, we set blanket robots meta tags, preventing indexing of these pages, so the client doesn't even have to think about it.
It's no secret that well-written title and meta description tags are important. And almost any content management system can allow these tags to be customized for each page of the site.
But sometimes content editors get lazy, or they forget to fill out those fields in the control panel.
For our clients, we like to build in as much automation as possible, while still allowing editors to override the default.
For title tags, we set them up to be hierarchical, starting with the site name and adding from the front the section and title of the individual page. This keeps things consistent for the whole site. When content editors want to put in a different title tag than the actual content title, they can override the default.
For meta descriptions, we default to a truncated version of the page body, just in case the editor doesn't fill out a description. But the field is always there to customize the description when needed.
Together these two techniques help make a unique search result appearance for each page on the site, helping end users find the right page in their search results, and helping search engines better figure out what the page is about.
There are always times when old content needs to be taken down, whether it's out of date or it was inaccurate or you rebuilt your site. It's important to put 301 redirects in place to help transfer any existing search rankings over to the new pages.
As always, for our clients we like to make it easy by keeping all of their website management tools in one place. Oftentimes developers will set up redirects manually in the site's .htaccess file, but then adding new redirects requires the client contacting their developer.
We use plugins for ExpressionEngine and Craft CMS to build redirects right into the content management system control panel, making it easy to setup new redirect rules on the fly.
At Conflux Group, we try to improve our clients' content management experience by bringing together not just content editing tools, but tools that allow them to manage their entire online marketing operation. Let's talk about how we can help you with the technical aspects of your search engine optimization efforts. Whether you already have a site or are just starting the process, we're here to help.