What is Headless SEO and How Does it Affect SEO?

Businesses in various industries are constantly looking for methods to increase their online presence, stay competitive, and provide customers with a seamless and unique digital experience. This desire has led to an increase in the adoption of headless Content Management Systems.

The increased popularity of headless CMSs has various consequences, one of which is how SEO works with headless architecture. Shifting from a typical content solution to a headless architecture has significant SEO effects.

Transitioning to a headless CMS can uncover a world of possibilities for your content, but it is not without challenges.

This article will explore Headless SEO, its importance, and how it differs from typical monolithic SEO. We’ll also cover some technical SEO best practices for developers.

What is Headless SEO?

Headless SEO is a modern technique for carrying out SEO activities. The headless SEO technique involves separating a website’s appearance layer, or front-end, from its content and delivering it to customers via an Application Programming Interface (API).

The separation of concerns offered by a headless CMS allows developers and content teams more customization and flexibility. It also provides both parties with the freedom and granular control they require to accomplish their finest work in search engine optimization.

The headless SEO methodology is very different from traditional CMSs, which combine 2-end development and content. Businesses across all industries widely adopt the headless architecture technique. It is especially beneficial for those who have large and complex websites that require regular content and development updates.

Myths of Headless SEO!

seo providers

The most widespread misconception is that as the back end and front end are separated, headless SEO is more difficult than with monolithic systems. In actuality, decoupling frees your content and empowers your digital teams. Monolithic CMSes, often known as classic or legacy CMSes, make many decisions for you, which may feel comfortable at first. 

However, as you scale, the limits imposed by your CMS grow increasingly restrictive. Your content creators may use headless to construct the experiences they need and reuse their material across any digital experience. Your developers can iterate faster by leveraging the power of application programming interfaces (APIs) to create experiences with best-in-class technologies.

Benefits of Headless SEO

Here are some examples of how a headless CMS can help you with SEO:

a. Headless is Everywhere

One of the primary benefits of adopting a headless CMS for SEO is the ability to centrally manage content, especially content that is used across different platforms. With a headless CMS, you can update a piece of content once and distribute that update anywhere that content is published.

If you’ve ever had to handle the same piece of information across numerous pages or experiences, you’ll understand how helpful this is. You’ll never have to worry about content disputes between your mobile app and your website, or anyplace else for that matter.

b. Headless is Flexible

Moving pages into any desired URL structure is easier with headless, which is something monolithic CMSes often need help with, causing a thorn in the side of many SEO practitioners.

Want to make a URL structure more SEO-friendly, incorporate keywords in URL slugs, or just move a page in your monolithic CMS, only to conclude it’s not worth the effort?

Learn how Content Full makes managing redirects in a headless CMS easier in this guide.

c. Headless is Scalable

With a fully separated CMS, SEOs may concentrate on content optimization rather than traditional CMS constraints.

They can work effortlessly with content creators, streamline workflows, and swiftly scale content production across several platforms and channels.

d. Headless is Fast

Instead of fighting the bloated templating engines that plague monolithic systems, your dev team may select the front-end frameworks that best serve your business goals and make decisions that deliver the best user experience.

Core Web Vitals measures user experience metrics based on performance aspects that influence your site’s page ranking. Core Web Vitals will not keep you awake at night thanks to Contentful’s lightning-fast response times, dynamic image optimization, and global caching capabilities.

What does Google think of Headless CMS?

5 stars Google

According to John Mueller, Google’s Senior Search Analyst, Google is unconcerned about the CMS you choose. Mueller indicated in a 2022 YouTube video that Google does not hunt for specific CMS signs to include in its algorithm. 

In theory, this approach may also be applied to headless CMS, implying that it will have no direct impact on your SEO efforts, both positive and negative. Headless CMS is simply another tool for creating web content. 

When creating your headless SEO strategy, there are three major factors to consider.

a. Content Models Built for SEO

Headless CMSes separate content from its display. Instead of creating a series of web pages, you will likely create a content model that more naturally depicts your content. Because you are considering the many types of content, content is viewed as an asset that may be saved as data in one place and reused anywhere. Any front-end interface can consume data in the format best suited to its needs. A web page may not have the same issues as an app or IoT device.

  • The process of specifying the categories of content required, the properties of each, and the relationships between them is known as content modelling.
  • Models provide a map of content categories that may be used to create exactly the type of content that’s needed at any moment, rather than a series of page layout templates.
  • Each piece of content inherits the attributes of the content type.
  • So a case study would always have the following fields: Case Study Title, Description, Customer Company, Goals, Outcomes, Story, Images, and Service Type.
  • Any web page that displays information on the case study would pull in the fields required for that page.
  • This structured content’ method allows you to consider the content as data, which indicates that a lot of your SEO data can be collected from the content itself.
  • In a few cases, you may still want the ability to override specific fields.

b. Limited Plugins and Add-ons

Many SEOs got their trade by using CMSs such as WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, and others. We’ve grown used to using tools like Yoast to ensure that all of our meta tags are there and that canonical URLs are applied logically.

