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Improve your Craft CMS skills

Understanding And Adjusting The Craft CMS SEO Settings

10 min read
Shape April 2022 HR 45

Craft CMS offers powerful flexibility for custom sites, but its modular nature can make SEO optimization tricky. This guide dives into core techniques to configure Craft for maximum search visibility. Learn how to structure URLs, metadata, site architecture and content to elevate pages in rankings. Discover battle-tested tips to overcome limitations and boost organic traffic with strategic Craft SEO settings.

Specific tips to optimize Craft CMS for higher SEO rankings. It covers optimizing URLs, metadata, site architecture, page speed and content. By implementing these technical and content strategies, you can overcome platform limitations and maximize organic traffic for a Craft CMS website.

Optimizing Craft CMS for SEO

Overview of SEO and Its Importance for Craft CMS Sites

Search engine optimization (SEO) refers to the process of improving a website's visibility in organic search engine results. For Craft CMS sites, strong SEO is crucial for driving traffic, leads and sales. By ranking higher in Google and other search engines, a Craft website can gain tremendous exposure and tap into buyer intent driven searches.

The benefits of robust SEO for a Craft CMS site include:

  • Increased organic traffic from rankings for industry keywords. This inbound traffic has higher conversion potential.

  • Improved visibility and discoverability for the brand and products/services. Building authority signals can improve domain authority.

  • Lower cost per lead/sale compared to paid advertising channels. SEO delivers qualified visitors for free.

  • Higher website stickiness due to content optimization and better on-site experience. This boosts conversions.

For an e-commerce site built with Craft, SEO impact can be measured in terms of revenue lift from organic visits. For lead generation sites, the number and quality of form fills matter. Overall SEO boosts marketing ROI.

Common SEO Challenges and Limitations with Craft CMS

While Craft CMS is a flexible and powerful platform, it does present some intrinsic SEO challenges that need to be addressed:

  • Complex URL structure - Craft generates verbose URLs with multiple parameters that can hamper rankings.

  • Potential for duplicate content - Craft's modular nature can lead to repurposed content without proper optimization.

  • Lack of built-in metadata options - Craft needs SEO plugins for editing title tags, meta descriptions, Open Graph data etc.

  • Reliance on JavaScript can hurt site speed and indexation.

  • Limitations around XML sitemaps, URL management and proper canonicalization.

So proper technical and on-page optimization is required to overcome these platform-specific limitations. A custom SEO approach is needed to maximize Craft CMS' capabilities.

Strategies to Optimize Craft CMS for Search Engines

To optimize a Craft CMS site for SEO, focus should be on both technical and content-focused areas. Some key strategies include:

  • Optimizing page-level metadata like title tags and meta descriptions using SEO plugins. This improves click-through rates and relevance.

  • Using descriptors and segments to create SEO-friendly URL structures. Remove verbose query strings where possible.

  • Leveraging Entry URI format to customize single entry URLs for better control.

  • Implementing proper 301 redirects for a clean migration to new URLs.

  • Adding XML sitemap and robots.txt for search engine crawling prioritization.

  • Optimizing internal linking structure and architecture to improve page relevance signals.

  • Identifying and eliminating duplicate content by leveraging Craft's modular approach more strategically.

  • Improving page speed metrics through caching, compression, lazy loading images etc.

  • Adding Schema.org structured data for richer indexing and snippets.

  • Periodically optimizing content by identifying keyword gaps and opportunities.

By focusing on these areas, it's possible to configure a Craft CMS site to maximize its SEO potential. But it requires understanding technical factors along with user experience and search intent. With the right approach, Craft can deliver great SEO results.

Configuring Proper URL Structure and Routing in Craft CMS

URL Structure Best Practices for SEO

A website's URL structure plays a crucial role in its search engine rankings and user experience. For a Craft CMS site, implementing SEO best practices for URLs is key.

Some guidelines include:

  • Use short, clean URLs with keywords where possible - helps pages rank for those terms. Avoid overly long, complex URLs.

  • URL paths should be semantic and describe page content. For example, /services/social-media-marketing is better than /pg224.

  • Don't overnest URLs with excessive directories. Ideally 2-3 levels max.

  • Leverage hyphens for word separation and underscores for spaces - improves readability.

  • Avoid numbers and special characters unless necessary. Stick to lowercase letters.

  • Implement logical, standardized URL patterns across site sections.

  • Configure human-readable slugs for entries rather than IDs.

