Podcast: Kentico MVC — Making the Switch with a Dual-Site Approach

Podcast / 10.20.2022
Red Door /

7/12/2023 3:54:34 PM Red Door Interactive http://www.reddoor.biz Red Door Interactive

As a marketer, you know the importance of creating customized content on your website, but it sure takes a lot of time and effort. Here's a shortcut, Kentico 13 MVC.

Equal parts powerful CMS and development framework, MVC delivers segmented content personalization, flexible page templates, and SEO improvements. Plus, it's easy to support and scale. Hello, better ROI. In this episode, our own Senior Director of Web and Platform Solutions, Candice Wyatt, and SEO strategist, David Lewallen will guide you through upgrading to Kentico 13 and MVC technology with our innovative dual-site approach. 

What is Kentico 13 and MVC?  

Reid: Oh, I'm excited to talk about this topic. It's one of those things... It's got this feel of impending doom. All of a sudden you have to transition from Kentico 13 to MVC.

Candice: It's coming.

David: I know. 

Reid: So what we have to do first, get a level set here for our audience, please. Can you just talk about what is Kentico 13 and MVC?

Candice: Yeah. Most marketers are familiar with the concept of a content management system, so CMS. I'm going to start by explaining that Kentico can be considered a CMS, and 13 is the latest version of that product.

Candice: Now, building upon the understanding that Kentico can act as a CMS, I do want to call out that it's much more than a CMS. Technically what it is is a DXP, which stands for Digital Experience Platform. And so, that combines the CMS, your digital marketing tools, and commerce all in one. So, it's won several accolades. It's in the 2022 Gartner Magic Quadrant, so it's a very powerful CMS and beyond platform.

Reid: Yeah, experience is the name of the game, right? End-to-end, I think we've seen a lot of transition to people talking about it's not just a site anymore. We're trying to deliver a customer experience that has to capture the attention, not just from the ads that you run, and from search and so on, but all the way through the process, which also segues into a little bit why we have David here too, is to talk about search and the value of the technology like this.

Why should I transition to MVC?  

Reid: We've got a couple different perspectives here. Why should someone transition to MVC? It's got search benefit. It's got a lot of other benefits. Can you tell us about that? Then I'm excited to talk about the SEO part of it too.

Candice: Yeah, and people are in two different positions here. If you're an existing Kentico customer that's on Portal Engine, you have to make a move here. Either you are upgrading to MVC, because Kentico is stopping support for Portal Engine at the end of 2023.

Candice: Now, if the question is, should I stay on Kentico or move to a different platform? Then what I'm going to tell you is that moving to the MVC version of Kentico is going to bring a lot of benefits and value for you. One is there's more features that marketers are needing and looking for. They're really staying on top of trends. A couple examples is they're using AI for content personalization, and also to automatically add alt text to images. So that's the type of stuff that you can expect in Kentico 13 MVC.

Reid: Well, real quick though, hold on. We got to pause on this. AI for images? Say a little bit more about that.

Candice: Yeah, so images, and accessibility is a big topic out there today, how do we make sure that the websites that we are building are accessible for people with disabilities, right? If somebody is visually impaired, and they can't see the image that's on the screen, and they're using something like a screen reader, well, they use alternative text that, in words, tells them what that image is conveying or about. So, in order to be WCAG compliant, you need to have alt text on all of your images.

Candice: Now historically, the way that happened was somebody wrote copy to say, "Okay, this image is of a horse," right? And I'm going to write image of a horse. Then you hand that to dev and they would have to go in the code and implement that alt text for that image. Well, if you can imagine doing that for hundreds of images on your website, that's a big lift. So what Kentico has done with 13 is introduced okay, using AI, how can we make that an automated process, so somebody doesn't have to manually write this out, and dev doesn't have to manually implement it?

Reid: So in case they were like, "Oh man, that's not a horse." There's some QA requirements at that point.

Candice: Just give them the Kentico support email and say, "You got to take that up with them."

Reid: So taking it to the next level, the way that... And we've always optimized images from an organic search perspective, was to utilize that image alt text that originally was meant for accessibility for those screen readers, but Google also latched onto that, because up until the last few years where they've really been trying to figure out what an image is programmatically with their algorithm, they relied on that piece of code that said, "This image is a picture of a horse." Then when you went to Google and you Googled image search and you typed in a horse, anybody that had an image with an alt tag of horse, that's where that database came from.

Reid: Well, now as all of the companies are getting better at AI, Google's trying to move away from that and figure out what an image is, can it go on the same side. On the other end of the field is trying to figure out what that image is, and then write those alt tags. So, it's kind of working together with SEOs now that we can go in and sometimes we can't touch, with a human being, to optimize all of your images. We just pick out the most important ones. So, the ones that we can't touch with a human hand, with this new Kentico 13, are going to be able to be handled by that image AI. That's an amazing addition from an organic search perspective.

David: Yeah, it's fascinating.

Candice: Yep. Absolutely. It's going to be interesting to see the SEO component of that, right? Is that the AI going to be smart enough to determine and incorporate SEO keywords into that alt text? Because again, that can have some SEO benefit.