When working with a headless CMS, we must discard all of our technical SEO assumptions. The ability to rely on plugins and add-ons should not be taken for granted. Instead, SEOs will have complete control over their technical configuration, including the ability to create validation rules to prevent errors and apply personalized logic to canonicals, faceted navigation, pagination, and other features.

c. Omnichannel SEO

Omnichannel SEO is becoming more popular, and SEO professions have moved far beyond optimizing for Google results. Because you’re not creating pages, but rather content and content models, headless SEO extends beyond your website. This covers SEO, social media, email, and other channels such as YouTube, TikTok, Google Lens, and voice search.

A well-optimized website that is easy to use and contains relevant, reliable information is still necessary for a successful SEO strategy, but an SEO’s responsibility does not end there.

  • As omnichannel search is on the rise, SEOs must ensure that businesses provide a consistent, favourable experience for potential customers across all channels.
  • An omnichannel approach to content can be difficult to implement, but it is essential if you want to reach the broadest possible audience and maximize your chances of success.
  • The provision of relevant content to users at the appropriate moment is at the core of SEO.
  • To maintain this goal, we must ensure that users can find our information wherever they are seeking.
  • You can repurpose your website content into an omnichannel SEO strategy with a headless CMS.

Best Practices for SEO with Headless CMS!

best ones

a. Examine All Necessary Meta Tags

While these are often the responsibility of front-end developers, they will have an impact on your SEO performance, therefore it’s important to analyze them as part of your launch.

Though there are other options, the following are essentials for a successful headless SEO implementation:

1. Title: Examine how it is generated across the site. Some pages will require a specific field in your CMS to be edited. You should implement rules for auto-generating other pages, such as categories, tags, or archives. Within your CMS, you may even set validation rules that compel you to keep within a specified character limit.

2. Meta Description: As with the title, you should have a field in your CMS that allows you to update it easily on most pages. Some will require you to implement rules to auto-generate them. Some headless CMSs let you integrate AI capabilities to assist you with this. You can also use validation rules in the CMS to limit the length of your meta descriptions to 160 characters.

3. Meta Robots: Depending on the indexation management system you choose, you must verify that this tag is present in your HTML head and that it is functioning properly. 

4. Content Type: This meta tag is used to inform the browser about the type of content on the page, as well as the character set and encoding. This is especially important when working in an international environment, as it ensures that unique characters, such as accent marks and umlauts, are presented appropriately. Again, you can use validation criteria to ensure that the content of this meta tag always meets the ISO standards.

5. Viewport: The viewport tag instructs browsers on how to handle a page’s dimensions, and it is required for responsive design. Your responsibility here is to ensure that the meta tag is properly implemented and that the site is mobile-friendly, as defined by Google.

6. Language Tag: This meta tag is used to specify the language in which the content will be presented. In an international arrangement, you want to ensure that this is consistent across all pages so that you can construct proper hreflang markup by querying each document’s lang attribute. Again, validation criteria can be set up to keep this tag ISO-compliant.

7. Open graph tags: While not directly connected to SEO, we have become the guardians of these tags over time.

You’ll want to make sure that all of the fundamental ones (og: title, og: type, og: image, and og: URL) are correctly implemented. Most of these just extract text from other fields, so you won’t always need a field in your CMS to update these, but you may want to establish unique title rules or a field to override your description and image.

b. Indexing Management

indexing website

You can control whether search engines can index your website by using the meta robots tag, or by using the x-robots tag in the HTTP header response.

The x-robots-tag is best for PDFs and other files, while the robot’s meta tag is easier to maintain and diagnose for page management.

You’ll want a field in your CMS that lets you control indexation on a page-by-page basis. The best approach is a toggle with a clear statement of what it means to allow search engines to index the page.

When developing a headless CMS, you must work with your development team to choose the appropriate indexing management strategy.

There could be competing goals or complex integrations that prevent you from reaching the desired setup. You must go over these with your development team to come up with a satisfactory solution.

c. Make Sure the URL Slugs are Editable

Within your back end, there should be a field where you can create and change the URL where your content will be accessible.

As always, keep your URL user-friendly and include your primary keyword.

d. Establish Canonical URL Rules

Canonical URLs inform search engines about the primary version of the content and help you manage potential duplicate content issues.

