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Posts Tagged ‘Kentico CMS’
First off I’m not going to spend this time explaining what SEO is (honestly, I’m tired of explaining, hehe). I’ll just say that if you don’t have a concise ‘professional’ SEO plan in place which includes social media and a content strategy, then you’ll always be down, looking up at your competition.
Second the title says it all, what is ‘Baked in’. So for the purpose of consistency, I’ll be looking specifically at the Set it and Forget it, aspects of the Software Core. Grandiose multi-channel Digital Marketing Suites are all the rage and by all accounts are driving a lot of buying decisions. However one should only consider this next step once the foundation of the website is pristine; where all aspects of On Page SEO are delivered and the staff are trained. That you have a content strategy in place and the content itself is topically AND structurally optimized to meet with current reader behavior and patterns (yet another post, heh).
Kentico’s SEO Features
Kentico’s CMS Brochure, essentially an executive overview of the platform and mentions SEO in a few spots; most notably in some bullet lists in the sidebar column. This list essentially reiterates what is summarized on the website itself, with the addition of the title point “Support for Search Engine Optimization (SEO)”. That is a bit of a loaded comment since there are dozens and dozens of factors required for SEO, many of which are entirely disassociated with what can be accomplished ‘On Page’. At any rate, statements like this can sometimes imply a limited understanding of what SEO has become in recent years, but let’s look a little deeper.
Considering this article is essentially a constructive critique and won’t be all daisies and rainbows, I wanted to start off on a positive note with one of my favorite features that Kentico listed in their SEO features. When I saw this I literally said out loud “No Way! Awesome!”.
“if checked, the ViewState field is moved to the end of the page which results in more content being processed by the search engines”. Okay that’s sort of true, but the crawlers will definitely get to the content ‘sooner’ and so will show that this content is more ‘prominent’ and valuable based on the code/content strategy. Really, the placement on the page (the higher up the better) will dictate a level of priority to search.
I have literally seen ViewState content reach Hundreds of Thousands of characters and bloat page load times by entire seconds! Unfortunately, ViewState is often loaded by default during a site build and developers often have no idea it’s there.
Check out http://www.unicef.org.au. View the source and have a gander at the code starting below. Their ‘VIEWSTATE’ content is 18,000+ characters and is served ‘inside’ the BODY tag. Ouch… Click that button people.
I have spent years battling developers to justify the often grotesque size of the ‘VIEWSTATE’ <input> tag that exists on many .Net based websites. This is one of the more ‘awesomely’ progressive settings that I’ve seen in a CMS yet and will help reduce the bloated code that appears before the body content on the page. Bloody well done. Note to .Net developers; turn this shizzle off if at all possible. It will literally help the performance of the website and we know that .Net sites generally need a hand with speed.
What Kentico Says About Their SEO Features
When I click the link entitled “Learn More about SEO” I’m taken to the following list of features. I would assume that, by their position on the page (also logical based on page structure and content hierarchy), this is an indication of priority for each listed feature. So let’s have a look:
Editable or Automated Metadata. Some of the oldest strategies in SEO are found here, some still have significant relevance and some have none. The following meta data is referenced:
- The Page Title (keep it unique, on topic with most competitive phrases at the head, leave branding for the tail. 60-70 characters)
- Meta Descriptio (one or two sentences, use topical and semantically similar phrases early, make it count)
- Meta Keywords (oops!)
What? Meta Keywords? Are we still talking about these? *sigh
This over exploited piece of meta data hasn’t had an effect on search rankings for over 10 years. It always takes Google a few years to publically declare specifics related to ‘nerfed’ ranking factors and so look here for some closure – Meta Keywords death notice.
Kentico features a fairly outdated video titled, CMS Today: Driving Success with SEO. (look for it here on the right side bar). The video appears to be a webinar from years ago and I found the substance to be quite out-of-date with some lingering mis-information. For instance we found meta keywords still listed as a relevant factor and meta description is ‘not’ always used by Google to build the SERP snippet. Google will voluntarily select alternate on page content if it deems the Description content is not relevant to the phrase used in the search (this is old information as well) Additionally the author seemed a little out of touch with more current updates to the Google algorithm related to inbound link text and the rise of Social Media.
Some positive elements of the video related to content freshness, source code validation and their comments on searcher behavior and how that relates to link/topic depth which I feel is the most important aspect of on page conversion optimization. I admire anyone that places quality of content and freshness above all else. I would however recommend that Kentico take down their SEO video and develop something more current with specific references to the Kentico CMS features found in V7 (ViewState, yea!). There are some other Meta Data content items that would be welcomed in Kentico such as Robots, Canonical and Author (for blog/article/news document types).
