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Oct 05 2021
Oct 05

Getting faster page load speeds isn’t just about increasing your Google rankings. It’s also about improving customer satisfaction and gaining new revenue. Using tools specific to Drupal along with other universal actions, you can reach your marketing goals faster than ever.

It’s no secret that page loading speed matters to Google rankings. Speed became a ranking factor in 2010 and since that time, developers and marketers have been looking for ways to increase it. Google cares about page speed because the search engine is focused on delivering the best onsite user experience possible. As a result, Google rewards fast-loading websites with better rankings. (The converse is not always true. Slow page loading times will only negatively impact your site rankings if it is very slow.)

As a marketer, your goal really isn’t better Google rankings. You are looking for the result of those rankings—more website visitors, more leads and more revenue. As a marketer, fast page load times aren’t the goal either; but, a means to improve your users’ experiences. Better website interactions can result in greater satisfaction, more conversions, and higher sales.

Faster Page Load Time Results in Greater Revenue

Faster page navigation means that users may see more page views each time they visit your site. Having a fast website means that users can quickly understand your offering and purchase your products.

Studies show that faster page speed results in greater revenue.

  • Both Amazon and Walmart, in separate studies, attribute additional sales revenue from faster page speeds. Their revenue grew by 1% for every 100ms of page speed improvements. For Amazon, slowing down their page load time by just one second could result in a loss in revenue of $1.6 billion. That’s a lot of zeroes for a measly second.
  • Shopzilla increased revenue by 12% and page views by 25% by speeding up their page load time to 1.2 seconds from 6 seconds.
     

Customer Satisfaction Increases with Faster Page Speed

Faster websites mean happier customers. Particularly, studies have shown that:

  • A one-second delay in page-load time leads to a drop in pageviews (11%), conversions (7%), and customer satisfaction (16%), according to the Aberdeen Group.
  • Econsultancy research found that 47% of consumers expect to wait no longer than two seconds for a web page to load. Additionally, 88% of people who experience a dissatisfying visit due to page load times are less likely to shop from that site and more than a third will tell their friends about the bad experience.
  • According to KISSmetrics, 18% of mobile users will abandon a website if it doesn’t load in less than five seconds. If it takes more than 10 seconds to load, 30% will abandon the site.
     

Is Your Website Fast Enough?

The evidence shows page speed matters. Is your website fast enough? At a minimum you should aim for under 2 seconds. For e-commerce sites, you should have even faster goals.  Google’s goal is 100ms—faster than the blink of an eye.

It’s quite simple to test your website speed.  You can use Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool and WebPageTest.org to take a benchmark of how your website performs. If your pages load in more than two seconds or if you haven’t met your page loading goals, you should consider taking some of the steps below.

Ways to Increase Your Drupal Website Performance

There are general ways that every website manager can implement to speed up page loading, but there are also specific Drupal tools and modules to know and implement. I’ll address both of these.

1. Keep it simple.

Page speed starts with choosing a design that is clean and fast. By reducing the number of components on your page, and keeping widgets and embedded media to a minimum, you are on the way toward a lightning fast website.

2. Cache your pages.

Drupal 8 enables caching by default for anonymous visitors. That is sufficient for small to medium sized websites with moderate traffic. You can select the maximum age for your page caching based on how quickly your website content changes.

1 day - good for websites that are only updated a couple of times per week. There is no commenting or other interaction on the site. (lead generation brochure site)

1 hour - good for websites that are updated once or twice per day. (ecommerce)

15 minutes- good for frequently updated websites. (news sites)

If you use Drupal 8 Views or Panels, you can get more fine-grained in your cache settings. The caching on each individual block can be customized as well.

3. Optimize your website to work with different devices and browsers.

You can no longer only optimize speed for desktops. With 60% of online traffic coming from mobile devices, a mobile responsive website is critical. All of the things that you do to speed up your website will help, of course. There are also things that you can do specifically to make your website more responsive for mobile devices. You should make sure that your website is optimized to work with popular mobile browsers. One of the most powerful things you can do is to implement the Google AMP module. We talk in detail about it in our article, How Marketers Use Drupal's AMP Module to Improve Google Search Rankings.

4. Compress your images, CSS and Javascript files.

The Advanced CSS/JS Aggregation module aggregates and compresses CSS and Javascript files to make your site run faster. Google loves fast websites and this module speeds things up with little overhead.

