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Does Headless CMS Affect SEO – Best Tips

Does Headless CMS Affect SEO - Best Tips

Thinking about using a headless CMS for your next project? 

You’re not alone. Headless CMS has become a popular trend in web development.  

But what is a headless CMS? And how does it affect SEO

In this article, we’ll answer those questions and give you some tried-and-tested tips on how to make sure your headless CMS doesn’t hurt your SEO.

 


What’s a Headless CMS?

A headless CMS is a content management system that doesn’t have a built-in frontend. 

It’s called “headless” because it doesn’t have a head (a.k.a. a user interface). 

Instead, it delivers content through an API (Application Programming Interface).

In typical CMS fashion, the frontend and backend are decoupled, giving you more flexibility in building your website or app. 

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For example, you could use a headless CMS to power a native mobile app, a voice assistant, or a smartwatch. 

Or, if you’re a web developer, you can use a headless CMS to build a custom website without being limited by a pre-built theme.

In Layman’s Terms:

Think of a headless CMS as the engine of a car. It’s what powers the vehicle, but it doesn’t determine how it looks or feels. 

That’s up to you (or your designer). 

A headless CMS gives you complete control over the user experience while making it easy to manage your content. 

 


Tradition CMS vs. Headless CMS 

A traditional CMS is a “monolithic.” The frontend and backend are tightly coupled, which means they’re built on the same platform.

That makes it easy to use, but it also limits your flexibility. 

For example, if you want to change the look of your website, you need to find a theme or template compatible with your CMS. 

If you want to add a new feature, you must ensure it doesn’t break the existing functionality. 

A headless CMS, on the other hand, is much more flexible. 

As we mentioned, the frontend and backend are decoupled, which means you can build your website or app however you want. 

A pre-built theme does not limit you, and you don’t have to worry about breaking existing functionality when you add new features. 

Of course, this flexibility comes at a cost.

A headless CMS is usually more difficult to use than a traditional CMS. 

And unless you’re a web developer, you’ll probably need to hire someone to build your website or app. 

But if you’re willing to invest, a headless CMS can be a powerful tool for building custom websites and apps.

 


How Does a Headless CMS Work?

Headless CMS explained in 1 minute | Contentful

Here’s one way to look at it: What looks great on a desktop screen might not look so great on a mobile device. 

And vice versa. 

It’s even worse with a smaller, more compact screen featured on wearables. 

A headless CMS lets you create different “views” for different devices, giving your users the best possible experience no matter how they access your content.

For example, let’s say you have a blog post that you want to display on your website and mobile app. 

With a traditional CMS, you would need to create two separate versions of the same content — one for the website and one for the app. 

Not only is this a lot of extra work, but it’s also easy to make mistakes (e.g., forgetting to update both versions when you make a change). 

With a headless CMS, you can create one version of the content and then use the API to “pull” it into the website and the app.

Your content is produced separately from where it’s displayed. In other words, it’s “device agnostic.” 

This allows you to change how your content is displayed without updating it. 

It also means that you can easily repurpose your content for different devices and platforms.

 


Examples of Headless CMS 

Hybrid CMS vs. Headless CMS: Which one is better for your eCommerce store? | Storyblok

There are a few different ways to build a headless CMS. Here are some of the most popular: 

  • Contentful: Contentful is a cloud-based headless CMS that offers a flexible content model and an API-first approach. 
  • Prismic: Prismic is another popular headless CMS with a robust API and a wide range of features. 
  • ButterCMS: ButterCMS is a headless CMS that offers both a managed service and an API-first approach. 
  • Drupal: Drupal is a traditional CMS that offers a headless mode, which decouples the frontend from the backend. 
  • Storyblok: Storyblok is a headless CMS that offers a visual editor and an API-first approach. 
  • WordPress: WordPress is a traditional CMS that offers a REST API, which lets you build a headless WordPress website or app. 
  • Joomla: Joomla is a traditional CMS that offers a headless mode, which decouples the frontend from the backend.