Natural Language URL’s. This is a no-brainer. Natural Language URL’s are now a basic requirement for all CMS systems and Kentico has a truly awesome automated natural language URL system in place. Further, their aliasing system, illegal character auditing and ‘term separator’ features are top drawer in my opinion. This ‘governance’ for sake of a better word ensures that the public facing URL paths are consistent with a pre-defined automated strategy. This automation also removes editors from the equation who may have great content writing skills but may inadvertently ad varying punctuation to the title’s, thus creating brutal and malformed URL’s. Not with Kentico.
- The following Characters are forbidden by default: \/:*?”<>|&%.’#*=
- The Forbidden character replacement should always be dash/hyphen (-). This is also default
When URL paths are based on ‘Page Title’ fields, we often see any number of special characters making their way into the content. Kentico’s ability to identify these and intelligently rebuild the URL path is a breath of fresh air.
Spaces in File Names. With the great features listed above, it pains me to mention that there is one item that is slipping through the cracks. As an organizational nerd I abhor spaces in folder names and file names. It’s just messy from a linking, file system point of view. However one can guarantee that editors will build file folder levels with spaces in the names and they should be able to act accordingly. Instead we find direct links to media library assets complete with spaces in the URLs. Some browsers will display the spaces, while others will ‘encode’ the spaces into their character equivalent (%20). Any CMS worth their salt should be able to address this appropriately. Which of these are you most likely to link to or even to click:
Don’t use spaces in your filenames. I’d love to see Kentico apply the same principles that it does with uploads with spaces in the filenames. URL structure and consistency is so important for site integrity and SEO that we really should be seeing more awareness with the CMS providers. We’ll see how this pans out.
Custom URL Aliases. So long as the automatic natural language URL generation is developed correctly as per above, custom URL Aliases won’t come into play. However this can be exploited for campaign pages where specific, friendly names are necessary for topical association, tracking or other visitor behavior management. Additionally, and something Kentico does mention briefly on the site, use aliasing when rebuilding your URL structure or transitioning from a legacy content management system to a new Kentico CMS with new page names, etc… This will take a request for an old page name and redirect it via 301 Moved Permanently, to the correct URL. If you read this transition article, you’ll have learned that this protects backlinks, referrals and most of the historical SEO value from the old page.
Google Sitemap/XML Sitemap Schema. A Google Sitemap feature (well the XML schema is globally supported) is always well received and all platforms should provide this. Also an important tool, especially if you have a competent content creation strategy such as a blog or article repository.
I felt that there should have been some more direct information related to how and when the sitemap is generated or updated since maintaining an up to date XML sitemap is crucial. I like the customization options for path and name (.gz/.zip/etc…). It may have been nice to see options such as priority and lastmod although relatively minor in the big picture There is however some more concise information here regarding the features in Version7.
I would caution that there is a little bit of mis-information here regarding how Google Sitemaps actually work and what they represent. On this page they state the following:
“This protocol is designed to help search engines appropriately index websites, which may significantly affect their final search rank”
The second part of this sentence is simply not true. The sitemap is there to assist crawlers in finding pages that may be buried deep in the website. However this will not ‘significantly’ affect rankings. If search crawlers are having difficulty accessing your pages via a traditional crawl, you have navigation structure concerns. Additionally, signals from backlinks, referrals, syndication and the website’s own internal linking will dictate the beginnings of a ranking boost to be supported by the content and page structure itself.
Instead, use the sitemaps file in combination with BING and Google Webmaster Tools to help diagnose performance issues with the website such as issues with broken links, outages and other crawl errors. Count how many URL’s you are submitting with your sitemap and compare that with the number of actual ‘Indexed Pages’ which may indicate a functional problem with your internal linking strategy. The screenshot below from Google webmaster tools indicates a possible issue with the website structure.
“…specifies which pages should be indexed and how often they should be re-indexed.”
In truth, the sitemap file doesn’t specify which pages to index, nor does it determine the frequency as to how often to index the pages. So this statement unfortunately, is entirely untrue. It is however, a great feature of the CMS and will help webmasters diagnose many health related issues as mentioned. Moving on…
HTML Code Optimization. I admire CMS providers who take some pride in their source code. After all, this is where the real magic is since it is the playground for search engines. They list the following: (note this is surely a summary list from a much larger bucket of features)
Easily add TITLE or ALT attributes to all images and links - Only the ALT attribute is required for images (W3C accessibility compliance), having titles for images often opens the door for ‘over optimization’. Best to avoid image Titles (titles are best suited for describing links (href)).
