Outstanding Search Engine Optimization with ExpressionEngine

by: Lee Goldberg on: 9/20/2011

Editor’s Note: Lee Goldberg is President of Marketing and Strategy at Vector Media Group in New York City. He leads the online marketing initiatives in many Vector projects, including for companies like Nielsen and About.com. Some of you may know Vector’s President of Development and Technology, Matt Weinberg, from EECI 2010 in San Francisco and EECI 2011 in Amsterdam. The vast majority of Vector’s projects are built on ExpressionEngine.

We often get questions regarding SEO and the performance of EE. Vector Media Group has made a name for themselves as experts in the SEO arena so I asked Lee to provide us some insight on how and why they decided to standardize on ExpressionEngine.

Outstanding SEO with ExpressionEngine

Outstanding Search Engine Optimization with ExpressionEngine

Developers choose ExpressionEngine as their CMS of choice for many reasons. The flexibility, open architecture, outstanding community, and overall structure of the product are indeed second to none. While we at Vector Media Group love the platform for all of the reasons listed above, ExpressionEngine has something else going for it that many web professionals often overlook: Outstanding SEO (Search Engine Optimization).

Some of you know us, Vector Media Group, as a development firm focused on ExpressionEngine. But we also do a significant amount of online marketing and SEO work. In fact, the SEO features built into ExpressionEngine are one of the primary reasons why we’ve chosen EE as our platform of choice. In this post, we’re going to highlight some of the reasons why EE rocks for SEO.

  • Ability to define custom URL Structure. Unlike many other enterprise-level CMS platforms, ExpressionEngine makes it easy to set static, semantic URLs, with the ability to specify custom directory structures. Some other CMSes require core hacks to handle even the most simple structure.
  • Ability to specify custom metadata. ExpressionEngine makes it incredibly easy to define custom page title tags, meta descriptions, meta keywords, and other on-page SEO elements. While other platforms offer this functionality, ExpressionEngine goes a step beyond other Content Management Systems by making it very easy to manually override default metadata by simply tweaking your templates. This makes it easy and scalable to implement on-page optimization onto thousands of ‘long tail pages’ saving time, while still giving marketing teams the precise control that’s needed to have an effective SEO strategy.
  • Internal linking is easy - ExpressionEngine allows pages to reside in multiple categories and channels, without having to worry about duplicate content. Because ExpressionEngine does such a great job of allowing you to display and publish content, it becomes easy to interlink pages.
  • An easy way to generate XML Sitemaps - Having a properly formatted XML sitemap is a key step towards getting content indexed in the search engines. Thanks to the inherent flexibility of its template structure, ExpressionEngine is able to easily output a perfectly-formatted XML sitemap, complete with custom priority codes.
  • Robust indexing and caching - ExpressionEngine’s advanced caching capabilities, including template caching, query caching, and tag caching reduces server load and improves page loadtime, making it easier for the spiders to index your pages.
  • Easy integration with Google Analytics and Google Website Optimizer - Analyzing data is key to making your SEO efforts successful. Whereas many other systems make you update multiple pages to put on Analytics scripts, with ExpressionEngine, it’s literally a copy/paste situation. Even setting up advanced subdomain tracking, custom variables, and event tracking is painless, taking minutes where other systems take hours.

OK, so we’ve covered some of the key reasons why ExpressionEngine rocks for SEO. One of the things that we consistently hear from web developers and end-users are questions on other functions that they think are important for maximizing SEO efforts, but in reality, do very little. So what are the top things that have no impact on SEO, and that shouldn’t have bearing on your evaluation of a CMS from an SEO perspective?

  • Default addition of .html/.php/etc extensions on URLs - While adding these file extensions doesn’t hurt, it doesn’t help either. Search engines are smart enough to figure out what a page is about without the file extensions
  • Ability to submit to search engines - Submitting each page of your site to the engines individually isn’t helpful. If you have a proper information architecture, plenty of links, and a properly-formatted XML sitemap, there’s no need to manually submit your site
  • Ability to automatically add in other meta tags - tags like Meta Authors, Meta Generator, Meta Publisher, and other similar metas are not essential and shouldn’t be part of your primary CMS decision. If you need them, you can get them in ExpressionEngine either yourself or using addons. But having them built-in shouldn’t be a factor when deciding on a CMS.

So there you have it: The top features that actually will enhance your SEO, and the top features that people ask about that have no impact. At the end of the day, we at Vector Media Group are huge proponents of ExpressionEngine for its robust featureset that has SEO built in from the ground up. Above all, however, it’s ExpressionEngine’s clean, flexible, and extensible codeset that makes the platform so successful from an SEO perspective. Smart marketers know that there is no such thing as a one-size fits all approach to optimization, and ExpressionEngine’s inherent flexibility makes it easy to implement the right strategy quickly and seamlessly.

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