Here are CMS (content management system) website features, tools and functionality you should ensure your new CMS can handle if the SEO performance of your website is important to your business.
If you’re choosing a new CMS system for your project or migrating an existing website, these are the most important CMS website features to make sure your new site supports so you can protect, manage and improve your SEO performance.
What is a CMS?
A content management system (CMS) helps you store, organise and optimise content for your website in a centralised location.
From the CMS you can access content and make changes to help ensure your content is in the best condition for the audience you have produced it for.
Some CMS also allow you to manage technical SEO features like: sitemap.xml files, robots.txt files to block specific pages from being indexed and management of content resources like images, videos and embedded features.
If you’re taking the presence of your website in organic search results seriously, have a large and established website with SEO visibility to protect and are looking for a new CMS, these are the features you should check are available to help protect your investment in SEO.
meta robots rules
Setting meta robots rules at page level and bulk management for all pages within a subfolder or path is critical for effectively optimising your website for organic traffic.
The ability to control page index status via X-robots management is a bonus here.
You will also want to be able to control things like rel nofollow at page level with your meta robots settings in your CMS.
Why are meta robots rule settings important?
Setting your meta robots rules at page level determines whether your page will be added to the index by search engines. Being able to easily and simply control this at page level makes sense.
If you can also control entire subfolders or sections of the site, you’ll find the management of groups of pages incredibly efficient.
Setting canonical tags at page level can help you easily and effectively manage duplicate pages on your website. If you need to duplicate the content of a page, being able to set canonical tag rules to identify which page you want to be indexed by search engines is essential.
The ability to add canonical tag rules without digging through your code or asking a developer to make changes is efficient and helps to keep things simple.
There shouldn’t often be a need to add canonical tags to a large number of pages at once however, some sites are set up to rely on canonical tags to solve content duplication across pages for example, Shopify.
A canonical URL field where you edit page content in your CMS will be useful.
Add or exclude pages from your sitemap.xml file
By default, you will want all of your indexable pages to appear in your sitemap. However, if your page is set to “noindex” yet still appears in your sitemap.xml, this is sub-optimal because sitemap.xml files are only for indexable, valuable pages for your website.
A toggle, yes or no flag will help you maximise control of your sitemap.xml file and let you determine whether you include pages in your sitemap or not.
Fully customisable content blocks
Fully customisable, editable content elements for every front end feature are critical for modern websites and crucial for every SEO content strategy.
You will want to be able to include and edit page elements like; intro text, content long copy body text, all of your headings and subheadings on the page as well as content blocks and associated files.
Without the ability to frequently refresh and update content your pages can stagnate and your content is in danger of becoming out of date over time.
Ensuring that you can add, edit, update and restructure your pages as you need to is essential for your ongoing SEO performance and optimisation efforts.
Fully customisable H1s
As a ranking factor, important for helping pages rank for specific queries, the ability to add, edit and tweak the H1 tag on your page is vital.
If, for example, you sell products with “branded” names you may want to make changes.
Some changes can help them become more relevant to generic search queries users enter into search engines.
By adding exact match or partial match search queries to your H1s you can help make your pages more visible to users searching.
So, H1s that you can define when you’re building your pages and edit once your pages are live are essential for your ongoing growth strategy.
Customisable locking URLs
You will want customisable URLs on pages you are adding to your website.
This is because the inclusion of keywords in your URL slugs can help your pages rank.
You will also want to prevent changes to URLs once your page is published and indexed. URL changes can cause 404 issues or internal links through 301s on your website which can harm your SEO performance.
Locking URLs once your pages are published so that they can only be edited or changed by certain users in your CMS will help prevent technical errors and issues.
Customisable title tags
Like H1s, title tags are a recognised ranking factor. The ability to edit and improve your title tags is critical to the performance of your website.
Title tags are part of the meta content of your website, so can be displayed on the search results pages of your website. Meta content is also crawled frequently by search engines.
The ability to include keywords in your title tags is critical for helping your pages maximise their rankings in search engines and ensure users want to click on your result to visit your page.
