SEO and the Discoverable Museum CMS

Rachael Cristine Woody

Rachael Cristine Woody

January 06, 2021

A museum Collections Management System (CMS) is a tool we use to manage and share our collections. Once the CMS became a digital platform available to the public via the internet, it also became a tool for discovery. 

Through the power of the internet visitors can find museums (and their collections) through a quick search on the internet—without ever having to know the name of the museum or the specifics of the information they’re looking for. So, how does that work? The answer is: Search Engine Optimization (SEO). This miniseries will delve into SEO specific to how it works with the museum CMS and how it can benefit museum operations. This is the first of three posts that will make the case for how good SEO leads to a more easily discoverable museum collection.

What is SEO?

SEO is a mechanism with the sole aim to provide the most accurate, relevant, and quality search results. Though this mechanism is technical in form, there’s a tremendous amount of thought given to the human aspect of searching. This mechanism takes into account what a person has searched for and viewed previously, what keywords or search phrases people seem to use the most, what content and format they tend to consume, etc. A person’s search history helps to inform part of this mechanism. The other part is informed by you, your museum, and the what and how of your content online. 

What does SEO have to do with the museum CMS?

Everything your museum has online, where it lives, what descriptive words are used, how it’s presented, what format it’s in, how clear the navigation is, and the interconnection of your content with external content all play a role in calculating your SEO. The better the online content is at addressing each of these SEO areas, the better it will perform within SEO, and the higher the museum content will rank in a search result. 

Here’s a sample SEO checklist:

  • How many webpages does the CMS have?
  • How easy (or not) is it to navigate?
  • How clear are the pages and accompanying media labeled and described? 
  • What tags are used and do they make sense to a general audience and the search algorithm based on that audience? 
  • How clear and logical is the link construction to each collection item page?
  • Do images have alt-text to describe them?
  • Is related content linked together in an obvious way?
  • Are there external sites that link to CMS content in meaningful ways?
  • Is the content (text and visuals) provided in a way that will encourage visitors to linger once they arrive, or immediately bounce?

All of these elements and more impact the SEO of your museum CMS. If it seems overwhelming, I recommend picking just a few to focus on at first. Your content, the CMS, and SEO evolution will all impact which of these elements make sense for you to work on and how much they may positively or negatively impact the SEO of your museum CMS.

How does SEO lead to a more discoverable museum CMS?

Content with strong SEO means that it will show up as a relevant and quality search result. This means that your museum CMS—and therefore your collections—will be more easily discovered by both new and existing audience members. The more mindful and involved a museum is with the SEO of its CMS, the more in control the museum staff are of ensuring collection content appears in search engine results—which will help drive visitor traffic to the museum CMS.

Related Elements to Help Increase Museum CMS Discovery

Of course, SEO isn’t the only way to think about collective discovery. For more information on how to cultivate collection discovery within your CMS, please read my post How to Improve Collection Discovery in the Museum CMS, available via Lucidea’s Think Clearly Blog.


Now that we understand how good SEO can lead to a discoverable CMS, it’s time to learn how to test and improve the SEO for our museum CMS. Next week’s post How to Test and Improve the SEO of Your Museum CMS will do just that. Stay tuned!

Rachael Cristine Woody

Rachael Cristine Woody

Expert Rachael Cristine Woody advises on museum strategies, collections management, and grant writing for a wide variety of clients. In addition to several titles published by Lucidea Press, Ms. Woody is a regular contributor to the Think Clearly blog. Register here for her upcoming webinar, “Increase Your Audience with a Discoverable Museum CMS” on January 27th. And learn about Lucidea’s Argus solution for powerful and innovative museum collections management.

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