If they don’t care about SEO, I would advise out of the gate businesses shouldn’t spend money on a web designer if they aren’t confident in their business model just yet. Get to squarespace.com, and make a website yourself. Squarespace is sleak and stylish and requires only a small degree of taste to implement a decent looking design. But according to numerous articles and forum discussions around the web like these below; WordPress is still the best content management system for getting found on Google and other search engines – which of course, these days is absolutely crucial to online success:
Why WordPress is the Best CMS – Nada Global
The key here is that WordPress really isn’t that amazing on it’s own. You will need to install a plugin like Yoast SEO to really get the most out of WordPress. No CMS is by itself really anything but a base-level tool to implement SEO from, but with WordPress and Yoast you’ll be set up to fairly quickly and efficiently implement the necessary SEO Optimization. Some of these may be fairly simple, but you still need to do them to really get the most out your setup:
- Link from your posts and pages to your homepage and other key service pages to create a rich web of interlinking
- Fill out meta-titles, meta-descriptions and optimize titles for things people in your prime demographic are searching for
- Fill out alt tags for images so that search engines and people with accessibility issues know what the image is about.
A lot of the things Google’s Director of Webspam Matt Cutts said in this video uploaded in 2013 still apply.
And this is still just the “on-site” stuff. No matter what CMS you use these things will be important. If you don’t have a habit, or strategy for getting links to your website, the competition who does will likely win the SEO battle whether they’re on whether it’s Joomla, Drupal, Magento, or Squarespace.
[bctt tweet=”“No matter what CMS you use, the competitor with a real content and backlink strategy wins””]
So what comes up over and over as the best CMS for SEO – from the people that are paying the most attention to SEO?
WordPress with Yoast SEO installed is the best and easiest Content Management System for SEO
It’s a simple blogging system that needs little or no knowledge of coding, website design or other technical details. Nearly 25% of the world’s top 10 million websites — including TIME, Mashable,Marketing Land and Search Engine Land — are built on WordPress.
Not only do the general implements need to be in place like sitemaps and disallow rules on certain categories of items in the site, the tools need to enable teams to be able to carry out the internal linking, meta-titles, and meta-descriptions, and easily add new content – they need to be easy to access and understand.
Right now, a lot of industry professionals are familiar with WordPress – so it’s not that another Content Management System is out of bounds, it’s just generally not ideal at present moment for a lot of people to get an obscure CMS or one that’s built for developers rather than clients. Some teams are super familiar with Drupal, Joomla, or Concrete5 and in their case (as long as the web development on those projects is done well,) WordPress might not be the best option. As long as these over-arching development things are in place and the tools are there – choose what the team is familiar with.
For new web developers, designers and teams working on small to mid-size websites and marketing and lead-generation sites for larger companies I see WordPress as being a very smart place to start. It’s built to expand.
[bctt tweet=”“Whatever Content Management System you choose, it should be built to gracefully expand.””]
Your website needs a ton of written content
The whole point of WordPress at the beginning was to give an easy way to build and maintain a blog, to set up a format to display new dynamic content on a regular basis. Since then it’s grown, and developers have gotten great at presenting really nice home and static pages for marketing material, and WordPress allows for ‘Custom Post Types’ which can house custom content types like ‘Doctors,’ ‘Locations,’ or ‘Products’ and you can add them like a post with custom information, and a custom display on the front-end of the website.
- All of this makes for a powerful solution – a nice mix between that ‘ever-expanding’ content net that we want for search engine visibility, and the ability to have these super clean and formatted marketing modern day version of ‘sell sheets’ – your home, about, contact page etc.
- This core of WordPress, utilizing the WordPress ‘loop’ to display posts and custom post types, is why I feel like WordPress was built differently than many CMS’s from the outset.
- Open Source projects get a lot of love from passionate people using the solution (like WordPress,) and adding functionality in the form of plugins, suggestions and improvements for the core, and contributing to forums where the opportunities for improvement are discussed.
- This combined with the company who is constantly working on WordPress, Automattic‘s, dedication to quality – listening to the community and the business model they have with WordPress.com – helps them stay in business and ensures WordPress will continue to improve.
For non-designer’s and developers- A quick word on the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org sites:
WordPress.com provides a free blog that you can host on their site as a sub-domain – or have connected to a the domain name of your choice, but you’re always kind-of renting space. WordPress.com tends to be more for bloggers, beginner’s and enthusiasts, and anyone with a serious website should self-host or have their designer, developer, or agency host their website to make sure they have the most freedom possible.
WordPress.org allows you (or your designer or developer) to download the core of the WordPress Content Management System, and develop locally on their computer and/or upload via FTP or ‘File Transfer Protocol’ to whatever hosting. In this way you have more control over the site – freedom to use a wider range of tools and plugins – and can develop the site in freedom rather than relying on the closed-off version on WordPress.com.
Your website needs to be optimized for keeping attention and for conversions based on clear goals
Not only do we care about all of these technical aspects of SEO, but the website needs to keep people’s eyes on the site. Here’s how you do it in 5 quick bullet points:
- Make sure there is visual hierarchy and the design strikes the visitor as professional
- Headlines speak to the benefit your product or service will give them, not just the features of the product or service. Include a bullet point list right away on the most compelling benefits.