Drupal 8 Core has the ability to resize images and serve the right image for any situation. It can scale them, crop them, and much more. Consistent image sizes help reduce the bandwidth required to load a particular web page. This can greatly reduce load time.

5. Use a Content Distribution Network (CDN) with Drupal 8

There are a few third party tools that you can use with Drupal to speed up your website. A CDN stores your website on servers across the globe. CDN companies own data centers on every continent and in every region. Think of it as taking your server cache and making copies of it to servers that are a lot closer to your visitors. If the HTML does not need to be recreated by Drupal, then it is served directly from the CDN, greatly reducing the load times involved.

Example companies include (my personal favorite) CloudFlare, Level3, Amazon, and Akamai. The CDN module for Drupal is located here. There are also service-specific modules for CloudFlare and
Akamai.

6. Choose a host that can offer greater speed

If, after implementing some of the tips above, you are still not meeting your performance goals, you should consider choosing a faster host. When you look for hosting, you’ll find many options. At Volacci, we have experience with several dozen hosting companies that promise Drupal support and high speeds. In order of most capable to least capable (with considerable overlap in performance and cost), here is a list of the types of hosting you may want to consider:

Managed Dedicated Server(s)

A managed dedicated server takes care of all your hosting needs for you. Not only do you get the hardware but you get a team of experts to make sure everything is running as it should. They will keep your software up-to-date and alert you if there are any problems – often after they’ve already been fixed. You can deploy multiple servers in many configurations. For example, a firewall, caching server, database server or multiple http servers could all be part of a larger solution. It’s fast and reliable hosting. Adding multiple servers or getting help designing the perfect configuration for you is part of the service. Blackmesh is the Drupal-specific company for this kind of hosting. Also consider Rackspace.

Dedicated Server(s)

A dedicated server provides low latency which means a fast response time for most small to medium-sized sites. Consider that you need to provide technical staff to manage the hardware and software stack. Examples include  HostGator and 1&1.

Cloud Hosting

Cloud hosting is scalable. The “cloud” means that there is a data center with lots of dormant servers. As your site’s needs scale up (or down) the servers in the data center respond with more server power. While it may be a panacea for some, latency and cost can be critical concerns, although many include CDN services (content delivery networks) with their packages. Examples include Acquia Cloud, Pantheon, and Platform.sh (both Pantheon and Platform.sh provide free trials).

Virtual Private Server (VPS) / Server Slice

A VPS offers a good balance between cost and performance. It’s similar to shared hosting in that you share a single server with other tenants. However, you get a guaranteed amount of performance on that server. Maybe 10% (or more) dedicated to you which preserves your performance. Examples include HotDrupal and Green VPS.

Shared Hosting

Shared hosting is the rookie league of hosting. Your site sits on a server with many other tenants. It’s slow and not scalable but it is inexpensive. Examples include Bluehost and SiteGround.

Learn More with Drupal 8 SEO

If you would like specific details on how to speed up your Drupal 8 website and optimize it for higher Google rankings, take a look at our Drupal SEO Guide. This information is the definitive authority on SEO for Drupal websites.

Contact Volacci if you would like our Drupal SEO experts to create a plan and implement best practices that will maximize your website performance and improve Drupal SEO.

Oct 01 2021
Oct 01

drupal seo kickstart sources

Drupal is phenomenal for SEO.

When you use Drupal 8 for your content management system, you have a powerful tool to rock search engine optimization.

Working with Drupal websites for the past 12 years, I've experienced firsthand just how quickly search engines respond to a well-optimized Drupal website. I’ve seen customers triple their traffic in weeks after upgrading from another platform.

I’ve seen competitive advantages from site-wide optimizations like RDF or AMP that put my clients on the cutting edge of SEO because they use Drupal. The benefits are a faster website, higher rankings, and more traffic.

One of the main reasons Drupal is the content management system of choice for complex enterprise websites is the fact that it has been built from square one with the functionality and flexibility needed to optimize every node view, and snippet of code for search engines.

Drupal has brought many new additions for ease-of-use, functionality, and robustness. It is the superior method for creating and marketing your website to the world. Yet, for all its improvements, the most recent release still feels like Drupal. Faster, cleaner, more refined, and certainly more up-to-date, but still Drupal.

