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How to maximize AEM’s SEO functionalities

The world of enterprise content management systems offers a variety of CMS to choose from. Some of those that I’ve personally worked with (both on small websites and 200 000+ pages) are Adobe AEM, Sitecore, Sitefinity, Magento and Shopify.

 

Gathering the requirements of both your digital marketing and product teams, prioritizing them and translating those into manageable chunks for development is a challenging task. Essentially, it all comes down to the ability to leverage the power of your CMS, or alternatively, finding a workaround for a missing feature (like Shopify, a platform used by global brands that still lacks the potential to customize URLs).

 

This overview will provide a walkthrough of the general features and SEO-specific functionalities that can make or break your organic search and digital marketing.  

SEO-specific functionalities in AEM

There are a number of SEO-specific features in AEM that you might want to implement, with the help of your development team. These include:

  • Verifying your site in Google Search Console by uploading the verification files directly in a folder in AEM.
  • Avoiding wasting your precious page authority on every single third-party website. Just use rel=”nofollow” on internal links.
  • A “healthy” mix of essential page properties: meta robots (for deindexing a page), canonical tag, page title, meta description, inclusion in a sitemap, social media tags. All these must-haves could be enabled on a page level and will set up a solid foundation for your organic search strategy.
  • Thinking twice about how you set up your pages in the CMS tree structure: involve your AEM solution partner and content team to select a scalable structure.
  • Requesting the foundation for sitemap.xml from your AEM partner in order to be independent in the future, with the ability to upload your own sitemaps when you need them.

If for some reason a page changes, you can easily set up a 301 HTTP permanent redirect. This will help search engines understand where the page has moved to and keep your users happy too - no one wants to land on a dead end page! AEM has its redirection capabilities on a page level, meaning that you can easily set up the new URL in the page properties.

AEM components and SEO

In order to power up your SEO campaign, you’ll want to set up your very own AEM arsenal at the start of your project. Here are some best practices for launching yours:

  • If you’re not familiar with the Top Content paragraph system (parsys), now’s the right time to use it if you want to save your SEO. The Top Content Parsys includes those components that you want to put higher on a page (above the fold). It’s commended to place a component in the Top Content parsys which holds the H1 and some copy. Remember that there must be only one H1 per page. Additionally, if you have it in the Top Content parsys, you will boost your SEO efforts, because it’s semantically more important than other headings on the page.
 
  • Unlike other platforms, AEM allows the customization of the SEO title (HTML page title, a crucial element for ranking and CTR purposes in the organic SERPs) directly from the page properties or an individual page level.
 
  • Google has enriched its search engine result pages for many search queries. Google Search can enable the so called enhanced snippets, rich results, knowledge graph for your page in search results if it understands the content of the page. To help search engines understand the content on the page, you either explicitly provide additional information in the page code using structured data (rely on knowledgeable development teams to implement these!) or/and structure the content in a specific way. So, now’s the time to build your components with a title, an image and a text description with bullet points. Our clients have seen a growth of SEO traffic because of using the right content and the future-proof components that supported their  efforts to include these content elements.

The prerequisites for the coveted bigger results, bringing more clicks and customers to your website, include the proper HTML of such components (heading, unordered and ordered lists), and their position in your template design. Others include:

  • Conceptualizing your component for “Recently viewed products” or “Related links” to build a solid internal linking structure and boost your usability.
 
  • Applying restrictions / exception criteria in components to differentiate between merchandising and pure content-driven pieces. By restricting your Parsys and disabling specific components, you’ll protect important elements like the H1 heading.
 
  • Investing time in understanding the power of experience and content fragments (or just book a session with your Adobe AEM solution partner). The content fragments can help you reference a content piece on many pages without the manual work of re-creating that content every time. Thus, you can save your precious time and play with a scalable internal linking strategy. For instance, if you want to change just one single contextual link which appears on numerous pages, it would be very time-consuming to change each appearance of it manually. Thanks to content fragments, this isn’t necessary.
 
  • Unlike other CMS, Adobe AEM has a smart solution to empower you to create pages and filter their content on the frontend without changing or creating new URLs. This requires the development of a component which simply manipulates the filtering of the content on a given page, but the good news is that it’s doable! This news will definitely make your SEO team happy, because the more unnecessary filter /dynamic pages you have, the worse your website indexation will be.
 
 
  • By creating a Breadcrumbs component for your pages, you can also apply the Structured data for Breadcrumbs to it. Thus, your snippet in organic search will occupy more space, become more prominent and entice a click.
 
  • How many CMS generate dynamic or uppercase URLs by default? Avoid any future issues and establish your correct URL structure from the very beginning.
 
  • Never underestimate the importance of Structured Data, which requires forward planning. Alternatively, enlist the support of a trusted AEM development partner who can help you with your strategy and execute it, while creating your AEM components and templates. Google works hard to understand the content of a page and the Structured Data on a page serves as an explicit clue about its meaning.

 

It’s useful to know that your structured data implementation will be easier if you rely on the content fragments that are a part of  the AEM Assets. The content fragment per type of structured data (e.g. Structured data for Webpage)  is a way to create content models to reuse content  across the site in a very structured manner.

 

Content fragments are easy to use directly in the AEM assets and give you the flexibility that you need as they don’t have any predefined structure. And, yes, you can have your “special” content fragments that contain structured content in JSON format, the one that Google recommends. These fragments are based on a Content Fragment Model, which allows predefining a structure and JSON for the resulting fragment.

 

In order to cover the cases for your components for structured data, all you need to do is to talk to your Adobe Experience Manager Implementation Partner. In fact, it has never been easier to apply structured data at once on many pages. By creating a component which manipulates the data and applies it on all the pages that you want, you’ll reduce the budget and time needed for development on every single page. Unfortunately, in most organizations, the creation and implementation of structured data remain pain points. For many, these processes still necessitate additional resources, and even leading brands continue to fall behind on this.

Bonus tips for any CMS migration

Finally, for those approaching any CMS migration, here are a final few bonus tips for maximum success.

 

Firstly, if you want to migrate from your current CMS to AEM, involve your core teams, Marketing, Product and UX, to kick off the discussion and initiate the requirements gathering. Pay attention to the flow of communication between stakeholders. This will save resources often wasted in gathering requirements details from multiple parties. A simple way to capture requirements is by leveraging Gherkin language. This facilitates the communication of business requirements to non-technical teams, and the same documentation can even be used for automated tests, meaning a happy development team too.

 

Secondly, don’t overlook the importance of knowing your content. Conduct a full content audit and meticulously document everything to be migrated, kept, purged or re-used. This intensive work in the short term can save you a fortune in the long run, and help you understand your limitations or important points to consider along the way.

 

Thirdly, start by conceptualizing your templates and highlighting the elements that may differ from one template to the other. Look for similarities and start requesting your components first. AEM is built on the concept of templates for pages, and the components / different widgets your templates consist of. The beauty of this is that neither your templates nor your components are set in stone once you’ve developed them, so you can always extend their features at a later date.

 

Finally, be sure to audit your duplicate content and make a list of the pages that you either delete or set the canonicals tags for.

See out your SEO vision

Ready to power up your Adobe AEM SEO? You can rely on your Adobe AEM Solution partner to build the right components, templates and SEO foundation. Review Netcentric’s expert services here or get in touch with us to explore how you can realize your SEO vision.

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Anita Valentinova

Requirements Engineer

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