Reid: Right, and I think we'll be able to override when we want to, but for the ones that we can't touch, we'll rely on an engine like that. It'll be great.

David: Yeah.

Reid: Okay, so say a little bit more about the value of this for SEO.

David: Yeah, so as with any upgrade, newer technology, we all know that things are getting faster on the web, and we're all on our mobile phones. More than half of our search traffic is coming through the mobile phone, and it needs to be quick. Our attention spans are basically nothing anymore as we're flipping and scrolling. So the slower a site loads, at least for that first screen read, when we first see it, when it first starts populating, the faster we can do that with the newest technology, the more Google's going to reward you with higher rankings in the SERPs, because Google knows that you might have the best content in the world for a particular keyword, but if your site is taking a little bit longer than some of the other competitors, then they're just going to move you down in the SERPs, and your competitors are going to outrank you for some of those keywords, specifically based on site speed, performance, how heavy a site is. That's always been baked into the core of the algorithm, but they're just getting better and better at doing that.

Reid: That's real dollars and cents too. I think people don't always put that much credit to it, but that's site speed, and you move from one to a two on particular key phrases, that can be millions of dollars for big brands and something different than that for others, but it's real measurable in that way.

Candice: Yeah, and when we talk about Portal Engine versus MVC, so Portal Engine used an older Microsoft Web forms technology. Been around for decades, but it's older. Now everything's moving towards Microsoft's MVC, which is the newer, modern framework, lighter. So as David was saying, it's more performant. If you think about running a race, are you going to be able to run to the finish line as fast if you have a 10 pound weighted vest on you.

Reid: Right.

Candice: No, it's slower. So, by moving from the older web forms Portal Engine technology to the new Microsoft MVC, it's going to be a faster, more performant website.

What will this transition look like? 

Reid: So we know that we need to make this change. If you're on Kentico you need to make a change, and hopefully we're talking a little bit about making that change to MVC specifically, or convincing people that that's important. So moving on to then, what does that transition look like?

Candice: Yeah, the transition from Portal Engine to MVC, it is a full site rebuild. It's not a button click. So, one of the traditional ways that we all know how to rebuild websites is that you have one launch at the end. So that's a common approach. Clients are used to that. However, we know that that doesn't always work for businesses. So today sites are very big and complex. It can easily take 12 months or longer to rebuild a site that has hundreds, thousands of pages.

Candice: So Red Door went to the drawing board on solving this. So the traditional one launch deployment is the norm, but we also know that if we always do things the way they've always been done, that you lose out on the opportunity of innovation. And so, where we identified an alternative option is where a business and marketing team is able to rebuild their site in chunks and that they can have iterative deployments along that process, versus having to wait 12 months or longer and have that one launch all at the end of the website.

Candice: So in this approach, you would be going from Kentico 12 Portal Engine to Kentico 12 MVC, and you'd actually have two separate sites running. They're sharing the same database, and that's the key to making this agile approach work. So as you rebuild a page template, you're converting it from Portal Engine to MVC. You launch that one page in MVC, you're essentially deleting it from your Portal Engine site, and you just do that over and over until you've rebuilt the site.

Candice: Now, the value to the business and the marketer is that you get the benefits that are going to come with the MVC rebuild along the way, versus having to wait 12-plus months until you get that launch at the end. So let's say your most important webpage on the site is suffering from poor performance. It loads slow because of that, it's not ranking very well in the search engines. And you're like, "Okay, we need to prioritize this." So we rebuild that one page on MVC. We launch that one page. Boom. You immediately start getting the higher-performing, lighter-weight MVC framework on that page. It's going to help SEO, and you don't have to wait until the end to do that. So that is the alternative approach that we've identified and used and proof of concept out at Red Door. And so it gives the business and the marketing team an alternative option to consider rather than the traditional one-launch approach that we all know.

Reid: And it's an interesting kind of nugget in there is the idea of prioritizing pages. I mean there are... Some pages are more important than others as it relates to conversion, as it relates to search, all sorts of things. And so, it's important to recognize too, that we have to go through and figure out where do we start? And you get to kind of go roll out with the things that matter most first.

Candice: Absolutely.

Reid: Yeah.

Candice: There's the business and marketing component in terms of what's a priority. There's also... You have to look at, and probably I made it sound a little bit more simpler than it is, if you're going to do this approach, it's really key to select a partner that understands the approach, understands the dependencies, because you do also, from a technical perspective, have to be strategic about understanding the dependencies, and you have to group and launch things in a way that also works technically.

How can you maintain organic search performance if you choose the Dual Site Agile Approach? 

Reid: Yeah. Well, so the other part, again, we're here to talk about the SEO component of it as well. So how, using this dual-site agile approach, how do you maintain organic search performance if you go that route?

David: Right, so when the tech team came to the SEO team to talk about how are we going to make this happen? It wasn't, can we do this? It was, how are we going to do this, right? So that from our client-

Reid: Not given a choice.

