“This may come as a surprise but there are people out there who don’t know that you exist. [Drupal] SEO is a powerful and inexpensive way to get your name out there and build some credibility with your target customers.” – Ben Finklea, CEO of Volacci & author of Drupal 6 Search Engine Optimization
The fact that you are reading this right now means that you are most likely a Drupal user, strongly considering Drupal as your CMS of choice, and have a website that needs a serious boost in the traffic department.
You probably know that your target customers are not going to stumble on your article, or your product, or your site if you are listed on page 23 of a Google search for whatever you are trying to sell. You want to make sure that your search rankings are under your control as much as possible, instead of allowing the rankings to dispute you.
Fortunately, Drupal users have a secret weapon – Drupal itself!
Here are some helpful Drupal SEO tips to put into practice – and if you know all of this already – well, practice makes perfect!
1. Use the Pathauto Module
Pathauto will be your best friend because it creates search-engine friendly URLs for various kinds of content on your site without requiring the user to specify the path alias manually. Along with the token module necessary, you can generate keyword-laden URLs automatically or in bulk.
2. Use <h1> Tags and Title Tags with the Page Title Module
Page Title Module gives you granular control over the page title. You can specify the page title separately to the content’s title. This means you get double SEO keyword bang for your buck!
3. Use XML Sitemap Module
Create a sitemap to help search engines crawl your site more intelligently, and keep their search results up to date. Plus, the sitemap created is automatically submitted to Google, Ask, Bing, and Yahoo search engines.
4. Optimize your META descriptions with the Nodewords Module
Nodewords Module allows you to set meta tags for each Drupal page, either manually or based on automatic settings. Keywords and well-organized descriptions “bring order to chaos, define markets, and reveal intent… SEO is a popularity contest for keywords, and this is a popularity contest you want to win.” (Ben Finklea, Volacci). Ben is a smart man!
1. Don’t leave comments on other sites to include a link back to your site. Faux pas! You can get your site blocked for pulling a stunt like that, or at the very least it doesn’t help your rankings because these links are usually ‘nofollowed.’
2. Don’t use or build a theme with invalid code or poor markup. You can generally make a safe bet on popular, well-maintained themes from Drupal.org – take a look at the theme’s issue queue for any problems. Always check out the SEO features of any commercial theme provider or framework you’re considering. Here are some SEO factors to consider when evaluating Drupal themes.
3. Don’t create duplicate content! Drupal For SEO lists several problems that can arise naturally from the fact that “Drupal has powerful optimization features built into its architecture. But without care, it can easily generate duplicate content that you might not be aware of.”
- URL Aliases – being able to access the site with both the original URL and the alias
- Page titles – having titles that are too similar or identical
- Accessing your site with and without the www
- Printer-friendly pages
- Forums and Views that create sortable lists that can generate multiple URLs with duplicate content
Blamcast provides sage advice on how duplicate content is detrimental to your site:
“At the very least, duplicate content can decrease your ranking. Search engines treat links to your page as a vote of confidence. If the links are split between two different addresses, you’re potentially throwing away half your votes…. By decreasing the amount of duplicate content on your site, you drive visitors and links to a smaller, more focused group of pages, leading to better search engine ranking and more traffic.”
Add the Global Redirect module to help avoid common duplicate content issues with Drupal.
4. Don’t be without a blueprint or plan for your site – create a linking structure like the Website Silo Architecture. Drupal For SEO advises that “When you build your website on a solid foundation of vertical market theme research, solid linking structure otherwise known as ‘silo website architecture’ and quality content that provides value to your visitors, you will be miles ahead of the SEO game even before you begin acquiring backlinks.”
Of course, writing excellent content and providing genuine value to visitors are the real “tricks” to SEO, but I hope these tips will help you get even higher rankings out of your Drupal site!