Building a strong online presence is a preliminary step to increasing your Drupal website’s click-through rate and conversion rate. You also need to make it easy for your target audience to find you online using proven Search Engine Optimization (SEO) tools and practices.
So how do you get to the top of the search engine results page (SERP) of Google, Bing and Yahoo? What are some unique SEO considerations for Drupal websites that will help you increase your page ranking? How can your development strategy and process give your organization an edge over the competition?
9 Critical Steps for Drupal SEO
- SEO Basics
- Drupal’s Taxonomy System
- Inbound And Outbound Links
- Optimizing URL Appearance In Drupal
- Structuring Your Drupal Pages
- Metadata And Metatags
- Optimizing For Facebook’s Open Graph
- The Future Of Voice Search SEO
- Get A Higher Page Ranking With XML Sitemap
Optimizing your website can have a significant impact on the visibility and profitability of your organization. So, it’s worth spending some time getting familiar with the principles behind SEO. Drupal’s open source platform offers a lot of versatility, making it a great SEO and Content Management System (CMS) solution for organizations looking to boost your page ranking.
[Choosing the right CMS is vital in terms of how your website will perform. For a more in-depth analysis of how to go about making this decision, please visit our post Choosing the Best CMS for Your Website]
1. SEO Basics
Definition: Search Engine Optimization, commonly referred to as SEO, is the process of improving the visibility of your online content based on search terms entered into a web browser’s search engine.
Definition: On-page SEO is specifically the practice of optimizing individual pages so that they’ll show up higher on the search engine results page (SERP) and increase traffic to your site from relevant searches.
The Main Search Engine Players
Google’s search engine claims around 80 percent of the market share, followed by Bing and Yahoo, with around 7 and 5 percent market share respectively. In other words, for your website to get a higher SERP ranking – unless your target market only uses Bing, Yahoo or another search engine – it makes a lot of sense to focus your SEO efforts on playing by Google’s rules and optimizing your site to suit its search algorithm.
Google’s Role In Shaping SEO Practices
Before Google’s page ranking system – that took off with its search engine technology in the early 2000s – optimizing for the web was a bit of a free-for-all. Without any restrictions to rein in black hat practices, websites used keyword stuffing and spammy backlinks to rank higher on the SERP and improve the visibility of their web pages. Today, Google’s search engine algorithm places stringent rules on how pages rank on its SERP, and that’s really why SEO is such an important part of doing business online.
The Drupal SEO Advantage
Drupal’s architecture is constructed from its foundation to be conducive to SEO. As well as key SEO modules built into the core software, it also works with a number of optional downloadable modules that make it easier to improve the SEO functionality of your website. As we’ll discuss, there are many techniques you can start using right away that give Drupal sites an added advantage over other CMS platforms.
2. Drupal’s Taxonomy System
Drupal has a competitive edge over other CMSs when it comes to its taxonomy system, which makes it possible to keep even older content on your website near the top of the list where search engine crawlers can find it. Drupal’s taxonomy system accomplishes this by using keywords/ categories/ tags/ metadata to connect, relate and classify content on your website into structured hierarchical groups.
For example, keeping nodes about three clicks away from your home page will make even older content on your website look relevant to search engine indexing robots. With Drupal 8 it is possible to combine advanced taxonomy features with Drupal’s Views and Entities to boost your ranking for long-tail keywords.
3. Inbound And Outbound Links
Another thing crawlers look for to determine your site’s credibility is backlinks, also called inbound links.
Definition: Backlinks or inbound links are hyperlinks on other websites that link to your site.
If the site that links to yours is high-ranking and authoritative (This is determined by a number of factors, including that it has many credible inbound links) your site will garner even more link popularity, which can boost your Google SERP ranking. Inbound links that include key phrases from the page being linked to on your site can also increase your ranking.
To get the best SEO results, aim to get links to your web pages from pages that:
- Have a high SERP ranking
- Are authoritative
- Are popular
- Are followed by other high-ranking sites
- Have content relevant to your content
- Aren’t spam pages
Likewise, Google looks at whether pages you link to from your page, called outbound links, are to authoritative sources. Linking to popular pages with high authority has been proven to boost SEO.
Another major SEO best-practice for links is to give your website some hyperlink love by linking to your own pages. This can improve your page ranking and will have the added bonus of increasing the amount of time people spend on your website.
Pro Tip: Include at least 2 embedded links within the 100 words of main body text on your pages for an added SEO advantage.
Be careful not to go overboard with your outbound links, but do embed a few links to authoritative websites and to your own website to get more eyes on your pages.
4. Optimizing URL Appearance In Drupal
How URLs appear on your page and connect to your content is can have a significant impact on whether or not the search engine crawlers like your page or shove it way down the SERP list. The following are three important tools to optimize URLs on your Drupal site.
Versions of Drupal 7 and older automatically generate pages with URLs that contain the additional text “?q=” that can make URLs hard to read and could prevent some search engines from properly indexing pages on your site. Drupal’s Clean URLs module fixes this problem by removing the additional text.
With this module activated, a URL that once appeared as:
would now automatically be:
Clean URL’s are enabled by default in Drupal 8.
