At Mediacurrent we architected and built a Drupal site for a department of a prominent U.S. university several years ago. As part of maintaining and supporting the site over the years, we have observed how well it has performed in search engine rankings, often outperforming other sites across campus built on other platforms.
The University's Goal: Win Search Rankings
The school boasts a popular athletics program with several nationally ranked teams. On Saturdays in the fall fans fill the football stadium and enjoy singing the school’s alma mater before and after games. The words are complex, so many fans Google for the words on their phones to sing along.
Mediacurrent’s client got a call from the athletic department one day, asking how their page could possibly top the big, important athletic department’s site in search rankings for the alma mater? Our client’s response: “I don’t know? Drupal?”
The athletic department tried a few of the usual SEO tricks but could never win in the rankings. Eventually, they surrendered, and now they simply promote the academic department’s site for the alma mater lyrics instead.
So, how did Drupal win this game?
There was no specific SEO focus to rank for this keyword. Instead, Mediacurrent leveraged several routine factors in a Drupal build process, and the end result is a site that wins ranking for branded and non-branded keywords across the campus, no expensive SEO tricks required:
1. Drupal by default is search engine friendly in many areas. This means that sites get a head start in the race just by choosing Drupal.
2. Mediacurrent and the client took measures in the architecture toward common-sense organization such as the URLs, breadcrumbs, and page titles all aligning and emphasizing keywords for the content of the page.
3. The excellent Metatag module, maintained by Mediacurrent’s Damien McKenna, further boosts relevant content in keyword rankings. The power of Metatag is that it allows content creators to control basic meta tags like page title and keywords, plus more advanced categorizations like Open Graph, Twitter Cards, Dublin Core, Google+, among many others. It's worth it to learn how to use Drupal's Metatag module the right way.
4. The site was also architected with a responsive, mobile-friendly design and WCAG Level AA accessibility compliance, further enhancing its search rankings.
Ways you can up your SEO game with Drupal
Individual victories like this example are nice, but to truly win more than just an individual keyword game, sites need to implement an overall plan for digital strategy. To get started on improving your site’s SEO, two recent videos from Mediacurrent’s Friday 5 series can help: 5 Tips for improving Drupal SEO and 5 Structured Data Items That Work for Every Website.