Following these best practices will ensure Craft CMS URLs are optimised for both users and search engines. Properly structured URLs reinforce page relevance and improve click-through rates from search results.

Configuring URL Formats, Routing and Slugs in Craft

Within the Craft control panel, developers can configure URL formats, routing rules and slug settings to optimize URL structure.

  • Default URL formats can be set globally or per site section through Settings → Sections. Custom entry URL formats can also be defined.

  • Routing rules allow overriding default formats to create custom URLs and routing logic using regex patterns and templates.

  • Individual URI Patterns can be set under entry types to control single entry URLs.

  • Global settings control front-end suffix/prefix, case sensitivity and trailing slash options.

  • Per-site settings allow managing site-specific URL formats and structure preferences.

  • Slug settings let you customize separator character, casing, transliteration etc. This impacts entry and category slugs.

Leveraging these settings correctly allows Craft developers to remove index.php, control trailing slashes, insert keywords, customize category/entry URLs, and implement a clean, logical site architecture.

Implementing 301 Redirects for Changed or Old URLs

When migrating a Craft CMS site to a new URL structure or changing existing URLs, it's vital to set up proper 301 redirects.

301s are permanent redirects that pass on SEO equity from old URLs to new ones. Without them, pages may disappear from search results after a URL change.

Some ways to handle 301s in Craft include:

  • Using the Retour plugin to set up global pattern-based redirects.

  • Programmatically adding 301 redirects during URL structure changes.

  • Manually entering redirects through .htaccess or web.config rules.

  • Adding a redirect field to entries and programatically checking for values.

  • Maintaining a spreadsheet of changed URLs and uploading redirects using Retour.

Properly implementing 301 redirects preserves a site's search visibility and prevents any dip from significant URL structure changes. For optimal Craft CMS SEO, it's a crucial step that cannot be skipped.

Avoiding Duplicate Content Problems in Craft CMS

Common Causes of Duplicate Content in Craft

Duplicate content refers to identical or near-identical page content that exists in multiple

places on a website. For Craft CMS sites, some common duplicate content pitfalls include:

  • Multiple URLs or pages serving the same content - e.g. with and without www, or .html extensions.

  • Pagination or multi-step forms creating near-duplicate copies of content across pages.

  • Print and mobile versions of pages having the same content.

  • Republished blog content or press releases existing in archives.

  • Page templates that render identical header/footer content on all pages.

  • Identical category, tag or author archives showing the same posts.

  • Syndicated content from external feeds or sites.

This duplication spreads page authority across multiple versions, hampers indexing, and creates a poor user experience. Duplication should be minimized for optimal SEO.

Limiting Pagination in Craft to Prevent Duplication

Paginated archives in Craft CMS can lead to crawl budget issues as search engines index multiple near-identical pages.

To limit pagination duplication risks:

  • Reduce the Entries Per Page limit in settings to a reasonable number like 10-15. Avoid extremely long archives.

  • Use the limit parameter in templates to restrict archive length rather than relying on native pagination.

  • Consolidate content categories and tags to prevent thin pagination with duplicate content.

  • For search results, look at alternative layouts like "load more" buttons rather than paginated pages.

  • Use rel="next" and rel="prev" attributes to signal page relationships.

With thoughtful design, you can provide a good user experience while also preventing pagination bloat and duplication issues.

Using Canonical Tags to Specify Preferred URLs

Canonical tags allow specifying the preferred or authoritative URL for a specific content to search engines. This prevents duplicate content issues.

Some ways to implement canonical tags in Craft include:

  • Use the SEOmatic plugin which handles canonical tags automatically for Craft entries and categories.

  • Manually output <link rel="canonical" href="..."> tags in templates pointing to preferred URLs.

  • Set up global redirects for www/non-www or http/https preferences and rely on the redirected URL for canonicalization.

  • For paginated series, mark first page as canonical and subsequent pages as rel="next/prev".

  • Point category, tag and author archives to canonical blog post URLs to avoid duplication.

Using canonical tags intelligently helps avoid duplicate content pitfalls in Craft CMS. But it's better to minimize duplication across versions at the information architecture stage itself.

Optimizing Title Tags and Meta Descriptions in Craft CMS

Title Tag and Meta Description Best Practices

Title tags and meta descriptions are critical for on-page SEO and click-through rates from search engines. Some best practices include:

  • Title tags should be 55-60 characters, capturing the core topic and keywords. Brand name at beginning or end.

