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Guide to ExpressionEngine Website Optimization

A Comprehensive Guide to Expression Engine Website Optimization



Website optimization is one of the key considerations that guide the choice of any web building tool used today.

This is because website optimization will largely determine the power of any website to compete in the complex world of the internet which is already filled with lots of powerful website applications.

Optimization is something to be done continually and has to be improved along with changes in the search engine algorithms, especially Google and Bing.

ExpressionEngine(EE) offers great features for search engine optimization. In this tutorial, we shall consider the key factors and adjustments that you need to make to your expression engine website to optimize it for the search engines.

Search Engine Optimization is a crucial term playing a significant role in the performance of a website on search engines.

Wikipedia puts it like this: Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the volume or quality of traffic to a website or a web page (such as a blog) from search engines via “natural” or un-paid (“organic” or “algorithmic”) search results as opposed to other forms of search engine marketing (SEM) which may deal with paid inclusion.

The theory is that the earlier (or higher) a site appears in the search results list, the more visitors it will receive from the search engine.

SEO may target different kinds of search, including image search, local search, video search, and industry-specific vertical search engines. This gives a website web presence.

Guide to ExpressionEngine Website Optimization
                                  Guide to ExpressionEngine Website Optimization

Now, let us first look at why EE is considered a great application for search engine optimization (SEO).

Why ExpressionEngine is Good for SEO

1. Custom Meta and Titles

ExpressionEngine allows you the liberty conveniently create custom fields for each section (or channel), you can define custom meta descriptions, keywords, and page titles to suit your targeted market and audience. Furthermore, ExpressionEngine allows for overriding default metadata to allow for unlimited scale simply by modifying page templates. This makes ExpressionEngine a very flexible application for SEO.

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There are also several third-party add-ons including SEOLite, and NSM Better Meta. Both of these SEO add-ons can take be good for EE search engine optimization.

2. Search Engine URL Structure

ExpressionEngine’s core makes it possible to create static, semantic URLs that are search engine friendly. Ceators of EE achieved this by removing the use of query strings from the URLs. Most publishing systems use query strings, but search engines tend to frown at them. This is mostly because (Google especially) prefers URLs that show hierarchy for the user. Query strings make that impossible. The basic essence in removing query strings is to make the URL structure more traditional and static.

3. Easy Sitemap Generation and Integration

Sitemaps and having them on your website and also having them submitted to Google are essential requirements for website performance. It will significantly affect your visibility on search engines result pages (SERPs). Because of the flexibility of the system, ExpressionEngine is able to output an SEO ready XML sitemap. You can also use a Sitemap Module to auto-generate an xml sitemap and achieve this goal.

4. Easy Analytics/Tag Manager Integration

This has become one of the outstanding advantages of ExpressionEngine and its SEO capability. While some CMS platforms will make you utilize a plugin to setup Google Analytics or Tag Manager, EE has a very simple copy/paste integration that you can setup in minutes. ExpressionEngine is flexible with several alternative ways to add your analytics code to your templates. You paste the code directly into a template, including the code in a layout, or storing it in a global variable. With Tag Manager’s event tracking system, click/event tracking is a snap for even the non-technical developer.

5. EE Allows You to Have Total Control

ExpressionEngine doesn’t automatically output any code or markup that a developer will have to manipulate or workaround. EE allows you have full to add as much search engine optimization to do. You have the option of doing it yourself or utilizing an SEO add-on.

Tips For Optimizing an Expression Engine Website for Better Performances

Having gained some insights into SEO and how it can be exploited in ExpressionEngine, we now move on to provide some tips for optimizing your EE website:

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We shall now do a checklist of some of the numerous, though very salient, points and areas that require attention for optimization purposes:

1) Un-install/remove unused add-ons(modules, extension, plugin, accessories) and templates (snippets & global variables), channels/weblogs, category group etc.

2) Disable parameter within channel entry tag. While using the channel entry tag ({exp:channel: entries}), the system loads all the data/related data of the channel entry and one can disable a few data which aren’t necessary anymore like:


Category Fields

Member Data










3) If using the Query module for writing SQL queries, make sure they are well-optimized queries to fetch only necessary records.

4) Avoid using so many embeds into a template as embeds take more time for processing than snippets or global variables.

Also, don’t save templates as files if not necessary. It adds extra overhead.

5) If any template is populating so many data/dynamic contents, use Template Caching (It can be enabled from Preferences -> Enable caching).

You can use the following add-ons for caching:

CE Cache

Solspace’s Template Morsels

Solspace’s Static Page Caching


ExpressionEngine, itself provides some more caching solutions like Queries Caching (Admin -> Channel Administration -> Global Preferences -> Cache Dynamic Channel Queries?) and Tag Cache.

Read more about SEO and catching

6) Avoid including JS code or files within a template/page.

Mostly we create a common template/snippet for the head section of the page and it’s being embedded into the main template {embed=includes/header} and keep including the JS even not being used for some pages.

