Drupal Steps Up To The SEO Plate and Scores

Add Your Comments

Drupal is gaining ground within the webmaster community, and for good reason – it has the ability to be extremely SEO friendly and does a fantastic job of creating a plethora of websites. One of the most popular CMS solutions in use today, Drupal makes it easy to manage and manipulate content with the click of a button. You can set it up to create a blog (although in most cases I wouldn’t suggest its use primarily for this), large ecommerce sites, or even a concoction of both wrapped around a community. And, with a few relatively simple steps, you can manipulate Drupal to ensure search engine success.

In most cases, the following SEO tactics should be undertaken with any brand-new Drupal installation. However, if you plan on implementing these tactics with a site that is already fully built, indexed, and aged, you need to use different methodologies to ensure search disaster doesn’t ensue. For the most part, such methodologies are beyond the scope of this article, simply because they require a more technical background and each situation is unique, requiring assessment on a per-site basis. Therefore, this article will deal with SEO tactics for new Drupal installations.

Duplicate Content

The first best-practice recommendation is to alleviate any canonicalization issues that your site might see from backlinks that point to non www or www versions. Essentially, canonicalization issues occur when two versions of the same content are indexed. One goal of optimization is to help robots understand which part of your site is most important and not leave any chances that weight is passed to incorrect places. I suggest using the following code in your .htaccess file to ensure this is taken care of.

For the domain of www.example.com, use this code:

RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^example\.com$ [NC]
RewriteRule ^(.*)$ http://www.example.com/$1 [R=301,L]

Drupal also creates duplicate content in the /node section of your site. Typically this isn’t a problem, but you are better off safe than sorry. It is a very simple fix, requiring that you add the following code to your robots.txt file.

Disallow: /node$

For further reading and insights into ways to use your robots.txt file to help optimize your Drupal installation, visit drupalzilla.com/robots-txt.

Next, download the Global Redirect module, which deals with duplicate content issues that arise from having a directory and a page with the same exact content (e.g., www.example.com/duplicate and www.example.com/duplicate/). This module, and all others referenced in the remainder of this article, can be downloaded from http://drupal.org/project/Modules. Global Direct automatically redirects the “/” version of the page to the non “/” version, thus creating one version. You can also do this on your own by modifying the .htaccess file, but the module provides an easier solution.

URLs

Drupal has a built-in solution inside the administration panel that lets you create static page names. I recommend turning it on. To do so, simply navigate to Home > Administration > Site Configuration > Clean URLs. To make sure this works, your server needs to accept mod_rewrite. Mod_rewrite is an Apache module in which pages can be renamed on the fly. If your site is hosted on Linux, then you should be fine.

If your site is hosted on a Windows box, it will take some heavy modifications to get this working. Windows uses ISAPI Rewrite to turn pages into static URLs. For further information on modifying this for Windows, visit: www.iisaid.com/articles/how_to_guides/using_drupal_clean_urls_with_iis_and_isapi_rewrite.

Content generation can be a daunting task on any platform. Using a content system like Drupal, in effect, gives you a much greater chance of creating permalinks quickly. One method of creating pages quickly on Drupal, without writing a custom script, is to install the PathAuto module.

The PathAuto Module is rather complex, but once set up, will alleviate the need to enter in the location for every page manually. If you are new to using Drupal, and are not familiar with its taxonomy structure, the PathAuto module might give you some problems. As well, be careful after turning the PathAuto Module on – one wrong step and it may rename all your pages to something you were not anticipating.

Meta, Description, and Title Tags

To insert meta and description tags for each page/article you post on the site, download the Meta Tag module. A well-thought-out and carefully written meta description can have an enormous effect on the clickthrough rate for a page. If you are not writing custom description tags for your site, then you are missing out on clicks and visitors that could be yours.

You will also want to ensure that you can manipulate your page title tags. Out of the box, Drupal pulls the same page heading as your title tag. To get around this, download and install the Page Title module, which allows you to set unique title tags. As with WordPress, this takes some tinkering to work.

First, make sure your theme has a template.php. If it doesn’t, you will need to create one (the Page Title module has an example of one you can simply copy and use). The following lines need to be added to the ‘page’ hook of the _phptemplate_variables function.

if (module_exists(‘page_title’)) {
$vars['head_title'] = page_title_page_get_title();
}

Once that is set up, you will be able to create unique page titles via the page title field located in the backend.

Interlinking

Interlinking is a vital best practice for any site on the web. It helps search engines better understand the thematic presence your site portrays and helps PageRank flow better throughout your website. Drupal has a Related Links module that lets you add internal links to stories or pages. Like many things with Drupal, there is plenty of room for modification here, which can be very handy.

Sitemap

To help search engines keep up to date with content and comments added to your site, I recommend downloading the XML Sitemap module. Be forewarned – if you select the option to submit automatically to search engines each time an update is made, you may run into latency issues. Smaller sites will typically not run into this issue.

Note: If you are having problems upgrading the XML Sitemap module, check out a quick guide for fixing it located at www.socialseo.com/drupal-sitemap-module-issue.html.

Drupal has done a fantastic job over the years of fine tuning the SEO friendliness it portrays out of the box. They have listened to the community and acted on their behalf. By giving you the flexibility to create a myriad of sites that are accessible to search engines, Drupal is a fantastic content framework to base any website around. With today’s improved access to technology, there really is no need to spend tens of thousands of dollars on custom CMS solutions, when free access to frameworks like Drupal is available.

About the Author

Brian Chappell is a Social Search Strategist at Ignite Social Media, where he engages consumers via SMM. He also runs Adapt Marketing, an SEO consulting company focusing on Drupal optimization. You can find him blogging at BrianChappell.com.

Add Your Comments

  • (will not be published)