SEO For Custom Built Websites – How To Optimize Without A CMS


There are over 1,036,300,000 individual websites in the entirety of the internet, and over 1/4 of these websites are built on the well known Content Management System called WordPress.  Content Management Systems, or CMS’s, allow web managers to easily make changes and updates to a website in an easy-to-use interface. There are many reasons why businesses and bloggers alike would opt to build their website on a CMS platform, including cost effectiveness and ease of use, the aesthetic appeal of pre-built themes, and compatibility with plugins.


However, any professional experienced in developing on WordPress and other CMS platforms knows the frustrations and issues that an out-of-the-box solution can cause. From plugin capability issues to broken themes to the white screen of death, WordPress’s benefits are often overshadowed by its frustrating and sometimes costly negative risks. The solution? A custom-built, professionally developed website. While a custom website is certainly an investment rather than a quick fix, investing in an optimized, clean, custom website that does exactly what you need it to do can have a huge impact on your SEO health and the overall success of your web presence.


Benefits of Manu SEO for Custom Built Websites


It all boils down to control! WordPress and other CMS’s “cookie cutter” set up makes it simpler for webmasters to make small updates and basic changes to a website’s content, images, and overall message, but this simplicity comes at the price of full control over how your website operates and processes your information. Developing a custom website gives webmasters full control over every single line of code on their website, making it the ideal environment for strong SEO and an excellent User Experience.


Compatibility – No Plugin House of Cards

WordPress’s main appeal to business owners and webmasters is in its plugins. Plugins give a website different capabilities to support any number of goals on a website. Need a store front to showcase the products you sell? WordPress offers thousands of ecommerce plugins. Want to capture emails of your visitors, display news or a blog feed, or have a gallery of images? Plugins are the way to go. However, the “house-of-cards” nature of plugins can cause compatibility issues or even site crashes if your plugins are installed incorrectly or are not compatible with each other. The benefits of using a CMS and its plugins are canceled out if it means a broken or completely crashed website. Instead of settling for a website that sort of does what you need it to do, a custom built solution would allow you (or your developer) to build a website that looks and functions exactly as expected.


SEO for Custom Websites

WordPress/CMS-built websites that take utilize SEO plugins (Yoast is our favorite here at GREENcell for our WordPress customers) make it easy to add in meta data, rich snippets, social open graph signals, and other information vital for SEO to all pages of a website. If you’ve invested in a custom built website, you will need to manually add in these SEO signals to your website pages. Below are a few specific areas of optimization to ensure that your custom built website remains fully optimized!


Verification and Tracking Codes

First things first – a custom developed website will require manual additions of verification and tracking codes necessary for Google Analytics, Google Adwords and Bing Ads, Search Engine Specific Webmaster tools, and social profile verification. If you’re migrating from an existing website, check out your page’s source code for an easy list of verification and tracking codes. If you are starting from nothing, below is a list of where to find your tracking codes. You will need to place Google Analytics, Google and Bing Webmaster tools, Adwords remarketing, Pinterest verification, and any other tracking or verification tool to the header section of the home page. You will need to place goal-specific event tracking and paid search conversion tags to any and all pages you’d like to track.


Verification Tags Most Businesses Will Need To Add

  1. Google Analytics
  2. Google Webmaster tools
  3. Bing Webmaster Tools
  4. Google Adwords Conversion Tag
  5. Google Adwords Remarketing Tag
  6. Pinterest Conversion Tag


Indexable content

Search Engines are still very limited in how they crawl and process the content found on a web page. The way a website looks to the human user is often very different than the way a search engine ‘reads’ a website, since search engines are not able to read Javascript, Flash, and image files. The easiest way to ensure that search engines are able to effectively crawl and understand what your website is about is to add all important content in as simple HTML text on the page. Additionally, you can supplement all Flash or Java files with HTML text on the page and ensure that all of your images contain alt attributes in the HTML to give search engines a better text-based description of the visual content. The amount of readable, HTML text is critical for search engines to understand what your website is about. There are many tools that can help you analyze your text to code ratio, including this one.


To see your website as search engines do, type “” into the search bar and select “text-only version”. This can help you see your website through a search engines eyes and find areas to add readable content.


Meta Data

If you have a large site with hundreds of pages, adding in individual meta data for each page can be a tedious task. However, as previously stated, a custom website build gives more control over SEO factors. Although a meta title and meta description are very common additions to many plugins and themes, a custom built website gives more control and optimizing power to the following aspects:


Crawlable URL Structure

A clean, intuitive, crawlable URL structure can help search engines crawl your site and ensure all pages are categorized as they should be. First, organize your pages into appropriate folders on your directory. For example, all blog posts should be nested under, all services under /services/example-services, etc. Second, tell the search engines which pages to crawl and which to avoid using index or no-index (learn more about that here).


WWW vs Non-WWW

Consolidate your www and non-www domain versions. A redirect line is best, but if you are unable to write a redirect or don’t wish to do so, you can specify the preferred URL type in Webmaster Tools in Configuration >> Settings >> Preferred Domain. 


XML Sitemap

Creating an XML sitemap, not to be confused with an HTML sitemap, serves two purposes: 1. to help search engines find all of your site’s pages more easily and 2. to help search engines determine which URL is the canonical, preferred URL. You should only include the URLs you wish to rank organically in your sitemap.


Social Markup,, and Rich Snippet Mark Up

Including open graph data, twitter cards, and other social graph markup on your blog posts, articles, and certain types of pages can be helpful for taking up as much space as possible in the SERPs. Moz has a great list of social graph information, found here.

Rich snippets are lines of code markup that help the search engines better pull important information about your business directly into the SERPs. Including these in the <head> of your page and testing in Google’s Markup Tester can also help your SERPs provide complete information to your audience and take up as much space as possible.


Overall, there are many situations in which an out-of-the-box template solution may be the right move for your business. However, if you are interested in having full and complete control, or you are using a theme that does not allow for standard SEO plugins, a custom developed website followed by SEO for custom built websites may be the right investment for your business!


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