We can make HTML structure better with:


< include JS which is necessary for that template/page  />



[page content]



You can use Minimee to minimize and cache your CSS and JS files.

7) Avoid the use of so many if and if: else conditions in a template. Instead of it switch can be used with the help of the Switchee plugin.

8) Disabled some unnecessary tracking. Tracking can be disabled from Control Panel -> Admin -> Security and Privacy -> Tracking Preferences.

9) Enable GZIP: GZIP can be enabled from Control Panel -> Admin -> System Administration -> Output and Debugging.

10) Avoid the use of excessive PHP code in a template. Instead of using PHP code in the template, you should use a good plugin to populate the data.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

When setting up or designing your website with ExpressionEngine, avoid these common and very damaging mistakes.

1) Avoid too many ads on your website.

Just as it will be bad for SEO to run a website that is based on flash, so it is when you build a website with too many adverts. Search Engines dislike websites that run too many adverts. They know why. But it hurts the performance of your website and you’ve got to avoid it.

2) Avoid Too Many Images on Your Site

A common technique for building sites, especially when developing for certain industries like entertainment is to construct the entire site out of images. Like Flash, this allows a high level of artistic control but does not provide indexable text that the search engines need.

But there is some relief for this, though it is not a perfect solution to deal with image-rich content. HTML code behind images allows for ALT text that serves two purposes explaining to visitors what is on the site if images don’t load or if they are browsing on a device that doesn’t support them, and providing search engines a description of what the graphics are displaying.

In addition, the file names of the images provide information to search engines. All titles should use relevant keywords, and individual words should be separated with dashes (e.g. My-Band-Name-Cover-300dpi.jpg) to clearly delimit the search terms.

How to Resolve this problem: Always ensure you are providing ALT text behind any image, especially if the site is built primarily or entirely of images. Be smart with file names.

3) Do not Ignore Keywords in Your Content

Although it is not advisable to focus your design and content on keywords, it is good to have the major driving keywords to be present on the page at some reasonable density of up to 2.5 percent.

Traditional SEO practices have emphasized that the cleanest way to optimize your site is to enrich it with content rich with relevant keywords. For example, if you have a real estate site, words such as a mortgage, refinance, and realtor should appear over and over. This has changed.

How to Resolve this Problem: Find as many places on the site that allow for the basic keywords you believe your readers will be searching for.

4) Avoid Relying Solely on Meta Tags

Early SEO relied heavily on behind-the-scenes HTML code called meta tags. A sample meta tag might be a phrase like this, enclosed in carrot brackets:

The name section determines what type of meta tag is being declared, and the content section lists all the keywords that define what the web page is about. In this case, it will be about Tod host Web Hosting.

Unfortunately, as soon as search engines started relying on these tags, people began taking advantage of them. For example, if I were performing SEO on a site that sold web hosting packages, and wanted to glean some traffic from people searching for web hosting, I could use the meta tags above even though they did not accurately describe my site. Realistically, that alone wouldn’t complete the job, but at one point it did have a significant impact on site indexing.

How to Resolve This Problem: Today, it is recommended that relevant meta tags be included n your pages with some caution. Do not forget that the SEO value of metatags has become minimal and spending time on other SEO strategies will be much more effective.

5) Adopt a Quality Link Strategy

The devaluation of the significance of the Meta tag came with other ways of ranking web pages. Link quality has come into prominence as Google directs its ranking to quality links and usability of the website – essentially focusing on user experience. Ensure that you have a good and friendly way of managing incoming, outgoing, and internal links.

The theory of link strategy is simple — the more sites linking to a page, and the more prominent the referring sites are, the more relevant the page becomes in the search engines. For instance, links from .gov and .edu rank higher than all others including .com, .net .org etc.

How to Boost This Gain: Encourage other sites to link by providing content that solves problems rather than posting lofty content with little value.

6) Don’t Overlook Alternate Search Types

Take advantage of other search types including videos and images. Do not ignore this alternative to text content.

How to Resolve This Problem: Learn about alternate file types your visitors and competitors use and build them into your content, ensuring proper linking so they can be indexed by the search engines.

7) Take Advantage of Analytics

Not utilizing analytics is like walking blind. Once you have accomplished the basic optimation work with your content and the traffic starts coming, you need to monitor performance using analytics to guide you on areas to improve.

If you are having a high visitor rate and high bounce rate, it suggests you need to work on the landing pages especially your home page to increase visitor retention. One of the most useful tools for this purpose is Google Analytics property. You can integrate this into your website by signing in for Google Business

It will be further helpful to signup for Google business and Google Webmaster tools. All the statistics gathered by these analytics will help your business understand if you’re your website is performing and how users are responding to your content.

Remember for issue resolution: Take the guesswork out of figuring out how your fans interact with your site. Enable and constantly monitor website statistics through a package such as AWStats or Google Analytics.

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