 


Advantages of Headless CMS 

There are a few key advantages of using a headless CMS: 

  • Greater flexibility: A headless CMS gives you more freedom to build your website or app however you want. 
  • Better performance: A headless CMS can improve your website or app’s performance because it doesn’t have to render the entire page whenever someone requests a piece of content. 
  • Greater control: With a head CMS, you have more control over how your content is displayed. 
  • Security: A headless CMS can help improve your website or app’s security because it’s not tied to a specific platform or framework. 
  • Easier to scale: A headless CMS is easier to scale because you can add new features and functionality without affecting the rest of your website or app.

Disadvantages of Headless CMS 

There are a few potential disadvantages of using a headless CMS: 

  • Requires more development knowledge: A headless CMS usually requires more development knowledge than a traditional CMS. 
  • Can be more expensive: A headless CMS can be more costly than a traditional CMS because you need to pay for both the backend and frontend development. 
  • Can be more complex: A headless CMS can be more complicated than a traditional CMS because you need to manage both the backend and frontend development. 
  • Requires more planning: A headless CMS usually requires more planning than a traditional CMS because you need to consider both the backend and frontend development.  
  • Could Hurt SEO: The most common concern with headless CMS is that it could potentially hurt your website or app’s SEO. That’s because a headless CMS doesn’t render the entire page whenever someone requests a piece of content. 

However, this concern is usually overstated — as long as you’re careful about how you structure your content, a headless CMS shouldn’t negatively affect your SEO.

More on that later. 

 


How Does Headless CMS Affect SEO? 

Traditional CMS works so well with modern SEO because they produce HTML webpages that search engines can easily crawl and index. 

On the other hand, a headless CMS decouples the front end from the back end. That means that a headless CMS doesn’t produce HTML webpages — instead, it just produces raw content that can be displayed on any platform or device.

It’s a backend only that pushes the content through an API to any number of devices or platforms. 

Meaning that you’ll lose some control of how your content is presented to search engines. 

For example, meta tags are an important part of SEO. With a traditional CMS, you can easily add meta tags to your HTML webpages. 

But with a headless CMS, you can’t control how your content is displayed on the frontend, so you can’t guarantee the meta tags will be included.

Similarly, controlling how your content is displayed in different languages for a multilingual site can be difficult with a headless CMS. 

That’s not to say that a headless CMS can’t be SEO-friendly. It’s just important to be aware of the potential SEO implications before deciding if a headless CMS is right for you. 

Of course, there’s a workaround for these SEO problems. The problem is that they require someone dedicated to — and skilled in — these kinds of SEO issues.

 


8 Tips for Using a Headless CMS without Hurting Your SEO 

All the traditional SEO rules still apply to a headless CMS.

Things like keyword research, creating high-quality content, and building backlinks are just as important as ever. 

The key is to be aware of the potential SEO implications and take steps to mitigate them. 

But there are a few extra things you need to do to make sure your headless CMS doesn’t hurt your SEO

1. Focus on Natural Language

As search engines better understand natural language, it’s crucial to write your content in a way that sounds natural. 

Search engines have evolved and moved beyond keyword-heavy content. So, while keywords are still important, focus on creating content that sounds natural and is interesting to read.

That means using long-tail keywords, sentence fragments, and questions throughout your content. 

For content creators and marketers, this can be a difficult change. After all, we’re used to writing for search engines. 

Think of your content in terms of a conversation. How would you explain your topic to someone in person? 

That’s the kind of content you should be aiming for.

The idea is to appeal to as many people and across as many devices as possible. And, with a headless CMS, you can do just that. 

Forget about search engines and focus on the reader. 

If you do that, the SEO will follow.

2. Structure Your Content Carefully 

When using a headless CMS, it’s important to structure your content carefully. 

That means creating clear and concise headlines and subheadings. It also means using short paragraphs and bullet points whenever possible. 

The goal is to make your content as easy to read as possible. 

