CMS Selection for SEO

What SEO factors should a business consider when choosing a CMS?

Choosing the right CMS for your business can have a multitude of impacts on the performance of your website, with a direct throughline to the bottom line. Whether it’s selecting a CMS that allows your team greater control over content elements, or simply selecting a platform that excels in site speed performance for user-friendliness, there are a lot of factors to consider. 

From an SEO standpoint, a common headache and blocker for progress that business owners may hear from their SEO teams is often around limitations in what can be done. Many custom CMS require developer input to implement even the most basic SEO change, so ensuring you’re choosing a CMS that allows your SEO and content teams the freedom to themselves optimise the elements that make a difference for SEO is key.

This includes everything from metadata, URL naming, categorisation nomenclature and structured data implementation to the ability to edit HTML, body copy and internal links

Prior to shortlisting a CMS for selection, pool in ideas from all your key departments (as well as SEO) as to a feature wishlist. Blue sky thinking should of course be encouraged, though everything will need to have a business case tied back to it too. 

What are the best CMS for SEO?

There is no “best CMS for SEO”, as a lot of what is “best” is very dependent on the situational needs for the business in question. Requirements will vary for different businesses in different industries, as will the type of site in question. Some CMS are better suited to ecommerce businesses, while others are better suited to B2B businesses that generate leads through longform content. 

CMS that are popular within the SEO industry include WordPress, Wix, Shopify, Magento/Adobe Commerce, Webflow and Drupal. There are of course plenty of pros and cons to these platforms, though ultimately they all allow a good degree of freedom and flexibility for SEO teams to influence all the areas that can make a difference to SEO performance.

There also could be an argument that the “best CMS for SEO” in the case of certain businesses could be one that your business builds on a proprietary basis. If you’re able to take all the desired SEO requirements of your business and assess the downsides of some of the more well-known platforms, then there is always an opportunity to build something better. Many businesses (particularly enterprise level) rely on custom CMS that serve certain niche purposes. This is of course resource heavy and expensive, though could be a safe, scalable option in the long run.  

What CMS is best for SEO for a large enterprise global company?

While the same rule applies in terms of there is no “best CMS” for enterprise as there is in general, there are some platforms that are better suited for enterprise level companies when it comes to SEO performance.

Enterprise SEO requires teams to cover potentially hundreds of thousands of URLs, and there can be a variety of complications across both technical and content SEO when it comes to issue resolving and identifying areas for growth. 

A good enterprise CMS should allow web and SEO teams a good level of access to make changes with a view to ascertaining growth. However, given the multitude of teams and departments involved, there needs to be some levels of embargo and approval hierarchy so changes that don’t align with the global brand aren’t made en masse. 

WordPress offer an enterprise CMS solution, as does Shopify and Magento/Adobe Commerce Cloud. Another popular candidate for enterprise CMS is AEM (Adobe Experience Manager) which is used by many global enterprise ecommerce brands. 

How far in advance should a company start planning CMS selection for SEO?

If you’re at the beginning of your journey and don’t have a website yet, then taking steps to select the most suitable CMS that will help you achieve your organic growth goals is highly recommended.

If you’re part way through your journey, or indeed much further along, then a new CMS selection should be considered if you’re repeatedly running into blockers for growth in terms of content management and scalability. There is a “if it isn’t broke don’t fix it” argument that may apply if your website is built on an inflexible CMS but is performing well and driving leads. 

However, it is likely inevitable that at some stage in your growth journey, you will need to reassess your website platform. CMS capabilities continue to evolve, and your competitors may be getting ahead of the game by using a CMS that is superior in terms of performance and SEO freedom.

If you’re seeing patterns in your SEO performance that suggest a need for major change, or if your web and content teams and constantly running into platform limitation blockers that prevent them from implementing their strategies or optimisations, then it is likely time for a change.

We are looking at a Javascript CMS – will this impact our SEO?

JavaScript CMS have particularly strong use cases in various scenarios, such as in the field of ecommerce. Heavy use of JavaScript across a site comes with a variety of SEO considerations and implications. 

Key risks for JavaScript-based CMS are Google (or other search engines) not being able to crawl and render key HTML elements that may be not accessible due to JavaScript use. There may also be some instances where your SEO team might not be able to impact the desired areas of SEO due to them being built and coded on a non frontend facing CMS.

Many JavaScript CMS such as Strapi have in-depth documentation on how to handle JavaScript CMS from an SEO standpoint. While JavaScript has the potential to impact SEO negatively, ensure that your SEO and developer teams are talking to each other frequently so such aversions can be put in place.

Can we audit our current CMS from an SEO perspective?

If your business are seeing limited growth despite the best efforts of your team, and you’re constantly running into blockers and limitations in terms of what needs to be implemented content-wise or from a technical standpoint, then it may be worth reassessing your CMS. 

While hopping from CMS to CMS on a regular basis isn’t advised (not only will this be costly but will also cause disruption to your search rankings if frequent large scale changes are made), it’s prudent to document any CMS shortcomings your team may encounter along the way.

Once businesses reach a certain stage of sustainable growth and size, a change in CMS is a very rare occurrence given the potential disruption caused. However, if you’re running into blockers earlier on in your growth journey, or are simply looking to unlock various avenues to expedite growth, then a CMS audit may be apt. 

Are there consultants that can help audit our current CMS and SEO pros and cons?

Outsourcing an audit of your CMS may be a wise move if you’re lacking the resources and expertise in house to do so, though are aware that your CMS is suboptimal. 

However, a business most of the time should be able to answer this question on its own if they know that their existing CMS set-up isn’t enabling them to do what they want to do and revenue is suffering. Even if your SEO and content team are junior in experience and are light in numbers, they should be able to quickly ascertain where growth limitations lie in terms of restrictions.

Third party CMS auditing may become more viable at an enterprise business level where there are various departments, moving parts and various layers of setup. If there is a sentiment at high level that the existing CMS isn’t fit for purpose globally and is hindering growth, then drafting in consultants or an agency to assess root causes and routes for optimisations is worthwhile.

How long does it take to audit and CMS for SEO?

If the CMS in place is a basic WordPress or Wix set-up across a small to medium size website (ecommerce or otherwise), then having a specialist jump in and assess areas such as code optimisation, use of plugins, site performance and security setup shouldn’t be too taxing.  

Enterprise level CMS auditing will take a lot longer. This is due to complications such as different types of CMS setups used across different markets, security and compliance differences as well as stakeholder priorities varying across different regions. 

While a third-party CMS auditing specialist may be able to gather an objective list of pros and cons of a CMS used across a large global business (and then could be done over the course of a few days) the real value comes in devising an action plan that is relevant to the goals of the business and its multiple stakeholders globally. This type of project is likely to take a few months if conducted and delivered properly.  

SEO CMS Selection Case Study

SEO agency moves away from WordPress to host its website on a custom built CMS to improve performance.

Problem: A mid-sized SEO agency, like many other agencies in its field, had set up its website on WordPress with a familiar set of SEO plugins to aid performance. After some time however, the agency found that even WordPress was limiting in terms of some of the SEO improvements they wanted to make (particularly of an experimental nature) and they were running into page performance issues.

Solution: After a period of sustained growth and with a competent development team in place, the agency decided to make the leap into building its own custom CMS. The new CMS retained all the SEO functionality of WordPress but was much faster and user friendly, and allowed them more freedom in design and UX. The improved performance bettered search rankings, which saw the agency excel in business leads from their subsequent long-form thought leadership content.

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