May 25

How to Choose the Best CMS for SEO to Boost Your Website Rankings

Did you know your Content Management System has a big impact on your site’s search engine rankings?

There are numerous important SEO features you should look for in your CMS before committing to one.

In this post we’ll walk you through the most important of those features your CMS needs, and break down the top 5 CMS, so you can choose the best for your website rankings.

Know What CMS Features Are Important For SEO 

When evaluating a CMS for SEO performance, you need to be aware of what features it offers. 

Some features come activated upon installation, while others need to be manually activated or added through a plugin.

You want to make sure you have a CMS that comes with the following features – or at minimum, has an easy way to add them to the site.

Here are the 13 most important features for your site’s SEO.

Customizable Page SEO Elements

Being able to customize on-page SEO elements is vital. Not having any control over important elements can be costly and limit your ability to optimize your site.

You’ll want to make sure you’re able to easily edit and customize title tags, meta descriptions, and image ALT tags.

If you can’t control these elements, the page will likely default to using the title for the title tag and the first paragraph for the meta description – which probably aren’t optimized as they should be.

Some CMS will allow you to do this easily through native features, while others may require you to download a free plugin, such as Yoast for WordPress.

Additionally, you can check whether your site is optimized for search engines with an external tool like SERPtimizer, which allows you to identify issues regarding the title length, missing or duplicate headers, or meta descriptions that entirely match with the title. 

URL Settings

Your URL structure plays an important role in your page’s ability to rank well, since it affects the following:

  • User Experience. Easy to read and shorter URLs tend to benefit both humans and search engines.
  • On-Page Optimization. Being able to adjust URLs to include keywords can help improve your chance of ranking.
  • Linking and Sharing. Shorter and sensible URLs are more likely to be shared and linked to. 

Make sure your CMS makes it easy not only to customize URLs, but also to edit URL structure and subfolder names. 

Taxonomy

Website taxonomy refers to the structuring of your website and the content it features.

A well-structured and organized website is easier for search engines to crawl. 

Appropriately organizing content helps search engines better understand the topics your site covers.

There are plenty of ways to organize your site content. 

Just ensure your CMS of choice makes it easy to customize your blog categories, tags, and portfolio items – especially their URL structures.

For example, if you have a portfolio of clients or case studies, some CMS may default the name of the subfolder to “portfolio” rather than a more optimized term like “marketing-clients.”

Example A: websitename.com/portfolio/client-a

Example B: websitename.com/marketing-clients/client-a

Make sure to always use the more optimized option.

Internal Linking

There are a number of reasons why internal linking is important for SEO:

  • Search engine crawlers use internal links to navigate websites
  • Internal links pass link equity throughout your site
  • Internal links help users move throughout your site

When you interlink content together appropriately, your site has a chance to rank higher and keep users on your site for longer.

Some CMS will have features that make internal linking really easy. 

For example, they may have automated sidebars on your blog that show recent posts or “if you liked this, you may also like this post” features at the bottom of pages.

Overall, look for a CMS that has features to make internal linking easy.

Duplicate Pages

Duplicate content occurs when you have multiple pages containing identical or nearly identical content. 

Multiple pages showcasing the same content put both pages at risk of not ranking as well as they should, and some SEOs believe you could even be penalized for such a practice.

You may think, “Well, I just won’t create two identical pages.” 

That will be helpful, but your CMS may create unnecessary pages that need to be dealt with, like tags, product descriptions, and different pages for http/https/www.

The best way to deal with duplicate content is the use of canonicals. Canonicals tell search engines which page you actually want ranked and found by searchers.

So look for a CMS that protects you from duplicate content with canonicals – or at least gives you access to a plugin that does so.

301 Redirects 

A 301 redirect directs visitors to a different web page – kind of like mail forwarding. 

If you have a deleted page you’re no longer using, you want to direct visitors and search engines to the new or more helpful page using a 301 status code.

Having 404 or “dead” pages on your site can make it hard for search engines to navigate your site – not to mention, provide a poor user experience. 301 redirects help search engines and users better navigate your site.

You should look for a CMS that makes it easy to set up 301 redirects and address any 404 errors on your site.

