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SEO 15 min read August 9, 2023

Headless CMS and SEO: 6 Essential Tips to Optimize Website Performance

Headless CMS and SEO: 6 Essential Tips to Optimize Website Performance
Lidia Infante
Kateryna Hordiienko
Research Editor at Serpstat

If you are in the process of updating your website's life cycle and considering the latest content management systems, a headless CMS version might be a suitable solution. In a nutshell, it is a modern spinoff of traditional systems of this kind. However, this gives little detail about its advantages and impact on the chosen search engine optimization strategy.

Eager to know more about headless content management systems and their relation to SEO? Let’s uncover the nuances of this subject matter. 

This article is based on the webinar SEO In The Age of Headless CMS with Lidia Infante, Senior SEO Manager at Sanity.io. For more news and innovative approaches in the market, join our Google Calendar — stay ahead of the trend curve!

What Is a Headless CMS?

Once upon a time, the extent of digital experiences came down to static websites. With its monolithic nature, focused on CMS features instead of its operational flexibility, a typical content management system configuration proved its efficiency. Given the modern evolution of communication channels and internet-oriented technologies, this approach doesn’t satisfy the need for coherent, versatile, and 24/7 dynamic experiences. That’s how a CMS headless version was born.

A traditional CMS has three parts — the database with all of your content, where data is stored, an admin panel for manipulating content qualities and properties, and a view layer. With their inseparable nature, the latter is likely to be a website for providing information and interacting with it at the same time. In the case of a headless CMS, a tied suite of a view layer and an admin panel are separated.

Source: sanity.io

Monolithic CMS and Headless CMS

Instead of having a classic database, a so-called data layer interacts with your admin panel, letting you cope with traditional content-related tasks — generating and realizing ideas in practice. Specialists can also create custom integrations by connecting your target API with third-party solutions like Shopify. Taking into account that your view panel becomes an independent asset in a content headless CMS, its data can be used anywhere, including its re-appliance on apps and so on.

Headless CMS Examples

In a nutshell, the design of such software distinguishes front-end and back-end services for content creation, maintenance, and distribution.

The market for headless e-commerce CMS is gaining momentum. Since the demand for them and their number keeps increasing, the projected cumulative growth rate is predicted to be over 22% per year. According to research, the overall market worth is expected to surpass US $1,6 billion by 2027. To compare, the same parameter as of 2019 was around US $329 million.

Here are some worthy examples to examine:

  • Contentful. If you are interested in leveling up your admin panel by third-party integrations, that’s one of the most advanced systems to get started. It’s also pretty intuitive for digitalizing your content.
Contentful
  • Ampliance. It is best suited for B2C and B2B simultaneous performance among the available headless CMS options. This all-inclusive platform is highly scalable and streamlines content management in a visualized manner.
Ampliance
  • Sitecore. It is an enterprise-grade headless CMS with robust functionality and reliability. It offers API-first content delivery, omnichannel capabilities, and a robust personalization engine. 
Sitecore

Does Headless CMS Affect SEO?

Using a content management system is natural whenever you need to maintain a clean and clear website structure or modify your domain, like creating SEO-friendly functional elements. Its methods of operation and performance can greatly improve your SEO routine. 

Using a headless CMS can help you execute your projects and deliver your ideas more accurately, while using a traditional CMS may add unnecessary rigidity to your activities.

It sure doesn’t guarantee the best results in SEO, but it is ideal for distributing your optimized content across multiple platforms. 

The Differences of a Headless SEO

It is high time to explain the meaning of headless CMS SEO. This term refers to the unique processes required to optimize content for search using headless content management systems. Here is how your SEO approach to headless content will differ from traditional views of the process:

  • Experts get to switch their focus from pages to content, which is simply called content modeling. In plain English, you consider content types, their attributes, and their relationships in selecting the optimization tactic. With human-based, AI, and ML analysis of such interconnections, it is possible to mark up your website’s structured data and take its crawlability to the next level.
  • Specialists unlock the possibility of omnichannel SEO and, therefore, unleash content everywhere. Please note the number of add-ons and plugins is limited. So it requires more peculiar troubleshooting paths. You can’t just fix an issue by adding and plugging in. On the contrary, omnichannel optimization, like one in multisearch from Google, establishes new search behavior and opens new horizons for SEO and marketing efforts with its overall lower competition.

