Drupal. For too long it’s lived in the shadows of its more popular (and many would argue inferior) cousins, WordPress and Joomla. Drupal is the pro’s go to choice for harvesting the spoils of SEO because the alternatives offer beginner webmasters all the benefits of newbie websites, including a combined 200 million-plus other “newbie” users. Drupal gets dumped in the too hard basket.
Drupal is the pro web developer’s best friend because it’s adaptable, secure and versatile. Unlike WordPress, it’s not constantly hacked, leaving webmasters vulnerable, making it the first choice of some of the world’s tightest security organisations, including the Whitehouse.
Drupal’s efficient code design and a suite of SEO tools make it a search engine’s dream. Harness the power of Drupal to supercharge your site’s performance. Here’s how.
How Drupal NAILS SEO where other’s fail
Drupal’s so SEO-friendly because it’s compatible with a wide range of ‘modules’ perfectly designed and equipped to optimise your website. Think of modules as the optional extras or after-market add-ons that make it easier for you, as webmaster, to manage your content and ensure it complies with SEO best practice.
Written to the letter for peak performance
Google Webmaster Guidelines are the webmaster bible for search engine optimisation. By complying 100% with the optimum recommendations, Drupal gives coders a clean canvas to begin creating upon. Unlike Drupal’s competitors, its code is clean and compliant. Just what Dr Google ordered. Over the past several algorithm updates, Google has increased the emphasis on high security, user experience and load speeds. Drupal outperforms its rivals on all three fronts. This article focuses on the top 10 methods to skyrocket your website using Drupal SEO.
1. Start with a clean structure
Drupal’s suite of SEO modules makes your website stand out to search engines and make it easier for people to find you. If you were building your home, you’d have an address and a letterbox with a number on it. In much the same way, your URL (Uniform Resource Locator or address) is crucial to the ease with which you can be found. The PATHAUTO module helps you to bypass the tedious process of having to manually specify a path alias: It does it automatically for you. The end result is a URL that’s infinitely more to-the-point and user-friendly. In much the same way, GLOBAL REDIRECT is another Drupal Module that eliminates the possibility of multiple URL’s (letterboxes) for the same content by redirecting traffic to the best, most visible letterbox.
The METATAG module’s a way of getting all your website’s ducks in a row: Improving on the way you structure your content. It helps you to optimise the meta description tags, titles, headings and keywords and to wrangle them into all the right places so your site complies with SEO best practice and, most importantly is Google-friendly. It’s also how you tweak the way your website displays in search results so that potential visitors to your site can see at a glance what the content’s about. They don’t just get to see your letterbox as they drive past; they get to peek through your window before deciding whether to knock on your front door.
2. Making your website as inviting as possible to search engines
You don’t just need to welcome the visitors to your site. You also need to roll out the red carpet for the search engines who send them to you! There’s a number of Drupal SEO tools to help you with that and they include:
· Drupal’s SITE VERIFICATION MODULE – Allows you to show that you’re genuine by proving to search engines that you own the website
· XML SITEMAP which creates a sitemap in plain text and
· ROBOTS.TXT which is like a surface spray for your porch, keeping out undesirable pests (spam web crawlers) from parts of the website where they’re not wanted.
3. Cut out error messages and reduce spam
If you want your website to rank well, you need to ensure you have mechanisms in place to effectively deal with errors and spam.
If your site’s plagued with error messages, you won’t rank well at all, especially with Google. If visitors do manage to find your site, you’ll probably lose them when they retrace their steps back to the search engine results in the second they hit the dead end that’s a 404 error message. There they are, on your porch, ringing your doorbell…and you’re not even home! It’s a huge turn-off for visitors to your site. One of the best Drupal modules to combat this problem is the SEARCH 404 MODULE. It bypasses 404 error messages by quickly redirecting visitors to a related internal page: The Drupal equivalent of opening the door and greeting them with a welcoming smile. 404 error messages are bad news for your ranking but fortunately, they can become a thing of the past.
In much the same way, Drupal’s URL REDIRECT module allows you to easily redirect visitors away from old URL’s to updated ones (via 301 redirects). In other words, if you’ve moved house, it’s a friendly, chauffeur-driven limo service that picks them up and drives them to your new address.
Spam in your comments, forums and contact messages is a huge no-no that can impact severely on your ranking. Identifying, removing and preventing it from coming back’s critical to SEO and how you perform on Google. There’s several modules to choose from: MOLLOM, CAPTCHA and ANTISPAM. They’re not just ‘no junk mail’ signs on your letterbox. These modules stand guard, check ID’s and help you kick out the uninvited gate-crashers before they jemmy open the liquor cabinet and vomit on your carpet.
Malicious code is by far the most potentially harmful issue for webmasters. Hacked sites are likely to be “sandpitted” by Google the first time it comes to crawl. Not only is Drupal well reputed for fewer hacking attempts and as a more secure system, HTML Purifier module makes malicious code detection and deletion fast and seamless.