Automatically check that URLs contain only allowed characters and use a consistent case – This is Brilliant! As mentioned earlier, I absolutely love how Kentico automates this feature.
Eliminate duplicate URLs for the same content and ensure redirection – Another fantastic feature. We will see how some CMS systems have real trouble here, considering this is such a massive SEO consideration.
Web Standards Compliance. This really is a no brainer as well. All web based software should be 100% W3C compliant out of the box. However, we have to be realistic sometimes and understand that the content is ultimately up to the website owner to manage, we will often see validation issues once the reams of content begin to populate the website. Still, with the appropriate WYSIWYG logic or cleaner (HTML Tidy?), compliance is still possible and some CMS systems are at least providing validation signals to encourage compliance.
What Else did I Find in Kentico Version 7
As mentioned there were are few brilliant, yet simple features integrated in Kentico which should be standard across all CMS Systems. The ViewState relocator for .Net systems is a ‘Tiger Blood Winner’, as are the automated URL compliance features and the ‘turnkey’ duplicate content provisions.
The Friendly URL extensions field is a great setting and should be left blank. The perfect URL structure is to serve no extension at all. Extensionless URLs deliver an ultra clean architecture and when combined with logical natural language paths, transitioning to other platforms is a breeze since there are no ‘technology’ based extensions to rewrite from (html/aspx/php/etc…). I hope that makes sense.
While the robots.txt can be a very powerful tool, I’m not sure I see great value with this field since Google will always look at the site root for this file. The exception would be if this is designed to circumvent webhosts who have not supplied FTP access. Additionally there is mention for the need for a custom response webpart which seems a bit overcomplicated for a basic text file that lives in the webroot. Instead it would be nice to see a more comprehensive Robots.txt configurator with options to deny access to certain obvious paths such as admin login paths or other private urls. Further a selection to add the ‘xml sitemap location’ would be another bonus. In its current format, this feature is assuming that the uploader is already familiar with robots.txt directives. Remember you can block your entire website from Google via this little file. =^..^=
Well done. Overrides Microsoft’s obsession with the 302 Temporary redirect. Can you say “Custom 404 Page Fail”?
Have I mentioned how I LOVE this! This feature clearly ‘Slow Clap Worthy’. ‘great vid.
Normally I would say this really should be a default setting. However as a rule, never sensor, moderate or generally roadblock ANY User Generated Content (UGC), unless there is an obvious need to. It’s pretty obvious when your forum or blog comments are being exploited, but wait until you see examples of this before ‘throwing the baby out with the bathwater’. Quality contributors are GOLD for your organization. Nurture them.
This is a smart setting. Nothing says “visitor death” like a default, dead end 404 page. When setting the alternate page, make it intelligent. Use some dynamic content widgets to display relevant content, or recent articles or somehow scrape the user session and deliver links to content relevant to their last position in the website. If you still use a default 404 page, it’s time to change or give up.
You can never spend too much time developing governance towards your URL/Page structure. This needs to be drafted in stone and beat into the whole of your content team. Once these settings are established, should not under any circumstances, be altered. I particularly like the ‘Redirect invalid case URLs to their correct versions’. Nice work, we often see multiple versions of pages simply due to the lack of QC and Compliance with the content team. Usually this is a malformed text link which is hand entered or a referral link from a 3rd party. Set a compliance standard and enforce it. I generally don’t like caps in urls since it’s too confusion for editors and can lead to compliance chaos if there is a capitalization scheme being implemented. I generally stick with lowercase separated by hyphens for simplicity. Generally speaking each of these setting are engineered to help the site owner protect against duplicate content, much of which will be incidental based on malformed links both internal and externally sourced. Nice work.
Protecting language cultures from serving duplicate content. We like how Kentico handles its regionalization but this is also a very common area where CMS platforms fall short on their ability to protect against duplicate content and the common ways in which the Search Crawlers will locate duplicate pages. However, with these settings Kentico has protected against all possible contributors. It’s crucially important that your default ‘language’ (usually /en/) does not serve the same pages at the site root. So for instance /en/contact-us/ should not be available at /contact-us/. And so on across the site. It’s very common to see a website duplicate its entire website but turning on that one switch.