Remember, online users don’t read— they scan. So, the easier you can make it for them to find what they’re looking for, the better.

Here are seven things you should do to structure your content:

3. Optimize Your Content for Rankings 

As I mentioned, some of the SEO features we’re already familiar with, like the metadata, will require a little more work with a headless CMS. 

To make sure your content is properly optimized, you’ll need to:

  • Add meta tags to the frontend
  • Optimize your images and videos
  • Use proper schemas
  • Structure your URLs

Metadata consists of the title tag, meta description, and meta keywords. These are all important SEO factors

Think of the metadata as your content synopsis. Readers and search engines (such as Bing) rely on it to determine what your content is about. 

Your metadata also plays a huge role in whether or not people will click on your content. 

While their search engine impact isn’t direct, they influence how your content appears in SERPs, which does impact your traffic and rankings.

Here are a few tips for optimizing your metadata: 

  • Write compelling titles that include keywords
  • Write compelling descriptions that include keywords
  • No more than 60 characters for the title
  • No more than 155 characters for the description 
  • Use the primary keyword in your title and 2 to 3 essential keywords in your description
  • Use keyword-rich headers

So, how do you add metadata to the frontend? 

The easiest way is to use a plugin or module. There are many great options, so take your time and find one that works for you.

Another way to do it is to hard code the metadata into the head of your HTML. 

For example, if you’re using a react-based frontend for your headless CMS, we suggest you use react-helmet to add and manage the document head tags.  

For a headless CMS that supports custom metadata fields, you can use those fields to store your metadata. 

The created content is then queried, and the metadata is added to the frontend.

That requires a little more work, but it’s not difficult if you’re comfortable with code. 

If you’re not, I recommend using a plugin or module.

4. Use Concise, SEO-friendly URLs 

Bad URLs can hurt your SEO. By bad, we mean URLs with random numbers and letters that are difficult to read and don’t make sense. 

Or URLs that are too long or include stop words like “a,” “an,” and “the.” 

To ensure your URLs are SEO-friendly, follow these tips: 

  • Keep them short and sweet
  • Use keywords
  • Use hyphens to separate words
  • Avoid using special characters
  • You also want to make sure they’re human-readable

5. Structured data snippets 

Structured data is code you add to your website to help search engines understand your content.

By providing valid rich structured data snippets on your website, you’re telling search engines what your content is about, which goes to help them display your content in SERPs. 

Search engines use three main types of structured data: 

  • Microdata
  • RDFa 
  • JSON-LD

Unlike the traditional CMS, where the structured data is automatically generated, with a headless CMS, you’ll need to add the structured data to your code manually. 

But don’t worry, it’s not as difficult as it sounds. 

Here’s a quick overview of how to do it: 

fetch(‘https://api.example.com/recipes/123’)

.then(response => response.text())

.then(structuredDataText => {

  const script = document.createElement(‘script’);

  script.setAttribute(‘type’, ‘application/ld+json’);

  script.textContent = structuredDataText;

  document.head.appendChild(script);

});

That’s it! Just remember to keep your code up to date, as the search engines are constantly changing their algorithms.

6. Pageview Tracking Issues 

If you’re using a headless CMS, you might run into issues with pageview tracking. 

That’s because, with a headless CMS, the page isn’t reloaded when someone navigates to a new page. 

Instead, the new page is loaded dynamically through JavaScript.  

And since most pageview tracking tools rely on page reloads to track pageviews, they might not work properly with a headless CMS. 

To solve this issue, you’ll need to find a tracking tool that can track pageviews without relying on page reloads. 

History change triggers tracks for changes in the URL fragment or query parameters and sends a pageview event to Google Analytics each time it detects a change. 

You specifically want to track the following variables:

  • History Old URL fragment: The URL fragment or query parameters before the change
  • History New URL fragment: The URL fragment or query parameters after the change
  • History Old State: The state object before the change, controlled by pushState
  • History New State: The state object after the change, controlled by pushState

To create a history change trigger, you can start by going to Google Tag Manager and do the following:

  • Choose Triggers => New
  • Choose Trigger Configuration => History Change

After this,  you need to choose when the trigger should fire:

All History Changes: The trigger will fire whenever the URL fragment or query parameters change. 

