If you have chosen Drupal 8 to build your website, then you have made a great choice. Drupal 8 is a powerful Content Management System (CMS). It is perfect to build professional websites and it is highly customizable. With it, you will be able to manage a large eCommerce site, and it comes with powerful scalability features.
However, to make your website successful, a good CMS is not all you need. In addition to meeting the demands of your user base, you must ensure that your website is search engine friendly. This is accomplished by implementing the right SEO (Search Engine Optimization) techniques.
Drupal is no exception in this regard and optimizing its SEO performance is critical to give your website good exposure and get relevant traffic on the web.
Therefore, let’s consider some crucial steps to make sure your Drupal website is SEO optimize.
Is Drupal CMS Good for SEO?
Drupal comes with powerful, built-in SEO functionalities. This is a great starting point. However, being SEO friendly doesn’t mean that your website will automatically perform well.
There are still a lot of SEO measures that you must implement to ensure that you reach or remain on the first “results” page on Google. The SEO game is never-ending and constantly needs your attention, regardless of the CMS you choose.
On a positive note, Drupal facilitates your work being designed in a way that performs well on search engines. Additionally, there are several modules to implement on Drupal that can assist with your SEO strategies.
In this post, we will discuss the most important SEO steps to take and which Drupal modules to use when tackling them.
1. Get the Latest Drupal Version
Keeping your Drupal CMS up to date is important. The internet environment is constantly changing, and new features are needed from time to time. Moreover, new releases are intended to fix possible vulnerabilities, thereby making your website safer.
It is not a secret that Google favors websites that are safe and secure. Having the latest and most secure Drupal version installed will improve your Google reputation, thus helping you to rank higher. Moreover, new features implemented on your website can increase the user's engagement, another factor that positively affects your SEO score.
2. Install a SSL Certificate
The SSL certificate is a digital certificate that authenticates a website and encrypts the connection. The SSL certificate is especially important to secure credit card payments, money transactions, logins, data transfers, and so on.
When an SSL certificate is installed on your website, you will see a green lock next to your website name in the address bar. The green lock is very important because it informs your users that they are safe as they surf your website and that their payments can be processed without risk. It puts them in the right frame of mind to interact with your site.
On the SEO side, we already mentioned that Google is highly concerned about security. Nowadays, an SSL certificate has become a must to please Google. Websites that do not have an SSL certificate will have an impaired SEO performance.
3. Be Mobile First
A few years ago, the Google algorithm switched to a mobile-first approach. This means that how a website performs on a mobile device is now the primary indicator of how Google will rank your website.
Webmasters need to take notice of this and update their websites accordingly. What helps a website to be mobile friendly? A series of factors.
First of all, you need to choose a Drupal theme that is responsive and performs well on mobile devices. Drupal CMS is designed to be responsive, but that doesn’t mean that all elements on your pages will work well on a mobile device. To ensure a good experience for your mobile users, you must carefully check how your pages render on mobile devices and implement all needed customizations.
A feature you must consider implementing is the AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) technology. This technology has been designed by Google to achieve faster delivery of web pages on mobile devices and using it will improve your SEO score. Drupal has an AMP module that can assist you in implementing this technology on as many pages as you can. Using the module is not as straightforward as you would expect, and you might need assistance to correctly set the module.
4. Create a Sitemap
An XML sitemap is what makes your website recognizable to search engines. The sitemap informs search engines how your website is organized and its hierarchy. This makes it simple for them to crawl your pages. Therefore, a sitemap is another critical SEO step to take.
To implement a sitemap, you can use the module sitemap.xml. The module will create the sitemap that can then be automatically submitted to the major search engine, thus giving you more exposure.
5. Connect with Search Engines
Many search engines have free tools that you should use to plan and track your SEO activities.
The most famous are the tools provided by Google, like Google Search Console (ex-Google Webmaster Tool) and Google Analytics. Both tools give you invaluable information about your website performances and how your users interact with it.
For instance, Google Search Console is where you submit your XML Sitemap and you can use it to check errors detected by Google. Google Analytics, on the other hand, provides insights into your users' behavior. These tools give you more than enough metrics to optimize both your content and the technical side of your website.
To start using these tools there is a tracking code that must be installed on your website. In this case, you can install some Drupal modules that have been designed to easily implement this tool in your backend.
6. Keep Your URLs Clean
The URL is another element that has an impact on your SEO. Google favors URLs that can be understood, not only by the search engines, but also by users. Therefore, your URLs must be readable, descriptive, and short.
For instance, if you have a page about iPad Pro features, your URL should be something similar to this: https://www.example.com/ipad-pro-features, and not like this: https://www.example.com/index.php?productID=87471.
The module Pathauto is of great help in this regard since it will automatically convert bad URLs into clean URLs.
