Many times, those choosing a new enterprise platform to serve their website to the world are not well-versed in today’s SEO requirements. Systems integration and indexation are the focus of many IT-minded project managers. CMS features will often be key to marketing directors’ and CMOs’ decision-making. Even for savvy marketers, some platform requirements may slip under the radar in their due diligence.
To support all of those tasked with selecting a new website platform, let’s recap the top elements to consider when vetting different solutions.
Platform SEO requirements
In my experience, the following are must-have elements when assessing new website platforms. Missing one or more of these elements likely means your site will see poor representation in search engine indices and/or miss an important quality guideline.
1. Hosted on dedicated IP (IP shared with dev site OK)
Too often, I see major websites or blogs hosted along with dozens or hundreds of other websites. This generally hurts site performance and should be avoided.
2. Supports basic mobile-friendly viewport features
Whether you choose to adopt a “mobile first” mindset or not, being mobile-friendly should be a big part of your platform consideration. Two major elements of being deemed mobile-friendly:
- Pages specify a viewport matching the accessing device’s size.
- Contents of pages fit within the viewport.
In short, a platform that will support a responsive website is the shortest way of meeting these viewport requirements.
3. Allows (non-secure) JS and CSS to be indexed
As Google notes,
4. Supports canonical tag “rule sets” on all pages, specifically around sort, pagination and faceting
This is one of the most important elements of a site platform that people miss — does the platform support canonical tags? Probably so… but how easy is it to integrate advanced rules around, say, category facets? Does it follow Google’s advice on pagination?
Why is this important? Because canonicals allow you to eliminate duplicate and/or low-quality content that many platforms inevitably produce and, from an SEO point of view, it allows a site owner to direct the SEO “power” of those pages.
5. Supports ad hoc 301 redirect mapping
The devil is in the details here. Most platforms allow webmasters to create 301 redirects. Many platforms insist that you do it through their GUI using a complicated table and row limits. Any ability to author individual redirects satisfies this requirement, but also look at the ease of their implementation.
6. Page URLs do not require SessionIDs
The issue with sessionIDs in page URLs is that if the pages are not properly canonicalized and/or excluded within Google Search Console’s URL Parameters section, they commonly create duplicate content. Few platforms use sessionIDs in the URL any longer.
7. Supports a custom robots.txt file
Having a robots.txt file that prevents indexation of cart and admin elements of a site is good, but being able to finely control directory and file-level permissions should also be something you ask of a website platform.
8. Automated XML Sitemap production (“one click” is OK)
While it could be argued that a well-structured site does not need an XML sitemap to help search engines’ discovery of site pages, consider the following:
- It is a standard way of interacting with search engines through their webmaster tools utilities.
- It allows site owners to immediately call search engines’ attention to the existence of new URLs.
- An advanced XML sitemap allows a site owner to tie a URL to specific rich media and other attributes like lastmod and priority.
9. Supports navigation rendered in plain HTML text (links still clickable for users with JS, CSS and cookies disabled)
10. Page URLs able to be customized on a per-page basis (or at least use syntax-based, real language to reference pages)
Is this absolutely required to be successfully indexed and even to rank for key phrases? Strictly speaking, no. But Google does say the following:
Consider organizing your content so that URLs are constructed logically and in a manner that is most intelligible to humans (when possible, readable words rather than long ID numbers).
With that, I’d consider friendly URLs as key to a site’s SEO.