Since its rising popularity around 2015, headless CMS has been a buzzword for many organizations.
This web management concept was meant to reduce friction between content managers and dev teams and empower digital marketers to improve their access to tackling SEO initiatives.
So what is this new(ish) concept that has digital marketing teams hassling web developers about? Can it really improve the way we do SEO?
What is a headless CMS?
Simply put, a headless CMS is a content management system that separates the process of creating and managing content from how it is presented on websites or applications.
It gives marketers more flexibility in delivering content to different devices and platforms, resulting in faster loading times and the ability to create personalized experiences.
How headless CMS works in practice
Imagine having a React JS site where your content changes must go through your dev team. Then you have to wait for their sprint to push to production. How long does that usually take you?
Headless CMS platforms help solve this problem for organizations by removing that dev barrier.
With a headless CMS setup, content marketers can publish new content and edit existing content from a normal CMS like WordPress or even a custom-built CMS.
Any content added into the headless CMS sends that content to the main website through API integration. The dev team creates sections for the content to populate.
How a headless CMS benefits organizations and SEO
Headless CMS platforms have been providing significant efficiency solutions since their adoption. Some of the most common benefits for organizations and SEOs include:
Ability to scale content production
With a fully decoupled CMS, SEOs can focus on optimizing the content without worrying about traditional CMS constraints.
They can easily collaborate with content creators, streamline workflows, and rapidly scale content production across various platforms and channels.
Improves dev/SEO relationships
The separation of the headless CMS and core web platform fosters a more harmonious working environment.
SEOs can efficiently optimize content for search engine visibility without disrupting the development process.
Additionally, headless CMS platforms often provide SEO-friendly features and integrations, such as structured data support and customizable URLs, enabling SEOs to implement their strategies seamlessly.
By streamlining the content creation and optimization workflow, headless CMS empowers both SEOs and developers to work together more effectively, leading to improved search rankings, enhanced user experiences and, ultimately, a stronger online presence.
Improved web security
Headless CMS significantly enhances web security by decoupling the presentation layer from the backend infrastructure.
A headless CMS does not rely on built-in templates or themes unlike traditional CMS solutions. Instead, it provides content through an API, allowing developers to build front-end applications using any technology stack.
This separation of concerns ensures that sensitive backend systems, such as databases and server infrastructure, are shielded from direct exposure to the web.
Faster load speeds
Since the front end is no longer tightly coupled to the CMS, developers can build lightweight and efficient web applications.
Headless CMS platforms can deliver content directly to the user interface by leveraging APIs, reducing the complexity and overhead associated with traditional CMS architectures.
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How Google feels about headless CMS
Google is agnostic to which CMS you decide to use, according to John Mueller, Google’s Senior Search Analyst. In a 2022 video on YouTube, Mueller stated that Google doesn’t look for specific CMS signals to use in its algorithm.
In theory, this principle could also be applied to headless CMS, meaning it will have neither a positive nor a negative direct impact on your SEO efforts. Headless CMS is just one more tool to create web content.
Best practices for SEO with headless CMS
Ensure schema, metadata, and URL structure carries over
If your headless CMS uses a plugin to manage schema, titles and meta descriptions, and URL structure, make sure this information carries over to the compiled site.
Your dev team can pull those data points via the API to ensure it compiles correctly.
Validate that the content is mobile-friendly
Even though the main site might be mobile-friendly, sometimes adding certain imagery may not translate well once the site is compiled.
Always make sure to spot-check your content before publishing.
Compile content to webpage prior to fetch
Using fetch and render tests, ensure your page content is included in the fetch and has minimal changes between the fetch and render.
While Google uses the rendered content in its algorithm, it’s always best practice to ensure your website provides server-side rendering.
Have new content update XML sitemap
While most CMS platforms have systems to create dynamic sitemaps, they may not inherently translate to headless CMS systems.
Work with your dev team to ensure that any new or updated content dynamically reflects in the XML sitemap.
Improve your SEO performance with a headless CMS
Adopting a headless CMS can benefit organizations, including improved SEO performance.
By understanding what a headless CMS is and how it works in practice, organizations can harness its power to scale content production, foster better collaboration between developers and SEO professionals, enhance web security, and achieve faster load speeds.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.