Bulk optimisation of title tags is less easy to recommend, but it may be beneficial for some sites. Allowing bulk title tag optimisations depends on the type of site you operate.
Customisable meta descriptions
Meta descriptions are also part of the meta content for your website. Similar to title tags, they can display on SERPs (search engine results pages) and help encourage users to visit your website from search engines.
The ability to edit meta descriptions to accurately reflect the content of your pages is important and bulk optimisation might be more efficient and preferable in many cases.
Ensure your CMS supports customisable meta descriptions and ensure there’s a method to bulk optimise your meta descriptions if you think you’ll need the feature.
Image upload with compression
Images can be beneficial for SEO especially if they help to visualise a concept, help users see your products from multiple angles or get additional context for the topics of your pages.
Infographics can also be beneficial if your site is more information based.
The ability to add images to your pages can help users engage with your content and get information faster.
Couple the ability for your pages to support images alongside automatic compression and image optimization in your CMS so images are loaded efficiently on all browser types and across devices and you’ll ensure your site is engaging.
Image Lazy Loading
Lazy loading images is great for ensuring that you’re optimising the page performance of indexable content on your website.
Lazy loading of images are only rendered on the page when a user scrolls down the page to frame the images in the viewport of the device they are browsing on.
By lazy loading images, the page becomes available and interactive faster because resources aren’t committed to content that a user is yet to see and instead focused on the content a user is looking at.
If your CMS supports lazy loading, it is worthwhile configuring, especially if your webpages are visually dense and your pages are image heavy.
Image alt text
If you’re adding images to your site you will want to be able to include image alt text to help ensure your images are included in image search results.
If your CMS supports the ability to include images on individual pages then you’ll likely be able to edit alt text easily either via the CMS or by editing the HTML.
However, the ability to edit and optimise alt text for images globally can also be incredibly useful, especially if you run a larger website.
Adding alt text for images once, which is then included in the image tag wherever it is used will help save you time and ensure that your image markup for duplicate images is consistent.
Contentful has an efficient image alt text management system which makes it an effective CMS for enterprise websites.
Structured data fields
Structured data markup is vital for most websites and can help search engines understand the content of your pages and specific elements on your pages more efficiently and easily.
Page level customisable structured data markup
Ensuring customisable structured data markup can be added via your CMS at both page level and applied in bulk is crucial to the organic performance of your site in search engines.
At page level, you will want to add customizable schema markup that reflects specific elements of your pages.
For example, each page on your site may have a different set of FAQs. A field in your CMS that allows you to markup FAQs with accurate FAQschema will help improve your visibility in search engine results and could help you gain additional clicks from search engines.
Ensuring that the FAQ schema updates automatically whenever you edit the content on your pages will help keep your content and FAQ schema accurate.
Want more tips on writing page level, specific structured data? Here’s how to write structured data, which will help you understand how to write valid schema to mark up your pages.
Automated Bulk Page Schema Markup Management
In addition to page level schema, you will also want to be able to customize certain types of schema markup centrally to apply to multiple pages on your website based on certain fields and elements your pages include.
An example of this is product schema for product pages on an ecommerce website.
If you have hundreds or thousands of products, each with its own colour variations, descriptions, names and prices, adding and updating product schema one page at a time will be slow, tedious, expensive and inefficient.
You will want your CMS to offer you the ability to define certain fields and HTML elements for sets of pages so these can be included in your structured data markup and applied instantaneously to all of the relevant pages within your product groups.
Ensure your CMS offers extensive structured data markup support so you can effectively optimize individual pages and multiple pages easily.
Alternatives do exist for getting schema markup live across multiple pages, Google tag manager is a good example, here is how to use Google Tag Manager to optimise your website for SEO.
Here is more information about what product schema markup is.
E.E.A.T (experience, expertise, authority and trust) are vital for websites that want to rank well in Google search results.
Part of displaying expertise, experience and earning trust is displaying which authors are responsible for creating the content on your website.
Ensuring that you can add details of authors to your content pages and even product pages in high Y.M.Y.L. (your money, your life) sectors is vital to the performance of these pages in organic results.
You will also want to add customizable author pages to help your website establish your website as an expert, trustworthy resource to your users.
