Apr 26, 2012

How to Manage Your Content for Best Search Engine Results

If your website is built on a content management system (CMS), you’ve got a powerful tool in your hands. You can use your CMS to keep all of the information on your site up-to-date, provide fresh and engaging information to your site visitors and manage all of your site’s resources to maximize your search engine results. As with most tools, however, content management can be used for both good and evil. It’s the “evil” part you want to avoid.

Poor content management practices can kill your website’s search engine rankings in a short amount of time. Conversely, follow a few simple guidelines every time you post or edit content and you can improve your site’s search engine optimization. Use these recommendations as a sort of checklist to stay on the SEO straight-and-narrow:

SEO1. Give each new page a unique title, and make sure each page includes a unique headline. A page title is the word or phrase that appears in a browser’s header when you land on a page. The headline should always be bounded by <H1> tags, not the smaller sub-head styles that may be available in your CMS. You’ll notice that on this post, for example, the page title and the headline are identical. That’s good for SEO, but you don’t always have to do it. Also, note that your page can contain sub-headings — but the text inside the <H1> tags will always get the most attention from search engines.

2. Be sure to fill out the meta description and keyword portions of your CMS pages. Search engines still use meta descriptions to generate page summaries, so keep them short and sweet (less than 150 characters). Try to incorporate important keywords or key phrases into the description. Most search engines don’t give much weight, if any, to meta keywords anymore, but type them in anyway — if for no other reason than typing them in forces you to actually think up the keywords you want to use for the page.

3. Create a minimum of 100 words of fresh text content for the page. Search engines don’t give much weight to pages that look like “stubs.” Besides, that’s usually just a couple of paragraphs. You can always write a couple of paragraphs, yes? Also make sure that the text contains at least one of your keywords or key phrases (from Step 2) for every 100 or so words on the page. I know it’s not always possible to pen 100 words about everything, but the closer you can get to that minimum, the better.

4. Try to get a minimum of one photo or informational graphic on the page. When you set up the image in your CMS, be sure to fill in descriptive information for the image’s “alt” attribute. The “alt” attribute is used by screen readers and text browsers, and it’s also what a search engine sees. Provide a human-readable caption for an image whenever possible. If you’re using your CMS to set up a photo gallery or gallery image, always provide a caption for each image.

That’s not too complicated, is it? Of course, not all content management systems give you the flexibility to address all four items. If your CMS doesn’t, you might want to consider switching to a CMS that’s more search-friendly.

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