SEO for Headless CMS: Optimizing for better performance

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Headless CMS

Why is “Headless” Becoming So Popular? What Are The Benefits of a Headless CMS?

Headless CMSs are getting increasingly popular for multiple reasons. The most prominent reason is headless CMS offers more flexibility in delivering content across different devices than traditional CMS.

In a traditional CMS, the content is designed for a particular interface or format. Therefore, the content is inflexible and difficult to repurpose for different devices or interfaces. In headless CMS, the content is stored irrespective of how it can be displayed and delivered. It gives you more control and flexibility with your content to deliver it across varying interfaces and layouts.

Better control and flexibility allow you to ensure a more personalized and device-friendly user experience. It is conducive for organizations that manage enormous volumes of content and expertise high website traffic from different end-user devices. 

There is a lot of discussion regarding headless CMS and how it aligns better with some of the best SEO practices. Remember that a headless CMS itself does not ensure better SEO. SEO is a complex and multi-disciplinary approach that requires an effective strategy and implementation, irrespective of the traditional or headless CMS.

Below are notable advantages of using headless CMS-

  • Greater flexibility – A headless CMS offers remarkable flexibility concerning the frontend presentation layer. In headless CMS, the front end is detached from the back end. It liberates the developers to design and develop the front end with their preferred framework or language.
  • Omnichannel Strategy – Another advantage of using a headless CMS is that it allows you to implement an omnichannel strategy due to the framework's independent back and front end. In the omnichannel approach, you can deliver "content as a service" across different platforms, interfaces, and end-user devices via APIs (Application Programming Interfaces).
  • Target Greater AudienceMobile eCommerce sales constitute a global market share of 72.9 percent in 2022. With the omnichannel ability to deliver content across all possible ends, headless CMSs offer more agility and scalability to manage and deliver enormous volumes of content seamlessly. 
  • Futuristic support – Due to its decoupled framework and high-level agility, headless CMS and SEO are more capable of addressing future challenges than traditional CMS. It enables developers to revamp and modify the front end following the required standard irrespective of the evolving digital technologies. 

All these vital aspects make headless CMS a future-ready framework that quickly delivers content across different mediums and addresses varying business needs. But all this freedom, agility, and scalability requires a more hands-on approach to ensure an effective SEO for headless CMS.

So, is headless better for SEO?

Organic traffic constitutes more than half of your website traffic. Therefore, organic visibility is mandatory for your website to drive improved traffic, engagement, leads, and revenue performance. SEO helps your website to rank higher than your competitors in search engine results and improves visibility. 

Yes, a headless CMS can be more supportive of SEO, but it's a single contributing factor out of several others. The advantages of headless CMS depend on how strategically you plan, craft, and execute your SEO.

Multiple reasons encourage businesses to prefer headless CMS over traditional ones. To ensure personalized CX, improve brand reach across interfaces, and boost customer retention, businesses need a more agile and flexible approach to delivering content cross-platform. A headless CMS and SEO can help you unlock this opportunity.

A headless CMS can significantly improve your website performance and page load speeds. An improved website performance positively impacts your technical SEO. Your website and pages rank higher for the targeted keyword and offer a seamless & engaging user experience.

Headless CMS

Does a Headless CMS Damage SEO?

A headless CMS does not necessarily damage your SEO. But, if your SEO strategy is not aligned with headless CMS's more detailed and technical requirements, it can be devastating. Some potential pitfalls to look for when implementing SEO for headless CMS include the following:

  • Limited Visibility – Because the front end in headless CMS is detached from the back end, you have limited visibility to how your content may appear on the front end, making it complex for experts to optimize their website. But SEO for headless CMS can be treated like data and gives you complete control over how to define and manage SEO from operational & technical aspects.
  • Complex content delivery – A headless CMS uses APIs to push content to different front-end interfaces. The process is more puzzling and time-consuming than traditional CMS. If you manage and update your omnichannel content poorly, it can negatively impact SEO for headless CMS.
  • Limited built-in SEO tools – Some headless CMS frameworks lack built-in SEO tools that otherwise come as dedicated utilities in traditional CMS solutions. It further makes it difficult to ensure an effective SEO for headless CMS.
  • Compromised Insights – Due to decoupled front and back end, headless CMS may not fully track prospect’s data. It will restrict your ability to get deeper insights into the prospect’s experience, intent, and behavior on your website to personalized CX. But you can opt for third-party business intelligence tools to extract valuable analytics.

