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Wordpress, Drupal and SEO

Drupal and Wordpress logo superimposed over SEO analytics graph

Something that’s seen a resurgence of late is the importance of SEO and site/page ranking (though if your job revolves around content, you’d probably say it never left). It seems like after the initial crush of SEO and SEO specialists in the early-ish days of the web, things like backlink ranking, metadata, alt tags and all those other accessibility tools went the way of the dodo. Gone were the days where people massaged their content to smash in as many keywords as possible, where SEO specialists were getting paid obscene amounts of money to add in <meta> data into your html templates. Design reigned supreme.

But with the sheer amount of information available online, there remains a pressing and consistent need to ensure that your site rises above the fray; you want to be the expert, the forum for discussion, the end-all-be-all. So you’ve put together that lovely little site with the cool hamburger nav, the beautifully optimized content, the frequently updated blog and news sections--what’s next?

One of the key tools that people don’t really use is Google analytics; sure, everyone’s got that tracking code embedded in their templates or footer, and every so often, you’ll go in there and take a look at the cool line graph that tells you...well, nothing really. If you dig deeper into GA, you get an awesome picture of where, when, how, and even why people are visiting your site. You can see which content people like, which content is shared and liked, how often and by whom.

So that’s step one: Use GA to it’s full potential.

They have enough tools to make you cry, but if you make the effort to wade through them, you can tailor it to not only fit your content or website better, you can also make website a better fit for the web itself. Both Drupal and Wordpress make it so easy to add in the GA tracking code that there’s really no excuse to not have it up and running, secreting away all those squirrely little details Google is so fond of.

But more importantly, on the subject of tools, is a wonderful little plugin for Wordpress called Yoast. If you’ve worked with WP, have a WP site, or even browse the internet, you’ve probably heard of this plugin, and for good reason...it’s stunningly easy to setup and use. It tells you what pages are awful, how many keywords you’re missing, when your content is poorly optimized, when your images don’t have tags and text, and a number of other issues that take the best stab at Google’s inscrutable SEO rules/ranking criteria as you can get. This plugin is so ubiquitous as to be almost mandatory if you care at all about getting your website seen--the makers claim that Yoast has been downloaded almost 15 million times. So what’s the option for Drupal?

The short answer is, there isn’t one.

Sure, when it comes down to it, you have the same options as WP sites--being customizable is, after all, kind of Drupal’s thing. You can edit your templates to add in your markup, you can install dozens of modules (XML sitemap, pathauto, Google analytics, redirect, metatag, token, page title, SEO checker, SEO checklist...and the list goes on), and you’ll eventually get the same functionality as one WP plugin that takes literally two minutes to add and install. And that’s including the time it takes to actually FTP in.

And I suppose this all fits in with Drupal’s more...Drupal-y...audience. It’s open source--you’re expected to code, to configure, to muck, to install and extend. It’s just one of those things where you shouldn’t have to install so many different, specialized modules to get the functionality you need to optimize. Sure-- there’s even a module called SEO Tools -- but it has a list of 18 additional “recommended/required modules,” and all that gets you is a screen that looks remarkably like the Google analytics dashboard.

I hesitate to use the word “lazy,” when what I really mean is “efficient,” or the even more adept “optimized,” but really--you just spent weeks/months and thousands of dollars getting a site up and running, UX’d, designed, sprinted and agile-d. The final step, the key step to actually getting your site seen, should not be a massive, dozen-module installing, template editing undertaking.

Obviously, the SEO ideal for a fresh or redesigned Drupal site is a thorough and well-planned strategy phase, and if there’s time, budget, interest (and willpower) to structure your content around key SEO strategies, it’s perfect. But if you’ve ever worked on websites, you know that sometimes you just need something that works well out of the box.

WP has Yoast. Where’s Drupal’s “something?” Consider the gauntlet thrown.