Posted to Ben Finklea's blog on May 23rd, 2020

Recharge Your Technical Drupal SEO for the Future

Technology keeps changing and Drupal SEO needs to change with it. What worked just a few years ago will no longer ensure the best search results.

Recently, Kevin Indig compiled some technical SEO trends: 15 Experts Reveal the Trends for Technical SEO in 2020.  These trends have direct implications for technical Drupal SEO.

I’ve organized these trends into 4 major categories:

  1. The business of SEO and where it is heading
  2. How changes in search engines affect SEO efforts
  3. Website performance
  4. Website structure

The Business of SEO

Search Engine Optimization as a business and career keeps getting bigger. That’s because with changes in technology, the task has become more complex. Indig says, “We’re facing more complexity but also more opportunities to differentiate sites from others through good work.” Experts expect to see more investment in the industry with increased budgets and even acquisitions of some major players.

Data suggest that careers in SEO are growing 6 times faster than the US job market. Just a few years ago, the view was that SEO jobs would disappear into broader inbound marketing positions. That trend appears to have been left behind as marketers recognize the need to keep up with rapidly changing SEO techniques.

At the same time, SEO automation is in its infancy. As this grows, SEO jobs will be more focused on high-level tasks. Some SEO experts are learning Python as a programming language to automate a large number of time-consuming SEO tasks and to extract and analyze large data sets. Some of these tasks include mapping URLs prior to a migration, analyzing internal links, and optimizing images.

True automation is not expected to be in the mainstream for some time. Today, it is possible to automate writing meta-descriptions or setting redirects. For example, the Drupal module, Automatic Alternative Text uses the Microsoft Azure Cognitive Services API to generate alternative text for images. The Metatag module dynamically provides title tags and structured metadata about each page on your website.

Changes in Search Engines

Google continues to dominate the world of internet searches, but Amazon has become a force. It has become the starting point for consumers looking to make a purchase. SEO experts have taken note and are learning how to win in Amazon searches.

Even so, as Google goes, so goes the SEO industry. As Google has increased its use of machine learning, ambiguity in SEO has increased. Google no longer provides hard signals for improving SEO, but simply offers some hints. Some of these hints are use of canonicals, links, and pagination.

The trends article suggests, “As technical SEOs, this means we may need to be more sophisticated about the “hints” we define and understand Google’s algorithm as it continues to evolve far beyond the official documentation and published best practices that define the industry.”

For some time now, the biggest threat to SEO is zero-click SERPs. “Google is not a search engine anymore but now a competitor to everyone.” As a result, SEO experts have needed to change how they report organic search results.

It’s not just about organic search traffic as many SERPs now show localized results. This means that organic click share will decrease yet again. Pay to play has become the norm; Google ad placements take up more SERP results. Google will offer more summaries instead of rich snippets as it presents combined information.

The future of indexing and crawling is in APIs. Bing recently introduced its indexing API and Google is expected to follow this year. This means webmasters will use API to submit new content instead of relying on the search engines to crawl the web.

Website Performance

Website performance has been a major factor in determining search engine results for years. Drupal websites have an advantage here as the system is fast. We go into the details in making it even faster in How to Improve Drupal 8 Website Performance.

Mess Drupal websites as shown by messy electrical cordsThe problem is that many websites have grown and evolved over the years and have become messy. Cleaning up things like duplicate content, 404s, and meta descriptions will continue to be a big task.

Some experts believe search engines will take the matter into their own hands by auto-correcting technical SEO issues. Evaluating Drupal SEO performance should start with the SEO Checklist module. This provides a list of the right Drupal modules for cleaning up your website and improving SEO.

Faster web experiences, especially on mobile, are critical to good results. One expert suggests that the trend goes away from AMP and toward Web Packaging. Web Packaging was supposed to be a faster way of delivering news articles via AMP by packing a web page’s entire content in a single file. But Google opened the technology to everyone, and it can be used by all websites without AMP.

The Drupal AMP module converts Drupal pages to comply with the AMO standard. To learn more, check out this article: How Marketers Use Drupal’s AMP Module to Improve Google Search Rankings.

Quantifying actual website performance has become more difficult as Google’s Search Console gets less accurate and less useful. Third-party SEO tools have become more popular as ways to fill the gap.

Website Structure

Technology changes have created a big unknown for technical SEO. The industry is still evolving. The trends article discusses several industry-wide technologies related to website structure.

Accessibility

Accessibility has always been an issue on the internet, but the trend is to enable alternative technologies such as text readers. Making your website accessible is also good for SEO. Descriptive alt-tags, logical h-tag structures and anchor text are all things that Google seems to reward.

Drupal’s core has several accessibility features, including semantic HTML5 elements that can be leveraged by assistive technology. Drupal.announce allows messages to be provided to aural users in either assertive or polite tones. Drupal forms are more accessible by making it easier for users to identify what errors they might have made when filling in a web form.

There are many Drupal modules that can increase accessibility.

  • The Accessibility Scanner provides a list of accessibility tests which check for how your website meets WCAG 2.0 or Section 508.
  • Automatic Alternative Text generates an alternative text when it has not been provided by the user.
  • High Contrast, currently in beta, provides a quick solution to allow the user to switch between the active theme and a high contrast version of it.
  • Text Resize provides a block that can be used to quickly change the font size on your site.

Schema and Structured Data

The importance of Schema and structured data continue to grow. More types of structured data are expected to be adopted by Google such as Speakable, HowTo, QAPage, and FAQPage. This structured data will be a cornerstone of Google’s indexing approach. SEO experts are using it to reinforce a website’s subject matter expertise.

In Drupal, you can use the Schema.org Metatag module to add structured data as JSON LD. This format is preferred by Google over older methods using RDFs and microdata.

JavaScript

One of the biggest topics in technical SEO in 2020 is Google’s ability to render JavaScript. JavaScript is crucial to ecommerce as 80% of online stores use it. Many experts believe that while the search engine’s ability in this area has improved, it isn’t fully capable yet.

Others believe that 2020 is the year JavaScript rendering will be rendered in real-time. This will close the question of JavaScript SEO indexing.

The Drupal Javascript API is part of the core in Drupal 8. In addition to third-party libraries, the core also includes Drupal-specific JavaScript libraries to make tasks easier.

 

HRE Flang Drupal code

HREFlang

Hreflang tags are used by search engines to provide the correct language and regional URL for multilingual websites. One expert suggests that Google will stop supporting hreflang meta tags because it is prone to errors. When the language signal is confusing, Google will use its own machine learning to decide what is right.

The Alternate hreflang for Drupal automatically adds hreflang tags to your pages.

 

 

Stay Current with Drupal SEO Trends

As a Drupal SEO company, Volacci stays on top of trends in SEO. We incorporate those trends to create successful results on Drupal websites. Our Drupal SEO Kickstart program follows SEO best practices that can get your website set up for SEO success.

To implement Drupal SEO on your own, check out Drupal 8 SEO, the definitive book on the subject.

If you’d like to leave the technical SEO to the Volacci experts, contact us on-line or call 512-989-2945.

 

 

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