  • Meta descriptions 125-160 characters, compelling copy enticing the click. Don't over optimize with keywords.

  • Include primary and secondary keywords naturally in title tags and descriptions. Avoid stuffed, spammy copy.

  • Title tags can use formatting like pipes (|) to separate brand, title and description.

  • Descriptions should provide a summary teaser of the content, not duplicate the title tag.

  • Review title tags and descriptions for pages getting high impressions and tweak as needed.

  • Check for common issues like identical sitewide titles, missing descriptions, overstuffed copy.

Optimized title tags and meta descriptions improve click-through rates by captivating the searcher and clearly summarizing page content.

Configuring Default Title and Description Settings in Craft

In the Craft CMS control panel under Settings → Sites, you can set the following default title and meta description configurations:

  • Global Site Settings - The default site-wide title tag and description that can act as a site-wide fallback.

  • Section Entry Title Format - The default title format for entries in that section, with tokens for customization.

  • Section Entry Description Format - Same for meta description, with token support.

  • Category Title Format - Default title format for category pages, using category name.

  • Category Description Format - Default meta description for categories.

These provide the baseline title tag and meta description setup in Craft CMS. You can further customize per entry and page.

Customizing Title Tags and Meta Descriptions Per Entry/Page

While default title and meta description settings provide a solid SEO foundation in Craft, you can further optimize on a per entry or page level:

  • Use the SEOmatic plugin which allows overriding the defaults and customize titles and descriptions for any page with ease.

  • Add custom fields for "SEO Title" and "SEO Description" to sections. Populate these on each entry to override defaults.

  • For complex pages like the home page, directly code the optimized tags in the template using Twig.

  • For product pages, include product names/variants in titles dynamically using custom Twig.

  • On category pages, customize titles and descriptions based on the category handled.

  • For linked headline posts, use {{ entry.title }} variable in description for teaser copy.

With the power of Twig and plugins like SEOmatic, Craft CMS enables fully customized title tags and meta descriptions for each piece of content for optimal SEO and click-through rates.

Optimizing Site Architecture Elements in Craft CMS

Logical Information Architecture and Site Structure

A clear, logical information architecture (IA) is the foundation of a good user experience and SEO-friendly website. For Craft CMS sites, some tips include:

  • Organize website sections and entries to reflect user intentions and goals. Group related content.

  • Ensure critical site-wide pages have direct links in the main navigation for easy discovery.

  • Use a sensible, pyramid-shaped category structure per section without excessive nesting.

  • Leverage entry types to create distinct content models and templates for different content.

  • Use tags and categories intelligently to build semantic relationships between content.

  • Structure URLs, breadcrumbs and site architecture to reinforce page hierarchy.

  • Keep content findable within 2-3 clicks from menus and landing pages.

A well-planned IA allows users to intuitively navigate and consume relevant content, while also signaling page relevance to search engines through semantics.

Optimal Website Navigation Menu Structure

Navigation menus are a key component governing the site architecture and user experience. For Craft CMS:

  • Menus should have a clear hierarchy - most important links get top-level placement.

  • Group related pages/items into distinct sections for easy scanability.

  • Keep main menus compact with 6-10 top items for usability. Less is more.

  • Use consistent placement and styling for menus across all pages.

  • Ensure correct contextual navigation on deeper pages (breadcrumbs, related links etc).

  • Include logos, search bars and calls-to-action as part of menu layout.

  • If using extensive menus, split into distinct primary/secondary navigation areas.

  • Craft structures like Categories can automatically output link menus.

With well-planned menus tailored to user intentions, visitors can easily discover and traverse the site architecture in Craft CMS.

Effective Use of Blueprints and Structures

Craft CMS offers powerful architecture tools like Categories, Tags, Entries, Matrix etc. Used judiciously, they shape site structure:

  • Categories provide a hierarchy for section content, with auto-generated menus.

  • Tags add labeling and relationships between non-linear content.

  • Matrix blocks allow modular, reusable content structures.

  • Global Fields enable shared content across different sections.

  • Entry Types allow customized content models to be modeled.

  • Blueprints like Singles and Channels aid in modeling pages and streams.

Leveraging these building blocks and blueprints in Craft CMS helps create a semantically rich, easily navigable site architecture.

Optimizing Individual Pages and Templates for SEO in Craft

Craft CMS Template Elements to Optimize

When building out templates in Craft CMS, developers should optimize key on-page elements for SEO:

  • Page Titles: Include title tag markup with optimal length and keywords.

