9 Reasons Why Drupal is the Best CMS for SEO
Here is a question that Volacci gets quite often: “Why is Drupal a better choice than Joomla! or WordPress for SEO?” That question is, indeed, subjective. The answer depends upon what exactly you want your site to do. Do you simply want a blog that you can post to a few times a week? Then WordPress is probably your best bet. Joomla? Well, we are still trying to figure out when Joomla is better... Here is an answer we can give you that isn’t subjective.
If you are in need of a search engine-friendly website built with an open source content management system (CMS), Drupal is your knight in shining armor. Drupal is a great platform for building your website. It is a very powerful system that can be used for large, complex sites like www.whitehouse.gov, www.mensa.org, and http://www.lefigaro.fr, the oldest and second-largest newspaper in France. Some other sites you may also have heard of include: The Discovery Channel, Warner Bros. Records, The United Nations, and General Motors.
It’s widely believed that Drupal is one of the best choices if you want to rank well in the search engines. I personally believe that it’s hands-down the best possible platform for SEO. I’ve seen clients triple their traffic within a few weeks of switching from a lesser platform. How did they do it? Here are 9 reasons why Drupal is the best CMS for SEO.
#1 – Search Engine-Optimized URLs
Unlike WordPress, Drupal gives you complete control over URL structure. Each item of content created in Drupal (called a node) can be given a custom URL, called a URL alias. In WordPress, you are generally limited to one type of permalink URL for all posts. You can override it, but it’s much less specific than Drupal’s URL aliases. For years, Joomla lacked in search engine-friendly URLs and the ability to fix them. They now offer a built-in “search engine-friendly” functionality, but it lacks the functionality and control over the URL’s parameters.
You can upgrade for just under a bill to an SEF Advance, or you can download The SEO Checklist Module for Drupal for free, which provides a checklist of Drupal SEO best practices. Here are some other Drupal core modules that make Drupal very SEO-friendly.
Path Module Upon installing Drupal 6, the “clean” URL test runs automatically and will show the results. But clean URLs are not enough. Search engines look at the URL for keywords just like they look at the Page Title or body content. That means that a site with keywords in the URL path will rank better than a site without them. Drupal’s core installation also includes the Path module, which allows you to write Search engine-optimized URLs. You can turn on the Path module by following these steps: Visit the link, http://www.yourDrupalsite.com/admin/build/modules or go to the admin screen and click on Modules.
1. Find the Core - optional section and then find Path.
2. Add a check in the box.
3. Click on Save configuration.
Now visit http://www.yourDrupalsite.com/admin/user/permissions or go to Admin | User management | Permissions and give permissions to users that need to create custom paths.
You can also install and use the PathAuto Module, which automates custom URL structures for each different content type, so you don’t have to manually write them every time. However, this reduces the control you have over how optimized the URL actually is. The Global Redirect Module also automatically 301 redirects the internal Drupal URL to the custom URL alias.
#2 – Custom Content Types and Views
Content types like: “blog posts”, “articles”, “news stories”, “podcasts”, “sales forms”, and “tutorials” can be created and displayed in a variety of ways. While most content management systems require additional written code for creating these types, no programming knowledge is required to do them in Drupal. Here is THE introduction to Views by Lullabot, a major player in the Drupal community, called How To Build Flickr in Drupal.
#3 – Ease of Editing and Revisions
Even the most professional companies make mistakes. Last week I found two spelling errors on CNN.com’s homepage, and, ironically, one of the misspelled words was errors (which was spelled erros for about an hour before the mistake was corrected). In Drupal, you can save a new version of your pages every time they are edited. That means that you can even go back and view or revert to old versions of web pages. The ease of editing and revisions management in Drupal make it very easy to keep optimized when you are making changes faster than the Cleveland Browns.