Some History Changes: The trigger only fires when certain conditions are met. You can specify these conditions using filters. 

After configuring the trigger, you can create a tag and choose the trigger you just created.

Now, whenever someone navigates to a new page on your website, the tag will fire and send a pageview event to Google Analytics. 

7. SEO Audit Issues 

If you’re using a headless CMS, you might run into issues when auditing your website for SEO. 

That’s because, with a headless CMS, much of your website’s content is loaded dynamically through JavaScript. 

And since many SEO tools don’t execute JavaScript, they might not be able to audit your website properly.

You can solve this issue by using a tool that executes JavaScript, such as DeepCrawl. 

DeepCrawl is a website crawler that can crawl JavaScript-based websites and provide you with an SEO report. 

Also, consider upgrading to the premium version of your SEO tool. Many premium SEO tools, such as Ahrefs and Moz, can crawl JavaScript-based websites and provide you with an SEO report. 

8. Code Splitting

Since a typical head CMS website loads content dynamically through JavaScript, the initial page load time can be slow, especially if the site is overwhelmingly large. 

To improve the initial page load time, you can use code splitting. 

Code splitting is a method of bundling your JavaScript code into smaller chunks and loading these chunks on demand.

As we all know, page speed is one of the most important ranking factors for SEO. 

So, if you can improve your website’s initial page load time, you might significantly boost your SEO traffic. 

There are two ways to code split your JavaScript code: 

  • Manual Code Splitting: You manually split your code into smaller chunks. It’s a slow and time-consuming method when dealing with huge amounts of data.  
  • Automated Code Splitting: You can use a tool like Webpack to split your code into smaller chunks automatically. That’s an easier and faster method.

import React, { Suspense, lazy } from ‘react’;

import { BrowserRouter as Router, Route, Switch } from ‘react-router-dom’;

 

const Home = lazy(() => import(‘./routes/Home’));

const About = lazy(() => import(‘./routes/About’));

const App = () => (

  <Router>

    <Suspense fallback={<div>Loading…</div>}>

      <Switch>

        <Route exact path=”/” component={Home}/>

        <Route path=”/about” component={About}/>

      </Switch>

    </Suspense>

  </Router>

);

9. Dynamic Rendering

Since most headless CMS websites load content dynamically through JavaScript, they face the same SEO problem that AJAX-based websites face. 

And that is, they might be unable to render the content properly for search engines.

To solve this problem, you can use a technique called dynamic rendering. 

Dynamic rendering is a process of Rendering the HTML of a web page on the server side and serving this rendered HTML to search engines.

Search engine crawlers aren’t advanced enough to effectively execute and render JavaScript. To solve this, Google themselves recommends using Dynamic Rendering as a workaround. 

There are two types of dynamic rendering: 

Client-side rendering: The client-side rendered HTML is served to all users, including search engine crawlers. 

Server-side rendering: The server-side rendered HTML is served to search engine crawlers, and the client-side rendered HTML is served to all other users.

Which type of dynamic rendering you use depends on your website. If your website is mostly static, you can use client-side rendering. 

But if your website is dynamic, you may consider using server-side rendering.

With dynamic rendering, your web servers send normal, client-side rendered HTML to users and pre-rendered HTML to search engine crawlers. 

The main advantage of dynamic rendering is that it’s much easier to implement than traditional server-side rendering. 

And it doesn’t require you to duplicate your content.

The Wrap Up

As you can see, headless CMS can significantly impact SEO. 

To ensure that your headless CMS website is SEO-friendly, you need to be aware of the potential SEO problems and take the necessary steps to avoid them. 

This guide covers the most important SEO tips for headless CMS websites. 

If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below. 

Have you used a headless CMS before? What was your experience?

Happy SEO!

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