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Why is a Content Management System bad for SEO?

 10:02 pm on Nov 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

At the conference in Vegas, Jake mentioned that using a CMS is bad news for SEO. Anybody know why? Do CMSs generate non-search-engine-friendly pages? Anybody know certain ones that are good or bad (or are we not allowed to discuss specific products?)?

My company is looking into getting a CMS and I want to know what to watch out for.

Thanks for your thoughts!



 10:23 pm on Nov 22, 2004 (gmt 0)

This sounds a little misinformed, based on the fact that some SE's will stumble on long query strings in urls. A good CMS does not have to be bad for SEO, and should probably have no effect on it. What can be bad is an address that looks like this:


It's the & that can cause pages not to be spidered, but even that is not a given. This url should not cause problems:


With Apache's mod_rewrite it's possible to eliminate this problem altogether. Failing that you could look out for a CMS that creates simpler urls.


 7:51 pm on Nov 23, 2004 (gmt 0)

I would tend to agree. The information you have been given does sound a little bit odd. For instance, there are always news items being listed for certain searches within Google and other SE's. I assume that these news pages are the result of some sort of CMS - it would be a hard job if they were all manual!

We have sites that have content management behind them - all of which we build from scratch, Completely customed to what the client needs.

I think it is more to do with what the CMS produces that could cause the problems rather than the actual CMS itself. As in the example above, if you have a page with a ridiculous amount of &something=something&something=something&something=something& etc, it might not get listed - but it would make no difference whether the URL was created manually or through a CMS. Its the &'s that apparently cause the problems.

[edited by: pageoneresults at 5:35 am (utc) on Nov. 24, 2004]
[edit reason] Fixed Side Scrolling [/edit]


 8:41 pm on Nov 23, 2004 (gmt 0)

Yeah, I am not sure why he said that. I agree that it is the format of the content that matters, not where it came from. Do most CMS's tend to create ugly URLs and bad code or something? That's the only explanation I can think of.


 8:45 pm on Nov 23, 2004 (gmt 0)

You rang? :)

CMSes are generally bad because they tend to overuse session and personalization information on the line. While it's true that most search engines handle dynamic URLs just fine, they do not handle session information properly.

Often, fixing it isn't as simple as just using mod_rewrite, because the CMS is dynamically creating the links as the content is created. You have to modify the code of the CMS itself.

CMS Matrix [cmsmatrix.org] is a good independent and objective resource for investigating your CMS options. Spiderability is one of the criteria they've reviewed.


 10:42 pm on Nov 23, 2004 (gmt 0)

What about dupe content issues? Would this be a factor with the more common systems?

Say for example, your site is about "game-x" and you use "cms y". Isn't it more likely that your site will be seen as a near duplicate to another site about "game-x" running on "cms y"? Particularly if the content on some of your pages is the same (in this case cheat codes, data feeds etc)?

It seems that if your site is already 20% similar (because of the interface/cms) to about 5000 other sites before you've even added a word of your own - aren't you starting at a disadvantage?

Just curious what the experts think.


 10:50 pm on Nov 23, 2004 (gmt 0)

>> using a CMS is bad news for SEO

because most of the time programmers design software and the majority of them know nothing about SEO, therefore they seldom take into consideration the implication of being spidered etc. Jake's quite right, that's a very good site.

>> While it's true that most search engines handle dynamic URLs just fine

be that as it may, would you ever do a site with nasty query strings Jake?

You're listenin to the search engineers too much ;)


 10:52 pm on Nov 23, 2004 (gmt 0)

would you ever do a site with nasty query strings Jake?

LOL, touche. Probably not. ;-)


 5:08 am on Nov 24, 2004 (gmt 0)

Just wanted to know your experience about optimizing Meta Tags and Body Text by using CMS. But I feel we can’t use keyword rich url’s as it generate automatically. So this is one of the drawbacks of CMS.


 5:32 am on Nov 24, 2004 (gmt 0)

My $0.02:

Jake is right and wrong... it's good advice which may be ignored only if you're careful.

