How to Use a Content Management System for Search Engine Positioning | WebReference

How to Use a Content Management System for Search Engine Positioning

How to Use a Content Management System for Search Engine Positioning

What Is A CMS?

A Content Management System (CMS) allows you to add, edit or delete content to your website without having to create and format the pages manually. All the pages get generated on the fly, the CMS application picks the template, adds the headers and footers, generates the menus and blocks for your page and then automatically renders the page. As an example, when I wanted to add Google ads to all the pages of my CMS site, I created a block with the Google Adsense code. When I activated it, it automatically appeared on all my pages. If I had to do this page by page, it would have been a nightmare (since my site contains thousands of pages)!

The main reason people hesitate to use CMS is because they think a CMS site will not perform well with search engines. But when used properly, CMS can actually help with scoring points with the search engines. This article shows you how.

We all know that content is king and that the primary function of today’s Internet is to deliver content to those that are seeking it. Most people who do Search Engine Optimization know that the secret to high ranking on the search engines is to get links from external sites, but that’s only half the story. The other face of the SEO coin is to have many internal content pages that point to your main page, thereby increasing the link popularity of that page. CMS allows you to easily manage multiple pages on your site, with the option of groups and categories.

If you run a community site, CMS allows visitors to add content which is then approved by a moderator. Such a system can lead to exponential growth of your website and can be very effective if your content is regularly maintained.

While it is a fact that most free CMS’s available were not designed with the search engine spider in mind, CMS applications are flexible and can be tweaked to help you gain a top rankings with search engines.

How Do You Customize A CMS Application To Improve Search Engine Rankings?

First, there is the issue of dynamic URLs. Most CMS’s will generate URLs with parameters embedded into them. As an example, each article on your site may look like this:

Not only does it look ugly, the search engines probably won’t spider it. Google has partial support for dynamic URLs but it’s not likely to index your internal pages unless you have a good presence on your main page to begin with. It’s is best to rewrite that URL, to change it into something like this:

This can be achieved by making use of the web server module called mod-rewrite
To use this, you’ll need to add a rule to your .htaccess file using regular expressions to convert the URL. The following 2 lines added to your .htaccess file (in your document root) will achieve the URL conversion for the example above.

RewriteEngine on
RewriteRule ^article([1-9][0-9]*).* modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=$1

You need to add one RewriteRule line for each transformation and for different types of URLs. For more details on mod-rewrite, have a look at This casting using Mod-Rewrite will convert an elegant URL into an ugly one which CMS expects, but how do you convert from the ugly URL to the elegant one?

Most CMS’s come with header and footer includes which you can append with a custom header and footer to apply to all your pages. Assuming that you use PHP and that the HTML is the variable $HTML, you can use PHP code in the header or footer (wherever we have the entire HTML available before sending to the browser client) to convert the ugly URLs to elegant ones.

$in = array(
$out = array("article\\1.html");
$html = preg_replace($in, $out, $html);

The above example shows only one element in the array but we can have as many elements as we need for our URL transformations.

The session id is usually not necessary. Even if it’s critical to the functionality of your website, it need not be in the URL. Most users have cookies enabled so CMS can store the session id using cookies. The web server appends the session id to the URL the first time a visitor comes to the website (in case the user doesn’t have cookies enabled), but search engines don’t accept cookies so they always get to see the session id! URL rewriting for session maintenance can and should be turned off within your web server settings.

Created: May 2, 2003
Revised: April 6, 2004