Drupal & SEO

Some people think that SEO is a set of configuration options to execute on websites. But it's not right, SEO is a complex approach to promote websites, and it affects their entire life cycle. From the moment when you thought about creating a website, you should pay attention to SEO. You need to develop a full-fledged SEO strategy that will allow users to find amazing content or functionality offered by your site.

SEO is affected by many factors; that’s exactly why we talk about the SEO site promotion strategy, rather than a simple set of configuration options. If one tries to group together all the factors, two main categories can be distinguished:

  1. External factors;
  2. Internal factors.

The external factors are the following:

  • Hosting provides a robust platform for your website to ensure high performance and reliability through a combination of properly configured hardware and software. By reliability, we mean high-availability because reliable hosting ensures that your website is accessible 24/7.
  • Domain name is a part of URL, and, as we know, the usage of "correct" URLs positively boosts website rankings.
  • External links are the reputation of your website, the more your site is mentioned, the greater weight it gets in the Internet community. But it is important to remember that the quality of a website, which the link lands on, is far more important than a number of links to your website.

External factors are difficult for webmasters to modify that’s why internal factors will be our priority as they allow us to save the budget, as well as their impact on SEO, will be of a higher value.

Internal factors can be divided into the following subcategories:

1. SEF (Search Engine Friendly)

Currently search engines do not have artificial intelligence, so they have limitation in how they scan the Internet and interpret content of the websites. We and crawlers look at web pages differently. Crawlers are nothing but soulless machines; they don’t see and cannot understand the beauty that designers and webmasters tried to bring into life. For them it's just an HTML code. As we see websites differently, the SEO optimizers have to make additional configurations to help deprived crawlers.

2. User-Friendly

SEO optimizer should not forget that, first of all, websites are created for people. Design, comfortable and easy navigation, readable and interesting content - that is what an ordinary user needs. You need to attract as well as captivate users of your website to create a desire to return there again and again.

3. Social Friendly

Social networks have become an integral part of our daily internet life. We communicate, share links, express our interests and wishes there. That is the reason why search engines can’t skip such relevant information concerning you while providing the search results. The task of an SEO optimizer is to attract an audience to your website, and he can’t miss out such an important factor.

4. Performance

In the age of the high-speed Internet, it is simply out of the question that a website needs a few minutes to load. A user does not have that much patience to waste so much time. So it doesn’t matter how wonderful your website is; it will worth nothing if a user won’t simply check it out.

5. RDF

(Resource Description Framework). It describes the resources and their relations on your website. It allows search engines and aggregators to understand better what kind of information is on your website, and they can adjust to it accordingly. For example, in search results, Google can display additional information from your website such as an author, rating, etc.

6. Finally, the most important thing is Content

It must be of high quality, interesting and memorable. Search Engines dislike plagiarism and excessive keywords in the text, so do pay your utmost attention to that.

Drupal is a very flexible system that allows configuring it for almost any application. Let's see what we can use for SEO.

Drupal provides the following out-of-the-box features:

1. To support clean URLs. All system paths in Drupal look like "?q=node/1" that you must admit is not readable for an average person and is not convenient to use because it is hard to remember and difficult to type on a keyboard (not to mention doing it on a mobile), etc. If you configure web server correctly, it will allow you to use clean URLs. Whether Drupal uses this functionality and whether it is compatible, you can check the page: "/admin/config/search/clean-urls".

2. Path module enables you to create aliases. For example, it is much easier to use the url like "/contact", than "/node/33".

3. Canonical URL (canonical page) allows avoiding duplicate content. If, for example, you have a page "/node/18", and you add an alias to it "/example" then now the same page is available via two urls. To avoid duplication, as well as penalties from the search engines, on these pages you need to add a special element which tells search engines that it is the same page.  In our case it will look like <link rel="canonical" href="http://example.com/node/18" />

5. Site name and site slogan allow us to identify your brand and to make it more recognizable. By default, the website name is used in the title of all pages (it should look something like the "node title | site name"), and the slogan is used only in the title of the main page ("site name | slogan").