Benefits of a Headless CMS

To decide why headless CMS might be the best choice for you, it is a must to get a better understanding of its positive impact on your performance:

  • Since one of the descriptions defining the headless CMS meaning is separated, the multilayer system of a site’s architecture is less vulnerable to outer threats.
  • Another crucial bonus on the list of benefits of a headless CMS is its scalability. Unlike self-hosted products, it gives you the desired flexibility to use the desired tools and switch them whenever required. In turn, your tech stack can become more advanced. It also lets you switch between different frameworks or gain the most out of Javascript and PHP-based headless CMS combined, to mention a few.
  • It is a highway to obtaining more cost-efficient and less time-consuming editing experiences.

Disadvantages of a Headless CMS

In this case, one of the biggest drawbacks is the prevalence of customizable integrations. You won’t be able to work with your favorite Yoast or WP Rocket to improve your performance. A standard headless e-commerce solution will make you either build those integrations individually or work with service providers who have those included. Transferring from a classic to a content headless CMS might be challenging since you have to take care of your technical setup in more detail. With traditional systems, a lot of configurations are ready-made and accessible by default.

When Headless Is Better?

It’s wrong to disregard the value of classic content management systems — they aren’t outdated and prone to be replaced by headless alternatives in the nearest future. They will suit small-scale domains without complex content structures and expectations. However, moving to a headless CMS for e-commerce will help you achieve more:

6 Tips for a Headless SEO Setup

In contrast to a traditional content generation and maintenance scheme, this version can be viewed as a content repository. Not only are all content elements stored here, but it also offers a better hierarchical structure with one entry for several channels and data sources. Now that the basic concept of headless content is explained, it won’t be extra to get a few practical recommendations on implementing and scaling such a system in your work frame.

Tip 1: The Power of Meta Tags

By preparing effective metadata with longtail keywords, you create a flexible fundament for assisting target audiences and search engines in understanding your on-page content. You can improve your CTR and reduce your bounce rate.

To conduct your basic keyword research, use the Serpstat keyword analysis tools. The Search questions report might be beneficial in the search for long-tails:

Search questions

If you want to generate metadata automatically using keywords from your text, you can employ AI content tools.

AI content tools

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Tip 2: Editable URL Slugs

By avoiding numerical URLs, you increase the value of such an element in the eyes of end users. With the right use of headless content, you will end up with something personalized and brand-oriented that establishes a deeper bond with your audience. This will qualitatively distinguish your offer among high-seek pages.

Editable URL Slugs

Tip 3: Take Care of Canonical URLs

The more complex data you operate and create, especially in the case of multi-layered internationalization projects, the more important it is to set the right value of the basic on-site elements. Make straightforward requests to your developers, content editors, and other colleagues about the way this part of the website structure should look and work:

Tip 4: Work on Your XML Sitemap Setup

You will need more time to work on this parameter since you don’t have access to a ready-made solution with a headless CMS like in the illustration below.

XML Sitemap

To make things simpler for your team, here are some rules to introduce:

Tip 5: Opt for a Structured Data

As has already been mentioned, a headless CMS is a perfect tool to mark up your data and gain the desired structure. For instance, that can be the one by schema.org. Whatever you choose, Google’s algorithms are extremely friendly toward this practice overall. You can get started by adding the JSON-LD at field or document levels. To ensure you get the maximum benefit from this functional feature, it is a nice move to set up certain validation rules for structured data markups. Otherwise, there is a risk of breaking Google’s guidelines.

Tip 6: Validate Your Headings’ Hierarchy

Since your view and admin pages are separated in this kind of system, you have to take care of how organized your content is. With a wise choice of a headless CMS, assigning your headlines and their configuration like <h1> or <h2> manually, automatically, or both are possible. The key is ensuring headings qualitatively describe the message in the paragraph below. By confirming your on-site data is well-structured, you boost overall web accessibility.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, the main reason why use a headless CMS boils down to its efficiency in establishing more complex structures on your site, which boosts indexing and crawling directives from search engines. In turn, this helps you increase your platform’s popularity and visibility and enhance customer experience quality and loyalty.

From a headless CMS SEO standpoint, although the tech stack choice doesn’t influence the core search engine optimization principles, each content page will require remodeling. If you are attentive to detail and diligent, your chances to establish strong SEO fundamentals for long-term efficient results improve.

FAQs

Since you have different working panels for software development and content generation, it makes your performance more straightforward. Unlike traditional systems, which require specialists to be experts in several fields at once, this approach delivers a separate interface for making content available via the target application programming interface for developers to access and do their part of the job.

There are many use cases for this solution. For instance, smooth scaling and up-market security help when your content is distributed across several platforms.

The best headless CMS will come in handy for projects needing more versatile systems that are web-oriented, semi-decoupled, and can be SaaS or hosted.

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