The Drupal platform is designed to be conducive to solid Search Engine Optimization (SEO) “out-of-the-box” and the architecture encourages site builders to implement good SEO practices in their workflows. SEO-friendly naming conventions, correct tagging of content, and focus on accessibility are all built into Drupal core with the goal of helping search engines find and catalog your site. So, with targeted content, a properly coded theme, and installation of SEO boosting modules your site has the potential to rank very well.
Where to start? Fundamental Drupal SEO checklist strategy:
Start with keyword research. At the heart of your SEO plan is conveying effectively what goods/services you are providing for your audience, and using the right keywords to help them find you. Your site content should then be guided by the primary goal(s) of the website such as education, converting sales, adding subscribers, and so on. Google Adwords Keyword Planner is a good starting point for establishing a keyword strategy.
Content really is king. There are many factors that play into a good SEO strategy, but ultimately your content will determine how well you rank. If you have well-produced, highly relevant, shareable content that serves a need for your audience, then you are well placed to rank better with Google and other major search engines. If your content is good you should be able to earn links from other websites, and the more authoritative these sites are the more SEO juice it gives to you, although Google has moved on from this and now favors links from a variety of sites of different sizes with good domain authority.
Analyze your data. To keep on top of SEO you should be aware of the numbers in the background that can help you shape your strategy decisions over time. Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools help you crunch the data and obtain key insights to assist you in areas such as audience segmentation, landing page optimization and improving conversion paths.
Don’t forget social media. As we become more connected through the myriad social media channels that weave their influence in our online world, we should harness those connections to market our businesses. Simply put, Google is applying increasing importance to social media in its search algorithm, and social is now a cornerstone of interactive marketing.
Paraphrasing Tom Webster, VP of Strategy, Edison Research @webby2001
“Social is not a channel. It is a layer over everything we do now.”
Drupal modules that help SEO. Knowing the fundamentals is essential, but there are also modules that make it easier for you to structure and maintain your site for optimum SEO. Here is a list of modules to start with.
Google Analytics - Search data from Google. Requires an account.
Google Adwords Keyword Planner - A keyword research and planning tool.
SEO Checklist - Provides a methodical SEO to-do-list for Drupal sites.
SEO Compliance Checker - Checks node content for on page SEO compliance whenever a node is saved or previewed.
Link Checker - Detects hypertext links that are broken.
Menu Attributes - Adds flexibility to menu items by allowing attribute specification such as id, name, class, style, and rel.
Page Title - Gives you granular control over the html <title> tag for your website.
Taxonomy Title - Lets you set the title for the taxonomy term page.
Pathauto - Auto-generates alias URLs to be more SEO friendly.
Metatag - Fine-grain control of meta tags on your site for nodes, views and categories.
Path Redirect - Specify redirects for URLs.
Global Redirect - Turns on clean URLs and Pathauto, does 301 redirects if necessary, and more.
Search 404 - Avoids standard “404 Page not found” messages by searching the url for other possible results.
Custom Breadcrumbs - Set up SEO compatible breadcrumb trails for any node type.
Site Verification - Helps to verify your website with search engines.
XML Sitemap Creates and submits a sitemap to search engines.
Site Map Creates a plain text sitemap.
A couple of parting thoughts:
Play within the rules. In the past, SEO was easier to navigate, and it was not uncommon for organizations to try to game the system with tricks and techniques to boost SEO rankings. However, SEO is harder to manipulate now that Google is taking more of a gatekeeper role than ever, so organizations should be aware that penalties can result from unscrupulous (black hat) tactics for trying to boost rank, and it may be difficult or impossible to overturn them.
Be flexible and accept constant change. Be aware that the SEO landscape is continually shifting, so what might work now may not be effective in 6 months time. SEO is not a set-it-and-forget-it solution. It should be part of your business strategy--supported with sufficient time and resources over the long term. It is also not an independent discipline, but has to be weaved through other digital marketing channels, such as branding, PR, email marketing, content marketing, social media and so on.