5. Custom pages for 403 and 404 errors. You can add your pages on the information page of the site "/admin/config/system/site-information" which will be displayed if the web server returns a 403 (Forbidden) or a 404 (Not Found) error. Thus, building them in your trademark style and posting the required functionality and message won’t lead to losing customers, but one more time you have a chance to remind about your brand.

6. Taxonomy allows you to group content. For instance, you can combine all the articles about travel to Australia, and they would be displayed on the page using the taxonomy term. Also, taxonomy is good to use as tags which group content by keywords. You can add a term reference field to your content type and it will be displayed as a link to the taxonomy term page, on which all the articles using these keywords are present.

An essential part of SEO promotion is easy navigation and fast search of the desired content. You should build site in such a way that a user can get to any of pages in no more than 3 jumps. This is extremely difficult to achieve on a huge site, but you should at least try to bring this factor closer to the ideal one.

7. Menu enables you to create easy site navigation. Drupal uses a description like title attribute for links, so do not be lazy to give a brief, but informative description of the page where the tab leads to.

8. Module node permits you to create rss feed that displays a list of all available nodes. You can view rss at "/ rss.xml".

9. Drupal has a built-in system for caching blocks and pages, and css and js aggregation "/admin/config/development/performance" that enables you to increase productivity to some extent.

10. The module RDF adds metadata that permits third-party applications - like search engines and aggregators - to understand better your content and relationship that exist on your site.

You can notice that even out- of- the- box Drupal is SEO friendly. Now we discuss the modules contributed by the community that will allow us to solve the remaining problems.

1. Search Engine Friendly

Site verification. If you need that search engines come to know about you then this module is the perfect solution for you. You can download a file or add a meta tag to your website.
Robots txt controls crawlers work, in other words, it tells them where they can poke their noses and where they can’t.

Google analytics will allow you to find out the customers’ behaviors. It is very important to understand the difficulties that your visitors stumble upon. Maybe the design is too bright, or the order button is hard to find.

Redirect + Global Redirect + Transliteration - this bunch will help to configure the right system URLs on your website. It adds automatically aliases if the address of a page has changed, also it can use the node title as a URL - all of these are a small part of what this bunch of modules can do.

Meta tag adds a description to a page. You can use standard meta tags like title, description, keywords, as well as additional ones, like Twitter Cards or Dublin Core.

2. User-Friendly

Pathauto extends Path module and allows administrators to automate routine tasks. First, an administrator can create patterns for each node type on basis of which URLs will be built. Second, this module adds additional settings like punctuation work in the URL, case sensitivity, etc.

Sitemap helps users to navigate through your site. Indicating what links, menus are to be used for building a site map, you think about additional navigation that will help you to achieve an ideal indicator: each page should be reachable within 3 jumps.

Footer Sitemap is additional navigation that is usually used in the bottom of the page.

Path Breadcrumbs is a compulsory navigation chain that helps your customers not to get lost in categories and subcategories used on your site.

External Links is a small but very useful and informative module that marks external links.Search 404 is simply a gift for your users. No matter why but it does happen that a user is sent to a non-existent page. You can, of course, use a custom page to display a 404 error, but it won’t make the user happy.  Instead of apologizing for the error, we offer variants of what the user was searching for. So we display the search result. Simple and ingenious.

3. Social Friendly

Easy Social is very simple and easy to use a module to show ‘likes’. Out of the box, it supports Twitter, Facebook, Google, and Linkedin.

4. Performance

Advanced CSS / JS Aggregation is more powerful aggregation system of js and css files. It has many additional configuration options that will be extremely useful for the majority of websites.

Fences facilitate template system. It's no secret that Drupal has redundant usage of html tags. And this module replaces standard templates with more lightweight ones.

jQuery Update allows using newer versions of jQuery on Drupal sites. Since the library is constantly being improved, newer versions have better performance in comparison with previous ones.

5. RDF

RDFx extends RDF module adding support for additional formats and lets administrators add RDF attributes via the administrative page.

6. Content

Content analysis + Content optimizer help SEO optimizers to work with texts, to comprehend the correctness of keywords usage, their quantity, and many other things.

Link checker looks for incorrect links (links to non-existent resources) on a website, and with your consent, it can try to correct them.

In order to dive into the world of SEO optimization and try to practice all of the above tips, you can use our SEO profile.

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