• http://www.brickmarketing.com nickstamoulis

    This is an excellent list and I agree with you 100%! It drives me crazy when I have to deal with a hack job and unstable CMS when I try to implement the on site optimization recommendations for a client…I seriously think your post should be given to any company that is trying to find a new CMS…

  • Aaron Bradley

    Fabulous post, Stephan. Traditionally out-of-the-box CMS solutions are SEO-hostile, and I’ve had to use a lot of development resources to hammer content management systems into place. Those tasks have included many of your checklist items, particularly related to URL structure, duplicate content and title customization.

    I would add to the list SEO-friendly image coding capabilities, including the ability to add alt attributes to both linked and unlinked images, and control over image file names and locations (many systems, particularly, create impossibly long and meaningless image file names).

  • http://www.twentysixsearch.com Jono Alderson

    WordPress cheerfully does about three quarters of these straight out of the box, and the rest can be bolted on in ten minutes with half a dozen popular plugins. Job done?

  • http://triexpert.com TriExpert

    Stephan, I don’t get the “Declared search term” bullet point. Invisible in page source would imply invisible to crawlers too, no?

  • http://www.twentysixsearch.com Jono Alderson

    @TRiExpert There are a number of cases I’ve had using WordPress where I’ve wanted to have information pertinent to a page available from it, but not to crawlers or the public. For example, if I’m logged in and an admin, I might wish a page to show keyphrase targetting information, debugging, etc, but otherwise hide it.

  • http://triexpert.com TriExpert

    @Jono, so was Stephan after a type of “note to self” functionality to remind authors and editors what keywords to emphasize in that page/section, do you think?

  • SEOsamba

    I think you need to unleash your imagination Stephen. A solution exist today and goes beyond what you describe. SEO Samba does all of this and a lot more out of the box, including automated deep-linking, multi-site management from a single interface, Google news compliant section, interfacing with email marketing, single sign-on with Google, creation AND upload of XML sitemap to Google Webmaster Tools, point and click integration of Google Website Optimizer. All of this with an architecture that allows deployment of published webservers to segregated web servers to maximize cross-linking value.

    I’d be glad to give you a demo Stephen.

  • http://www.pixelsilk.com Pixelsilk

    Stephen, nice post.

    The good news is there is a CMS that can handle this list and more. Full HTML control is a must, 100% flexibilty with the URL structure, multi site management, keyword assignment , robots.txt editor, 301 redirecter, search advice for editors to help them obtain on page goals set by the SEO, Eric Ward approved link flexibility, Bruce Clay ToolSet Integration, plus Integration with 50 more best of breed solutions and the list is growing…

    Of course for full transparency I need to state that I am the President and CEO of Pixelsilk so, I have a little bias towards the work we are doing. ;-)

    Stephen, would you like to see this in action?


  • http://www.netconcepts.com Stephan Spencer

    @TriExpert, absolutely correct, I was referring to a ‘note to self’ function. Actually more importantly, I see it as a ‘note to colleagues’ function – specifically to those who might update that page in the future. i.e. “Don’t derail my intended keyword focus or heads will roll!”

    @Aaron, great addition! I’ll have to make a note to add that to the list.

  • RobRose

    First off. Thank you. What an excellent post. Thanks for such a great and succinct list of excellent suggestions.

    Full disclosure, I work for a Web Content Management provider. And, it bears mentioning (as is evident in the comments) that there are *many* CMS systems that can meet this list. And, there are real differences between WCMS and Blogging Tools – which all too frequently are lumped together (but that’s a different post).

    But just one thing I’d love to point out – especially from an SEO standpoint – is that it’s good to keep in mind the differences between Best Practices, CMS “Features” and Design/Format Functions. You have examples of each in your post – and each have their place in a well formulated SEO Strategy.

    For example, your suggestion under “Desirable” functions to have “Keyword-rich intro copy on category-level pages..” This is an excellent suggestion – but it’s something that even the most capable CMS in the world can’t solve. CMS’s are great – but they don’t yet write wonderful, compelling copy (I hope for my sake they never do). Anyway, that’s a best practice. Further, your suggestion of Tag Clouds are again an excellent suggestion – but there are innumerable applications of tag clouds (trust me we’ve had to integrate to many of them) from little Flash Apps, to Static Tags, to Ajax versions etc.. etc… Tag Clouds are a display function.

    As you appropriately point out in the beginning, it’s too unwieldy to code every page by hand. But if you could, that would be the optimium – as you’d have full control over every single page. That’s what a good CMS does. Put simply a CMS focused on SEO:

    * Gives you full control over every aspect of hierarchical structure, meta data, page level content and URL Construction – without adding anything proprietary to the page as it’s published.
    * Can publish to any online format (E.g. HTML, RSS, ATOM, XML) and to any schema applied to it (e.g. Google XML Sitemap vs. Bob’s Content Syndicate Feed).

    In short, from an SEO perspective, best practices inform the display and format, and the CMS should simply enforce the display and format without getting in the way. We all know too well how frequently the sands of SEO change. A good CMS should simply get out of the way of that process, and enforce the new best practices as they are discovered.

    Thanks again for great info.

    Rob Rose
    VP Marketing & Strategy

  • geoff


    This is a great article and it has good timing for me. I have been thinking about a lot of this as I have a small site that is hand coded, but I want to grow my site and have been thinking about starting to use a CMS.

    I am leaning towards wordpress, do you have any suggestions for plug ins or would you recommend any other (low cost) CMS systems? How do you feel about the thesis theme?

  • http://commonplaces.com Harry

    I definitely agree with your SEO “needs.” However, I can say that Drupal at least can do most of these things either out of the box or with the help of community-contributed modules. Check out this article on Drupal & SEO – http://gazebo.commonplaces.com/2009/05/is-drupal-seo-friendly/

  • http://www.learningrx.com RonnieB

    You say that wordpress can “cheerfully” do 3/4 of what Stephan writes of, can you tell us what plug-ins you suggest to get to that level and what is not covered by those plugins with WordPress?

  • http://www.timkilroy.com timkilroy

    Completely terrific article Stephan. In my SEO work, we are consistently finding platform and cms providers that are using an outdated code base and are stuck without the very fundamentals of SEO. I hope that they read this article. CMS is the way that organizations both large and small make their web site manageable and they shouldn’t pay a penalty because software designers ingnored SEO.

  • shan4426

    the article is useful for me,thank you!

  • http://www.ericward.com Eric Ward

    Incredibly useful stuff here Stephan. I’ll include this in my consults and thank you for your generosity.

  • http://www.DominoTheGreat.com Domino

    Dear Stephan,

    Do you have any recommendations for the best CMS software out there on today’s market that covers most of your guidelines and SEO needs to be effective? As myself and my webmaster are right now looking for the best possible CMS software to update my website so I can update myself. But something that won’t be too much work on his end to make it SEO Friendly.

    Any feedback would be greatly appreciate that I can pass to my webmaster, as I don’t know too much about website and CMS programs.

    Thank you kindly!


  • http://gThankYou gThankYou


    Many thanks for an excellent post. I’d be grateful for your take on some of the questions posted above, e.g. optimal available CMSs and recommended plug-ins (in addition to yours).

    gThankYou! Rick Kiley