You’ve built a brilliant website, you’ve employed a top notch designer and you’re offering well priced, high demand services. Yet for some reason you aren’t getting good traffic to your site. Before diving into an intensive content review and firing your designer, consider that you may have made a great website for people, but you haven’t caught the attention of search engines.
What is Search Engine Optimisation?
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is a term commonly thrown around in online marketing, but few people explain what it actually means. Briefly speaking, SEO is a focus on improving your website and the content for machine consumption. By integrating keywords, friendly URLs, metatags and deep links search engines with rate your website higher. However overdoing it will lead to search engines penalising your site with a lower your rating – you can’t simply dump a handful of keywords and expect good results, you need strong content as well.
Best Drupal SEO Modules to Optimize Your Site
There are many things your search engine ranking depends on, from metatags to site theming. But one of the first steps you should do when launching your Drupal site is integrating a collection of SEO modules that can help with a higher ranking. In many cases you won’t even have to touch the customer facing part of your website. With a few tweaks and back end administration you can optimise your search engine results, boost the traffic to your website and massively increase your conversion. We recently published an article with must have security modules, and in this one we list the best ten SEO modules that every Drupal website must include - have a look!
Usage: Currently installed on 286,000 sites, downloaded 1.72 million times
The XML Sitemap module automatically deploys a sitemap that meets industry standards and makes your site easier for search engines to crawl and categorise. Typically search engines will crawl and index your site based on external and internal links. XML Sitemap provides a single point of information for search engine bots to refer to and gain a strong understanding of your site.
XML site map will include metatags about your page (if you’ve installed the metatag module listed below, these will be higher quality tags) as well as further metadata such as relative links, the pages last updated time and date, and how often the content is updated.
Usage: Currently installed on 703,000 sites, downloaded 4.45 million times
Pathauto is a great SEO module because it takes a boring, laborious manual task and automates it for you, from start to finish. All you need to do is set up some rulesets and away you go.
Pathauto gives you a simple way to define URLs that are both user friendly, and lead to stronger search engine optimisation. Drupal will normally give your web pages a url like “yoursite.com/node/12345”. This type of URL means nothing to a user, and even less to a search engine. With Pathauto your can build URLs based on the category and page title. As such you can have URLs like “yoursite/search-engine-optimisation/top-ten-drupal-modules-for-easy-SEO”. This sort of URL is easy for your site visitors to understand, and gives you bonus points with search engines.
The module has been updated for Drupal 8 (with some valuable learning resources) with a new version released late April 2017.
Usage: Currently installed on 196,000 sites, downloaded 1.28 million times
Among the best Drupal SEO modules you also may want to cosider Redirect. It is an important module for preventing ‘dead links’ inside your website, and for creating short links in advertising materials. Redirect allows you to set rules such as sending users who visit ‘yoursite.com/promo1’ to ‘yoursite.com/seo-course/learn-seo-with-us’.
While this is great for marketing, it’s also great for keeping a high rating with search engines. Having multiple ‘bouncing’ redirects won’t help you, but having dead-links to your site will count against you. If you remove a page from your site, or simply rename it, you can use a redirect to ensure that you don’t lose the traffic that was trying to find the old page.
Redirects is more than just a net for catching missed opportunities. It also tracks how often people are hitting those redirects. This can help you track how popular a promotional link is, or how many people are trying to access a page you have moved or renamed.
Redirect has been updated for Drupal 8, with the latest release coming out in May 2017.
Usage: Currently installed on 188,000 sites, downloaded 922,000 times
Duplicate content on a web site can negatively impact your ranking with search engines. This becomes a problem with modules like Page Title (see below) that give your pages a friendly alias. Unfortunately your page retains its original unfriendly title, as well as the friendly new one - which looks like duplicate content to a search engine.
Global Redirect is one of the Drupal SEO modules that solves this problem, as well as capturing a variety of broken link scenarios and returning the user to your homepage - thus improving the user experience and giving you a cleaner record with search engine rankings.
Global Redirect is available for Drupal 7, however if you’re using a Drupal 8 site then it has been bundled up with the similar ‘Redirect’ module.