4. User Experience Indicators
As Google’s algorithms mature, indicators more sophisticated than “keyword density” play a growing role in search rankings. Click through rates, time on site, load speed times, screens per user and bounce rate are all integral parts of the user experience and search intention “core” algorithm update. Core is a major change to the workings of Google’s algorithm and is the foundation of search rankings into the future. This is where Drupal shines compared to WordPress. Clean, fast and flexible, Drupal ensures your users are well served, no matter what you’re serving them up.
Equally problematic for you are the other factors that cause ‘bounce’. Is your website too slow to load? Don’t underestimate the importance of speed to your conversion rate. Your visitors will hit the road if they’re left waiting out in the cold while you’re dawdling around the house looking for your pants. They’ll simply seek out a faster response and warmer welcome at your competitors’ slicker sites. The PAGESPEED INSIGHTS module can tell you if this is happening…and how to fix it.
Drupal takes responsive design to a new level by creating purpose built foundations for mobile friendly websites. Beyond the basics, Drupal provides a blank canvas for fast loading, highly functional native mobile app development, flexible options for mobile vs desktop display, web-based mobile apps, responsive web design, responsive design + server-side components (for efficient server side rendering) as well as a host of tools that simplify mobile browser testing, front end performance and remote debugging. While the competitors offer a selection of these tools, Drupal’s focus has always been on efficiency, in short, it was “Google Compliant” ahead of its time.
6. Test the accessibility of your Drupal website
There’s no point in having the best house on the street if your visitors can’t manage your steep or slippery steps. They’ll simply choose your most accessible competitor over you. Accessibility’s an increasingly important search engine ranking factor. Google wants you to make your site as accessible to as many visitors as possible. That includes making your website easy to use and offering options visitors who have visual and hearing impairments, colour-blindness, dyslexia or other issues that make access challenging. You can use the ACCESSIBILITY CHECKLIST to objectively assess your site’s accessibility. Once you’ve done that, you can enhance its accessibility with modules such as TEXT SIZE, TEXT RESIZE, PAGE STYLE and QUAIL API.
7. Clarify your navigation for users and search engines
For your site to rank well in search results, it must provide a straightforward way for visitors to find what they’re looking for. Maps and menus are a great way to do this. Having guests over? Surely you’d give them a quick tour of the facilities. Drupal SEO modules allow you to do just that: Check out XML SITEMAP (a Google-friendly directory for your website), MENU BREADCRUMB and FOOTERMAP for some of your Drupal SEO options to make navigating your site as quick and easy as possible. A happy guest is one who can always find the bathroom in a hurry.
8. Drupal SEO modules to accurately target your audience with keywords
Being able to accurately target potential customers is critical to ranking well in search results. Keyword research is a process of finding out the words and phrases they’re googling and assessing their likelihood of delivering you the results you’re after Visits and conversions. Drupal’s SEO TOOLS and KEYWORD RESEARCH modules make this easy because they build shortcuts between your website and the most popular tools you’ll need for keyword research: Moz, Google Keyword Planner, Google Trends, and SEMrush.
9. Link-building and Drupal SEO modules
Link building’s another search ranking factor that’s hugely important. It’s the word-of-mouth recommendations (the inbound / backlinks) that bring business to your door and the outbound links that allow you spread your wings and connect with other sites. Link building’s about finding and eliminating broken links before they result in a bounce. It’s also about ensuring link quality’s a much higher priority than quantity.
That’s because not all links are good. The knock at your door could that annoying neighbour who parks over your driveway and rewards their dog for pooping on your lawn. Broken links, links from link farms and other ‘black hat’ links that try to latch onto your site are the bad neighbours of the virtual world. To check the quality of your inbound, outbound and internal links, you can use Drupal’s LINK CHECKER.
10. Drupal modules to measure your SEO successes and failures
You may think your paisley print wallpaper and orange shagpile carpet’s the bomb. It doesn’t mean everyone else does. What’s the point of optimising your website if you can’t then track and pinpoint what’s working and what’s not? Being able to objectively analyse your own website’s successes and failures is one of Drupal SEO’s strong points. No more set-and-forget content! Your site’s got to be a work in progress: Tracking your stats and tweaking your site and its content to perform better is a sure-fire way of improving your search engine ranking. You can easily do this with Drupal’s CONTENT ANALYSIS and CONTENT OPTIMISER modules.
Clean, Fast, Performance Driven – It’s Time To Make The Change
Drupal is, by design the future of SEO. Moving to a highly efficient SEO friendly site now is the only way to stay ahead in the SEO stakes. It’s fast. It’s clean. It’s responsive. It features packed and the only platform evolving at the speed of Google. What this means for webmasters is a solid foundation for their digital marketing future. More importantly, it means a better experience for users. And that makes everyone happy –, especially Google.
(Written by Alistair Roberts, Managing Director at Media Heroes. Digital8 and Media Heroes are proud industry partners within the Hero Alliance. Digital8 are the leading Drupal developers in Queensland and regularly join forces with Media Heroes for Drupal SEO and other SEO projects. Need help with Drupal SEO? Reach out and talk to the experts.)