Note: A tool like SERPtimizer can help you identify URL redirect errors.

SSL Certification

An SSL certificate secures your website and protects you and your visitors from security breaches. You probably notice the SSL “secure” lock icon in your browser’s navigation bar.

A few years ago, Google introduced a site’s security as an important ranking factor—meaning that if your site isn’t secure, it’s not going to rank nearly as well as secure sites.

It goes without saying that you should seek out a CMS that supports an SSL certification and allows for easy installation.

Navigation Menus

Your site’s navigation has a big impact on internal linking. 

As mentioned above, internal links impact how search engines crawl your site and how users move through your site.

Needless to say, they carry a lot of weight and importance. 

You should aim to link from your navigation to the most important pages on your site, indicating to search engines and users where they should go first.

Look for a CMS that makes it easy to adjust your navigational menu items.

Robots.txt File

Your robots.txt file gives search engines directions on how to crawl your website, including which pages should be left out of crawls (like checkout, cart, and user pages).

These are extremely important files – misconfiguration can have huge SEO consequences for your site.

Some CMS will create (or allow plugins to create) these files easily without you having to do much. 

If you have a larger site, you should look for a CMS that not only supports robots.txt files, but makes it really easy for you to update them (if you know what you’re doing).

XML Sitemap

An XML sitemap is a file that lives on your site, listing out all relevant URLs. 

Sitemaps are another opportunity to help search engines better understand and crawl your site —ensuring all your pages are indexed and able to rank.

Some CMS will create a sitemap for you automatically, while others allow for the easy download of plugins or extensions to take care of it for you. 

You can create a sitemap on your own, but look for a CMS that does it for you to save time and hassle.

Speed

Site speed is one of the most important considerations when it comes to choosing a CMS. Beginning in 2018, speed became an important Google ranking factor

Image via Google

In addition to hurting your chances of ranking, slow sites deter users from spending time on your site.

Here are a few speed-related questions you should ask regarding your CMS:

  • Does it come with a clean and organized file structure?
  • Is the foundational code well optimized and lean?
  • What does the SEO community think about its out-of-the-box speed?

Do some research and choose a CMS that prioritizes site speed and protects you from slowing your site down.

Core Web Vitals Support

Core Web Vitals refer to three aspects of the user experience—loading, interactivity, and visual stability

Google is placing a heavy emphasis on these three correlating metrics in an upcoming algorithm update.

Sites that fail to evaluate their sites for these Core Web Vitals may be in for a rude awakening when the new update rolls out.

Core Web Vitals are still relatively new, so many Content Management Systems are still working on updates to help site owners navigate them and fix issues. 

At minimum, look for a CMS that’s aware and working on solutions, or at least a CMS that has an open-source library of plugins and extensions that contain Core Web Vital tools.

Mobile Friendliness

It probably goes without saying that mobile friendliness is now a major factor to consider when optimizing your site—especially since Google began mobile-first indexing a few years ago.

It’s important to choose a CMS that allows for easy mobile optimization.

Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that most CMS are just frameworks, and only a few have out-of-the-box responsive options. 

However, many allow or require you to use themes to build your site.

Make sure that your CMS has a variety of responsive themes available to you.

TL;DR Why is WordPress the Best Rated CMS?

Nathan Gotch performed a study in April of 2021 to determine the highest-rated Content Management Systems for SEO. 

He and his team evaluated the top-ranking pages of 10,000 unique keywords, noting what CMS those pages were built on.

WordPress was a clear winner, owning 45% of the SERPs.

It is worth noting that 40% of websites on the web are built on WordPress. But the evidence is clear that sites built on WordPress tend to outperform others.

Below we’ll dig into the top 5 systems for SEO performance. 

Know the Most Used CMS Options 

Here are the top 5 Content Management Systems listed by popularity. We’ll look at their pros and cons, explain what websites they’re most suitable for and suggest some plugins that can improve your experience with additional features. 

Let’s dive in!

WordPress

WordPress is an open-source CMS that’s been around for almost twenty years. It was the clear winner of the GotchSEO study, and is used on 40% of all websites worldwide.

