The Drupal content management system has been around for almost two decades. Like it’s better-known CMS cousin WordPress, Drupal is based on open source code that’s both heavily supported and widely used. It powers many of the web’s largest websites and is an attractive option for web developers thanks to a flexible “node”-based structure that offers unparalleled flexibility.
Of course, the CMS you use needs to be able to perform well for SEO. Whether it’s to optimize an enterprise website or a smaller one, you’ll need to know how well your website will be able to compete in the online marketplace.
So, how should you optimize your Drupal site for SEO? Read on for the 5 tips you should follow to optimize your Drupal installation for SEO. But first, let’s clear up some common misconceptions about Drupal’s SEO performance.
WordPress vs Drupal SEO: Is Drupal bad for SEO?
Is Drupal bad for SEO? No. In fact, both WordPress and Drupal have excellent SEO performance — as long as they’re optimized properly. It all boils down to your preference, the size of your website, and how you deploy it.
Drupal tends to be the CMS of choice for large, enterprise-level websites thanks to the flexibility and customization capabilities of its node structure. It provides developers with a highly sophisticated level of access to the core functionality and eschews (to a degree) user-friendliness over modification ability.
WordPress, on the other hand, caters to almost everyone else. While it’s not as flexible or customizable as Drupal, it has a robust suite of off-the-shelf plugins that let non-developers install, maintain, and customize their websites with relative ease.
At the end of the day, both perform exceptionally well, and neither one has a particular SEO advantage. So it all depends on how well you optimize your SEO settings.
Drupal 8 SEO vs Drupal 9 SEO
Drupal 9.0 was released in June 2020 and is designed as a long-term replacement for Drupal 8. While it offers a range of improvements centered around ease-of-use and innovation, it doesn’t currently offer any significant SEO benefits over Drupal 8.
That being said, the improvements in media management and content creation can make it easier for a non-SEO expert to improve SEO values. Still, it’s probably better to wait for a more mature release before considering upgrading your existing Drupal 8 installation.
How to do SEO on Drupal: 5 SEO tips to improve your rankings
1. Use the Drupal SEO Checklist and Drupal SEO Checker modules
Of all the available modules to help with your SEO, the Drupal SEO Checklist module is a no-brainer to use. It takes the guesswork out of SEO optimization, giving you a to-do list of action items to complete, broken down into areas like Tags, Paths, Content, and others.
The module assumes you have a basic knowledge of SEO, with the ability to update modules and dependencies as needed. So while it won’t replace having a solid SEO strategy, it will guide you to fix errors that may interfere with your search rankings. It’s basically a Drupal equivalent to the WordPress Yoast SEO plugin.
It’s also ideal for administrators who have to juggle multiple Drupal installations at once. The checklist time- and date-stamps completed tasks, acting as a record SEO optimization tasks on various sites. You’ll be able to access shareable reporting that makes configuring multi-Drupal installations a breeze.
Also of note, the SEO Compliance Checker module will perform a quick SEO check every time node content is added or updated. It checks SEO performance whenever a user saves or previews content, allowing you to make suggested changes before publishing.
2. Drupal SEO metatag optimization
There’s still no substitute for using proper metatags on your site, as Google’s algorithm still puts a significant amount of weight into using metadata as a ranking factor.
If you don’t optimize your tags, you’re essentially leaving it up to the search engines to determine how to extract schema data from and classify your site. While Drupal does let you optimize your metatags, however, it can be time-consuming to configure everything manually.
That’s where the Metatag module comes in. A revamp of the deprecated Nodewords module, Metatag lets you set structured metadata for your site automatically, across all nodes. It not only provides optimized data to Google’s schema, but it also supports metadata optimization for social media including Facebook’s Open Graph Protocol and Twitter Cards.
The Schema.org Metatag module extends the Metatag module’s functionality even further, arranging data as JSON functions within the content headings, allowing you to create a subset of Schema metadata to help give search engines a much narrower focus. A growing number of subcategories are currently supported, such as “Person”, “Movie”, “TVSeries”, “JobPosting”, and more.
This combination of search and social media meta optimization can do wonders for how your data appears on a variety of platforms. With so many users trying to find content in multiple channels, the Metatag module can dramatically improve your overall SEO performance.
3. Optimize website speed
Having a fast and secure website is a critical technical SEO factor. Fortunately, Drupal builds several speed-boosting services into the code, eliminating the need to install third-party modules to do the same tasks.
Drupal 8 and 9 employ fast caching technology that reduces database access time dramatically, delivering pages significantly faster. The fact that fast caching is natively integrated is a bonus since most other CMS installations force you to use modules or plugins to complete the task.
Regardless, you’ll want to make sure that you pay attention to these website speed factors:
- Having a responsive design
- Using the Advanced CSS/JS Aggregation module to compress your code and improve content delivery speed
- Using the Picture module to compress and optimize your images
How to check your site speed SEO settings in Drupal
In Drupal 7 or 8, you can check your site speed SEO settings by clicking /admin/config/development/performance. This brings up a performance measurement and benchmarking portal that lets you measure and optimize settings including cache speed, bandwidth settings, and more.
4. Tweak your Drupal URL structure
Fortunately, both Drupal 8 and 9 establish a clean URL structure from the start. While you can’t natively change the URL structure afterward, it ensures that you won’t have to deal with messy links that can be detrimental to your SEO efforts.
There are several Drupal modules you can use to help you optimize your URL structure.
Pathauto is a must-have module on your Drupal installation. It automatically translates nodes into SEO-friendly URLs, so you don’t have to manually change a title from the node number to a readable link every time you publish content.
As well, the Redirect module gives you the ability to create manual redirects, removing the challenge of having to manually update broken or updated links. It creates a 301 redirect for all content, ensuring that your content will always remain accessible even after an update.
5. Configure your sitemaps for Drupal SEO
A key SEO best practice is to help Google and other search engines index your site. This is typically done by creating XML sitemaps that help guide the crawl bots and get a proper picture of your site structure.
Since Google has to “learn” what your site is all about, it relies on several signal factors to help it properly index it. There is a variety of modules that can help you accomplish this.
The Drupal XML Sitemap module is a basic plugin that does what its name suggests. It’s a no-frills module that simply generates an XML sitemap that Google and other search engines can crawl — a simple yet effective way to help your site’s SEO. It’s another must-have addition to your installation.
Next, make sure that you’ve installed the Google Analytics module. It links to your Google Analytics account dashboard and provides critical user tracking data, as well as data for your Google Ads. But more importantly, it gives Google “back-end” access to your site, which helps it to glean more about your website’s intent and, if optimized properly, can help with your SEO.
Setting up automated Cron tasks to generate a new XML sitemap whenever website content is added or updated will ensure that your sitemaps are always current. You can also set up cron tasks to perform routine system maintenance tasks like cleaning up logs and cache data, which can also have a positive impact on your site speed and SEO.
But there’s more to site structure optimization than XML sitemaps. The Menu Breadcrumbs module adds breadcrumbs to your site’s navigation, which adds definite SEO value. And finally, the Taxonomy Title module ensures that you have an optimal heading tag (H1, H2, H3, etc) hierarchy in your content, which is another key SEO optimization tactic.
Follow these Drupal SEO tips for maximum performance
Drupal provides both built-in and modular SEO flexibility that will deliver powerful SEO performance for your site. Before you do anything else, make sure you follow these 5 Drupal SEO tips that will help your business website fly in the search rankings.
With over 12 years of experience helping organizations around the world improve their websites’ visibility for improved conversions, Miromind delivers proven SEO strategies that will help you meet your business goals. Contact us to get started, and learn how we can take your sales to the next level.