Here are some general guidelines to share with your development team and remember during your audit:

  • Define your canonicals in the page’s head or the HTTP header.
  • Use absolute URLs, such as https://www.google.com, which include the protocol and subdomain.
  • Only define one canonical per page.
  • The pages you intend to index must be self-canonicalized.
  • That is, within the canonical tag, they should point to their URL.

Regarding canonicalization, e-commerce sites have some extra layers of difficulty because they often have to manage significant duplicate content issues linked to categories and filters.

In this case, it’s advisable to collaborate with your development team to find the best approach for defining canonicalization rules for your business.

e. Define Your XML Sitemap Setup

define

There are a few things to consider when asking the developers to create an XML sitemap.

You have to state in your request that your sitemap is not static and must be updated regularly. If your website changes often, you may want to update the sitemap daily

If you want the content that you launch to be added quickly, you should have the option to delete your sitemap’s cache and regenerate it on demand.

To determine which pages will be included in your sitemap, you must define the rules. You must simply include:

  • Indexable URLs
  • Canonical URLs
  • And URLs with a 200 HTTP response code

Most of the time, you’ll want your sitemap to be in your website’s root directory. If it doesn’t work for you, it can live elsewhere as long as you indicate it in your robots.txt file and submit it to the search engines you want to use.

Many websites opted to separate their sitemaps based on the variety of content they provide. This can result in separate sitemaps for posts, pages, authors, and taxonomies.

XML sitemaps can contain more than simply URLs, although it’s worth noting that the <priority> and <changefreq> tags are largely ignored by Google.

Sitemaps can be used to submit content other than web pages. Specific sitemaps are supported by search engines for submitting material such as videos, photos, or news articles.

These are very important for publishers and media companies, so look into it if that’s your situation.

f. Request Your Schema Markup

Schema markup provides search engines with a more comprehensive knowledge of your content.

To get the most out of your content, suggest a field for schema markup. This can be configured at the URL level or the content component level, with some rules to deliver it all in a single JSON-LD script on the front end.

Schema markup can assist search engines in better understanding your content and will qualify you for an infinite number of rich results such as breadcrumbs, recipe upgrades, video results, FAQs, and many others.

g. Make Sure your Headings Make Sense

When working with a headless CMS, heading hierarchy can be difficult. Because you design your content independently of the layout it will have on the page, you must pay special attention to the heading hierarchy when placing out your content models.

The heading hierarchy should, according to best practices, reflect how the content is organized. This is a basic online accessibility criterion that will assist visually impaired users in navigating your information.

While it used to be far more important to search rankings than it is now, making your site accessible to users of all abilities is more than just good practice.

h. Perform a JavaScript Parity Audit Before Launch

audit

Jamstack frameworks are frequently used in headless CMSs. Because the Jamstack is a sort of web architecture that mainly relies on JavaScript, your headless CMS site will almost always be JavaScript-heavy.

You must execute a parity audit on any JavaScript-heavy site to make sure that you are presenting search engines exactly what you want.

Because Google does not scroll or click, all of your essential content and links should be present in the rendered source.

You should look for distinctions between your rendered and unrendered sites, notably in terms of meta tags, canonicals, and content.

Is Headless the Future?

headless seo

The concept of headless has been around for a long time, but headless CMSs appear to be the rage. It’s hard to figure out whether this is a large movement or just hype. For the majority of users and use cases, a headless CMS is not a viable alternative.

That isn’t to suggest that the idea of making your content available for free isn’t appealing to an increasing number of developers and information architects. You can use a headless CMS to implement a content-first strategy rather than a front-end-first strategy.

  • Putting your content first and removing everything from it allows you to clear up storage.
  • When content is available for free, you can use it anywhere.
  • Today, you can find content via apps, smart assistants, smart watches, fridges, kiosks, and TVs, among other places.
  • And there will be additional formats that we can’t even imagine right now.
  • In that way, a headless CMS can let you liberate your content and target those formats with significant flexibility.
  • However, this does not mean the death of the traditional CMS. WordPress alone demonstrates that a large number of sites are of the bakery-around-the-corner variety, which does not require such independence.
  • They are searching for simplicity of usage.

Conclusion

Headless architecture is an excellent tool for empowering businesses to own every piece of the digital experience they are building for their users. 

As headless CMSes are becoming more popular, SEOs must flex their technical muscles more frequently and think about content in new ways.

The opportunities provided by headless SEO are limitless and fascinating. Imagine how amazing content-led experiences online merchants will be able to offer for their potential customers, or how much easier content administration will be for large international enterprise websites.

But the beauty of headless SEO is everything we can’t yet anticipate, all the amazing ways that digital teams will use all of this potential.

While ensuring an effective technical SEO setup on the front end is essential, headless also allows for modifications to the CMS to optimize workflows.

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