Checklist for Choosing a SEO Friendly Content Management System

January 20, 2015 / Search Engine Optimization / By Kathy Alice

site map
Dynamically generated XML sitemaps are one CMS feature you will want.
Although I often recommend WordPress as a CMS (Content Management System), I’ve worked with a variety of other CMS – including some in house developed ones.

If you are considering selecting a Content Management System for your website, make sure you select one that provides a rich set of SEO friendly features.

Here’s my checklist to make sure you get a CMS that won’t set you up for failure.

Page Level SEO Features

Provide a way to specify and edit SEO related HTML meta tags for a given page such as:

  • Title tag – This is the most important tag for SEO and appears in the SERPs (search engine results pages) snippet as the clickable blue link
  • Meta description tag – Meta descriptions also appear in the snippet and are important for a high CTR (Click Through Rate).
  • Link rel canonical – eliminates duplicate content by ensuring only one URL exists for each page.
  • Meta robots noindex, follow – to eliminate thin and duplicate pages from Google’s index
  • H1s – There should be one H1 per page that is customizable and the ability to specify additional header tags (H2, H3 etc..)

Since Google ignores the meta keywords tag, it is not required, although I sometimes will add extra keywords to a page this way. Make sure you keep it under 5 keywords if you use this tag.

Semantically Rich URLs – URLs should be customizable and keyword rich

Images – Ability to specify the title and alt tags for an image as well as a caption if desired. Ideally the user should also have the ability to rename non descriptive filenames (for both PDFs and Images) before publishing them.

Unique Content – Allows the ability to add unique content to dynamically generated aggregate pages (such as a category page)

Social buttons – that allow users to share your content.

Pagination – Support for the pagination tags: rel prev and rel next which is used for aggregating a group of pages into one entity. This is particularly useful for eCommerce sites. tagging – Support for adding tagging to appropriate entities on a page (for example VideoObject – see

Language markup – Ability to set hreflang tag if multi language support is desired.

Site infrastructure & Navigation

Logical and Flat Infrastructure – Provides a consistent, relevant user friendly organization while minimizing link depth (number of clicks a page is away from the home page).

Breadcrumbs – Aids site navigation for both the user and search engine bots

Minimize duplicate content – While we can use the canonical tag to eliminate duplicate pages (pages with the same content but available under multiple different URLs), ideally the site should not have the duplicates in the first place. Faceted navigation, where multiple navigation paths to the same page are embodied in the URL, is one common reason for duplicate content in dynamic websites.

Doesn’t render malformed URLs – Another form of duplicate content. Some systems will render any URL and return a HTTP status code 200. For example URLs with repeated folders. Or URLs that have other domain names in then (due to a malformed external link). It’s better that these return a 404 or better yet a 301 redirect.

Customizable 404 Page – The 404 “Not Found” page should return a HTTP status code 404 and be customizable so that users have a way to find what they are looking for.

Redirects – When a page has moved 301 redirects should be easy to implement. Additionally if you are changing URLs when you move to your new CMS, you will need the ability to specify 301 Redirects for all the old URLs.

Links – Internal links should not be obscured by Javascript or Flash, but be presented as text links. Anchor text of both external and internal links should be customizable and not dictated by the CMS.

Sitemaps – System should dynamically publish a XML Site Map, for use by Search Engines. If any videos are planned for the site (including embedded YouTube videos) a video XML sitemap publish ability should be available as well. An auto-generated HTML sitemap would be a nice to have.

Another nice to have is a way to edit the robots.txt file from the CMS.


Caching – The speed of a website is a SEO ranking factor.  A general rule of thumb is that pages should render in 3 seconds or less.  One way to aid performance is to implement caching so that dynamic pages are served quickly.

The pages served by the website should follow accepted page speed optimization techniques. For example: minification of CSS and Javascript. See the best practices at and/or Google page speed best practices:

Mobile Support

A Mobile friendly site is a must have in 2015. The new CMS should support one of the three recommended approaches to providing a mobile friendly site, Responsive, Separate URLs, or Dynamic Selective Serving.

For more information about those approaches see:

Analytics and other 3rd party systems

The new site should have the ability to integrate with Analytic packages such as Google Analytics. Support for Google Webmasters Tools is also required.

Ease of integration with other 3rd party systems such as a Product Review system as well as an Email Marketing system is desirable. It will depend on your business.

There you have it, my checklist for ensuring you get a SEO friendly CMS! Let me know if I overlooked anything.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

About the Author Kathy Alice

Kathy Alice Brown is a SEO expert specializing in Technical SEO and Content. In her spare time she loves to get outside.

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