Usage: Currently installed on 353,000 sites, downloaded 2.49 million times
The Metatag module allows you to provide extra metadata to your website, generally in the meta description tag, and the meta keywords tag. Both of these are crawled by search engines and you can optimise your results by including words and phrases that people may use to search your site, but don’t explicitly appear in your content. For example, if you have a website about chicken farming, your keywords could include ‘hen’ ‘rooster’ ‘eggs’ even if those words don’t appear on the page.This will give you more chance to match with what a user is typing into their search engine.
Metatag is available for Drupal 7 and 8, with the last version being released in June 2017.
Usage: Currently installed on 380,000 sites, downloaded 4.72 million times
Adding the Google Analytics module won’t automatically improve your SEO, but it will arm you with all the knowledge you need to see where your site is succeeding, and where it could do with a little more polish.
The Google Analytics can not be called one of the classical SEO modules, but it will give you the ability to track and exclude users and roles within your site (so you aren’t erroneously tracking your own clicks), track link clicks, downloads, and ‘mailto’ clicks. The module also supports AdSense, as well as a host of other items.
With Google Analytics you will be able to see where your traffic is coming from, how long users stay on your pages, and what catches their attention while they are there. With this information you can tweak your content strategy to appeal to your audience, driving more traffic to your site and increasing conversions.
Google News sitemap
Usage: Currently installed on 3,000 sites, downloaded 32,000 times.
The Google News sitemap module creates a similar but separate sitemap to the XML sitemap in the module above. This one is specifically tailored for Google News and allows you to set caching times, the types of content to include, how recent news should be and to customise tags and keywords.
The last updated for Google News sitemap was released in June 2013, however there are considerations to integrate it with the XML sitemap module, giving you two great functionalities in a single module.
Usage: Currently installed on 57,000 sites, downloaded 397,000 times
For your site to rank well in search engine results it is important that your site is verified. There are many spam sites on the internet that are set up for a short period of time for nefarious reasons. By having your site properly verified you avoid seeming like one of these sites, even when you are just starting out.
The Site verification module assists with this process by allowing you to upload a verification file, and then managing the authentication process for you. There is a development Drupal 8 version of this module available, or a fully tested Drupal 7 version.
Usage: Currently installed on 92,000 sites, downloaded 648,000 times
Having good page titles is essential to search engine optimisation, and in 2006 a module was released with a laser focus on good page titles.
The Page Title module does more than just put a nice heading on the page. Page title hooks into the metatags to ensure that your title is replicated throughout the code in all the essential spaces. These are picked up by search engine bots that are checking your site, and give you extra ticks in the SEO checklist (see the next module). You can tell if you have it set up properly by looking at the top of your web browser, for example the Page Title Module on Drupal.org clearly shows you what page you’re on, and the website name.
While this might seem like a small change, visitors to your site will feel much more confident in the professionalism, and search engines will bump you up in the rankings.
If you are still running Drupal 7 you will need this module, but if you’ve upgraded to Drupal 8 just download the metatag module mentioned above as these two modules have been merged together.
Usage: Currently installed on 30,000 sites, downloaded 313,000 times
Finally, SEO checklist is another one of those modules that won’t improve your sites SEO, but will equip your with the skills and knowledge to make changes to your site. The SEO Checklist does nothing to your site, except for give you a simple report of what needs to be done, and allows you to check off each task as you work through it. This is a must have for anyone managing more than one site, or if you have multiple people managing the one site.
The SEO checklist is updated regularly to keep up with industry standards and the latest techniques. It has a fully supported version for Drupal 7 and Drupal 8.
Drupal is an amazing CMS for search engine optimization, and using the right SEO modules will set you up for success. By preventing duplicate content, filling your content with strong metatags and keywords, using human friendly URLs and having a clean site map your site will rise rapidly through search engine rankings.
At Vardot we pride ourselves on educating our customers, developing brilliant websites and giving back to the Drupal community. By building SEO-friendly websites we aim to satisfy our clients and their customers. Hopefully this article will set you on the right path to a high quality website, but if you need more, check out our article on Optimizing Your Site For Search Engines or get in touch with us.