A Drupal Primer for Marketers
Drupal is the content management system of choice for sophisticated enterprise websites. It was built from square one with the anticipation and extensibility needed to optimize every node, view, and snippet of code for search engines. That is, of course, if you know how to configure it.
With many new additions to ease-of-use, functionality, and robustness, Drupal is the superior method for creating and marketing your website to the world.
We’ve had customers who have tripled traffic in weeks after upgrading from another platform. Drupal has competitive advantages from site-wide optimizations like Schema or AMP that put clients on the cutting edge of SEO. The benefits are reaching higher rankings quicker and more traffic.
Unlike previous versions, Drupal 8 began scheduled feature releases at six-month intervals. Which means we don’t have to wait around for years if a new technology like responsive design, HTML 5, or CSS 3 comes along.
Because Drupal is dependent on Symfony 3, and Symfony 3's end of life is November 2021, Drupal 8 will reach end of life and support in November 2021. But you still can take advantage of Drupal’s SEO abilities that should port to your Drupal 9 site when you decide it’s time to upgrade.
Key Drupal Concepts
Let’s discuss a few key concepts that you need to know about if you’re new to the Drupal community. (Long-time Drupalers can skip to this section.)
The Drupal Community
Drupal is more than just software. It’s a community of people. Who makes up that community? It’s made up of the people who use Drupal. That’s you! Congratulations, you are now part of the Drupal community. Welcome!
The community is a club (scores of local meetups), it’s a group of companies (Acquia is just the biggest of many businesses in the Drupal community), and it’s an organization (the Drupal Association). But you can be involved without ever touching any of those entities.
Many people first get involved in Drupal by downloading the software and then, when help is needed or confusion arises, asking for assistance on Drupal.org. That’s a common way of getting to know the community. The more involved you become, the better time you’ll have using the software. It’s nice to use tools made by people you know.
"Drupal Core" and "Drupal Contrib"
Throughout this book, we refer to Core and Contrib. It’s important to understand the difference, so you know where to go for help if something isn’t working right.
All Drupal sites run a version of the Core Drupal project—Core for short. The extra contributed modules, contributed themes, and custom code that are installed are what make each project unique. Together, these contributed modules and themes are referred to as Contrib.
On your server, Core is in the
/core directory. Everything else is Contrib or custom– you’ll see a
/libraries, /modules, /themes, /vendor, and a few other directories.
To make it as simple as possible:
- Core features are built into Drupal.
- Contrib features are added-on to Drupal.
The Drupal community has created tens of thousands of Contrib modules. Every once in a while, a widely-used and well-written Contrib module is added to Core. This is one of the ways that Drupal Core gets new features. In fact, with the release of Drupal 8, several modules and functions that used to be Contrib are now included in Core. This means less installation, less code for you to update, and a more stable website.
A Warning About Contrib
The Drupal community develops contrib modules and themes. That means that anybody with a problem to solve (or ax to grind) can build a module and publish it on Drupal.org. Be careful when you decide to install community-contributed code on your Drupal site.
Near the bottom of the project page for a module, you’ll see something like this:
Notice there are different versions of the same module. The “7.x” and “8.x” tells you which version of Drupal it is compatible with. You’ll want to install the version that is compatible with your version of Drupal.
NOTE: As in the image above, you’ll see that the 8.x.* version will work with both Drupal 8 and 9, so keep an eye out for those.
Beta and Dev versions mean they are not ready for prime time. However, if you still need/want to use those particular versions, make sure you:
- Backup your site before installing
- Do some extensive testing after installation to make sure nothing is broken and it works nicely with all the other modules and code on your site.
WARNING: Install new modules on a development server and test them thoroughly before pushing them to the live site.
You need permission in Drupal to use the modules called for in this book. Drupal is quite secure, and one of the ways it remains secure is with a robust, multi-layered permissions system. If you’re working with a developer, you’ll need to ask them to assign a role to you that has Administrator level permission.
Here’s a helpful email that you can send to your developer:
Dear < developer first name >,
My username on the < drupalWebsite > web server is < your username here >.
Please grant my account the “Administrator permissions” access. https://< yourDrupalSite.dev >/admin/people/permissions#module-user
I will be working with some new modules for SEO and I need to give myself permissions as I go.
< OPTIONAL > It may be a good idea to create a “Marketing User” role for this, but I’m open to your suggestions on the best way to grant me the access I need.
< your name >
Installing a Drupal Contrib Module
Verbiage associated with installing and enabling modules can be confusing, even within the Drupal documentation. You can upload and install a module to your Drupal site, but the module will not be functional until it is enabled.
Log into your Drupal admin area and go to Manage > Extend. You’ll see a complete list of modules that are installed. However, some will have check marks next to their name, while others will only have an empty checkbox.
The modules with check marks next to them are enabled, while the ones without them are simply installed and not functional. We do not recommend enabling all modules unless you know what they are for or if they are necessary.
Also, while we recommend installing the modules discussed in the next sections, we recommend you enable them one by one and test your site each time before enabling any others. While this may seem tedious, enabling them all at once could result in some issues (some serious) and you won’t know which one is causing the problem.
Finally, if you are not able to enable a module (the checkbox is is not clickable), expand the module description to see if there are any missing dependent modules that will also need to be installed:
With the above in mind, you can get the latest instructions for downloading, uploading, installing, and enabling modules directly from the Drupal.org website:
Helpful Browser Tips
While fairly easy, these items should be included in your skill set to help troubleshoot problems with on-page SEO.
How to View Source of a Webpage
Sometimes, we’ll instruct you to “view source”. It’s easy: most browsers provide a way to do this. Here’s how to find it:
- Chrome: View > Developer > View Source
- Firefox: Tools > Web Developer > Page Source
- Edge: Tools > Developer > View Source
- Safari: View the instructions here
How to Use an Incognito Window
An incognito window is like a new browser. It doesn’t have any of the cache, cookies, login data, browsing history, etc. It’s a fast and easy way to see what a new visitor to your website will experience.
- Chrome: File > New Incognito Window
- Firefox: File > New Private Window
- Edge: File > New InPrivate window
- Safari: File > New Private Window