Drupal for Web Designers – Part III SEO

Categories Articles, Drupal, Web Design

This is the third part of the new Drupal for Web Designers series written by Idan Arbel of Arbel Designs. The first two segments discussed the design and functionality of website, now we’re moving into the content.

You’ve spent many hours designing your website, and configuring it to do exactly what you want, it works and looks amazing but there’s one thing you mustn’t forget: SEO – Search Engine Optimization. In order for you website to be a success you need people to actually see it. One of the most effective ways of doing this is by allowing people to find your websites through search engines, and the big one everyone is focusing on is Google of course. SEO deals with making you website easier for Google to understand, read, remember, and get direct user who search to it.

When I think of SEO I usually split it into three parts:

  1. Content is king! The goal of a search engine is to find you what you’re looking for. You’re looking for content so when you type in a search phrase in google, you want Google to find the most relevant page for your search. The better and more relevant the content on your website to the search phrase the higher you should rank in the results. The best way to drive users to your website is to have interesting unique content – This is something Drupal can’t help you with, so let’s move on.
  2. Link Building. Google’s algorithms are pretty complex but what is easy to understand is the “Recommendation” system Google uses. If a very popular websites that has a million visitors a day “recommends” your site, then your website must have relevant, unique, quality content that might interested those million visitors. Google takes this into account and places your website higher up in the search results. The way websites “recommend” other websites is simply by linking to them. The more incoming links from high quality websites you have, the higher you will appear in Google’s search results. Again this is something Drupal can’t really help you with….moving on.
  3. The last part is the structure and meta data of your website. This is the more technical aspect and this is where Drupal does all the heavy lifting and pretty much makes this a non-issue for you. I’ll go over a few critical modules that help you out with this part.

Node Words

You’ve probably heard of meta tags, these are html tags that hold Meta Data. I like to think of meta data as more information about a certain item, in our case a webpage. The easiest example of meta data I can think of is information that is stored on a digital photo you take. The main item is the Photo, but attached to that photo there is additional information – what camera was used, the date it was taken, shutter speed, apature, location etc.. these bits of information add more info and help categorize the photo, the same applies for web pages. Webpage meta data is added to the website inside the <META> tag, and can include:

  1. Keywords – words or phrases that describe the page.
  2. Description – a short paragraph that summarizes the content.
  3. Abstract – short sentence describing the page.
  4. Copyright – copyright statement
  5. There are more but we won’t get into them…

The Nodewords module allows you to automatically insert meta tags onto your site, taking content from predefined settings, or based on the content of the page.

Page Titles

The page titles that I’m referring to here are those placed between the <TITLE> tags. These appear in the “top blue bar” in the browser on the tab. This is one of the key factors in your ranking in the search engine results, as search engines rely a lot on the title in order to understand if the page is relevant to the key words.

This module allows you to set the html page titles independently from the actual title displayed to the user, great for optimizing the html page titles specifically for search engines while keeping the actual titles optimized and clear for users.

Clear URLs + Path + Pathauto

Have you ever seen sites with urls like this http://www.mysite.com?q=page1;b=3432432; ?
Well using clear urls which is actually a core drupal setting and not a module you get nice urls that look something like: http://www.mysite.com/articles/drupal/idan-arbel/introduction-to-web-design – isn’t this much more clearer? In addition to being very clear it can contain keywords that help search engines identify and categorize your webpage in order to fit well with the keyword search. So If I have a Webdesign website with a url like this: http://www.mydesignsite.com/website-design/chicago/e-commerce/website-name then I can include a ton of relevant keywords in the url and they actually make sense. When someone will search for E-commerce web design in Chicago, having a url like that will surely help. The Path core module allows you to set custom urls for any page. Let take it up a notch with the Pathauto module – this module allows you to define URL templates to user for different pages. So if I create a new “Portfolio Website” item in my website, and give it the E-commerce category, and Chicago, I can have an automatic URL  generated like so: [my-website-base-path]/[content-type]/[category]/[location]/[title]. That’s it, don’t have to write any custom URLs anymore because Pathauto does all the work for me.

Global Redirect

This is a really technical module which deals with how other sites or pages in your own site link to other pages in your site. Making all the links end up the same so search engines doesn’t think that there is any duplicate content – which is a big no no. So what does it do you ask…a few things:

  1. Removes trailing slashes – change www.mysite.com/ to www.mysite.com
  2. Redirects drupal URLs like node/213 to the alias set using the path module category/title..etc

Path Redirect

If you’re in the process of redesigning a website, and you’re don’t really want to keep the old URL structure, path redirect allows you to redirect old pages to the new ones using 301 code which means this is a permanent redirect and search engines should use the new path from now on. Very useful in preventing broken links when rebuilding websites.

XML Sitemap

In order to have good ranking in search engines, you first need the search engine to actually find your webpages. XML sitemaps are files that include the structure of your site and are used by search engines to find and index all the pages on your site.

Google Analytics

Integration with great Google Analytics service. The module allows you to track different users, roles, file downloads, site search and simply the easiest way to add the Google Analytics code to your site.

There are many more modules but these are the basic modules, to get the job done, and done right.

That’s it for the introduction, the next article in the Drupal for webdesigner series will be “Drupal Terminology”

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Idan has been designing websites since 2001. Has a Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Design and has been using drupal as his CMS of choice for the past 4 years.

  • There is much to be said about SEO and you covered many of the basics and even a little more here.

    I always see friends all gung-ho (sp?) about starting a website and when I proceed to tell them about things such as this it is a shame that they have absolutely no idea what I am talking about.

    Spread the word about this post because it is definitely a life-saver!

  • Hi ,
    These are good points given in this article.Nice to see..
    I would like to share something about drupal .See normally all web designers and developers like and enjoy doing creation and managing with drupal..because it So friendly with all.Moreover it consists many themes ,modules to make a work simple way..thats why its love by all..


  • MattiV

    You know what would also be good for both SEO and usability? Since this appears to be the “part III”, having links to the earlier parts would be really helpful, in case a lazy web designer wants to get a nice set of “Drupal for Web Designers” guides, starting from the first one, but only happens to find this one in Google ;)

    So, where are the parts I and II?

  • Hi,
    It really help the freshers to know about drupal and one more thing if you add video tutorial about installation of these module it’ll be easy for the freshers to develop and implement the websites.

  • Hi!

    What is CLEAR URL module??? I am using Drupal for so long but I am using
    CLEAN URL to create a SEO friendly url. mmmm I’m thinking to use clearURL module.

    Did you create the clearURL module is it same with CleanURL?