Many CMS systems use windows-based text editing panes (you know, the ones like you see in hotmail on IE, using execCommands).

The HTML created by those tools looks like the kind of garbage you get when you export a Word doc as HTML. You might as well just barf all over the screen.

CMS systems are not bad if they save time & streamline production, AND as long as they produce good clean source HTML&CSS. If you are so inclined, it's easy to make a database-driven CMS from scratch with SEO in mind.

I made one with PHP that can be configured to produce equisitely optimized results, but only if used with skill (the CMS does not produce the SEO, rather the SEO is in the way the CMS is used)


 6:44 am on Nov 24, 2004 (gmt 0)

Jake did not say ALL cms's are bad... He said they are "Generally Bad", and I tend to agree with that.

With a CMS you "can" lose control of on page aspects, Title, Meta Description and many of them without hacks have a session ID, long URLS and some have heavy HTML to Content Ratio.

What he is saying, is look around and compare the CMS's before your get stuck with a system that is not Search Engine Friendly and hurts your site rather than help. Even if it is easy to create content, if it can't be found what good is it?

Building your own CMS is a great deal of work but can be very beneficial if done well with SEO in mind.


 6:55 am on Nov 24, 2004 (gmt 0)

It's not CMSs that are the problem but lazy webmasters who want to have a website overnight. Any of the slapdash CMSs out there that cut down on the initial time to put up a website are going to land you with an inflexible hunk of junk. In my experience, the setup time on a good CMS is longer than throwing up a static site. The payoff comes with the time savings once the site has been in use for a while.

If you are using a good CMS and have taken the time to set it up well, nobody will even that you are using one. You would be able to customize templates to pull generic or page specific meta tags, keyword stuffing etc... for any possible part of a web page.

they tend to overuse session and personalization information on the line

In my experience the best of today's CMSs do not have this problem.

I guess I'm not disagreeing with Jake, I just like to emphasize a different side of things.


 8:35 am on Nov 24, 2004 (gmt 0)

using a CMS is bad news for SEO

Not so (as I think all of you are agreeing).

Provided the company/individual knows what seo factors need to be consiodered on a page, you simply ensure your developer builds you a bespoke system that does all of it for you - but leaves flexibility so that you can change things like page names, folder names, query strings to file names, suffixes from asp to .htm or .html etc etc etc

I know this works as I have over 100 sites using it in one form or another (all with unqiue content mind!)


 9:32 am on Nov 24, 2004 (gmt 0)

From a 'client' point of view, rather than an SEO's, the problem is that many clients just buy a CMS and then try to shoehorn SEO into their activities.

The other classic we encounter is a client who has implemented a CMS to take over from a site which was partially content managed, because it 'makes things easier doing it in house', and then wants to completely rewrite it when they find they don't have the flexibility of working with a bespoke design(er) and programmer.

IMHO the main problem with CMS systems is that they are bought in under a misapprehension that all will be 'easy and quick' after this wonderous piece of software is up and running.

It is rarely 'easy' and seldom 'quick'...


 9:42 am on Nov 24, 2004 (gmt 0)

We have just replaced our outdated CMS which produced SE invisible pages both in terms of scetchy and fluffy session URL's and messy code.

The new one (Obtree, might only be known in Europe) produces great results and offers simple SEO features as well, like easy tag forms. What impresses me most are the statically looking URL's and the full control over path, length and structure of URI's, URL's.

Also, html code looks rather clean and lean.

A solid CMS vendor should feature such obvious concerns in their promotion and be able to clarify the situation with their potential customers.

Remember: education of content owners (publishers, editors) is key for SEO through, whenever you start thinking beyond technical barriers.


 10:32 am on Nov 24, 2004 (gmt 0)

<If you are so inclined, it's easy to make a database-driven CMS from scratch with SEO in mind.>

This is the route I chose.. maximum customizability -- You can make it do anything you want.