WordPress Pros

  • Great Community. WordPress is open-sourced with a huge community of developers constantly improving the platform and codex.
  • Flexibility. WordPress offers thousands of themes that give you plenty of options for design and optimizing your site for search engines.
  • Plugin Library. Some of the most popular and powerful SEO tools on the market exist as WordPress plugins.

WordPress Cons

  • Number of Options. Because of the wealth of themes and plugins, the options available to you can feel overwhelming.
  • Ease of Use. Even though WordPress is fairly easy to use, some other CMS like Squarespace and Wix are even easier.
  • Potential Security Issues. Themes and plugins are great, but they need to be updated regularly. Failure to keep up with them can result in security issues.

What Types of Websites Is It Best For?

As mentioned, WordPress is one of the most flexible systems on the market, allowing you to create just about any type of site imaginable: eCommerce, SaaS, blogs, portfolio, and more.

Can Plugins Help?

Without a doubt. WordPress is home to some of the best SEO tools on the market:

Yoast is a great tool for on-page optimization, canonicals, redirects, and more. It’s one of the most widely-used SEO tools in the world.

RankMath is a very similar tool that can help you do just about anything you need for quality SEO.

Lastly, WPRocket is a powerful plugin that helps you speed up your site, assisting with file minification, lazy loading images, and much more.

There’s a reason WordPress is both one of the most widely used CMS and ranks the highest in regard to SEO. It’s a great CMS.

Drupal

Drupal is another open-sourced CMS fairly similar to WordPress, but much less popular, used by 1.4% of all sites on the internet.

Drupal Pros

  • Flexibility. Drupal is flexible and scalable, perfect for creating large and complex websites.
  • Great Community. Much like WordPress, Drupal is supported by a dedicated and passionate community.
  • Security. Drupal places a heavy emphasis on security—which is a big plus for SEO.

Drupal Cons

  • Complexity. It’s a bit more complex than other popular Content Management Systems, and there’s more of a learning curve when getting started.
  • Some Expertise Required. Drupal has lots of themes and extensions, but most are somewhat difficult to navigate and install.
  • Potential Speed Issues. It can be difficult to optimize Drupal for speed. 

What Types of Websites Is It Best For?

Drupal can be used to build any site, but it’s probably best for larger and more complex ones. 

It features flexible taxonomies and a wide range of content types. Multilingual functionalities even come baked into the core, which is perfect for international sites.

Can Plugins Help?

Drupal actually uses the term modules for their plugin equivalents. There are many great modules for SEO.

Metatag allows you to easily add structured data like open graphs, title tags, meta descriptions, and more.

Pathauto is another must-use module for SEO. It allows you to customize your URLs to be more user and search-engine-friendly, rather than having to use the default Drupal node URL.

Drupal is open-sourced, very flexible, and extremely secure, but its community doesn’t quite seem to have the same focus on SEO, which is seen clearly in the lack of SEO-focused modules.

Hubspot

Well known for being one of the most popular marketing automation and CRM tools in the world, Hubspot also has a fairly robust CMS, trusted by plenty of digital marketing agencies.

Pros

  • Convenience. If you use Hubspot’s marketing, sales, or service tools, using their CMS for your website can be convenient. You could have all your marketing and sales tools in one place.
  • Design Ease. Their drag-and-drop builder for all page types makes designing and spinning up a site easy and quick.
  • Templates. Their marketplace templates give you plenty of design options and inspiration, so you don’t have to start from scratch.
  • SEO Focus. As a marketing platform, Hubspot’s CMS emphasizes SEO. It has lots of out-of-the-box SEO features and recommendations.

Cons

  • Pricing. Though Hubspot’s CMS isn’t outrageous, it’s much more expensive than the free CMS options you have in WordPress, Drupal, and others.
  • Flexibility. While you can develop your own themes in Hubspot, if you go with one of their templates, you’re fairly locked into its design and style.
  • Learning Curve. If you’re already familiar with Hubspot, this isn’t a big deal. But if you’re new to the platform, it can take some time before you start feeling comfortable.

What Types of Websites Is It Best For?

