Thursday 30 December 2004

marquis: seo for cms

two women talking about marquis

CMS PROBLEMS AREN’T just related to non-standard markup. According to a white paper provided by Marquis: The Marketer’s Guide to Optimizing Your Web Content for Search Engines CMSs can be doing a lot more to help with your search engine optimization. The advice is mostly good, with a few head-scratchers along the way.

I can recommend the white paper as an easy read with mostly solid information. It’s a practical guide as to what should be included in a CMS to assist with better search engine optimization (SEO) practices. Here’s a sample of some of the advice provided, along with my thoughts on that advice:

  • Link quality is more important than quantity. This is in reference to inbound links specifically – the more highly trafficked sites that are linking to you, the better.
  • meta elements. While not as weighted as they once were (and in some cases not part of a search algorithm at all), it’s still important to use meta descriptions and keywords.
  • Dynamic pages have difficulty with certain URL strings, particularly those that contain a “?”. Well here’s one I didn’t know! Cool, and according to the white paper, a good CMS is one that will create friendlier URLs, which can’t be anything but positive.
  • alt text. Okay, Marquis bothers me here. First they used the term “Alt Tag.” Gack! One more time for the masses: There’s no such thing as an “Alt Tag.” It is an attribute. Moving on from that, the advice Marquis provides is to add alternative text to all images other than those that are purely visual. Well, you can’t leave the alt attribute out of any inline image and pass muster validation-wise, much less accessibility-wise. The alternative is obvious to me: Design with CSS so your design-centric images are in backgrounds anyway. Otherwise, you must have the alt attribute in your img elements, even if you choose not to include any descriptive text.
  • Place JavaScripts in external files. Excellent advice for numerous reasons: Better document management (you can create shared libraries for common scripts); you reduce page weight; and you please the search engines, who don’t like lots of data before actual content.
  • Use large font sizing or headers for important text, and emphasis important keywords with bold and italics. How about we adjust that to simply this: Use headers semantically, and you can’t go wrong. Ditch the inline font sizing – there’s just no excuse to be using inline font elements anymore. Emphasize only those items that really are emphatic, otherwise it begins to affect readability.
  • A good CMS will allow the use of CSS without restriction on design or layout. Well of course.
  • Avoid negative values to shift text off the visible page or hidden text of any kind. I didn’t know about the negative values concern, but apparently these techniques can cause a spam alert to many search engines. The problem here in terms of progressive design has to do with image replacement – a complex issue in and of itself and sadly, the accessibility and SEO concerns do conflict with what is, at least conceptually, a very useful CSS technique.

This line regarding tables just jumped out and gave me a heart attack:

“Find a CMS that allows you to pull your tables directly in from Microsoft Word”

So while my faith might be undergoing some challenges, I can say I recognize evil when I see it! Fortunately, the rest of the paper is mostly lucid and will serve anyone looking to evaluate a CMS for SEO support.

Filed under:   general
Posted by:   Molly | 10:42 | Comments (12)

Comments (12)

  1. Avoiding the negative or hidden text kinda stinks, but there are ways around it. Be sure to visit the reduced page. We live in a world of constant hacks, browser specific markup and the knowledge that there will always be a viewer out there that will always find a flaw.

  2. “Find a CMS that allows you to pull your tables directly in from Microsoft Word”

    All he was missing was the end of the sentence. “Find a CMS that allows you to pull your tables directly in from Microsoft Word and will clean out all the crap for you, leaving clean, semantic code.”

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  4. Just a comment about the table thing: any table in Word is more than likely going to be for tabular data. For that reason, it would be a huge asset that any CMS would pull it out appropriately. But as Sheldon mentions, it should also be able to strip out all the crappy HTML word puts in there (which a number of recent editors/CMS’s do).

    ps: I like the new site redesign and ponders how to get on the blogroll. 😉

  5. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the SEO article, especially on CSS.

    Regarding the difficulty with questions marks (?) in the URL, Google, Yahoo, and others have no problem with mine or Amazons for that matter. The problem I’ve seen is when the dynamic page’s URL gets to be too deep (i.e. too many session ID’s and/or question marks).

  6. I am not aware of any SE reading external CSS files yet. And even if they would, you can always block them from doing so in your robots.txt. All “good” SEs that you would care about follow robots.txt guidelines very well (except for the Ask, it sometimes gets confused, but it probably doesn’t even care about the negatives).

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  8. I think that cms software in our days, really do the work. In the past that piece of software was really expensive, but now, there are many cms examples at low cost and with superb advanced features, and of course totally full SEO compatible.

  9. Any table in Word is more than likely going to be for tabular data. For that reason, it would be a huge asset that any CMS would pull it out appropriately.

  10. A lot of this comes down to good template design – not really the responsibility of the CMS.

    The CMS should be able to provide you with the ability to customise the title, heading, URL, meta tags and page content. This is the basic SEO requirement from a CMS – without this, you can’t do your on-page optimisation properly.

    Other features to look for are smart detection of duplicate content, 301 redirects used whenever page content moves, automatic generation of sitemaps and text based navigation.

  11. Great points. I firmly believe in quality links and ALT Text. I love wordpress for CMS too. 🙂

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