Jumping to Drupal Will Help Your Search Engine Results



June 16, 2007

I was contacted by a company earlier this week that wanted to enhance their search engine results and wanted to incorporate some dynamic aspects to their website to help them do this. After looking at their site and thinking about our experience with SEO I thought that there would be some huge advantages to migrating their site over to this Content Management System.In this blog post I want to highlight some of the steps that I proposed to make the shift from a static HTML site to an optimized Drupal site. There are a number of details of exactly how I would configure Drupal that I have described elsewhere so won't describe them again. Set up a development Drupal site and migrate the existing content from the live site. This gives you the immediate advantage of giving your visitors a site specific search engine to access your site. Using the Sitemenu module will ensure that there are links with the hierarchy of your site which are also visible to your users and to spiders. Set up whatever Drupal modules are required to do this (survey, links, faq & sitemap).Search engines are visually impaired, so replace any javascript or flash navigation with Drupal's Nice Menu's so that it will be more accessible and also allow for a nice drop-down effect. Similarly, make sure all images also use alt tags so that Google knows how to reference them. Although this is possible to do in a properly designed static site, accessible drop-downs are not the norm. For the same reason, make sure your site validates. When migrating content to Drupal ensure that relevant pages named with paths that reflect the keywords that you want the search engines to respond to. For example switch: example.com/sih.htmlto: example.com/north_shore_surfingEnsure that there is a proper redirect from the old URL. Make sure to watch the error logs to see that people with links to the old content are redirected to somewhere other than a 404 page. It is possible to set up human readable URLs if the web designer has been conscious of this when developing the site, the Path Auto module does this by default.Create a nice 404 page that provides users either related information or at least a search form to find more. Spend the time to create proper 301 redirects for major content. There are a number of useful modules to help you better manage the 404 errors that your visitors see including the Search404 module which attempts to search for the terms found in the URL and find the correct content for you. Drupal's logs also allow you to see which missing url is getting the most hits so that you can deal prioritize them.Make sure to have a properly set up blog and spend the time adding information to it. Each blog post should have a title and a path which reflects the search terms that you care about. Submit RSS feeds to relevant feed aggregators. Look for opportunities to re-use content wherever possible (this post was based on my initial email with the client). Publishing RSS feeds is easy with Drupal and does give your users the ability to view your site as they choose. With the TinyMCE WYSIWYG editor installed it is easy to migrate content to Drupal from other documents.Use an aggregator to pull RSS feeds to pull in relevant information from other related sites. Fresh content is always good for search engines and links to external sites has proven to add credibility. There are a number of modules that allow you to do this with different levels of control with Aggregation & Leech being the latest.Explore existing social networking sites like Flickr. Having links from very popular websites will help your ranking in its own right, but more importantly it will help build community around your service or product. Encouraging your clients to start tagging photos they have taken and set up a group which your clients can join. Not all photos included in this need to be "professional" quality images, especially if you are wanting to get your clients to contribute too. Remember that some Web 2.0 services are now allowing you to post pictures and video's directly from your cell phone. There are times when you'd want to keep a photo gallery on-site, but it should be done for a reason. Drupal has some pretty good image display tools and they keep getting better all of the time.After the new site has been launched set up a XML sitemap for search engines and submit this to Google & Yahoo. This will require that you sign up for Google & Yahoo's webmaster tools. It will be important to check from time to time to ensure that the site is being properly indexed. Put the address into your robots.txt file so that other bots can find it too. Re-submit your site to a few other major search engines that are actually directing traffic to your site. You could create a XML sitemap by hand to reflect a static site and it could also assist search engines, but it would take a lot off work to maintain. Add page specific meta tags to your site by adding the Meta Tags module. This is a lower priority but potentially useful for some search engines. Add Google Analytics and the related Drupal module to your site for better page/referrer tracking.These are some of the many reasons why moving your static site (created by FrontPage, DreamWeaver, Composer or any other desktop editor) to a dynamic site driven by Drupal can really help your rankings.

Note: After publishing this blog post it rose to the number one position in Google in just a few days.

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About The Author

Mike Gifford is the founder of OpenConcept Consulting Inc, which he started in 1999. Since then, he has been particularly active in developing and extending open source content management systems to allow people to get closer to their content. Before starting OpenConcept, Mike had worked for a number of national NGOs including Oxfam Canada and Friends of the Earth.