Drupal and SEO
Drupal’s content management system is perfectly structured for search optimization. Its core features support many of the critical SEO elements. Combined with third party modules, Drupal becomes a very powerful “search engine friendly” environment. The Drupal community also provides an excellent tool to check the “SEO health” of your website, called seo_checklist. It examines the structure, settings, and modules installed on your Drupal website and provides a checklist improve Drupal SEO best practices.
These used to be the main drivers of search engines in the early days. Meta tags are embedded in the <head> section of your site’s html and contain meta data such as the keywords, title, and description of your website or page. SEO black hats soon started “stuffing” these meta tags with huge numbers of keywords and keyword phrases, and the search engines responded by devaluing these tags. However, they are still important and should contain the 6-7 critical long-tail phrases that best describe the content on the page. It’s best to choose phrases that are not highly competitive in the Adwords marketplace. A search engine crawler will examine the keywords embedded in page content and attempt to match them with the meta tags. If both match up well, the page will be ranked highly. So, while you may not benefit much from meta tags, you will be penalized for their absence. The Drupal metatag module provides manual and automated ways to set these tags from within the Drupal UI.
These are the titles shown at the top of your browser window (as opposed to the title of the article). Keywords used in these titles enhance your SEO ranking and show up on the search engine results page. The Drupal page_title and metatag modules will allow you to customize the page titles to match the content that is being displayed on the page. Page titles provide quick and easy access to information because they are the descriptions used at the top of windows and tabs in modern browsers. Page titles are also the default titles for bookmarks that users create in their browsers.
The key to Google’s search engine technology depends on other sites who link to your site. The more “trusted” the site that links to your content, the higher your pagerank. Encouraging highly ranked websites to provide backlinks requires a determined campaign to build name recognition and quality content. Did you know that Google values the backlinks to your content that come from your own site? If your articles provide links to related content on your site, Google will rank that content higher. Drupal core provides backlinks automatically by turning content tags (in Drupal parlance, taxonomy) into clickable links. The Drupal modules similarbyterms and featured_content relate articles with common tagging, author, taxonomy, and others and provides a quick and easy way to add related links in a sidebar. For more sophisticated users, the views module can be used to build custom queries based on just about any content in an article. For example, the Views module could collect all other articles by the same author and display links to them in a sidebar block. Views could also create a block containing the author’s picture and bio, which could be displayed in the sidebar, or below the article. With Views, the sky’s the limit. Not only do related-articles listings help visitors and search engines find valuable content, they can greatly improve SEO scores. With the latest Google “Penguin” search engine updates, it is even more crucial to insure that your backlinks point to related content and high quality external sites.
The Uniform Resource Locator is the universal link that points to a particular page or content of a website. With most Content Managment Systems, the URL is used to query a database and can include a series of obscure characters that only mean something to the CMS itself. Google Search reads these URL’s, so including search keywords in the URL that relate back to the content of the page, will help SEO rankings. To accomplish this, Drupal uses path aliases. Turning on Clean URL’s in Drupal (eliminating the ?q= notation) improves pagerank. The Drupal pathauto module, in combination with the token module, builds friendly URL’s automatically, by using the article title and stripping out unnecessary words and punctuation. URL’s become even more important when posting backlinks to Twitter, Facebook, and email. In this case, URL’s benefit from being short. The Drupal modules shURLy, or the shorten module can automate this process in a sidebar block directly on your website.
This short list touches on some of the most important SEO best practices. There are many other tweaks that can make the difference between landing on page ten of the search engine ranking pages, or on page one. Research shows that most visitors quit looking for search results after page two.