#4 – The Organizational Wizardry of Taxonomy
Drupal has a very powerful, built-in taxonomy system that allows to organize and tag content with keyword-rich terms. Each Drupal “vocabulary” should be limited to certain content types, as free tagging in this main content category creates too many categories and becomes a nightmare to maintain. For example, you use free tagging for types of content like blogs or products, while your news or tutorial sections might have a different vocabulary that can only be selected from an existing list of categories. You can also have hierarchical categories, with single or multiple parent categories. But don’t get crazy and deep with it. It is a good rule of thumb that no page of content is more than three clicks from the home page. The closer the node is to the home page, the more important Google thinks it is, and the higher that individual page will rank. Drupal’s advanced taxonomy features, combined with CCK and Views, also allows you to rank for long-tailed keywords that make up a thorough SEO campaign.
#5 - Multiple User Management
Drupal is almost as well-known for its community as it is for being easily optimized. That is because Drupal was designed for community-based websites, and has a strong user role and access control functionality. You can easily create multiple custom user roles, each with custom access levels, and do this as many times as you want or need. Here are some examples: “anonymous visitor”, “authenticated user”, “editor”, “webmaster”, “admin”, and “moderator”. You can also keep the advanced user management features turned off – like if you have multiple blogs – and enable them later, if your site grows.
#6 – Page Titles
First, let’s talk about why page titles are important to SEO. It's like the welcome mat for your website. Your website’s page titles, the line of text in the HTML of a web page that summarizes what that page is about, serve the following functions: • It tells visitors that they are in the right place • It is displayed in the browser title bar • It holds important keywords so that your page can be properly categorized by Google and the other search engines • It is displayed whenever someone bookmarks your site • Search engines usually use the page title as the heading of the search results Drupal can actually generate a page title automatically by using the site name and site slogan of the front page and the node title for individual nodes. But for more complex content, you may want to rearrange the automated page title for SEO purposes. Drupal’s Page Title Module gives you full control over your page titles throughout your site. It let’s you: • Write your own page titles anywhere you can create content • Define a pattern that will create search engine optimized titles automatically as you create new content. That is why an excellent page title is so important to a good SEO campaign. Volacci believes that the page title is the single most important thing you can do to improve the SEO of your website.
#7 – PHP Template
The term ‘PHP’ is slightly intimidating to those not fluent in code. It can actually strike the fear of the unknown into some, and creates a barrier of entry to open source CMS adoption. Have no fear with Drupal! Drupal uses the PHP Template theme engine as a default. That means you don’t necessarily need any PHP knowledge to theme your Drupal site. Drupal theming is easier than theming in WordPress and has a great resource for anyone thirsty for knowledge. Check out Drupal’s Theming Guide.
#8 – Passionate and Active Community
Drupal has a large community of users and developers who are very active and passionate about the CMS. More than 650,000 user accounts have been created on Drupal.org, and more than 2,000 people have registered developer accounts. There are literally hundreds of community-contributed modules that help make Drupal a better experience. The community is also very helpful. The Drupal forums are very active and a great place to go if you need a Drupal question answered. Drupal support is also available on IRC chat on channels #drupal-support and #drupal-dojo. If you just want to meet other Drupalistas in your area, check out Drupal Groups.
#9 – Resources and References
With so many major sites migrating to Drupal, its not going away any time soon. Drupal is also lowering the learning curve every day with tons of free resources and references available online. Here is a list of different resources and references you can download:
- The latest versions of Drupal - Currently on the Drupal 6.16 and 5.22 releases. Drupal is a free CMS.
- Drupal Beginner’s Guide - This is a beginner's guide to installing and configuring Drupal. This guide is brief and to the point in order to help you get your first Drupal site online as fast as possible.
- Drupal Handbooks - a comprehensive guide to every aspect of installing, using and extending your site.
- The Drupal 6 Search Engine Optimization Book - a practical, step-by-step guide that will help your Drupal site achieve top ranking in the search engines. This isn’t free but worth every penny.
There are more open source CMSs other than Drupal, but Volacci is a firm believer that Drupal is the best CMS for SEO. Drupal is more search engine friendly straight out of the box than other CMSs, including Joomla! That means more work for you, just to optimize your site. WordPress is an excellent CMS for small blogs, but when you need to build a substantial site that needs to grow, you should seriously consider Drupal.