Reviewed by field (expert review, editor or human editor field)
You may employ content writers to create content for your website, but if a topic is particularly advanced and complex or may benefit from an “expert sign off” a “reviewed by” field in addition to authorship blocks on your website can be beneficial.
Make sure your CMS has a feature that lets you mark up who and when your content was checked as well as details of their qualifications or expertise.
Google likes fresh content, so including the date you published a piece or a page can be beneficial, especially if you’re publishing content in time sensitive sectors like news and current affairs.
Ensuring that your content displays an accurate publication date is important to help your pages perform effectively in search results.
Automatic last updated date
Once your content begins to age over time it may become less accurate and require updating. Including a last updated field which automatically updates when you make changes to your content can help search engines understand that your content remains relevant and useful long after it has been published.
Add <a href= links
One of the most important aspects of SEO is the ability to add links which point both to:
- other pages on your website (known as internal links)
- external, trustworthy sources which you may have referenced in your work
Adding links seems like a basic and essential feature of most CMS, however the critical consideration here, from an SEO perspective, is that your CMS can support HTML links that are rendered within an <a href= link attribute.
These types of links are easy for search engine crawlers like GoogleBot to crawl and links are important for helping users discover relevant pages on your site.
Enterprise, Advanced & Large Site Technical Settings Customisation
If you’ve made it this far, here are some bonus options that can help you optimise large websites more efficiently and more effectively for organic traffic acquisition with customisable fields for your website.
Bulk redirection manager
Once your website grows to a certain size page removals and URL restructures may be necessary to effectively organise the content on your website.
Effective page removal, handled in the best way possible to help search engines find your replacement pages is important to ensure your rankings and traffic levels stay static even when you’re removing pages.
Therefore, you will want your CMS to allow you to add 301 (permanent) redirects and 302 (temporary) redirects.
You will want to enable a 301 (permanent) page level redirect if;
- Your product sells out and you’re not restocking it
- Your page has been replaced by a newer more up to date version
- You are changing a URL of a page to correct an error or optimise the page
You may want to enable a 302 (temporary) page level redirect if;
- Your product is on sale or discounted but this price is only available on a different URL
- Your product is out of stock and it will be restocked but you don’t know when (and there is a relevant alternative users can consider in the meantime on a different page).
- You are temporarily removing a page.
Inline CSS field
Sometimes web pages can be affected by cumulative layout shift or other core web vitals issues that can affect the ranking of your site.
The ability to add editors to inline CSS required for the specific page to display content more efficiently or without content elements jumping around can help your pages load more quickly and appear more appropriately to users.
Centralized XML sitemap management
Managing your sitemap files centrally becomes more important as your website grows in size and the number of pages increases.
You will want to manage sitemaps centrally so you can;
- optimise sitemaps by splitting batches of URLs into alternative sitemaps.
- adding subfolders or subdomain URLs to separate sitemap files
- adding image files or video resources to sitemaps.
Use this to specify which pages of the website should be crawled by search engines.
It’s essential if you’re:
Configurable related link blocks
Internal links are vital for SEO performance on any website. On larger sites, they can be difficult to manage effectively and efficiently.
If your CMS can allow editors to add and edit custom related link blocks within certain categories or tags on your website you can make faster, broad reaching optimisations faster.
For example, if you can add specific pages to a set of 3 critical pages via an internal link block to all pages that sit within the subfolder, which contains 50 pages, like: /technical-seo/
You could automatically increase the number of internal links to this set of pages by 50 links.
So, your 3 critical product pages;
Could quickly benefit from +50 internal links from a highly relevant group of pages on your website.
This kind of feature can be even more beneficial if you begin to pair promoted pages with those that;
- Get a lot of organic search traffic already (i.e. most popular with our readers)
- Have a high number of internal links (to distribute link authority through your website)
- Are new to your website (latest pieces)
- Pathway pages (i.e. any pages where you notice a pattern of users visiting a certain page after reading another one).
Ensure that these link blocks can be added to any pages you like and you can help supercharge new and underperforming content pieces after publications or updates.