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Crownpeak Logo Posted by Crownpeak September 22, 2015

Is your CMS SEO-Ready? Basic On-Page Elements

Part 1

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Given that 89% of consumers use search engines to make purchase decisions, many of today’s digital marketing organizations see improving their websites' SEO is a top priority. However, these organizations may not know where to start. Moreover, these teams may find that they aren’t sure how their CMS helps them get the most of their SEO efforts.

Starting to address the many facets of SEO can be intimidating. However, it really comes down to driving incremental improvement and building good habits in your website practices. It may be helpful to start with small, yet deliberate baby steps.

An excellent first step to SEO excellence is to evaluate some basic approaches to formatting content on your web pages. Changing a few bad habits here can go a long way.

Managing meta tags across all pages

At its core, SEO is about ensuring that individual web pages stand out from others. Search engines reward a pages that are specific and unique. Therefore, your SEO strategy fundamentally focus on increasing “signal-to-noise”. Pages with non-differentiated text and content tend to suffer when it comes to SEO performance.

Your Meta Tag strategy is crucial to ensuring that dimension of SEO success. However, a common SEO mistake is to excessively reuse Meta Tags over and over again across different pages. While certain Meta elements may need to be present across the site or sections of a site, recklessly recycling the certain Meta Tags—like Keywords and Descriptions—across many pages only dilutes individual pages’ ability to stand out. Moreover, you could also get penalized by search engines for spammy “keyword stuffing.”

Redundant and undifferentiated reuse of Meta Tags can be the symptom of inflexible authoring and editing tools. When an editor must set global, section-specific, and page-specific Meta Tags on each page in a CMS, Meta Tag management becomes a complex chore. As a result, the difficulty in setting unique Meta Tags for each page can encourage repetitive use of Meta Tags to simplify workflow.

chart showing importance of meta tags

An SEO-Ready CMS can do the following:

  • Give authors and editors the ability to set global, section-specific and page-specific Meta Tags in discrete locations.

Focus on these 3 identifying page elements

These three page elements are especially crucial to SEO success because they help convey what pages are about. When these page elements are absent, search engines have trouble understanding what your page is about. This prevents your pages from being found by the right people for the right reasons. Taking deliberate care of these basic building blocks of your pages are key to SEO success.

Page title

This "head" element tells both users and search engines the name and topic of a page. Users can see the Title in two places: 1) the page's name on the browser tab and 2) the name of the page in Search Results.

Meta description

Also found in the "head," this element describes what a page is about in 150 characters or so. This is the main descriptive text shows up in search results.

<h1> Heading tag

In contrast with the head elements like the Page Title and Meta Description, heading text tags (e.g. <h1>, <h2>, <h3>, etc.) are crucial for emphasizing different visible, on-page text to both human visitors and search engines. The most important of these is the <h1> heading tag, which is most often used near the top of the page to act as an on-page version of the Page Title and/or describe the page's content.

Here are three tips for success with these page elements:

  • These page elements should be unique to each page. For instance, having the same Title across different pages will hurt the rank and value of each page. If multiple pages seem to be about the exact same topic, then a search engine will struggle to confidently recommend any of the pages for that topic. Remember: search engines are designed to steer searchers away from ambiguous information.
  • Page Title, Meta Descriptions, and <h1> Heading should share common, overlapping text. Sharing common keywords across these different elements reinforces their emphasis. For instance, if your page is about "DIY home improvement," try to incorporate the text "DIY home improvement" into your Page Title, Meta Description, and <h1> heading tag (should your page contain one <h1> tag, which brings us to the next point...).
  • Use <h1> Tags sparingly. Page Title and Meta Description can only be processed once on a page, so including them multiple times will have no benefit. But what about <h1> heading tags? It depends; we recommend you use them sparingly. Before HTML5, the hard-and-fast rule was that <h1> tags should only be used once per page. So if your site isn't using HTML5 markup, then you should take heed of this one <h1> tag rule. However, if you do leverage HTML5, there is an exception. If your page contains various HTML5 sections, our advice is to use the <h1> tag only once and towards the top of the section. This web design blog post does an excellent job of explaining the distinction in greater detail.

An SEO-ready CMS can do the following:

  • Allow for easy controls to manually configure Title, Meta Description and <h1> Tags for each and every page.
  • Accommodate measures and tools to ensure editors don't leave out key elements.
    • Auto-generate elements like Page Title and Meta Description should the editors forget to input them.
    • Set page editing rules that prevent editors from saving or publishing pages that don't have these elements show up once.
    • Send an alert when pages don't have certain elements, like an <h1> tags.

Don't forget that images can contain words

Appropriately leveraging embedded image text is a great way to further reinforce what's being in conveyed by on-page text, Page Title, Meta Description, etc.

SEO experts often talk about the importance of using Alt Tags, which embed important text information in image for multiple purposes, the most common being:

  • Reinforcing page-specific key words
  • Ensuring images show up in search results for specific search terms
  • Assisting the visually-impaired with identifying images

When possible, try to have the Alt Tag text overlap with elements like Page Title, Meta Description and <h1> tag. But don't go overboard. Editors should limit the length of or number of phrases in Alt Tag text. Short, specific phrases work best, as they provide focus. If you put multiple phrases in an Alt Tag, search engines may penalize the page for attempted "keyword stuffing."

Keep in mind it doesn't end with just Alt Tags. Search engines will also look at text in the image's filename and at an element called the Image Title. Also use these elements to reinforce page-specific keywords. However, it is advised that an image's Title and Alt Tag should not be exact matches, though they should complement each other (learn more here).

An SEO-Ready CMS can do the following:

  • Allow for easy editing of Alt Tags, Image Titles and filenames for all images.
  • Establish template rules that prevent pages from being saved or published if the images do not have associated Alt Tags.
  • Send alerts or notifications when images do not have Alt Tags or Image Titles.

The Crownpeak difference

The Crownpeak Web Experience Management Platform gives digital marketers tools to make improvements SEO seamlessly, quickly and easily.

  • Edit SEO page elements - both meta head elements and on-page body elements - for individual pages or globally.
  • Build custom rule-based approval mechanisms (i.e. alerts, publishing blocks, etc.) into page templates to ensure content editor SEO best practices.
  • Auto-generate SEO page elements.
  • Integrate with 3rd-party SEO compliance tools that score pages for SEO health.

Check out part two of this series, where we discuss how to improve overall site structure and navigation elements for SEO success.