How to Leverage the Power of Drupal for Search Engine Optimization and Marketing
February 17, 2009 - Posted by Shama Kabani
Drupal is an open source content management system that was developed by Dries Buytaert in 2001. The original Drupal system was a simple message board, but was turned into a CMS (content management system) shortly afterwards.
Drupal works by having a core version (known as Drupal Core), which by itself is very powerful. What makes really makes Drupal shine, however, are the 3rd party add-ons (modules), which are contributed free-of-charge by Drupal’s extensive programming community. These modules allow you to do anything from adding a shopping cart to integrating 3rd party applications like Twitter and Facebook.
Who Uses Drupal?
Lots of companies and organizations use Drupal. I could sit here and give you examples like Amnesty International, Fast Company or even Pearl Jam, but really, when you get down to it the question becomes – why not use Drupal?
The problem with most content management systems is that they were built for a specific purpose – i.e. – creating a blog with WordPress. What’s great about the Drupal platform is that you get as close to working with a clean slate as you’ll probably ever get from a CMS.
With Drupal, your options are virtually limitless – from a simple brochure website, to a complex social network, or even an e-commerce platform.
And you can do it all with SEO and marketing friendly modules that help bring you more qualified, free Internet traffic.
Before going into some of the essential contributed modules that you have to have on your site to take full advantage of Drupal’s search capabilities, we’ll go over some of the modules that are built into Drupal’s core installation profile.
Drupal Core SEO Modules
A blog should be a core feature of any website. A blog that is consistently updated with fresh, original content will go a long way towards helping your website place well in the major search engines.
The input filter allows you to specify what users are allowed to publish. For example, you could set the input filter to disallow any html tags. A more advanced application of the Filter module is to set all links to “no-follow”, which can help the PageRank of your site.
Combined with the 3rd party modules, Pathauto, Token, Path Redirect & Global Redirect, Path allows you to create keyword rich URL aliases. For example, instead of having a URL read “www.leveltendesign.com/node/1457”, it could read, “www.leveltendesign.com/drupal-seo-guide”.
The taxonomy module allows you to create tags and categories for content. These tags and categories will automatically link out to self-organizing pages, which can show up in search, and will drastically increase your sites page count.
Third Party Drupal Modules
These are some of the most essential 3rd party modules for SEO, broken into several categories.
Statistics & Reporting
Without proper statistics and reporting measures, you’ll be flying blind with your website – you won’t know who’s visiting your site, for how long or why.
• Xml sitemap: While the version for Drupal 6 is still in development, this is still a must have module. You can configure Xml sitemap to submit your sitemap to Ask, Google, Windows Live and Yahoo! every time you run Cron on your site.
• Google analytics: Installing the Google analytics module makes it easy to insert the tracking code required by Google.
If you’re going to create a truly interactive site, you need Spam control. Both of these modules will help control or eliminate spam opportunities on your website.
There are a bevy of modules for social media integration on Drupal. These are some of our favorites from a search marketing standpoint:
• Link to us: Link to us makes it simple to create banner and text links for your site’s visitors to use when linking to your site. Currently only works with Drupal 5.
• Add This: Easily promote your sites content over the major (and minor) social networks.
• Twitter: The trendy micro-blogging platform is fully supported in Drupal. This module takes advantage of Twitter’s API to incorporate your latest Tweets into your website.
Search Engine Optimization
• Meta tags: The meta tags module allows you to create different meta tags and descriptions for each page (node) of your site.
• Page titles: Allows you to specify a different page title for each node on your site. Combined with the tokens module, you can create page title patterns and templates for your entire site.
• SEO Checklist: Gives you a basic checklist to follow of SEO best practices for your website.
W3C Compliant Template:
If you’re going to use a template on your site, it’s good practice to be sure it’s W3C compliant – that way you wont have to deal with any major coding mistakes, and your site will play nice with search engine spiders.
Start with one of these if you’re looking for a good, free, fully functional theme:
If you’ve read through this post, and feel ready to take the Drupal leap, I should warn you – there is a fairly large learning curve associated with the platform. Which is why LevelTen has created a slew of training services on our website, as well as a free Drupal distribution, the iSite Essentials, which includes all the essential Drupal modules and themes in one easy download. You can also sign up for one of our valuable training courses – like How to Build Your Own Value Driven Website in One Day, or check out the other valuable resources on our website – www.leveltendesign.com.
We hope this has opened up your eyes to the power and flexibility of Drupal – from building engaging interactive websites to simple online marketing tools. The future of the CMS universe lies in the hands of Drupal – it’s time to start learning.
About the Guest Author:
Colin Alsheimer is an Internet Marketing Specialist at LevelTen Interactive, a full service Drupal web development & Internet marketing company. Colin is a social media explorer who enjoys creative advertising and marketing geekiness.