Wednesday, 23 January 2013

7 Steps to Better SEO On Your Drupal Site

Kill Your Splash Page

OK, maybe you can think of some great reason to have a splash page, but it's almost certainly going to hurt your SEO. Search engine crawlers show up at your site to try to find out what it's all about and the typical Flash or multimedia home page doesn't give them a lot to work with.
Splash pages have been steadily losing popularity but they're still out there, particularly on sites for musicians and other artists. Cool or not, Google expects your home page to have important information about your site and a huge Flash file isn't going to cut it when it comes to SEO. The really terrible thing is some splash pages not only can't be read by search engine crawlers, but they also prevent the rest of the site from being indexed.

Understand Keywords for Improved SEO

Keywords are the words or phrases that your users submit as a search query to one of the search engines, and they are one of the most important parts of optimizing for search engines. There are a number of important guidelines to follow with keywords that include a few Dos and a couple of Don'ts.
  • DO place keywords in the title. Obviously, search engines pay close attention to the words and phrases placed in your <title> tag. Using thePage Title module can be a big help in setting separate titles for the page and your content. 
  • DO place your keywords in h1, h2 and h3 tags.
  • DO place important keywords at the top of your content. The keywords that are near the top of your content carry more weight than those lower on the page.
  • DO place keywords in your final paragraph. Google understands that important words and phrases are frequently included in a closing paragraph.
  • DON'T engage in keyword stuffing. I can't emphasize this enough! It will hurt your ranking if Google thinks you’re cramming extra keywords into your content so you can boost your results. A general rule of thumb is to keep your keyword density to less than 5%.
  • DON'T use the wrong keywords. If you're not sure which keywords work best for a particular piece of content there are services that can be of help. Wordtracker is one such service, but there are many others. Also avoid overly general keywords. It can be tough to compete on a keyword as common as say, 'Drupal'.
One final note about using keywords. It's important to write naturally. If your writing sounds stilted or robotic because you’re trying to put too many keywords into the content, you’re on the wrong path. Creating content that works for both people and search engines takes time, but the effort pays off.

Create SEO Friendly URLs

By default Drupal generates URLs that look something like: As far as SEO is concerned, this is a problem. Fortunately, help is at your disposal with clean URLs and the wonderful PathAuto module. Clean URLs is actually a setting in Drupal which can be enabled if your web server has the Apache mod_rewrite module installed.
PathAutho is possibly one of the most powerful Drupal SEO modules and will allow you to leverage the power of the Token module to get your URLs in shape. I would recommend using it to make sure descriptive, keyword-filled URLs are a part of every node you publish.

Nurture Inbound Links

A big factor in search rankings is having inbound links to your website. But this is definitely a case where quality trumps quantity. I've seen people spend a lot of time trading links with low quality sites that seem to specialize in little else. Google is quite good at identifying a link from a reputable site vs. one from a link farm, and if you're spending your time on the latter, it's time wasted.

Create Quality Content

Earlier this year Google released an update to its search algorithm called Panda. Overnight, many web managers saw their sites disappear from search listings.
Matt Cutts, one of the engineers who worked on the update explained, "This update is designed to reduce rankings for low quality sites - sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful. At the same time, it will provide better rankings for high quality sites - sites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on."
Creating quality content also helps with the previous point about inbound links. Think about it, if people like your content they'll link to it or share it via social media, and few things get Google's attention more quickly than lots of incoming links from reputable sites.
One last thing to keep in mind when creating content is its length. You don't need to write a novel, but it should be a minimum of 300 words.

Optimize Images

It's become standard to include an ALT attribute on images for accessibility reasons, but it can also help your Drupal SEO. Placing keywords in the ALT and TITLE attributes of images help optimize their search potential. A less well known tip regarding images is to give them keyword-filled file names. Imagine you're selling a great Drupal theme on your site with a high-res screenshot of your handiwork. Instead of 'screenshot.jpg', try naming it with the same type of keyword-filled name you assign to your URLs. A good file name can be as important as the ALT attribute.

Optimize Internal Links

Not everyone realizes that having links to other pages on their site can help search engines notice them. For example, let's say you have a series of posts on module building. To point search engines in the right direction, make sure you create links between the posts in the series. An important aspect of all links is the anchor text. Instead of “click here”, use a more descriptive term to increase the relevance of the link.

Wrapping It Up

SEO is something all site administrators should be familiar with, and although SEO can get quite sophisticated, the basics are within the reach of everyone and can help your site's search rankings significantly. I've written another post that specifically discusses a few of the best Drupal SEO modules that can help you implement these best practices and more.

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