 10:46 am on Nov 24, 2004 (gmt 0)

The other issue I have seen with CMS products is that they may lock you into specific page characteristics. E.g., you may want a page to be named /widgets/polishing.htm, but the CMS will automatically assign 34567.htm. Out of the box, things like page titles and meta tags may not be readily alterable. All of these issues can be addressed in the code, but they are worth looking at when selecting a CMS product.


 11:15 am on Nov 24, 2004 (gmt 0)

I strongly agree CMS are bad for SEO for the following reasons.

1. Most of the CMS generate content dynamicaly from their backend system , which leave little control of each and every page.

2. Most of them use template based page layout, which is generic in nature , customization for specific pages may be difficult.

3. As many people mentioned , they use URLs which is not spider friendly.


 11:39 am on Nov 24, 2004 (gmt 0)

Remember: education of content owners (publishers, editors) is key for SEO through, whenever you start thinking beyond technical barriers.

I think the above point should be emphasized also. No good having good URLs if the content is not up to par.


 11:47 am on Nov 24, 2004 (gmt 0)

There are good CMS and bad ones, so some are going to be worse for SEO than others. I write my own, so I can see how customising them for SEO purposes doesn't have to be a problem. But the whole point of a CMS is to take the burden of coding and decision-making out of the hands of the webmaster, so it's a trade-off between control and ease of use. When it comes to SEO you often need to take that control back, and that won't be so easy with many off-the-shelf products.


 11:57 am on Nov 24, 2004 (gmt 0)

Good part of cms

1) Easy content writing blah blah
2) Optimize (code optimization, image optimization, code toward the top e.t.c) one page and almost all the pages are optimized, it reduces your work.
( I can write few more but my prof asked me to write only 2 advantages and 3 disadvantages :) )

Bad part is

1) If you donot know how to write your meta tags in an efficient manner, then the navigation will come as SERP description ( home >> keypharse ) as this generally apprears towards top.

2) Content writers copy from MS Word or other text editors to the cms text editor which is normally WYSIWYG, the MS fonts are copied and the code becomes so Dirty and disorder, you need to teach the content writer a bit of <html>.

3) Personal touch of optimization is sometimes missing,

I have tried atleast 15 cms systems but none worked except the ones I started customizing. We have spend hours and hours making it SEO friendly (SE friendly URLs were just one part of it).

Last word of advice : every site should use cms for better ROI.


King of Bling

 12:22 pm on Nov 24, 2004 (gmt 0)

I think Jake was just giving you guys a general "head's up."

For those who are interested in creating top quality web sites - standards compliant, valid, rich semantic markup should be a requirement, not a "feature" for a CMS. Make sure the CMS outputs clean markup to help search engines index your site better, and also supports human-readable, memorable URLs. Don't ignore web standards - get the benefits of standards, such as XML, XSLT, CSS, XHTML, HTML, RSS/ATOM.

Sticky me and I'll try to point you in the right direction (no, I am not affiliated, just impressed ;-)



 12:39 pm on Nov 24, 2004 (gmt 0)

I really do not understand the confusion
Again a CMS should not be defined a full system such as Mambo for example

Let’s consider its essence: CMS = Content Management System

Does that implies auto-creating pages and Dynamic links, where is that defined, is it in writing?

Think about it from a programmer stand point of view
For example what does mine and how does it work (for all my sites, personal ones and clients’ one)

I first created a basic non-dynamic HTML site with pure, simple links and nav system
Then from that shell I transformed all the segments (I want to have added dynamism on) IN PHP OOP page and added my editable capability to those pages (texts and images)
Now I have a CMS that behaves fine within my bounds and criteria’s and no SEO links headache, it is still a CMS but no fuzz!


 2:15 pm on Nov 24, 2004 (gmt 0)

For me, a CMS is essential to SEO. I use the dynamic capability to detect spiders and then strip out extraneous content and instead serve an "abstract" of the content to the spider.


 3:07 pm on Nov 24, 2004 (gmt 0)

> Last word of advice : every site should use cms for better ROI.

On what possible basis are you making such a sweeping statement?

It's entirely possible to use some sort of SSI-based system (Apache includes or slighly more complex house-style generators, which are not really CMS's in the true sense) to maintain sites using 'real' HTML files. I maintain at least 10,000 flat-file, extremely SEO-friendly, pages in under an hour a day using little more than that.

