Developers Corner

SEO Best Practices - A Technical Perspective

Aug. 27 2018
Christoph Weber
Christoph Weber
Director of Technology Services

Below are some of the key technical components that are required for a sound SEO strategy presented by our Director of Technical Services, Christoph Weber. Christoph has deep technical SEO experience and has vast proven experience within the field.

SEO Checklist Module

One of the benefits of Drupal contributed modules is how they can make ongoing tasks more efficient. The SEO Checklist module formulates a to-do list of search engine optimization best practices to help you keep track of which SEO tasks you’ve done and which tasks still need doing. The module is written and updated regularly by the foremost SEO expert in the Drupal community, Ben Finklea.

 

Google Search Console

It’s always considered best practice to register your website with Google and use Google Search Console to monitor your website’s performance in search results. With Search Console, you can see which keywords bring you the most traffic, you can submit sitemaps, set up alerts from the Google Search team and more. It’s an easy, free way to gather actionable data you can use to improve your website.

 

Bing Webmaster Tool

While Google is usually at the forefront of search-engine-related conversations, with it comes congestion and competition. Bing Search engine can provide additional opportunities for organic leads and should not be overlooked. With Bing Webmaster Tools you have analytics, reporting and diagnostic tools to help you set your site up for success.

 

Google Analytics or other analytics tool

Google Analytics is the undisputed frontrunner of website analytics. The sheer amount of information at your disposal and the ability to broaden and customize metrics, has made it a cornerstone for analyzing traffic and measuring marketing effectiveness.

 

Pro Tip: You can connect Google Analytics with the Google Search Console to see helpful SEO information from inside your Google Analytics account.

 

For a self hosted alternative, you can use Matomo. Matomo is a PHP/MYSQL-based open source analytics platform that slots in very nicely alongside Drupal into the same server tech stack.

Matomo’s main benefits are:

  • 100% data ownership

  • Built-in privacy (e.g. GDPR) compliance features

  • A useful mobile app

 

Publish an XML Sitemap

An XML sitemap is essentially a roadmap or blueprint of your website. It can boost your SEO because it helps search engine bots find and crawl all of the important pages on your website, even if there are no internal links that lead directly to them. Luckily, Drupal’s XML Sitemap module makes it easy to create a sitemap and submit it to various search engines. You can use either the module’s search engine integration to notify it of new or updated sitemaps, list the sitemap URL in robots.txt, or submit the sitemap in Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools.

 

Use HTTPS

The HTTPS protocol is the new communication standard favored by search engines and browsers because it keeps your personal information, and to some extent, browsing habits, safe from eavesdropping. Google has recently started using HTTPS as a ranking factor and Chrome browsers are now marking non-HTTPS as insecure. This is a huge blow to your SEO if your website falls under that category. Be sure to switch your site from HTTP to HTTPS if you haven’t already.  

 

Optimize site speed

Studies show that site speed and conversion rate are closely linked. A slow-loading page can dramatically increase your bounce rate. Correspondingly, Google and other search engines also use site speed to rank pages.

 

Site speed is a very diverse topic, but there are often a few relatively low-hanging fruit:

 

 

  • Page caching

  • Aggregate JS and CSS

  • Use a CDN to deliver static assets

  • Minimize image file sizes

  • Use HTTP/2

  • Use of a caching proxy in front (Cloudflare, Varnish or Nginx)

  • Use of memory-based cache tiers, such as memcache

Mobile-Friendly Site

Your mobile audience accounts for a large, and growing, percentage of your overall traffic. So to improve the mobile experience, Google has recently launched a new “Mobile-First Index.” This means that a website that follows mobile-first indexing best practices is likely to rank higher in the search results for mobile users. With Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test, you can obtain usability reports on your website’s mobile performance.

 

Fix broken links

A broken link is created when a link is incorrect, misspelled or when the linked web page has moved without being redirected. Search engines aim to provide users with a positive experience. Broken links provide the opposite. So when a search engine crawls your website and detects a broken link, it hurts your SEO. Fortunately, there are plenty of tools to help you find broken links, such as Link Checker on Drupal and Check My Link for Google Chrome.

 

Metatags

Metatags help describe page content to search engines and other bots, and are an essential tool to optimize SEO. With the Drupal Metatag module, you can provide search engines with machine-readable data, such as the meta descriptions and keywords. The Metatag module covers pretty much all use cases, including social network integration, and should be fully configured on any Drupal site.

 

Structured data

Structured data output helps search engines understand content better. Moreover, structured data can yield more visually engaging snippets on search results pages which attract attention and improve click-through rates. We have seen firsthand how snippets rich with rating stars and other color highlights can double a website’s click-through rate. The Drupal Schema.org Metatag module covers all schemas for which Google currently renders enhanced search snippets. Structured data should always be tested in Google’s Structured Data Testing tool.

 

Optimize image names and ALT tags

Image optimization is a great way to provide Google with another layer of searchable metadata. Google, despite its formidable AI efforts, is still quite bad at recognizing and classifying images. While naming images to describe what is in the image is an editorial task, we can assist editors by enforcing the use of ALT tags. These are short descriptions of the image and they can improve your SEO, especially if your ALT tags include a keyword.

 

Use Short URLs

Short URLs are preferable for various reasons. They’re easier to understand for both Google and your visitors. Try and avoid many levels of nested sections, especially if the nested site section names don’t carry information. This is an information architecture technique. The ideal length of a URL is 60 characters long or less.

 

Bad: https://www.mysite.com/section/a/tools/misc/this-super-awesome-tool-that-you-cant-overlook

 

Much better:
https://www.mysite.com/tools/awesome-utility-dont-miss

 

Notice the shorter length and the omission of “section”,  “a” and “misc” parts in the URL. From a semantic perspective, these components are meaningless and provide no useful information.

 

Resources

Some other resources:

https://www.drupal.org/project/seo_checklist

https://backlinko.com/seo-checklist

https://backlinko.com/search-engine-ranking

 

 

 

 

 

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