Business

Watching Your Backend: Content Management System Troubles

Behind every web page viewed in a browser is a host of technologies and services known as the backend that work to make the star performers look good. Just as a Hollywood blockbuster has a crew of people supporting the actors, your website has servers, code, shopping carts, and, most important, your content management system, which all must perform at their best to turn out a superior experience for your customers. A web content management system (CMS) is a software program that helps simplify website creation.

Avoiding SEO Problems Caused by Content Management Systems

Content management systems can be a website owner’s best friend. A CMS gets a website operational fast and keeps it running smoothly. It can manage data, image files, audio files, documents, and other types of content, and it puts them together into web pages. A CMS creates the pages based on templates, which are standard layouts that you design, so that your website has a consistent and cohesive look. Large sites that manage thousands of items use a CMS because it keeps everything organized and systematic. Small‐site owners benefit because if they use a CMS, they don’t even have to know HTML (HyperText Markup Language, the predominant markup language used on the web): The CMS can do the technical work for them.

Understanding why dynamically generated pages can be friend or foe

If you have a store with several thousand products for sale, you don’t want to create a page for each item by hand. Instead, you’re going to use a CMS to assemble web pages with product descriptions, pictures, prices, and other content pulled directly out of your product database. These dynamic pages look unique to the end user, but behind the scenes, they’re usually not.

Rewriting URLs

Another option you have if your CMS insists on building URLs that are long and ugly, is to go over its head and rewrite the URLs at the web server layer.

At the server layer (the viewable layer, or how the URL appears to the user and to search engines), you can rewrite complex URLs as clean, concise, static‐looking URLs. Rewriting doesn’t change the name of a physical file on your web server or create new directories that don’t physically exist. But rewriting changes the page’s URL on the server layer and appears on the presentation layer.

Choosing the Right Content Management System

Despite the extra maintenance a content management system may require to keep your site SEO‐friendly, many websites simply can’t do without one. For large stores, social media sites, forums, and other sites that have a large amount of page content that changes frequently, a CMS that can produce a site dynamically is a practical necessity.

To ensure that a CMS won’t impede your SEO efforts, the main thing you want to find is a customizable system. You need to be able to change anything and everything on a per‐page basis and not have your hands tied. SEO requires a lot of tweaking as you monitor each page’s performance, your competitors’ pages, the user experience on your site, and so forth. You must be able to modify a Title tag here, a Meta keywords tag there.

Last word

What you should know about SEO considerations of a hosted e‐commerce solution (which means that the same company that you use to create and manage your website also hosts it) is a little different. The biggest difference affecting your SEO campaign if you’re using what’s sometimes called an e‐commerce service system is a loss of flexibility — you’re limited to the constraints of the shopping cart software and the provided hosting.

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