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White Paper

Using a CMS for Search Engine Optimisation (SEO): the smart way to hit your target. First time and every time.

White Paper Using a CMS for Search Engine Optimisation

Table of Contents Page 1


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Isn’t it all a bit hit and miss?

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Which search engines should you be targeting?

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Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising

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PPC advertising: the pros and cons

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Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

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Pareto’s Principle

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SEO: the pros and cons

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How does a CMS improve

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System capabilities

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Empowering users

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Preventing damaging activities

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How Alterian CMS helps SEO

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Where next?

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SEO in practice: Capio Healthcare UK

Page 10 Conclusion Page 11 Sources of reference Page 11 Terms of reference Page 12 About Alterian

White Paper Using a CMS for Search Engine Optimisation

Introduction When the web was created way back in 1990, no-one could have imagined the scale of its impact on modern society. Today, there are more than 100 million sites vying for the attention of more than 1,076,203,987 worldwide. At least 80 per cent of them will use a search engine to find the goods, services and information they want. When they do that, you don’t simply want your name to come top of the list, ahead of your competitors – you also want to make it clear to the searcher that you have exactly what they’re looking for. You want their search to start –and end - with you. • In January 2007 the number of internet users worldwide reached 1,076,203,987 – including 308,712,903 in Europe (source:, with UK users accounting for 37,600,000 (source: ITU). • Over 100 million websites by November 2006 (source: • At least 80% of users find new websites using search engines (source: • 91% of adults in the UK who have ever used the internet have used a search engine to find information on goods and services (source: Office of National Statistics, October 2005). • The internet is the second most commonly used medium after television (source: BMRB Internet Monitor, January 2006).

What you really need is be able to anticipate how people look for information, and exploit the way search engines operate to increase the chances of them beating a path to your door. This can be done through Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and/or Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. Both methods can be very effective in getting people who are searching for your products and services to click through to your website.

Which search engines should you be targeting? There are really only half a dozen search engines worth your attention - Google, Yahoo and MSN being the biggest. According to Emarketer, by December 2005, almost half of all searches conducted in the US (see below) were with Google. Nowadays, we don’t search for it – we ‘google’ it

Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising Given that roughly eight out of ten internet users use a search engine to find what they are looking for, unless you appear on the first page of results, you’re unlikely to generate many hits. One way of making more certain of being up there with the winners is to use the Pay-Per-Click (PPC) service offered by major search engines.

Isn’t it all a bit hit and miss? A fabulously designed website will not be enough to get you noticed. You can point people to your site from business cards, advertising and sale literature – but that’s a mere drop in the ocean.

Yahoo: 28.8% Google: 43.7%

MSN: 12.8%

Remember, you’re one in 100 million and people won’t find you unless they know you’re there – or you come up in a search. You could submit your site to a number of search engines in the hope of getting more hits, but keeping your name high in the listings can be expensive and will not, in reality, make your site any easier to find. As we all know, punching in a list of keywords doesn’t always get the results you want. You may have to do quite a bit of digging around and be prepared to trawl through several pages of results before you track down that vital piece of information.

Others: 3.4%

Ask: 5.4%

AOL: 5.9%

Source: comScore for

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White Paper Using a CMS for Search Engine Optimisation


free ‘organic’ listings

Here’s how it works. PPC adverts are those that appear at the top and to the right of the search results page. These are displayed whenever a searcher types in the key phrases that you have identified the ones that most closely reflect what you are offering your audience. The adverts work by bidding on certain keywords and phrases: the higher your bid, the higher your advert is placed – but you only pay when someone clicks on your advertisement. So you can afford to set up hundreds of potential key phrases. There are three key players in the PPC market: Google, Overture and Miva (formerly Espotting). These three companies feed the majority of the search networks currently operating and each represents slightly different user demographics (Overture, for example, supplies Yahoo and MSN). For PPC to work, you need to find the provider that is preferred by your target market.

PPC advertising: the pros and cons Pros: PPC advertising is fast to set up, and can be managed effectively by monitoring budgets and measuring ROI, offering a rapid, reliable strategy for increasing traffic to your site. By using keywords that are relevant to your business, visitors are led to your site by search terms rather than its content. Visitors are directed to pages specific to their requirements, so that they don’t have to drill down through the site themselves. Cons: If your products and services compete a hotly contested market than the ‘cost-per-click’ could well be in tens of pounds. You need to be very sure how and where you will get value for money. What’s more, the bidding for popular keywords can become extremely costly and the amount of effort required to manage them could easily become a full-time job for someone.