David: We got... Yeah. We got the go-ahead for... The client was the one really driving this. And I love the idea that, because we've really been iteratively increasing and optimizing websites for a number of years in the industry, right? But what we're talking about now is that was when you had the same code base and you could go on the front end and make some changes. You didn't have to do the back end.

David: Now we're talking about doing it where we're doing the whole back end and the front end. So this is where it starts to get really exciting for businesses who, to your point, can't wait 16 months to launch a whole new site. They want to realize those benefits right away. And I do want to mention, it's not just for organic search. A faster site is going to help your paid, it's going to help you get more leads, just because folks are going to be getting to the areas where they need to input their information a lot faster. So it is a business decision across the board, right?

Reid: Yeah. You talked earlier about our lack of attention spans, right?

David: Exactly.

Reid: So it takes you to get through two pages, three pages, whatever faster you're going to be, have better results.

David: Perfect. So what the team came to us with was, in order to be able to pull this off, there needed to be basically a two-website approach where you have a sub domain and the original URL where basically you're going to have two sites kind of working simultaneously, linking back and forth to each other where needed. And that was going to be the approach where one would be the old, and it would just kind of slowly get smaller and smaller and smaller. And the new site, maybe it's the sub domain, would be getting larger and larger and larger. And then eventually, once it was all kind of done, we would flip the switch ,and then all of the sort of interim URLs that we were creating in that dual site approach would be all redirected back into where they needed to be.

David: The problem from a search perspective, from an organic search perspective, is that when you bifurcate a site when you have a sub domain and a regular domain, Google looks at that as two different websites. And just to kind of give a little bit of background on SEO, one of the most important and most powerful things about your website is how many external links are linking in to your website. And when you have that going to two different websites, which is how Google looks at a subdomain is two different sub-websites, you're basically just splitting your link value in two. And the way that link value works, it's logarithmic. So it's like exponentially, you're decreasing your value exponentially by bifurcating your site that way. So that's why we came back and said, "Hey, let's figure out a solution because we really do not recommend this dual-site approach."

Reid: Yeah.

Candice: And the solution there is what is called a reverse proxy. And so I'm not going to go down too far because I know that our audience is not technical and software engineers.

Reid: Or they're currently driving a car and going, I can't look that up.

Candice: But in a nutshell, by coupling this approach with the reverse proxy solution, from a user perspective, you see one URL. You see, if it's the case of Red Door, Reddoor.biz, and you have no idea whether you are on a Portal Engine page or an MVC page. Google search engines are all search engines also see it the same exact way. So to what David was saying is it's not going to dilute your SEO value. You can, on the back end, technically have two different websites going, but if you pair it with this reverse proxy solution, then your user experience and your SEO is protected.

Reid: Yeah, that's awesome. And so many good points and such a novel way of approaching it. That's really cool. Because I mean, this is the thing that I think a lot of marketers tend to overlook, too, is the value of SEO in the site development process. I think some people go, they build the site, and then go back to SEO, meanwhile have lost a bunch of rankings that they had, and really, that again, that's dollars and cents that they didn't factor into the budget on the front end. So I mean, if you really pair these things together, it makes a big difference.

How will this transition affect marketers using Kentico?

Reid: So going into the really final question, I think that I hope everybody at this point in listening to our podcast is kind of thinking, is well, how does this transition really affect the marketers using Kentico? So timelines, budgeting, what to expect, certainly when they've taken ownership of this thing.

Candice: Yeah. And there is really two parts to that. One, as a marketer, you can expect that making this transition and upgrade is that you are going to get new features and functionality that Kentico has been working on and releasing that are available in 13 that are not on that older version that you may be on. The second thing is that, depending upon the rebuild approach that you select, it's going to determine your timeline and budget, right? Are you doing this traditional approach where you're launching the site all at the end? Are you going to do this agile approach where you're making iterative releases and rebuilding in chunks?

Candice: So what I would say to businesses and marketers that are trying to figure out the right approach is ask yourself, "Are you able to wait for a single deployment at the end? Or will that hinder your marketing efforts too much?" So whatever work you do on your Portal Engine site will need to be rebuilt in MVC. So you're essentially investing twice in whatever updates, features, functionalities that you add to your site until you go to MVC.
So if you need to rebuild along the way, then the two sites approach is something to consider. The thing I would just say there is make sure you have a really knowledgeable development partner that knows Kentico, that knows how to execute this two site approach because there's a lot of planning and strategy that goes along into executing this.

Reid: Yeah, it's real thoughtful. I think having that approach and thinking out what it means to the business that's where everyone needs to start. And having partners that are aligned is ultimately key.
So Candice, David, thank you for educating our audiences on the value of Kentico MVC as it particularly relates to the development and search aspects of it. Good to have you.

Candice: Yeah, thank you.

David: Thank you.

Reid: Absolutely.

Reid: As always, subscribe to The Marketing Remix and leave us a review on Apple Podcasts. Also, be sure to check out show notes from this episode and more at Reddoor.biz/learn. Thanks, everyone.