Drupal SEO Best Practices
Anyone who has done any work on websites knows that search engine optimization (SEO) is vital to building an audience. The reason behind this is simple, 93% of online experiences begin with a search engine. So if the search engines aren't returning your site in the top of the results page there is a good likelihood that you are missing out on a great deal of visitors. This means that every web designer needs to be familiar with SEO practices to help their sites, or those of their clients, gain as much exposure as possible; even those who work with content management frameworks like Drupal.
Drupal and SEO
Applications like Drupal allow people to build great sites with a wealth of features in a short amount of time. However because Drupal is used for so many different types of websites, the nature of this application makes it less than friendly to the search engines right out of the box. The designer, or site administrator, needs to take the time to configure the application and the content to maximize its SEO.
Before doing anything else you need to enable search engine friendly URLs. This can b done when installing Drupal, but if they were not enabled at that time it can be done by going to Modules (/admin/build/modules) and enable the Path module. This will turn something like /node?q=1 to /node/1 which the search engines like much more.
Once the URLs are fixed its time to redirect the www or non-www pages, for example http://www.example-site.com and http://example-site.com. What happens is the search engines treat these as two separate sites so when they are crawled it looks as if the content is duplicated. Redirecting requires you to choose one method, either using the www subdomain or not, and then going into the .htaccess file to make some changes which are detailed here.
Some essential modules...
One of the things that makes Drupal so easy to use is that site administrators can install modules to enhance the functionality of their website. Some of these modules work to help your site with SEO:
- SEO Checklist: Provides a checklist with links and shortcuts to most modules and tasks needed to optimize your site.
- Google Analytics: This is the most essential tool for SEO due to its comprehensive reporting capabilities.
- Metatag: This allows you to set the description of your pages so that it assists with SEO and serves up a description of your choosing on the results page and not what the search engine decides.
- Page Title: Allows you to set titles for every page on your site.
- Pathauto: This module automatically creates search engine friendly URLs based on the title of the page's content.
- Path Redirect: Assists you in creating proper redirects.
- Global redirect: Fixes some of the common URL problems when clean URLs and Pathauto are turned on.
- Taxonomy Title: Allows you to set titles for taxonomy pages.
- XML Sitemap: Creates a dynamic site map that is Sitemaps.org compliant and search engine readable.
- Site map: This creates a site map that helps search engine spiders crawl your site more efficiently.
- Menu attributes: It allows you to specify some additional attributes for menu items such as id, name, class, style, and rel.
- Site verification: Assists with search engine site ownership verification.
- Read more link: This module builds internal links and guides visitors to other content using customized, SEO-friendly read more links.
- HTML Purifier: This helps fix bad html in user-generated content.
- Mollom: Protects your site from spam using the Mollom service.
Don't forget the most important aspect
While installing modules and making tweaks to Drupal's files will assist in the optimization of a website, the most important aspect of SEO is still the content. A site needs to have fresh content that is not duplicated, it needs to attract shares from social media accounts and links from high-value websites, it needs to engage readers so they spend time on the page and it should incorporate images and multimedia. There are no modules or hacks that can handle this part, it is all up to the site administrator to fill the pages with content worth the visitor's time.
Search engine optimization techniques change frequently, but the techniques covered here aren't addressing the latest trends or fads. Each of them cover best practices that have been helping sites running Drupal rank for years, and they should continue to do so in the future as well.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jeff is the web content developer for PhishMe, a security training and awareness company. He frequently writes about design, blogging and WordPress. You can follow him on Twitter @jeorl