Content Management Systems & Search Engine Optimisation

[This page is awaiting editing]

Firstly, it should be noted that implementation of any new website system, static or dynamic, will always impact upon search engine result pages. Having a more flexible system in place that is standardised is likely to mean that this will stabilise quite quickly. It is possible, however, to counteract this in part by running both old and new sites side by side. In this way, the site overall will not lose its ranking, and neither will links to the old pages (from bookmarks, search engines, articles etc) point ‘nowhere’, so they will not lose their ranking either. When the search engines have indexed the new site, it will be possible to remove the old site pages as the ranking of the new pages increases. This is true of either static or dynamic (CMS) websites.
The main Search Engine Optimisation benefit that Content Management Systems offer over static sites is the large amount of built-in functionality. A good deal of this is very helpful for maintaining a competitive organic search engine position. A CMS presents the administrator with a relatively simple form-based interface, to input all relevant data for individual web pages, that requires very little technical knowledge. This inherently reduces maintenance time and improves the technical accuracy of web pages. The CMS uses various parts of that input data to generate several further SEO features automatically, for extra business benefits (See list below). Any initial investment in a Content Managed System is far outweighed by the business benefits offered, if not immediately then certainly over the short/medium term.
Conversely, a static site requires the user to be qualified in: use of appropriate software; the necessary technical skills to manipulate the web pages themselves, and a good level of knowledge on search engine optimisation. This is spreading the resources of the person in charge of the website very thinly. Given that the site is static and therefore each page is maintained individually, any growth in the site will exponentially increase the amount of time required for maintenance. If one were to add a new page, a lot of other pages would need to be edited in order to reflect the changes. This is a lot of time effectively wasted, which means company money and time diverted away from more essential areas.
Furthermore, it can take a development team a very great deal of time to implement and refine a CMS, so that it will inherently provide stability and consistency to a site owner, and also offer SEO functionality as standard. This leaves the site editor with just the job they are supposed to be doing – writing business copy that is suitable search engine “food”. No time is wasted on creating, editing and uploading new pages from scratch, updating the site menus in each page, and so forth. A static webpage’s search engine readiness relies solely on the ability of its creator, in terms of how much they know about the technicalities of SEO and web page creation.
Consider the following; if a search engine were to change the method (algorithm) by which it judges and ranks web pages, a CMS would be almost certainly be able to adapt relatively quickly to this new methodology. For instance, Google change the way their search algorithm works very regularly (usually about every three months). There is little that can be done about this, other than to adapt where necessary. Let’s say we have a hypothetical case, where we have created a hundred web pages. After its new algorithm update, Google has deemed that a lot of these pages are “cheating” because we have added too many keywords to some pages (for example). In a static site the only thing we could do it systematically analyse all the pages on the site individually. Clearly this is going to take a LOT of time. With a good CMS, it is likely that we can pull out a group of pages based on how they have been categorised, and quickly run through these changing the keywords. We may even be able to automate the process. In another example, Google (as well as now also Yahoo! and MSN) provides a site map facility, so that webmasters can provide a map of their site to Google and be assured that the crawlers are indexing all the content on their website. Manual creation of this site map would require more technical knowledge, combined with manual update of the site map, and then notifying each of the relevant search engines manually also, EVERY time the site was updated in a manner that befitted them knowing of the update. Drupal CMS has modules available for it that will automatically generate this sitemap. It will automatically notify Google that your site has been updated. Furthermore, it is possible to configure it to do this for other services where necessary. Recently, MSN and Yahoo! have announced that they will be following the same format of site map as Google, in a movement towards a unification (of sorts). This means that all the work that would have had to happen to incorporate your site map into Yahoo! and MSN has already been done! This is a classic example of where using a CMS is massively advantageous for SEO.
Another (non-SEO related) argument for using a CMS is this: you want a new site design. You’re happy with your content. You already have a good, SEO-friendly, web-standards driven CMS in place. Purchasing a redesigned site and putting all new pages etc in from scratch would make approximately zero sense in this case. It would be (very) time consuming and (very) expensive. BUT! You already have a good CMS in place! A redesign in this case would simply be a matter of getting a web development team that know the CMS to design and implement a new theme for the site. Theme refers to the design and layout created for one individual site. The relative cost of this compared to the time and expense of a brand new site (static or otherwise) is tiny.
Drupal itself exhibits many SEO-related features that are desirable in a modern CMS:
• It is well-known for its search-engine friendliness. The pages it produces are web standards-compliant if the site is correctly themed.
• It can prompt the editor to incorporate elements for each page that are used automatically to generate other elements, without having to write any HTML. For example, it can automatically create:
o Page titles
o Search engine friendly URLs.
o Site Maps for both Google and the website itself (i.e., a human readable version)
o Site menus
• It can be configured to automatically notify certain web services of new content so that those services will index your site’s content as well.