Headless CMS is designed and structured in a bottom-up approach, making them more adaptable to varying business needs. But SEO for headless CMS can be a bit more challenging due to decoupled front and back end. 

Some potential challenges and risks are associated with each SEO strategy you implement. But with the right and strategic approach, you can avoid all these complexities of SEO for headless CMS and get the most out of your headless CMS. 

Headless SEO Vs. Traditional SEO

SEO for headless CMS and traditional CMS framework work the same way, as they both share a mutual goal; to optimize the website for better brand reach and SERPs ranking. Some key factors differentiate both frameworks, such as-

  • Omnichannel SEO – In traditional CMS, a business website is the core focus of all SEO efforts. In headless CMS, you plan and execute SEO best practices for all possible user-end interfaces, including mobile applications, web pages, wearables, VRs, IOTs, etc. Therefore, SEO for headless CMS involves a more detailed omnichannel approach.
  • Content Structure – The CMS defines your content outline and structure in traditional CMS. But, to ensure more effective SEO for headless CMS, you remain agile and flexible with your content strategy. 
  • Plugins and extensions – Traditional CMS frameworks like WordPress offer a range of built-in plugins and extensions to improve SEO, such as the “All in One SEO Pack” and “YOAST.” But in SEO for headless CMS, you need to integrate third-party utilities to measure and improve the SEO.
  • Decoupled front-end – In traditional CMS, the front-end and back-end are deeply integrated and interdependent, allowing you to optimize your business website for improved SERP rankings easily. Headless CMS helps developers offer users a much better digital experience, as headless content is not limited to CMS capabilities.

You need to be extra careful with your efforts to shape and implement SEO for headless CMS, or you will fail to drive favorable outcomes from your headless CMS.

Headless vs Traditional CMS

SEO Challenges with Headless CMS

The challenges associated with the headless CMS and SEO include:

  • Content delivery – Headless CMS uses APIs to distribute content across omnichannel interfaces and devices; you need more time and effort to optimize your content for each channel. It makes your content development, brand awareness, and SEO approach more complex but produces more fruitful outcomes if addressed appropriately.
  • Limited tools – The lack of built-in tools and headless CMS makes it a tough choice than its traditional counterpart. You need to look for authentic and supported third-party utilities to perform SEO for headless CMS.
  • Lack of control – All other changes are driven by the decoupled front end and back end of headless CMS; it restricts your control over the front end and makes it harder to optimize your website for better SERP rankings.
  • Compromised Insights and Analytics – In traditional CMS, you have quick access to analytical insights and data-driven visuals that reflect the KPIs and impact of your SEO efforts. To evaluate and improve your SEO for headless CMS, you need to rely on third-party tools to track critical KPIs like website traffic, conversion rates, engagement, etc.

Impact of headless CMS on SEO

The Google algorithm updates in October 2022 have changed the entire landscape of SEO from what it used to be a few years ago. Most of these updates are around ‘helpful content’ and associated with headless CMS being a content delivery platform. 

The most critical of these updates strictly abide site owners to improve their omnichannel experience as all websites are now indexed by the mobile version. In traditional CMS, experts must manually address these new challenges by optimizing their content for improved site response. 

SEO for headless CMS can address this issue as your content resides in the back end and is delivered to the user end. Developers just have to focus on a single source code, and pre-rendered websites help eliminate the issues related to website performance and responsiveness.

Another major update is that Google's algorithm tracks user experience on your website or page. Failure to deliver a satisfactory and engaging user experience to visitors can negatively impact your website ranking. The headless CMS can seamlessly optimize your field data and improve your website performance for a better user experience.

The overall impact of headless CMS on SEO is entirely subjective to the particular business needs and how you execute and utilize SEO for headless CMS. Therefore, your strategy to design and implement SEO for headless CMS can make or break your website's performance. The google updates make the mobile-first SEO approach mandatory for higher ranking in SERPs.

