There are no magic bullets for Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Even in Drupal there are no quick fixes to get your site to the top. However, Drupal is open source and there are many people out there with the same problem. That means there are people out there working to make Drupal accessible and helpful for SEO. That also means there are people at Appnovation working to ensure the best delivery to clients as possible.
Before I get into too many details, let's just quickly review the three major steps for SEO and marketing.
- Set up site to be crawled by search engines
If you're new to SEO, you might think that's funny. If you're a veteran to SEO, you know that is the truth. We don't know exactly how the algorithm works for Google or Bing. But we can make an educated guess with their respective Webmaster tools.
Neither Google nor Bing are trying to make it difficult to implement good SEO practices. They have provided guides and tools to help. Here are some examples:
Having that in mind, let's get back to Drupal and SEO Tools. What does Drupal have to offer to help SEO from being open source? Quite simply, four great modules being shared that help to accomplish step 1.
Let's start off with SEO Checklist. To get started with SEO, you'll need a site that can be crawled. There are many configurations and many practices that need to be followed to maximize the potential of the site being crawled. That's where SEO Checklist comes in. It tries to offer the most comprehensive list of tasks that needs to be accomplished so that the site can be crawled by Google or Bing. That checklist includes setting up accounts with Google and Bing's Webmaster Tools, getting analytics setup, ensuring the submission of sitemap to Google and Bing, creating meta tags for pages, and having proper friendly links. Accomplishing the list really opens up the site so that SEO can happen.
SEO Checklist also mentions other great modules to accomplish the list. The first and basic one is Meta Tags. A page is created. When a crawler gets to the page it needs to determine what that page is about. Having a module like Meta Tags helps ensure that there is a place to include all of the relevant information such as: description, keywords, original source, copyright, canoncical URL, etc. and other configurations.
When a page is created, Drupal typically creates a /node/1732 as a URL for a page. We can also set an alias to be /contact. That works for humans, but for a crawler that can lead to some confusion. Now there's two links to the same page. Sometimes they'll see two links and think it's the same page even though it's not. We can't be certain if a crawler will get through the site correctly. That's why URLs needs to be normalized: identify duplicate links, follow a pattern to URL generation, and properly redirect pages. That's what Pathauto attempts to achieve. Following good practices for URLs with Pathauto removes these problematic scenarios.
With the pages created with meta tags, and urls normalized so it's easily navigated, the site should now be easy to crawl, right? Perhaps, but for new sites and even existing sites, the more help that is given to the search engine, the better the site can be crawled. Both Google and Bing conform to the sitemaps.org specification xml so it can know exactly how to crawl through the site. All we need to do is generate an appropriate one to submit. XML sitemap helps to do just that. With the SEO Checklist reminding you to create the appropriate webmaster account and uploading the files, it should make crawling the site much easier.
We've just touched the surface. There are other things like 301 redirects (permanently moved pages), 404 pages (Page not found), and robot.txt files (what to exclude from being crawled, like gateways). Then there's step 2 which includes backlink content, fresh content, keywords, keyword density, RSS feeds, social media, external linking, crossing linking, analytics, and many more activities. SEO is endless in practices and engagement. Appnovation is always learning, being flexible and ensuring that the best practice is in place. That way we can offer the best solutions we possibly can.