Using a CMS can take away the fine-tuning control that a highly professional site often needs, as well as merging two things that should be entirely separate: page generation and page management.


 3:28 pm on Nov 24, 2004 (gmt 0)


It's the & that can cause pages not to be spidered, but even that is not a given. This url should not cause problems:


Even better...

There are ways to alleviate the whole "page.php" query altogether.

We've created a CMS that publishes database-managed content as an individual page based on keyphrase criteria defined for that page.

This may be helpful for those of you that can code ASP or PHP.

The administrative "add content" form has several of the basic fields for content data entry: Title, head, foot, article, link, etc. Then I have a keyphrase field which you would enter a hyphenated keyphrase.

Now you create a template for the articles. You can even have multiple templates which you can choose via a drop-down box in your CMS add content form.

In the template, you design <<<*A_Unique_Tag_Style*>>> to replace with the article ID, which is now defined -inside- the document as opposed to in a url querystring. (In ASP you would load the entire template inside the Replace() as a variable - don't know the equivalent in PHP.)



'Open database connection
dim article_ID
'Open content recordset using ID


When you add your content to the database, there should be a simple administrative page which allows to to view, add, edit, delete, or PUBLISH each article on an individual or group basis. In ASP, this is accomplished using the File System Object (FSO).

Once you publish a page, it should load the template, replace the <<<*A_Unique_Tag_Style*>>> with the ID that was autonumbered inside the db table, and output it as a keyword-oriented page.




'Open database connection
dim article_ID
'Open content recordset using ID


Now, you're positioning "http://www.example.com/keyword-phrase.asp" instead of "http://www.example.com/page.php?var=keyword+phrase".

You can even go a bit further and use the keyword-phrase convention to pull up "keyword-phrase.gif", keyword-phrase.jpg" within the page layout, create a "print.asp?page=keyword-phrase.asp" type link, or whatever else you choose to enhance or promote the page.


 4:24 pm on Nov 24, 2004 (gmt 0)

I use the dynamic capability to detect spiders and then strip out extraneous content and instead serve an "abstract" of the content to the spider.

Isn't this considered a 'shady' practice? I seem to remember reading that G**gle specifically frowns upon delivering content to spiders that is different from the actual content on the user-viewed page...

creative craig

 4:33 pm on Nov 24, 2004 (gmt 0)

The part related to dynamic strings in the URLs has already been touched upon, but what is more user friendly:




I would rather say the last one out loud over the phone!

Usability and accessibility issues might also be of some concern.


 5:36 pm on Nov 24, 2004 (gmt 0)

The vast majority of content management systems have never thought of accommodating search engines, in particular search engine spiders with their software.

There are however, several companies that seem to be making the effort to address this issue in the last year, one in particular has been quite aggressive in designing its system with a heavy SEO/SEM slant.

I found this press release that I though might of interest to anyone who is dealing with these issues.


- Happy Thanksgiving!


 6:15 pm on Nov 24, 2004 (gmt 0)

The above poster who mentioned that you can use CMS if you're careful is correct. I run all of my sites using CMS's. If I need a coding change for SEO, I can make the change in one place and it affects all of my websites at once. That's the beauty of CMS.

URL issues are as simple as a an apache rewrite. You need to be able to control metatags, titles and headings at the page level, but that's just a couple more fields in the database and isn't any more difficult than the body text.In fact, I think a rewrite, once implemented can be better than hand coding page names (I can name each page whatever I like - optimized or not - because the mapping from the displayed URL to the actual page is just a database lookup).

HTML can be coded cleanly. And for the session info that the spiders dislike, all I do is check a list of spiders. If it matches, we don't serve any sort of cookie/session info. They get the same content (though clearly it's an immediate step to cloak from there).

The thing I like about CMS is that it seperates layout from content. I can do any layout SEO in one spot for everything, then manage my content seperately.

Yes, I'm top spot on some not horribly competitive phrases using a CMS.

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