I don’t go to as many search conferences as many others in this industry. However, at each conference I’ve attended, I’ve considered Mark to be my shadow because no matter what I do, where I go, and who I talk to, invariably, I run into Mark. Mark is one of the seriously nice, great guys in this business and he and his company have worked real hard on a terrific SEO-friendly CMS product. After seeing a very impressive demo, I offered Mark the opportunity to answer some questions about himself and his product.

1) Please give me your background and tell us what you do for a living.

The first program I wrote was on an IMSAI 8080 and my professional career in information technology started in 1985. I don’t feel as old as that makes me sound. From my earliest memory I have always had a passion for how data, calculation, and presentation help people. That hasn’t changed. I have had the pleasure of working with some incredible people over the years and I am thankful to each of them for what we have been able to accomplish together.

Over the last fifteen years, we have worked on software projects large and small. Over that time, our tools and skills have moved 100% online. We have developed and deployed over 500 internet, extranet, and intranet sites and our introduction to SEO was in 1995. Our first CMS project was in 1997. Currently, I am applying that experience and serving as President and CEO of Pixelsilk, Inc. (www.pixelsilk.com )

Pixelsilk is the creator of a CMS that provides full URL and HTML control with its roots in our teams’ collective experience. The development of Pixelsilk was started about three years ago on a whiteboard with the purpose of taking our ideas to the next level. We wanted to build a tool that not only solved our problems but, helped others like us as well. We started early discussions with our friends in the SEO community to make sure a variety of expert level optimizers had a voice in our new software specification. Over time, things started to really come together. After our official launch at SMX West in Santa Clara on February 9th, 2009, we have enjoyed both public and private endorsements from industry leaders like Bruce Clay (www.bruceclay.com ), Eric Ward ( www.ericward.com ), Adam Audette (www.audettemedia.com ), and many others. We are grateful for their kind words and appreciate the time and candor they have afforded us.

2) You’ve developed an SEO-Friendly CMS.  Why should we want to use your product as opposed to any of the other CMS platforms on the market?

We believe that question has several forms, depending on who’s asking it. Of course, Editors need a place to modify content easily. Sales and marketing needs to deploy strategy, drive traffic, and convert prospects. Site managers need to setup users, review analytics, and administer the site (or sites). Search optimizers need the ability to customize the HTML and know that their best practice recommendations can be implemented. Web Developers are innovating all the time and need a way to leverage their previous work. Software developers need to integrate with other systems and access the API to solve business problems. Each of these roles plays an important part in a successful site and Pixelsilk is designed for them to work well together. That is part of our unique value proposition.

3) WordPress is thought by many search marketers to be the most ideal SEO-friendly development platform.  How would you try to convince a WordPress die-hard that your solution is better for SEO?

I am not sure that we would try to do that. Pixelsilk is not the answer to every website ambition. We see WordPress as an excellent blogging platform; in fact, Pixelsilk works wonderfully with WordPress for client blogs. We have seen many plug-ins developed to extend WordPress beyond blogging and that’s great. There are times when folks need more. Pixelsilk is a CMS from the ground up, it’s not a blogging platform. It gets in the middle of the action and makes many forms of content easier to deliver with a level of control and collaboration that we haven’t seen elsewhere.

4) Can you give me some examples of how SEO Best Practices are incorporated into the platform?

Sure. First off, you have full HTML control. You can edit everything from the initial <DOC TYPE> tag to the </HTML> tag without having to know server-side languages. Implementing any SEO strategy or modifying code to adapt to new strategies through time is easy. Besides the fact that URLs default to a natural hierarchy that spiders understand, there’s an easy way to customize any URL to whatever you need it to and create 301 redirects to pages on the fly. Editing meta data information on each page is straightforward. XML and HTML sitemaps are built in and update as you add pages. There’s also a Robots.txt editor to help as well. For search optimizers, they have a place in the Pixelsilk Search Advice area to leave recommendations on pages for implementation by editors. These are a few of the SEO best practices in Pixelsilk, there are more.

5) Will you talk about the level of outreach you’ve done with the SEO Community during the development process of your product?

We’ve done a significant amount of outreach to the SEO community from the initial requirements stage through the multitude of demos throughout various stages of development. We’ve met with leading experts to review Pixelsilk along the way and incorporate their feedback into our development process. We have been able to work alongside experts in real world project settings for years and that experience helped us early in the architectural planning of Pixelsilk. What that means to you is strategic shifts will be easier and less expensive as we have traveled down several of the other less productive roads before.

I’d like to include a sidebar here. The gathering of experts that takes place at search marketing conferences and SEO events create wonderful opportunities for us to discuss our project with colleagues and industry experts. We think Pubcon (www.pubcon.com), SES (www.searchenginestrategies.com), SMX (www.searchmarketingexpo.com ), and SEMpdx (www.sempdx.com/events ) events have been a great way for us to meet with folks in person and we couldn’t have built Pixelsilk without them.

6) How much education is necessary for a web developer to feel comfortable developing a site on your platform?

Pixelsilk focuses on HTML, CSS, and Javascript skill sets. No server-side languages are needed and thus learning the architecture of the server-side code is also not necessary. Pixelsilk lets web developers get back to the skills that are more important to website creation. Some businesses prefer in depth, instructor led training. For them we offer a small spectrum of one and two day training classes to get them up to speed quickly. The web developer (whose role is named ‘Webster’ in our program) can attend our two day training to get in depth knowledge of Pixelsilk and the eCommerce system utilizing their HTML, CSS and JavaScript skill set.

7) During your Product Demo, I was shown a pre-published version of an example site where you did a very nifty, SEO-friendly integration of Flash.  Without giving away any secrets, can you describe how your CMS could pull this off?

We’ve worked through a simple technique to manage content through Pixelsilk and deliver the same content whether you’re a browser (with Flash) or spider (No Flash) on the same URL. This is a white-hat SEO-friendly way of rendering the content in the original HTML response and then using JavaScript and Flash calls (client-side only) to deliver the content in Flash or as text on the page. No server-side manipulation is being used, so Matt Cutts is welcome to look over our shoulder!

8) Can you hint at some upcoming developments you’re working on?

No. In the software business that isn’t usually a very good move. I will tell you that some of our customers are getting excited about this Summer. Does that help? 😉

One thought on “Threading The CMS Needle: An Interview With Pixelsilk’s Mark Knowles

  1. I have heard wonderful things about Pixelsilk and considering converting over. I am waiting to read reviews of customers who’s sales and conversions have increased since changing themselves, but very interested,

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