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White Paper Using a CMS for Search Engine Optimisation

free ‘organic’ listings

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) The blogosphere provides some useful insights in how search engines work and suggestions as to how processes can be leveraged to improve your rankings. Frequent visits to the blog of Google’s highly respected developer Matt Cutts and Jill Whalen’s High Ranking Advisor, for example, can provide some valuable pointers. A critical success factor is being able to capitalise not simply on the search terms, but those areas on the page to which users are typically drawn. A recent report from Eyetools, highlighted what it describes as the ‘golden triangle’. Whether you use PPC or SEO, that’s where you want your name to come up. Of course, everyone is chasing a handful of highly prized competitive search terms in their particular industry – and wants to be in the golden triangle. SEO lets you look beyond the competitive terms – and focus attention on the ‘long tail’. Chris Anderson from Wired Magazine is well known for his ‘long

tail’ economics theory ( While the origins of the Long Tail are not in SEO, the principle relates perfectly. The idea is actually very simple.

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Sales Volume

Using a CMS for Search Engine Optimisation

Long Tail Head


The Marketplace

Pareto’s Principle You’ve probably heard of Pareto's Principle – The 80-20 Rule – based on the premise that you get 80% of your business from 20% of your customers. So it obviously makes more sense to focus your attention on the most important group financially (the 20%). However, in SEO this comes at a huge cost both in terms of organic search competition and in PPC keyword pricing. Employing an SEO strategy that targets the ‘head’, see below, is potentially expensive and difficult due to the competitive marketplace of internet searching. There is more to be gained by targeting the remaining 80% - the long tail.

Applied in the context of search engines, this means that you can more easily get to the top of search engine results by logically extending competitive phrases such as ‘content management’ with other keywords such as geographical descriptors (countries, counties, towns and postcodes) and technological descriptors (hardware, operating systems and software). Alterian was one of the first CMS providers to recognise the value of the ‘long tail’ theory in the context of SEO.

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White Paper Using a CMS for Search Engine Optimisation

However, if you search instead for ‘.net content management’, then the number of search returns drops to a quarter of a billion and Alterian appears at number one – right at the hotspot of the

golden triangle. A similar search for ‘content management uk’ generates an even smaller number of returns and still gives Alterian that important No. 1 slot.

By focusing on getting our search engine marketing right when we did has made a dramatic difference to the growth of the company in an extremely competitive market. And we used our own

Alterian CMS product to help us achieve these results through SEO.

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White Paper Using a CMS for Search Engine Optimisation

SEO: the pros and cons Pros: Compared with PPC, SEO can achieve higher page rankings for a smaller budget. Once you have understood and deployed the technique throughout your pages, you are likely to drive a higher rate of click-throughs organically. What’s more, once you get it right – it tends to stay right. Overall, the return on investment needs to be viewed in the long term. Cons: Leading search engines tend to change their algorithms or parameters often. Every time the rules change, you have to re-jig your SEO strategy to maintain high search rankings. SEO is a longterm investment and the results can be variable, particularly when content editors are getting up to speed on new techniques. As with PPC, managing SEO can become a full time job.

How does a CMS improve Before we answer that, you need to know a bit about how the Alterian CMS works… A good content management system makes it as easy as possible for non-technical users to create, develop and maintain web content. Alterian, for example, has focused on making its browser interface rich, intuitive and functional so that users with just a basic knowledge of word processing and spreadsheet tools can be productive almost immediately. Similar to most Microsoft Office software, Alterian CMS features a true in-context WYSIWYG editor allowing both technical and non-technical users to quickly become familiar with the system. The layout of content is controlled by templates and style-sheets. The templates determine where users can add and manage content and the style-sheets determine what the content looks like. This includes typefaces, size and colour of headings and the amount of space between lines. The CMS separates content from presentation, with the content entered and stored in a raw, unstyled format within a database. When visitors click on a page, the system marries up the content with the presentation, serving up the complete page in an instant. The advantages of this approach are that content can be presented in a variety of formats such as: text-only, mobile and

digital television users, screen reader and audio browser. The CMS can also be used for collaborative projects, particularly where organisations have large scale publishing needs, allowing others to contribute and comment, before outputting it to a document creation tools such as QuarkExpress for print production. Another advantage of separating content from presentation is that it can be personalised. For example, when content is entered into Alterian, a number of pre-determined metadata categories can be selected which will control how and where the content will be displayed. Content can also be re-used in different locations on a site, reducing duplication of effort and making sure that when the master version of that information is updated all other views are automatically updated. The Alterian CMS helps search engine marketing through: 1. Built-in system capabilities 2. Empowering users to carry out key activities 3. Preventing activities that could have a negative effect

