Our SEO Top 20 Features Checklist for eCommerce Content Management Systems (CMS)

by on September 19, 2011

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Image: eCommerce - Confluence Digital blogIf you are a manager of an eCommerce website and you’re looking to make a switch of your content management system, SEO capabilities must be a central part of the decision.

Recently we have had the opportunity to work with several clients who were going through this process, so the question of selecting the “right” Content Management System that would meet their needs and be SEO friendly did come up.

Rather than recommend a specific platform, we thought we’d share our list of 20 SEO features that we feel a good system should include:

1. Support 301 redirects to preserve search engine rankings. 
2. Avoiding duplicate content and use of the canonical tag where relevant.
3. Dynamically generate search engine friendly URLs for product and content pages e.g. www.yoursite.com/category-name/product-name instead of www.yoursite.com/productdetails.aspx?pid=037012&cid=144&language=en-GB.
4. Specify and edit URLs for individual pages via the CMS – important for campaign landing pages and microsites.
5. Support RSS feeds to push out product and news announcements e.g. deal of the day.
6. Support for linking of product pages and content pages to improve internal linking – should be delivered via the Catalog Management tool or CMS.
7. Absolute positioning for text links on product list pages to ensure the first link for each product is keyword rich.
8. Creation of dynamic XML sitemaps which can be submitted on a regular basis.
9. Auto generated HTML sitemaps based on your catalogue and site structure.
10. Support for rich snippets within platform – encoding of data in RDF format e.g. customer ratings & reviews.
11.Custom 404 error page creation and automated reporting to flag error pages so your internal team can take action. (You can achieve this through a separate monitoring tool such as the free Indiabook.com dead link checker)
12. A Robots.txt file is provided and you can access and edit when required.
13. Capabilities for meta content (title, description) management that can be edited easily from within the CMS.
14. Machine readable text links in navigation, not images; if coders are using sIFR (flash replacements) require clarification on how this is being done to ensure it complies with accessibility standards.
15. Keyword optimized Hx tags within HTML for headings – structure for use of H1 to H6 to provide a relevant hierarchy of content.
16. Ensuring Flash objects are search engine friendly. Remember, use Flash to accentuate but not to dominate the user experience.
17. Graceful degradation – when elements like JavaScript are disabled in the browser, be sure that key content is still visible to search engine spiders/bots as well as to visitors.
18. Page builds must be efficient and not negatively impact page load time. Be sure you define how load speed is measured e.g. after all page elements have loaded – this factor is a key part of Google’s algorithm.
19. Site search capabilities. While you’re at it, enable your analytics package to pull site search usage and query data. Google Analytics makes this very easy.
20. Ability to add NoFollow, NoIndex tags to links.

Other than perhaps #1 (support for 301 redirects), none of the other features are absolute deal killers if they are not supported, but if more than a few are not offered, consider broadening your CMS consideration set and look for one that does.

If you need help with SEO on your eCommerce website or want to learn more about search engine optimization, paid search, social media marketing, conversion funnel optimization, landing page best practices and more – give us a call!

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