For many marketers involved in SEO, the three letter acronym CMS can sometimes be more like a four letter word. Depending on the CMS and the implementation, there are some serious problems that can impact your SEO efforts. From duplicate content to unfriendly redirects to lack of content optimization, the list can get quite long. The irony is that CMS packages are supposed to make your life easier (and many do), but there are times they can negatively impact your SEO initiatives (and that’s an understatement). There are many types of content management systems on the market. Some are tailored for specific industries, others for running e-commerce shops, and then you have the major players which can run robust and high volume websites. Some packages are more flexible to work with, while others have limits.
I’ve mentioned SEO a few times already, but you probably noticed that the title of my post focused on SEM and not just SEO. That’s because I’ve been running into more and more CMS-related SEM problems than I’d like to. Some of the problems can be avoided if they are addressed up front, while others are more difficult to tackle. My goal is to arm you with information that can help you avoid some of the headaches I’ve seen when running SEM campaigns while using a CMS to power a website. And as many of you know, hell hath no fury like an SEM that can’t track his campaigns properly. By the way, I am by no means saying that CMS packages in general are problematic for marketing departments. I simply want to explain specific situations where content management systems can be a thorn in your SEM side.
But Isn’t SEM Straight Forward?
There are times when I’ve been brought in to help companies and clients vet and choose the right CMS packages. Regardless of the size of the client, most of the focus has been on the potential SEO impact. I think many people see paid search as something relatively easy to implement. For example, choose your keywords, build campaigns, point them to your site, and you’re good to go. That’s not necessarily the case. Sure, the SEO implications of choosing the wrong package for your specific situation could be catastrophic, but when many SEM campaigns are heavily judged on ROI, you should be able to give yourself the best shot at success (and that means control). That’s where some CMS packages can be a pain in the neck.
I’ve included four categories of problems that you could face when implementing your SEM campaigns while using a CMS. I’ve also included some recommendations and workarounds later in the post.
Customizing Content and SEM Landing Pages
Meeting visitor expectations in SEM is critically important for increasing conversion. Since you are spending $x per click to drive targeted prospects to your site, you definitely want to make the most of it. So as a smart search marketer, you decide to craft campaign landing pages tailored for each visitor segment. Smart move, but will your CMS cooperate? For example, you probably want to limit the amount of navigation on your SEM landing pages to ensure the focus is on the product or service at hand. I’ve run into circumstances where clients could not remove parts of the navigation (or the entire navigation if that’s what they wanted to do). Your CMS could potentially limit what you can provide, which can have a big impact on the user experience (and on your ROI). Depending on your CMS package and your implementation, some might be able to give you what you need, while others might require additional development. Other smaller CMS packages might not be able to bend at all.
An Example of Customizing a Campaign Landing Page:
You might also want to tailor content areas on the landing page. CMS packages use templates to render the layout of certain categories of pages. If you didn’t have specific templates created for your marketing landing pages, then you might be extremely limited with what you can tailor. For example, your product detail pages all might be driven from one template. Depending on how detailed you were while setting up your CMS, you might not be able to add new elements so easily. Or, you might have to cut down your requirements and only get some of those elements implemented.
Web analytics packages have come a long way over the past several years. Most packages enable you to track both macro-conversions (sales, registrations, etc.) as well as micro-conversions (downloading a document, viewing a video, clicking an email address, etc.) However, some CMS packages are not ready to track conversions the way you need them to. The beautiful part of a content management system is that it can make it much easier to update and manage the content on your site. The downside is that it might limit the level of functionality you want to implement for tracking visitor behavior.
The problems I have encountered typically deal with micro versus macro-conversions. For example, as long as your macro-conversions are triggered in a standard way (such as submitting a form), you probably won’t have problems tracking them in your CMS. However, tracking micro-conversions in your CMS could be problematic. I’ve provided a quick example below.