Best practices for headless CMS SEO

The overall performance and outlook of your headless CMS on how effective and controlled your SEO strategy is. Below are proven best practices in SEO for headless CMS:

  • Metadata optimization – Metadata includes a to-the-point and primary subject of your website, its blog, product page, landing page, etc. Search engine platforms use metadata to recognize the content of your web page and indexing. Therefore, it is necessary to ensure that your metadata is relevant, descriptive, and keyword-rich to help search engines understand your content's subject and intent and improve your brand visibility in SERPs.
  • Content strategy – Create an effective content strategy for each stage of the buyer’s journey and website visitors. Add relevant keywords with the right search intent to enable search engines to rank your website for the targeted keywords.
  • Structured data markup – Structured data markup code helps Google understand your pages' intent, subject, and context. It enables relevant snippets and similar search results to improve your website traffic and engagement.
  • Image optimization with CDN – CDN allows websites to accelerate the delivery of visual content to the front end. It significantly improves page load speeds and performance for better UX and a more optimized website.
  • Internal linking strategies – These involve adding internal links to the relevant pages of your website within another page or blog. It helps your visitors to explore other areas of your website, leads them to the CTA stage, and improves the structure of your web layout.
  • Regular page audits – SEO auditing and revamping are a continuous effort regardless of how well your website or specific campaigns are performing. For instance, you can redirect broken links or abandoned pages by doing regular page audits to improve prospects' experience with your website and keep them intact.
  • Choosing an SEO-friendly frontend framework – Choosing an SEO-friendly frontend reduces most of the burden that comes with SEO for headless CMS. The front end of your website must be easy to create, manage, and integrate with other tools for maximum flexibility and control.

Headless CMS website examples and key SEO metrics

Some of the outstanding digital services and websites that are based on headless CMS are listed below:

  • Airbnb – A renowned vacation rental platform
  • Netflix – A popular OTT (over-the-top) streaming service
  • HubSpot – A globally recognized integrated CRM that offers top-notch marketing and sales tools and services
  • Zendesk – An award-winning customer service platform and sales CRM

All these popular services and platforms track and improve the following SEO metrics to improve their headless CMS site:

  • Organic traffic – Organic website traffic denotes the number of visitors entertained by the website throughout a defined period. This crucial SEO metric lets you understand whether your content is reaching the audience. 
  • Organic Impression – It shows how often users are shown your website, blog, or product page in organic search results. The KPI is used to check the organic visibility of your website. It improves your chances of attracting more organic traffic.
  • Organic CTR – Organic impressions cannot reflect what percentage of users clicked on your website or page appeared in SERPs. Organic CTR (Click-through rate) is the right metric to check the percentage of users who prefer your website over competitors.
  • Conversion rates – Plain traffic cannot reflect leads or customers. Another important KPI to check the efficacy and relevance of your content and lead generation efforts is conversion rates from organic search. It’s calculated as the ratio or percentage of visitors that take the desired action, such as clicking on the CTA.
  • Keyword Ranking – The goal of SEO is to improve SERP rankings for the targeted keywords. Therefore, it is necessary to perform in-depth keyword research for different search intents. SEMrush, Ahrefs, and Google Keyword Planner are vital sources used for keyword research. Using keywords with high search volumes and relevant intent can improve the website’s organic visibility and conversion rate.
  • Domain Authority – Domain authority indicates how well a website ranks on SERPs. It’s calculated on a scale of 0 to 100. The higher your domain authority, the better your website’s ability to rank. The SEO best practices discussed in the previous sections improve your website's domain authority.
  • Average Time-on-Page - It shows the average time a visitor spends on your web page. Higher average time-on-page shows how engaging and relevant website content is. It helps Google determine the user experience offered by a website and rewards it with higher SERP rankings.
  • On-site performance – On-site performance improves with higher page load speeds and fewer crawl errors. Enter your website URL on “PageSpeed Insights,” which uses Google cookies to measure on-site performance, accessibility, SEO, and website traffic for a website's PC and mobile interface.

All these SEO best practices can help you optimize your headless framework to improve brand visibility, increase traffic, engagements, & conversions, and skyrocket your revenue.

How can LeadWalnut help?

LeadWalnut is an ISO-certified enterprise SEO specialist focused on helping you to maximize rankings, traffic, and conversions from your website.
LeadWalnut uses a combination of Content Strategy, Video Marketing, and Social engagement techniques to improve web performance.
LeadWalnut builds world-class websites, creates engaging success stories, and refines key messages around offerings, and problem areas to build trust and emotional connections with prospects.

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