Hubspot’s CMS is best for simple, blog-focused, marketing websites. It’s probably not a great fit for any kind of robust functionality or custom options.

Can Plugins Help?

Hubspot utilizes their app marketplace for CMS extensions. You can integrate your CMS with plenty of design, marketing, and sales tools.

However, in addition to being an all-in-one marketing solution, Hubspot also has plenty of their own tools. 

For example, SEO features and recommendations come built-in so that you can optimize your pages on the fly. 

In fact, it includes almost all of the features we recommended looking for above. It even helps you track keyword rankings.

Hubspot CMS is powerful and easy to use with a heavy focus on SEO. But if you’re looking to build a complex site, it may not be the best option.

Magento

Magento has been one of the best eCommerce platforms for over ten years and powers around 25% of all online stores

Magento Pros

  • Out-of-the-box features. Magento might have more ready-to-use features than any other CMS on the market, including polls, checkout options, website analytics, pricing tools, and more.
  • Robust Capacity. Magento can host up to half a million products per site and can support up to 80,000 orders per hour.
  • SEO Focus. Magento was built with SEO in mind, making it very easy for site owners to update metadata, add product descriptions, and auto-generate sitemaps.

Cons

  • Complexity. Magento is much less user-friendly than many of the other systems listed here. It’s time-consuming to figure out the best combination of features and extensions for your store.
  • Developer Experience Required. A store owner with no real developer experience probably won’t be able to spin up a Magento site on their own. If you don’t have a developer on your team, you’ll need help.

What Types of Websites Is It Best For?

Magento is one of the best CMS options on the market for eCommerce stores, especially large, high-volume shops.

Can Plugins Help?

Magento has a wide range of extensions and plugins available for SEO and other benefits.

The Magento 2 SEO Extension is one of the most popular choices for a robust and affordable solution for your store. 

It provides a wide range of features like canonicals, structured data, sitemaps, and more.

SEO Content Optimization by ReloadSEO is another great extension for optimizing your content and product pages. 

It gives you real-time feedback on how well your content is optimized for search engines.

Shopify

Shopify exploded onto the eCommerce CMS scene a few years ago and has only taken more and more market share since. 

It’s a great CMS for just about anyone looking to get an online store up and running quickly.

Shopify Pros

  • Ease of Use. It’s incredibly easy to get a simple shop up and running on Shopify. It has tons of features to help non-developers and those new to websites.
  • Payment Processing. Shopify makes it really easy to process online payments from a number of providers.
  • SEO Features. Shopify comes out of the box with many of the features mentioned above—no plugins or extensions necessary.
  • Great Performance. Most Shopify sites perform well and load quickly.

Shopify Cons

  • Rigid Themes. Even if you’re a developer, you may have trouble customizing Shopify’s themes, which are written in their self-developed PHP language.
  • No Access to Sitemap or Robots.txt. Though most site owners won’t really need to edit these too much, some access would be nice.
  • Expensive Apps. Though they do have a number of extensions and integrations, they can be pricey.

What Types of Websites Is It Best For?

Shopify is a fantastic option for smaller and simple online stores. It is possible to run more robust shops on Shopify, but it could get expensive.

Can Plugins Help?

Shopify does have a great library of apps, but many of them cost. That said, Shopify does come ready with a ton of SEO options and features.

Avada’s SEO Suite is a great free option for SEO help and recommendations, giving you a great checklist to track and improve optimizations in real-time.

SEO Booster is another great plugin to help you improve and audit your SEO performance. You can start with a seven-day free trial, and they do offer a free version.

If you’re running an online store and don’t want to dive deep into more complex solutions like Magento, Shopify is the CMS for you.

Conclusion

If you’re setting out to launch a new website—and custom coding from scratch isn’t your strength—your CMS choice is a huge decision. 

You want a system that’s easy to use and works for your business, but you also want to prioritize SEO to ensure you’re setting yourself up for the highest rankings possible.

WordPress is the favorite and highest performing CMS out there, but you can’t go wrong with Hubspot, Drupal, Magento, or Shopify either.

Make an educated decision and start owning your SERPs!