System capabilities Alterian is recognised for website accessibility through the creation and maintenance of XHTML 1.0 Strict compliant code. While we believe every organisation should be creating accessible websites, it is not always a top priority in commercial environments. Yet, for organisations looking to get high page rankings with search engines, creating an accessible website can be a big help. That’s because as you make the site accessible to users, you also make it accessible to search engine crawlers and robots – the automated bits of code that investigate sites to determine how relevant they are to keyword search. Alterian CMS also has ‘search engine friendly URLs’. To crawlers and robots, these URLs return a friendly, real world, webpage address – not technobabble containing ‘session numbers’ or ‘page IDs’. Search engine spiders love websites with site maps because, once located, the spider can find, follow and index every page on the site following a single link. Virtually all CMS solutions allow the automatic generation and updating of site maps. CMS software allows you to add text descriptions (alt tags) which make images accessible to visually impaired visitors who use

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White Paper Using a CMS for Search Engine Optimisation

‘readers’ to understand what content is on the page. Search engines cannot read images, but they can read alt tags. We also have a built-in tool to check links, so that when spiders visit pages, they see and follow the link. Since each link has a bearing on search relevance, it’s important that the text is descriptive, relevant to the content it points to - and unbroken.

Writing web copy differs from writing for a printed page. Alterian templates and stylesheets help users to structure information in a friendly, logical way for visitors and search engines. Alterian’s accessibility features make sure users follow a consistent hierarchical structure for page content, thereby avoiding the use of multiple main heading tags which could be viewed as spam.

Empowering users

Placing relevant keywords in links is not only good accessibility practice, it is also useful for crawlers to find their way through your site and determine page topic and relevance. Building links from your site, and particularly to it, aids search returns. The emphasis here is on getting good quality and very relevant links into your site. Even a few links to high ranking pages can make a significant difference on your efforts.

Our experience has shown that the page title tag is significant in search engine optimisation. Making the keywords in the page title tag as relevant as possible to the page content enables search engine crawlers to determine the relevance of a page against them. Alterian’s CMS enables users to create and manage page title tags while maintaining navigation usability separately. By making the page title tag relevant to the page content, the overall relevance is increased intern leads to a better page ranking. Other metadata, such as keywords and page descriptions, have been over-used in the past by those seeking to get to the top of search returns. They are now typically ignored by search engines in terms of ranking, but are still used to return page descriptions and continue to play a useful and valid role in encouraging users to click on a link.

Finally, enabling users to create new pages or groups of pages easily and quickly helps to improve the relevance of content that visitors are likely to land on, particularly after following a ‘paid for’ link. This use of landing pages or the creation of complete microsites, coupled with webpage analysis, is recognised as an effective way to improve click-through conversions.

Preventing damaging activities Even high profile sites can be blacklisted by search engines. Alterian’s CMS helps you to avoid the faults that deplete your search engine score, such as duplicated links and content. Placing content that has already been indexed within a page can effectively ‘demote’ that page. Making sure that most of the content on a page is unique – both within your website and on the web at large, avoids this issue. It is also good practice not to duplicate content in the title tag so that two pages have the same title tag. And don’t forget that search engines may penalise bad spelling, grammar and broken links. Workflow, spell checking and red-lining capabilities of Alterian’s CMS can help improve the quality of a live site.

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White Paper Using a CMS for Search Engine Optimisation

How Alterian CMS helps SEO Straightforward editorial control for page properties including: navigation, keywords, page title tag and Robots.txt.

Ideal for non-technical users executing SEO strategies. Enables full control over the page title tag while maintains the usability of the site structure, navigation and content.

Published code is compliant to XHTML 1.0 Strict.

Clean code is search engine friendly. Content ingested via drag and drop is cleaned to XHTML 1.0 Strict. Better browser and device support (pages render on browsers faster on devices such as laptops and PDAs).

Built-in WCAG 1.0 accessibility checker (single-A, double-A, triple-A)

Browser-friendly, compliant code (compliant content has greater credibility and is believed to rank higher)

Non-technical tools sets design to encourage developed publishing controls to drive communications and regularity.

Ease of use for publishing including drag and drop ingestion for Office documents through to blog and forum capabilities. Content proliferation and depth of information/topic authority all enhance SEO for a site

Where next? We have learned a lot from our own and other implementations focused on search engine marketing and we continue to explore how we can help non-technical people do the things they need to do to make their search marketing efforts more effective, for example: • Managing the site verification process typically required by Google and Yahoo in order to use search related features such as analytics and site map submissions. • Generating Google/Yahoo specified site maps so that you can go through the process of site map submission more quickly and easily. • Better and easier control for non-technical users over the robots.txt – the thing that determines which bits of a site a crawler should look at and which bits it should ignore. • Making it easier for non-technical people to add the code to pages for analytics and conversion tracking.

