If you have chosen to build your website on Drupal 8 and are looking for ways to optimize SEO performance, then this article was written specifically for you.
You’re probably already aware that Drupal is a powerful and highly customizable Content Management System (CMS). However, there is no point in spending a lot of money on a powerful CMS if your website is not visible to the audience you’re trying to reach.
It’s crucial to up your SEO game, especially now when the outside world is on a standstill and people turn to the WWW to find the answers, solutions, products and services they need.
We’re going to show you how to take advantage of Drupal 8 SEO modules and implement effective SEO techniques. Even though search algorithms do change from time to time, a lot of this information will still be helpful to adjust your strategy and to improve your ranking on Google's search engine results pages (SERPs).
Let’s dive in.
Drupal gives you a great SEO head start
Drupal is said to be the best search engine friendly content management system. It already comes with powerful, built-in SEO functionalities and was designed to perform well on search engines.
However, that doesn’t mean that Drupal will automatically do what is needed to get your website on Google’s first results page.
You will still have to implement SEO measures and adjust your SEO strategy as you go along. But Drupal has several modules that can help you play the SEO game, in the best way possible.
1 - Guarantee the basics
Keep Drupal 8 up-to-date and your website secure
Google prefers websites that are safe and secure. Make sure your Drupal 8 version is up to date by installing the latest releases and security updates. Additionally, new releases can include new features to help improve the overall user experience.
Since July 2018, Google is flagging (and shaming) websites that don’t have SSL certificates (use https) as “not secure” and has included it as a ranking factor. To ensure that doesn’t happen to your website, check if you have a valid SSL certificate in place.
The SSL certificate is especially important to secure credit card payments, money transactions, logins, data transfers, etc. The lock next to your website name in the address bar, lets users - and Google - know it’s safe to access and to make payments without risk.
If you’re not a techie and don’t know how to update Drupal or install an SSL certificate, find an experienced developer or agency to do it for you.
Always think Mobile First
Yes, Drupal 8 is mobile ready, with built-in responsive design capabilities. But similarly to SEO, this doesn’t mean that all elements of your website will automatically work well on mobile devices.
Google’s algorithm is not friendly with websites that are not optimised for mobile, so make sure you choose a Drupal theme that is responsive and performs well on mobile devices. Check carefully how your pages render on mobile devices, make the necessary changes and test your website.
You can choose from hundreds of responsive themes available for Drupal 8.
The Need for better PageSpeed
Your SEO ranking is also impacted by how fast your website is. If your site takes too long to load, people will get impatient and abandon it and therefore, you will have a higher bounce rate. This tells search engines that your website’s content is not relevant to users and your ranking will suffer.
Google has a tool called PageSpeed Insights that scores your website pages according to the performance on both mobile and desktop devices, and provides suggestions on how those pages can be improved. For example, it knows if images are correctly optimised and what your server response time is.
If you don't work on getting a decent score here then your SEO is going down. A score of 90 or above is considered fast, and 50 to 90 is considered moderate. Below 50 is considered to be slow.
You don’t have to aim for 100/100, but work through each step of the report and take the actions to improve the page speed.
2 - Connect your website to search engines
Your website can only be categorized and ranked, if search engines can crawl it. This is where Robots.txt and sitemap.xml come in.
Robots.txt is a simple text file which instructs search engine robots or spiders how to crawl and index your website's pages and content.
Sitemap.xml is an XML file which lists every URL for your website and reads related information: when it was last updated, how often it changes, weight of importance compared to other pages on the website.
Usually, Drupal website owners forget or underestimate having a sitemap. You can even include or exclude certain pages from the sitemap of your website, managing what should or should not be indexed, thus optimizing your SEO efforts.
You should definitely include both files to make your site easy for search engines to crawl and index. Install the XML sitemap module to automatically create and update an XML sitemap for your Drupal 8 website.
3 - Clean URLs
URLs can have a good or bad impact on your SEO. It all depends on whether your URLs can be understood by search engines and users. In other words, your website’s URLs have to be readable, descriptive, and short.
For example, if you have a page about iPhone cases, your original URL may be similar to this:
It should instead look like this:
Drupal 8 has a module than can help automatically define a neat URL structure, converting bad URLs into clean URLs. Install Pathauto to make your life easier and score SEO points.
4 - Avoid 404 errors & redirect
Links can greatly benefit or greatly hurt your website’s SEO. There are three types of links - inbound, outbound and internal.
Inbound links or backlinks have a huge impact in boosting your SEO - these links come in from other websites to your website and take time to build.
Outbound links are all of the links that point out to other websites - for example, to social media accounts, to a news article, a specific case study or another company.
Internal links are all of the links on your website which point to other pages of your website.
Ideally, you have to find the balance between inbound, outbound and internal links, but first and foremost, you have to make sure they are not broken or out of date.
When a page can’t be found on your website, it will return a 404 error. It’s a bad experience for the user and it sends a bad signal to search engines. Therefore, you have to check your website regularly for 404 pages: just add "/admin/reports/page-not-found" to the end of your domain to get a Drupal report.
The easiest way to resolve common 404 errors is to put a URL redirect in place. This will improve the user experience and prevent a build up of 404 reports which is damaging to your SEO. The Redirect module will redirect traffic from the invalid URL to the valid one, without losing the SEO value already acquired by the old one.
5 - Value Your Meta Tags
Meta tags can make a big difference to your SEO ranking. Meta tags are the snippets of text that you see in Google’s search results when you search for a topic. Apart from informing the user about the content of the page, meta tags help search engines understand what your page is about.
Obviously, effective meta tags can help attract more traffic by giving people a reason to visit your website. It will create more engagement and push your content up in the search results.
You have meta tags for the page title, the description, social media, etc. Drupal’s Meta Tag module provides structured metadata for your website and lets you edit your meta tags within the CMS, to make them as engaging and relevant as possible for users and search engines.
When you edit the meta tag, try to include in the meta title and meta description some of the keywords you want to target. But avoid keyword stuffing if you don’t want to create the opposite result.
The meta tag module is also useful for handling canonical URLs. It can happen that search engines perceive content on your website as duplicate content for various reasons: URL variants, HTTP vs. HTTPS or WWW and non-www pages. For SEO optimization purposes, you should add a rel=canonical tag to tell search engines which one is the primary page.
Install the meta tag module to edit your meta tags within Drupal 8 and boost your SEO.
6 - To-do-lists and SEO checkers
It’s always helpful to eliminate guesswork and have someone or something to tell us exactly what still needs to be done, what needs to be checked or improved.
Drupal 8 has modules that are directly focused on SEO optimization.
Real-time SEO for Drupal
You can improve your Drupal SEO by optimizing content around keywords in a fast, natural way. This module also checks the appropriate length of your posts, if subheadings are included, if your title tag and meta description are in line with SEO recommendations and scores the SEO of your piece of content in real time.
This module creates a to-do list of functional modules and tasks which need to be undertaken to improve your website's SEO. It is also regularly updated by the community to provide you with the best trends and fresh practices to make search engine optimization a hassle-free job.
Last but not least, when it comes to SEO, content is king! Feeding your website with new or updated, engaging and unique content on a regular basis, is one of the most important elements to boost your SEO, especially if it gets shared and starts gaining online authority.
So get creative and produce relevant and unique content for your target audience, from articles to case studies, landing pages to downloadable content.
You can decide to up your SEO game today, but don’t expect immediate results by tomorrow. It takes planning, adjustments and patience. Fortunately for you, Drupal 8 makes the task easier and hopefully these tips can take you a step further in the SEO game.