Online Marketing Suite
Having already consumed a large portion of page real-estate I’m not going to go into any great detail regarding Kentico’s rocking new Online Marketing suite. That’s not to say that they aren’t important, far from. They are crucial to further ‘nurturing’ the relevant traffic which has just arrived at the website via search. Something which in-house marketers will need to pay closer attention to.
SEO used to be about directing eyeballs to the pages. Person clicked; Job done. Not anymore. The job of the SEO is multi-dimensional covering on page SEO, link development, content strategy and development, content and site structure and strategy, user interface design (UI/UX, etc…) and social media (that’s a big can of worms). That’s what SEO’s have their hands in these days and to think or assume otherwise is negligent.
Remember that Google/BING have sent a searcher to your page based on several on and off page factors that have already determined the initial value of the page. The page should already be clearly relevant to the searcher’s interest/phrase/behavior. The job is only half done and with the help of the additional marketing tools, you will be able to nurture this interest into a higher level of persuasion and ultimately into conversion. Whatever that may be. Well, in an ideal world.
Keeping it Turnkey
Remember that I’m looking for ‘Baked in’ core features and so the mega-licious DMS suites are ‘add ons’ and I don’t consider them part of the ‘turnkey solution’ for these articles. The DMS features are often super expensive and can cost almost as much as the CMS core itself. Furthermore, these add-ons, while massive value adds, are entirely up to the knowledge and training of the individual initiating them. This is then subjective to the quality of the implementation and something I’m not in the position to critique just yet. I will however give a little summary of what is available.
These little checkboxes open a small labyrinth of additional features that can be accessed across various elements of the CMS. I like how in one check you can initiate ‘On-Line Marketing’. Make it so.
At any rate I like how Kentico is providing these crucial features while not dressing it up to be some ground breaking new phenomenon. While keeping it simple they may get a greater buy in without the heavy intimidation factor that many ‘enterprise’ (or those calling themselves such) DMS providers seem vulnerable to. Kentico’s DMS provides the following additional SEO/OM features;
A/B Testing and Multivariate Testing – Randomly serve page elements or pages themselves and measure which variants perform better (time on page, CTR, Conversions, Downloads, etc…) Then cut out the loser and start again! Cool.
Content Personalization – This can open up another massive can of worms depending on the implementation. Again, the whole idea here is to present relevant, high value content based on various signals from the browsing session. A lot of WCM systems are providing this type of solution which, again, is reliant on the operators experience to succeed.
Social Media and Community – Admittedly, I have far too little hands on experience with Kentico’s latest batch of features and will remain impartial here considering it wasn’t my goal to critique every aspect of the DMS. What I will say is that the inclusion of Facebook Connect, URL Shortening tools, Google+ Integration, Twitter Connect and Linkedin Authentication are top drawer additions to an already feature rich and super stable Community centric platform. The additional marketing elements may be a bit pricey (considering Kentico’s very reasonable ‘core’ price point) but they are straight goods with no fluff. I really should be devoting an entire post to the Social Networking Edition to give it proper attention.
Parting Words on Kentico’s Turnkey ‘SEO in a box’ Features
Kentico has some great stuff here baked into the core product. The URL integrity features are wonderful and is a huge priority for the work I do (fix the folder structure spaces), and the attention to code bloat was a very cool surprise (read; ViewState). The succinct awareness of duplicate content risks with active language cultures turned on is very smart and some other products would do well to emulate these features!
On the flip side there are still some ‘left over’ elements from days gone by and they really need to update their ‘SEO video’ since it really doesn’t reflect their updated direction. The addition of some ‘structured data’ or ‘rich snippet’ support at least for Author anyhow would definitely show a broader understanding of modern search. And for the love of all that is sacred please retire the Meta Keywords. J Remove them entirely from your products. I know of one CMS (know who it is?) that has done this and they get ‘super kudos’.
Great product! As always with any editorial story I may touch on subjects that will hopefully generate conversation. Please don’t hesitate to ‘call me out’ on anything mentioned above or to help me learn a little more about the product’s core offerings. This industry moves quickly and I am sometimes still on a hike in the woods when it does.
Written by Jade Carter
Hi-Fi Centre is Vancouver’s premier audio video dealer for high end brands such as B&W, Linn, Rotel, Naim, McIntosh, Wilson Audio, Classé and Sooloos, delivering the highest quality high performance audio, home cinema, lighting control, home automation and surround system products available, as well as custom design, engineering and Installation services.