Duplicate content can really hurt your SEO and should be avoided, although it is sometimes difficult to manage, so it’s good to know about Drupal’s Redirect module. The Redirect module allows you to add 301 redirects on old URLs so that they link your content to the new URL and avoid users receiving a 404 or Not Found error. This module comes in handy, particularly when migrating content from an old website to a new website.
Just having readable URLs is important for SEO and for your audience’s expectations that they going to the right page. Drupal’s Pathauto module is a URL/ path alias automation tool that puts you in charge of how your website’s URLs are automatically generated so that you can keep consistency throughout your website and maximize URL readability and SEO potential.
For example, with Pathauto you can set rules that will automatically change one of your site URLS from:
to the more descriptive:
Pathauto works with a pattern system, which uses Tokens, and can be modified by a website administrator. Once your parameters are set, the Pathauto module makes it easy to automatically generate clean-looking URLs that fit well into your site architecture, and contain the keywords Google’s crawlers are looking for to properly index your pages.
5. Structuring Your Drupal Pages
Getting a higher page ranking is a proactive measure. You should determine how to make it easy for Google to recognize how authoritative and relevant your content is when it is sifting through a multitude of competitor websites.
At a basic level, you can make Google’s job easier by ensuring that your site uses proper HTML semantic markup, such as having a header tag for headers, a footer tag for footers, labels for tables, title tags for images, etc. This starts with a good document outline that creates a clear map for structuring information on your pages.
Information that’s properly structured is easier for web crawlers to find and increases the chances that your page will be properly indexed and ranked by search engines.
6. Metadata And Metatags
A key part of properly structuring your page involves using metadata and metatags.
Definition: Metadata and metatags are pieces of information that help search engines identify and index the content of your pages.
Google uses metadata and metatags to create your search listing and describe your page on the SERP. Getting this information right is crucial for being properly indexed by Google’s web crawlers and increasing your site’s click-through rate.
Pro Tip: Drupal’s Metatag module lets you add custom browser titles, page titles, keywords, description and some advanced search options on your pages to improve the ranking of your site. This should be standard practice for your content creators.
7. Optimizing For Facebook’s Open Graph
Drupal plays well with all the major social media giants, and there are ways to make better connections with them using Drupal settings. Facebook is a great example. With over 1.86 million monthly active users, Facebook’s information-sharing platform offers a lot of opportunity for organizations to get eyes on your content and increase click-through and conversion rate, but because most content on Facebook is shared using a URL, you need to make sure that your site gives the Facebook Crawler enough information to properly display your page. This is where having great metadata comes in handy.
Facebook’s Open Graph Markup is a tagging system that helps Facebook identify information on your website, such as titles, images and videos. These tags are then used to determine how to display your content when someone enters one of your site URLs into his or her Facebook post. It gives you more control in how Facebook interprets your content to its vast audience.
It’s an open source tool that you can use to improve your organization’s Facebook presence and increase the likelihood that your content will be liked and shared.
8. The Future Of Voice Search SEO
This is the new kid on the block, but promises to be very important going forward. Apple’s Siri voice recognition program, Google Allo messaging app and Amazon Alexa service allows customers to interact with devices using voice commands are all gaining popularity. These services are part of a growing host of voice search services that accounted for 20 percent of US Google queries and 25 percent of Bing queries in May 2016. The voice search trend is also projected to increase to 50 percent of all searches by 2020, driven partly by advances in machine learning technology for voice recognition and the rise of web searches conducted on mobile devices.
So here’s what you need to know when designing your Drupal SEO strategy to account for voice searches:
- Voice search platforms are often linked to information aggregators like Yelp, so you can increase your SERP ranking by being listed on those aggregators
- Consider that your brand and keywords may be mispronounced. Add common misspellings of your brand – and key terms used to find your brand – to your optimization strategy, along with negative keywords (excluding certain search terms)
- Research the conversational language people use to find your brand. Voice searches tend to be more specific than typed searches because of their conversational nature. This is where long-tail keyword research and optimize for common voice queries comes in handy
- Create a Q&A page that answers common questions. Because voice searches tend to pose a question, this strategy can also improve SEO
Mobile users are on the rise since surpassing desktop users in 2014, and this growing trend towards searching for content in a mobile, versus a desktop, environment will continue to have new implications for SEO, including voice or conversational searches.
9. Get A Higher Page Ranking With XML Sitemap
One main takeaway from this blog post should be the importance of making it easy for Google and other search engines to find and index your content. Drupal has the advantage of being equipped with numerous open source SEO tools that developers can use to increase your page ranking, which is also why so many companies are using the Drupal CMS. Drupal’s XML Sitemap module is one of those tools. It creates an XML document that search engines use to find and intelligently index your web pages. In other words, using this module helps web crawlers learn about the structure, and rank your site more effectively.
Pro tip: XML sitemap can also be directly submitted (and resubmitted) to the top search engines—especially useful if there have been changes to your website structure and content.
Get higher page rankings with a powerful Drupal site. Contact O8 for a free consultation: 612-276-5880 or leave details on our contact page.