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SEO in practice: Capio Healthcare UK Capio Healthcare is the UK’s fourth largest independent healthcare provider. Historically its collection of websites was difficult to keep up-to-date and dynamic and web traffic was mainly generated using directories.

By using the ‘long tail’ keyword approach, Capio found that it was achieving higher page rankings and the volume of searchgenerated traffic was increasing dramatically week by week. Here are some examples…

The implementation of Alterian very quickly helped to create upto-date and dynamic websites, but more importantly, within a few weeks the level of searches from organic results began to rise.

The company currently enjoys a ‘golden triangle’ position on its most relevant keyphrase ‘private hospitals’.

“In the past we have had difficulties reaching high listings in the major search engines. Our previous CMS solution was not search engine friendly. The generation of unclean code, unfriendly URLs and inability to create meta tags limited us in what could be achieved with search engine rankings. Alterian has provided a solution to all of these problems and our rankings have certainly improved,” explained Ross Finch, Webmaster, Capio Healthcare UK.

Even with extremely competitive, 26 million return keyphrases like ‘private healthcare’, Capio is making steady progress towards the top pages and with extended phrases such as ‘private healthcare uk’ it is right up at the top. The bottom line for Capio is that all treatments on offer enjoy a ‘golden triangle’ position and that the search optimised site pulled in twice as many leads year on year.

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White Paper Using a CMS for Search Engine Optimisation

Conclusion Today the internet is home to an increasing number of websites and companies are competing in a transparent marketplace, on an equal footing. With over 100 million websites online, and each website containing any number of pages from one to anywhere over 100,000 – potentially all indexed by search engines, the importance of having your website in the ‘Golden Triangle’ is clear. Although organic SEO requires a greater depth of understanding, a CMS delivers many of the tools to achieve this – out-of-the-box. CMS prompts and guides non-technical users with little understanding of SEO through some of the tasks that need to be carried out to help search engines successfully index and understand the relevance of pages, improving search returns. Other things that can be done to improve SEO are completed behind the scenes in the code, without involvement from nontechnical users. When organic SEO is carried out in conjunction with PPC advertising, the overall effect on a website’s visibility is vastly improved for search engines and visitors alike.

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Sources of reference

Terms of reference


Pay-Per-Click advertising


Search Engine Optimisation (organic referrals)


Search Engine Marketing


Content Management System




Return on Investment


Accessibility compliance legislation

Office of National Statistics, October 2005


What You See Is What You Get user interface

BMRB Internet Monitor, January 2006


Uniform Resource Locator or web address, typically typed into the address bar of a web browser


Extensible Markup Language aids web design using compliant with W3C legislation code, it was also designed to support a wide variety of applications.


Extensible Hypertext Markup Language is a cleaner type of code that is friendly to search engines and sweb developers

Emarketer, December 2005 ITU

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White Paper Using a CMS for Search Engine Optimisation

About Alterian Alterian (LSE: ALN) empowers marketers with an integrated marketing software platform combining database, online and operational marketing applications on a shared data infrastructure. The Alterian Integrated Marketing Platform makes it practical and cost effective for marketers to use actionable insight to execute an integrated marketing strategy across online and offline channels. It is the unique integration of analytics, content and execution through Alterian’s industry leading tools, such as the Alterian Messenger email platform, and the award winning Alterian Web Content Management solutions, which enables marketers to drive a seamless, multi-channel customer experience. Alterian’s analytically-led software is delivered to approximately 1,000 marketing departments, across 26 countries, and an international network of more than 100 business partners, including marketing services providers, agencies and systems integrators. Its partners, such as Accenture, Acxiom, Allant Group, Cap Gemini, Carlson Marketing, Experian, Epsilon, InfoUSA, LogicaCMG, Merkle, Ogilvy One and Euro RSCG Worldwide, deliver Alterian software alongside their own domain and services expertise to help market leaders such as Princess Cruises, General Motors, Zurich, Astra Zeneca, HSBC, Limited Too, AEGON, Avis, Worldwide Wrestling Entertainment, Dell, Amnesty International and Vodafone integrate marketing processes and drive competitive advantage. For more information about Alterian, products within the Alterian Integrated Marketing Platform or our Partner Network, please visit

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