Hi-Fi Centre’s Needs
Their retail store in downtown Vancouver is one of the most stunning audio showrooms in Canada. When you first step into Hi-Fi Centre you’re welcomed by a grand loudspeaker called the B&W Nautilus, setting the tone for what awaits the senses. Moving through the store you’ll find dozens of soundproof rooms set up with different audio/video configurations and ambiance settings… a true feast for the eyes and ears. The showrooms upper level is furnished with a cappuccino bar and golf putting green to enhance the experience while auditioning some of the finest loudspeakers and electronic components in the world.
While Hi-Fi Centre arguably has one of the finest showrooms in their marketspace, their website was far less than inspiring. The site was built using outdated frames, confusing navigation and without any page layout consistency. Hi-Fi Centre contracted Falcon-Software to design and develop a new website that reflected the same style and creativity their store provided to customers, while also providing a content management system as a solid foundation that can accomondate future development such as ecommerce, mobile and social media applications.
- With no consistent structure or any thought towards usability the website needed an entire redesign.
- The site had to have an element of entertainment, providing the visitor with a memorable experience.
- With new products continually being released, Hi-Fi Centre needed a way of updating the site easily and cost effectively.
For the Web CMS solution, Falcon-Software selected Kentico, a flexible, cost effective all-in-one .NET solution. Kentico CMS provided a powerful content editing interface, allowing users to edit content, preview before publishing, organize site structure and manage extending modules with a built-in WYSIWYG editor fully integrated into the system. Yet easy to use, enabling Hi-Fi Centre to edit content as if they were using Microsoft Word. Also, the ease of uploading images and Flash movies was a must for the client and Kentico provided this feature seamlessly.
The end result is a robust website that not only better reflects Hifi Centre’s high-end products and retail showroom, but they now have a content management solution so easy to use, their site is always current and ready for future modules such as an ecommerce store that can be installed with a click of the mouse.
Hi-Fi Centre Testimonial
Since Falcon-Software designed our new website with a Kentico CMS system in early 2010 we have seen nothing but tremendous results. All of our vendor partners and customers have been blown away by the creative. However, the best part is that we have actually seen measurable improvements over our previous website. Traffic is up substantially with customers spending more time on the site and online inquiries have more than tripled in just 3-months. One of the criteria we had set out when choosing a CMS platform was ease of use, and with Kentico we are able to easily edit our website without the expense of hiring a .NET programmer or learning how to write code. This gives us the freedom to make changes when we need to and not when the web design firm can “fit us into their busy schedule.” The result is that we can now make timely changes, add new products or launch marketing campaigns on our schedule, which has had a direct result in our bottom line. Falcon-Software and Kentico CMS is a powerful combination we highly recommend to anyone looking to take control over their website and online business strategy.
Igor Kivritsky, General Manager
- Visit the Hi-Fi Centre Website: www.hificentre.com
- New York based Montana Datacom has signed a contract with Falcon for an online eCommerce ordering system.
- Toronto Rehabilitation Institute has signed two (2) new contracts for multiple Kentico CMS site implementations.
- Illinois based C&S Antennas has signed a contract for the design and development of a new corporate website.
- Massachusetts based ZOLL Medical has signed a new contract with Falcon for an Ektron CMS solution for their ZOLL Data Management Products website.
- Axys Group members Seastar Chemicals in British Columbia and MV Laboratories in New Jersey have both signed new contracts with Falcon for a site redesign and Kentico CMS solution.
“Historically, Falcon has always had strong sales performances in the month of March and this year is no different”, states Gary Eisenstein, Falcon-Software’s President and Founder. “But in addition to the seven new contracts mentioned above, what is surprising is the amount of smaller site updates we are seeing from clients that have had dormant websites over the last 24-months, and a good sign that the economy is finally bouncing back”, says Eisenstein.
Victoria, BC – Falcon Software announces three local business websites amongst Falcon’s site releases for October 2009.
Falcon Software created the new design for the Sea Otter Lodge & Lumberjack Lodge website. The new design reflects the lodges’ west coast style and showcases a photo gallery as well as custom audio narrative. Located on a private island in Kyuquot Sound, the lodges are adjacent to some of the best remote salmon and halibut sports fishing in the area.
Falcon created a corporate brand as well as the website design for Absolutely Nutrition Consulting. Located in Victoria, Absolutely Nutrition Consulting will design the appropriate nutrition and wellness program specifically for you to help you reach for and achieve your health and wellness goals- whatever they may be.
Button & Needlework Boutique’s project included a Kentico CMS implementation to allow the client to make their own site updates as well as a company blog and CMS training services. One of Victoria’s most unique shops offers an outstanding selection of locally and internationally hand crafted buttons, yarns, embroidery kits and embellishments.