- Show – don’t tell – with a big beautiful hero image of the benefits in context.
- Use ‘social proof’ like reviews, testimonials, industry badges, clients etc. to really let people know they aren’t the only one who’s bought or worked with you. – Here’s a list of ‘trust factors‘ you can use to help people trust your site online
- Big ‘Call-to-action’ button with contrasting color and darkness or lightness should lead the visitor down the journey of working with you – to the next obvious step. According to Unbounce CEO Oli Garner the button text should complete the sentence “I want to _______”.
- Service and primary pages should have a lot more content than many people think. They should have upwards of 1000+ words so that Google can easily tell what the site and page is about, and visitors can get the information they need to make an informed decision. This isn’t just for Search Engines – don’t stuff the page with unintelligible keyword stuffing, speak directly to humans who have key questions about the product or service and what it will do for them in particular.
You can get everything right on your website for SEO and still not show up
Damn. This is un-nerving. What if I pay tons of moola to have a website built and Google just doesn’t care about it at all?
- Have you submitted your sitemap to Google Search Console?
- Have you maxed out on local listings with a service like Yext?
Google respects consistency – so your local listings need to have the same Name, Address and Phone Number everywhere. Like, exactly. SEO people even have shorthand for this, they call it NAP for short. Are your NAP listing’s consistent?
- Have you reached out to other businesses you’ve worked for and asked for them to do a feature, or link to your site in some way?
- Have you reviewed other businesses and given it to them on a silver platter only asking that they link to your site when they feature the testimonial on their website?
Backlinks – are insanely important. They are way more important than Google at present would ever publicly disclose. After doing experiments on my own site and then implement strategies around backlinking on other sites I can tell you that high quality backlinks are the secret sauce that will really start to push your sites search engine visibility up significantly.
[bctt tweet=”“Backlinks are insanely important. Way more important than Google would ever publicly disclose.””]
So in addition to the list of super-important questions at the beginning of this section, there is one last strategy.
- Have you done guest blog posts on high domain authority blogs in your industry and complementary sites to your business – or in some way gotten links onto them?
Some methods to do this are creating resources or thought pieces that are so undeniably valuable or entertaining that people are compelled to link to them, guest posting on sites by going through their provided process or reaching out directly to people that run the site, or asking to be added to resource-list articles if you have a high quality resource.
The point is here that you have to get those links on solid sites. For every industry the places will be different. If you can find a way to outsource this process, perhaps it will be worth it for you – but the ideal will always be providing value for your niche demographic and in that post linking to your site as the traffic can flow through that link and not just the ‘domain authority’ providing a positive sign to Google as to the value of your site. But no matter what that positive sign to Google is huge – don’t underestimate it.
Other CMS’s that are half-way decent at SEO
I’ve not touched every CMS out there, but I did look into ways to wield other CMS’ effectively for SEO – here are some of the things I’ve found. In the end it’s really about what your specific team feels most comfortable with as long as certain key elements are in place.
- Shopify – Built on Ruby, you can run it for eCommerce on an existing site, great backend and solid with SEO.
- Squarespace – “But wait you said?” Yes, but my opinion is not the only valid one and many of the basic tools are there. Meta-descriptions, sitemaps, Image alt tags etc. (They’re trying to improve) I still feel like if you can’t hire someone you should use Squarespace. But when you do hire someone you should switch to WordPress.
- Refinery CMS – Lightweight option
- Joomla using the sh404sef plugin
- Magento – If you make sure to select the right options.
You need a designer or developer who really is conscious of SEO first and foremost. So for all those about to rock (a new website,) just ask. Ask the professionals you’re working with how they plan on making sure the site is visible on search engines. You’re looking for some of these things yes, but most of all you’re looking for experience in thoughtfully making sure sites are indeed search engine friendly. So a mini-list in a review of things to think about in this process:
- How is the site going to handle meta-descriptions, alt-tags and site maps?
- Is the CMS you choose going to be intuitive to update these things when needed easily?
- Are you conscious of making sure the website is fast?
- Is it built so we can grow the net of content over time and future content will look professional?
- Are we submitting the sitemap as part of the process?
- Are we submitting for local listings through service like Yext?
- Will the site be built to convert visitors to customers with things like social proof, compelling headlines, imagery and strong call to actions?
- What should we do for a backlink strategy after launch?
So yes, there are many reasons why WordPress is the best for SEO, but if all of these things are thoughtfully considered by a designer, developer or team with another CMS, than other CMS’s can be highly effective as well. I think WordPress is the #1 CMS right now for people thinking about SEO and small to mid-size businesses because it’s everywhere and there’s tons of documentation and familiarity – that may change in coming years. There may be even more powerful and customizable one’s that are on the horizon, we shall see.
My Verdict: The Best CMS for SEO in 2016 is WordPress. Leave a comment if you have any thoughts on this, if you agree or disagree, or have any other important SEO factors for people considering a new site could use. Thanks for reading.