Search Engine Optimization, SEO, which become a thing in the mid-90s, was a new concept as the vast majority are not familiar with search engines. In the late 90s, the phrase Search Engine Optimization became a thing and has since become a very important topic to discuss for web developers and web agencies. In simple terms, the level of your SEO determines how likely your website will be seen when people search for certain keywords on search engines and how high your website ranks among other websites when users search for certain words or phrases.
SEO has evolved throughout the years, it started off as webmasters submitting the URL of their website for search engines to crawl and index the content, to a very complex and sophisticated practice as we see it today. Drupal out of the box already has some features that help you with your SEO, combined with all the different SEO-related modules, it is easy to achieve good SEO scores without too much effort. In this article, we will discuss how to improve the SEO of your Drupal website so you have an advantage over your competitors or have better exposure.
Install SEO checklist module.
The first thing you should do is install the Drupal SEO Checklist Module. It does not add any functionality to your website but it helps as a reminder to all your SEO-related tasks. It gives you a complete list of best practices and makes on-page Drupal SEO hassle-free.
The downside is that as of the time of this article, it does not support Drupal 9 yet. It only has official releases for Drupal 7 and 8. The other downside is that it tells you what to do, but does not tell you how to do it. Depending on the task, you might need to do some research on how to complete the to-do list that SEO Checklist Module provides.
Clean up your URL.
Drupal by default gives all of its URLs a node ID instead of a readable URL. For example, it would be oldmoondigital.com/node/123. Make sure you enable the built-in feature of clean URLs that will automatically take the page title and turn it into a more readable URL. This is not only about SEO but also improves the user experience. It also gives the content editor the ability to modify the URL if the page title is long or if another URL would make sense for that particular page.
If your website was migrated from other platforms to Drupal, some of the older content might not have the clean URL that Drupal provides. The legacy content may be indexed by search engines and even if you changed the URL of the pages, it might still be in the search results and will lead site visitors to non-existing pages or broken links. The solution to this problem is to make good use of the Redirect module. It allows you to redirect old URLs to new URLs.
Avoid duplicated content
If you have duplicated content and page titles on your website, it can impact your search ranking negatively. Especially if you migrate an older website to a new website, there might be duplicated content by accident. For older content, you can utilize the Redirect module as mentioned above to avoid having duplicate content.
Meta tags are short text that describes a page’s content. It does not display on the page itself but rather lives in the source code. This Drupal module allows you to add custom metadata which is always helpful for the search engine more details about the content on your page. You can add custom browser titles, descriptions, keywords and some advanced search options on each page.
The Metatag module is already available for Drupal 9 and supports multilingual which is great for your website if your target audience is international.
Speed up your Drupal website.
The algorithm of how search engines rank your website is always changing, sometimes it is even hard to keep up without the right experts’ help. But one thing has been consistent, faster is better. By making load speed a priority, decreasing bounce rate, and increasing traffic, your website is sending a positive signal to the search engines.
There are multiple factors that contribute to the website’s loading speed. One common factor is images. Having images on your website helps branding, theme, and with the right design, can improve on UI. But large images might take more time to load and therefore decrease the score of your website.
The solution is to make sure all the images are in the optimal size. The most straightforward method would be to only upload images that are optimized for the web. On a web development level, you can utilize the Drupal image styles features, this is a feature that comes out-of-the-box with Drupal and can give you control of the images on your website. There are other options such as an image compressor to compress your images on the server-side. Find a method that works best for your project.
Another way to improve your website loading speed is to make good use of caching. Drupal by default enables caching for anonymous visitors. This is usually sufficient for small or medium size websites with moderate traffic. If you have a very large website and have a large number of site visitors on a consistent basis, you might need extra configuration and development to ensure the caching on your website is optimized.
Fast websites on their own tend to have better conversion rates than the competitors, even when you remove the search ranking factor. When your website is fast, not only do you get better results due to your search ranking but also because of the user experience.
If you’ve done implementing all the tips mentioned above and you are still not satisfied with the loading speed of your website, you might need to consider using a different website hosting provider. This might mean additional operating costs for your website so make sure you’ve optimized other parts of your website first before simply diving into a more expensive hosting provider.
Make it easy for search engines.
Search engines such as Google want to crawl and index your website as quickly and as effectively as possible. It saves them valuable time and resources. Therefore when you make it easy for them to do so, your ranking will be positively impacted.
So how do you make it easy for them to crawl and index your website? One simple way is to have a sitemap. Drupal already comes with a built-in feature for generating an XML sitemap. Many developers also like to replace the core feature with the Simple Sitemap module. The main reason behind this is because the Simple Sitemap module includes the newer hreflang XML sitemap standard developed by Google. Hreflang tells Google which language you are using on a specific page, so the search engine can serve that result to users searching in that language.
Responsive design is a must in today’s world of mobile. A responsive website will have a higher SEO score than a website that is not. The good thing about Drupal is that it has responsive web design as its default methodology. Which is the method Google prefers. It is easy to develop AMP pages by taking advantage of the AMP module. These are some of the reasons why Drupal can achieve a good SEO ranking relatively with less effort compared to other CMS.
There are many different things you can do to improve your website’s SEO score. Such as increasing your website loading speed, work on your content, and make good use of meta tags. But this is not a one-and-done kind of project.
SEO is flexible and the algorithm for search engines to calculate your score is being updated on a regular basis. This is why maintaining a good score and good search ranking requires continuous improvements. There are always more things you can do to improve after updating the last thing that helps your SEO scores.
Another reason to keep working on improvements and updates is that the effect of improving your SEO score often doesn’t apply immediately, in fact, it sometimes takes weeks or months for the changes to make a difference on Google or other search engines. If you stopped working on your content or other improvements after one upgrade, your competitor might be able to outrank you again soon after your improvements are showing. If you have a web project that would like to improve your search ranking, feel free to give us a shout and we will be more than happy to help you out.