  • Headings Hierarchy: Proper heading structure signals topic relevance.

  • Image Alt Text: Concise, keyword-rich alt text improves image SEO.

  • Permalink: Output {{ entry.url }} for clean URLs.

  • Internal Links: Link to related content with anchor text keywords.

  • Schema Markup: Enhance structured data with schema.

  • Canonical Tag: Prevent duplicate content issues.

  • Sitemaps: Aid crawling with sitemap links in footer.

  • Page Speed: Optimize performance with caching, compression, lazy loading.

Paying attention to these elements in page templates helps Craft CMS generate more SEO-friendly markup.

Ensuring Images are Optimized for SEO

For optimal SEO, images on Craft CMS sites should:

  • Use concise, relevant file names with dashes instead of underscores.

  • Set title attributes to briefly describe the image.

  • Write alt text with target keywords and sufficient context.

  • Compress image sizes using tools like ImageOptim to improve page speed.

  • Lazy load below-the-fold images to boost performance.

  • Host images on a CDN like Amazon S3 for faster load times.

  • Avoid excessive paged image galleries, rely on thumbnails with lightboxes instead.

With smart image optimization, pages built in Craft CMS can load faster and become more findable.

Adding Schema.org Markup in Templates

Schema.org markup enhances SEO by providing contextual cues through structured data added into page HTML.

For Craft CMS sites, developers can leverage plugins like SEOmatic or manually add schema markup like:

  • Breadcrumbs using <script type="application/ld+json"> for site hierarchy.

  • FAQ and HowTo for better feature formatting.

  • Products using attributes like name, price, sku for ecommerce.

  • Reviews and Ratings for user generated content.

  • BlogPosting and NewsArticle for article schema.

  • Event markup for webinars, meetups and so on.

  • JobPosting and Resume for classifieds and careers templates.

When added judiciously, structured data enhances search appearance, provides richer snippets, and improves relevance.

Improving Content Optimization and User Experience

Enhancing On-Page Readability

Craft CMS provides several features to optimize on-page content for maximum readability and engagement:

  • Use the built-in Redactor field to style text with headers, lists, blockquotes, images and videos.

  • Enable the Line Height field in Redactor for improved paragraph spacing.

  • Set base typography styles like font-family, size and spacing through custom CSS.

  • Customize Redactor configuration settings like clean up HTML output, remove empty tags etc.

  • For linked headline formatting, output body copy using entry.summary tag.

  • Set vertical rhythm margins with plugins like Typogrify.

  • Use short paragraphs, active voice, descriptive headers, and bold key terms to aid scanning.

With the right mix of readable content formatting, styling, and content structure, Craft CMS sites can deliver highly engaging, SEO-friendly pages.

Improving Site Speed and Performance

Faster site speed directly enhances user experience while also boosting SEO rankings. For Craft CMS:

  • Enable template caching to serve pre-rendered pages instead of processing Twig.

  • Cache elements like navigation and assets for fewer database queries.

  • Compress and resize images, enable lazy loading for faster page loads.

  • Minify CSS/JS, eliminate render-blocking resources, defer non-critical JS.

  • Use a CDN like Cloudflare for static assets and media delivery.

  • Set up Redis/Memcached for in-memory object caching.

  • Use plugins like Craft-Tweaks to disable unused Pixel & Tonic plugins.

With smart optimizations for perceived speed, Craft CMS sites can achieve fast page load times.

Craft CMS SEO Content Strategy and Guidelines

An effective SEO content strategy revolves around creating high-value pages tailored to user search intent. For Craft CMS:

  • Conduct keyword research to identify topics and questions by target audience.

  • Develop content optimized for ranking keywords but focused on being user-friendly.

  • Include keywords naturally in headings, opening sentences, URLs, meta titles/descriptions.

  • Create pillar content for ranking high-difficulty keywords like industry guides.

  • Repurpose and link related content rather than duplicating.

  • Promote content through social media, email newsletters, PR releases.

  • Set up Google Analytics goals to track content performance.

  • Regularly create fresh, updated evergreen content to capture more keywords.

With thoughtful ideation, creation and promotion, Craft's flexible content modeling and templates enable an effective SEO content strategy.

Shape April 2022 HR 202
Andy Golpys
- Author

Andy has scaled multiple businesses and is a big believer in Craft CMS as a tool that benefits both Designer, Developer and Client. 

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