7. Check Your Redirections
An important factor that can increase or decrease your SEO score is the use of internal and external links. You must make sure that they are all in order, otherwise, they will not add value to your users and will send a bad signal to search engines. You must regularly check your website to make sure you do not have 404 pages.
A 404 code refers to pages that do not exist anymore. If users click on a link pointing to these pages, they will get an empty page. Having 404 pages on your website is not good at all for your user experience and search engines do not like them either. 404 pages significantly damage your SEO performance.
In this situation, you can use a 301 redirection to redirect the invalid URL to a valid one. You can use the same 301 redirect if you want to update the URL of a specific page. Thanks to the 301 redirect, you can use the new URL without losing the SEO value already acquired by the old one.
To manage the 301 redirects, there are several Drupal modules that are very easy to use. Additionally, they will help you to maintain clean internal and external links.
8. Take Care of Your Meta Tags
The meta tags can greatly contribute to your SEO ranking. Meta tags are the snippets of text that you see in the search results when you search for a topic on a search engine. Besides informing users about the content of a page, they help search engines to understand what the topic is of your page.
For several reasons, Meta tags must always be set for each page. They create more engagement with your users, giving them a reason to visit your pages. Moreover, if the meta tag is effective, search engines will push your content up in the search results.
A practical way to never forget meta tags is to install a Drupal meta tag module. Once the module is active on your website, it will by default use the title of your post or page as the meta title. This is a good start, but you must use the same module to customize your meta tag.
For instance, the title may be too long for search engines and you may need to shorten it. Or, you may need to create a new one. One that is more engaging for users browsing through search results. A description must also be added to give users and search engines more information about the page content. Once again, this can be accomplished through the meta tag module.
When you edit the meta tag, do not forget to include in the meta title and meta description some of the keywords you want to target, since they will boost your SEO. Just be careful not to overload the meta tags with too many keywords. This would create the opposite result.
The meta tag module is also helpful when handling the canonical URLs. This is another important optimization for SEO purposes. In fact, what might happen is that content on your website will be perceived as duplicate content from search engines. For instance, you might have pages with both www and non-www URL versions. If this is the case, you need to add a rel=canonical tag to tell search engines which one the primary page is. If you don’t, search engines will detect duplicate content. This would be highly damaging to your SEO ranking. Through the meta tag Drupal module, you can easily set the tag on your main pages.
9. Improve Your Site Speed
Speed is pivotal for every website. If your pages do not load quickly enough, your users will leave. If the speed is not good, search engines will downgrade your website because it will not be considered good for potential users.
Luckily, there are some free tools online you can use to check the speed of your pages. You may use, for instance, Google PageSpeed tool or Pingdom. Both tools will tell you in real-time whether your website speed is good or bad.
Moreover, these tools will provide good insights on why your page is not fast enough. To gain more speed on your pages, consider the highlighted issues and act promptly to fix them.
10. Content is King
One common mistake that you want to avoid is to optimize your website for search engines and forget about your human users. It is important to find a balance between the two.
If your website is perfectly optimized for search engines, but the content doesn’t address your users’ needs, you will not have good results. Therefore, set a goal to always publish good and valuable content. Try to understand your audience and their needs. Give them the content they really need. Add value to what they already know and make your content engaging.
To achieve this result, you don’t necessarily need to publish new content all the time. It is important to constantly keep your old content up to date. When you publish fresh or updated content regularly, you are giving search engines a reason to come back and visit your site. The newly added content, if it is good, genuine, and addresses real user needs, will help you in gaining a higher rank in the search results.
11. Add Schema Markup
Schema Markup is the last step for SEO optimization that we want to consider. Schema Markup is among the newest forms of SEO optimization techniques, but by far, the least utilized. Schema Markup can help your website to rank better in the search engines.
Schema Markup consists of a code that you add to your website to tell search engines what the meaning of your data is. Through the Schema Markup, the search engine will return more informative results for the users. Therefore, the snippet you see in the search “results” looks richer with specific information for the users.
Even though Schema Markup has been created for the users’ benefit, the structure of the data will help your content ranking. Setting up the Schema Markup may be daunting for many users. This is one of the reasons why many are missing out on its benefits.
However, once again, Drupal has Schema Markup modules that facilitate the task and will add this precious data to your pages.
SEO Optimization is a game that requires planning, understanding, and a measure of patience. What you implement today, will not bring about results tomorrow. It usually takes a few weeks for search engines to digest the changes you apply. However, if you are diligent in optimizing your website, keeping yourself up to date with new trends and SEO techniques, and exercise the needed patience, you will see results.
It is great news that Drupal has several modules that can give you a helping hand in making your website SEO healthy. This is what we expect from one of the best CMS on the market. Therefore, apply all the suggestions we have given you, and you will see a positive change in your ranking on search engines.
If you need to customize your Drupal website, or if you want to take your SEO strategy to the next level, contact us. Our Drupal experts will assist you in making your website grow.