With the introduction of Drupal 8, I saw a need for helping marketers using Drupal make the most of the features available to optimize their website. With that in mind, I wrote Drupal 8 SEO. Written for marketers, Drupal 8 SEO provides the step-by-step details you need to rock Drupal 8 SEO. If you follow the steps in the book, the rewards will be great: increased Google ranking, higher website traffic, more customers and greater revenue. In fact, we based our own Drupal SEO Quick Start service on this book.

Drupal 8 SEO is over 200 pages of detailed instructions for making the most of Drupal 8’s core features and optional modules to optimize your website. While there is much to share, I have chosen six tips you can use to get started on the road to rocking Drupal SEO. Our Drupal SEO Guide contains the most recent steps used for completing your Drupal SEO.

1.     Download the Drupal SEO Checklist Module

I may be biased because I’m the author, but I believe the most important thing you can do is download the Drupal SEO Checklist module at Drupal.org. Robert Shea of IBM says that “Drupal SEO Checklist is the most powerful Drupal module that ‘does nothing.’ ” Essentially, this module just tells you what to do.

Following the Drupal SEO Checklist, you can implement the best modules and tasks that are needed to optimize your website. By giving you a complete list of best practices, it makes on-page Drupal SEO hassle-free. When you have completed the to-do list, you will have a fully optimized website.

The module’s tasks are segmented by functional needs like Title Tags, Paths, Content and more. Next to each task is a link to download the module and a link to the proper admin screen of your website so that you can configure the settings perfectly. Drupal SEO Checklist also keeps track of what has already been done by placing a date and time stamp next to each item.

The SEO Checklist Module tells you what to do, but it doesn’t tell you how to do it. For that, check out my book, Drupal 8 SEO, or our Drupal SEO Guide. The book and guide have been written to explain how to implement the suggestions in the SEO Checklist. You can even turn on Drupal 8 SEO Checklist Book page numbers so that you can quickly find the corresponding page in the book.

2.     Clean up your URLs

To make Drupal optimization as effective as it can be, you need to ensure your URLs are clean, your site shows the right content, and link value is maintained even when your content changes.

Drupal installs clean URLs by default and it can’t be turned off, but you can do even more with the Redirect module. In Drupal, using the Redirect module allows you to redirect from old URLs to new URLs. This is great when you’ve moved a piece of content to another section of your site or inadvertently changed the URL.

The Redirect module creates 301 redirects from old URLs to new URLs on your website. This aids SEO by making sure that any URL that ranks in Google will still resolve when a visitor arrives. This module automates what once was an arduous and ongoing SEO chore – fixing broken links. Now you can turn on this module and forget about it.Have you ever moved content, put the wrong URL on printed advertising, or migrated content from another website? Then you know the problems this can create. With the Redirect module you can also create your own manual redirects.

Another great module for SEO is the Pathauto module. Using the Pathauto module, Drupal automatically generates URLs for your content that are great for SEO. This means that you don’t need to manually create every single content URL on your website.
 

3.     Implement meta tags

is your drupal SEO properly set up?Meta tags are an important step to making Drupal as effective as it can be. Meta tags are snippets of text that are used to tell Google, other search engines and social media sites about the content on each page of your website. This helps your SEO by communicating clearly what you think each page on your website is about and how you want it described on their sites. If you don’t do this, you will have to rely on the search engines to make up their own minds about your content. While they’re pretty good at this, it’s important enough that you don’t want to leave it to chance.

  • The Metatag module allows you to automatically provide title tags and structured metadata to each page of your website. This module places both the HTML title tag and meta tags in the header of a web page. This means less code and faster rendering of your web pages which also helps with your SEO.
     
  • The Alternate Hreflang Module automatically adds hreflang tags to all or your website pages. Search engines reference the alternative hreflang tag to serve the correct language or regional URL in the search results. This is very important for multilingual websites.
     

4.     Communicate directly with search engines

Search engines want to help you help them crawl and index your website. In order to do this, they provide tools and reports to help you communicate with them and better understand what’s going on with your website. The marketers who do this well will receive better search results and get a lot of traffic.

  • The XML Sitemap module creates an XML sitemap of your content that you can submit to the search engines. An XML sitemap is a specially formatted summary of each piece of content on your website. The module creates a properly formatted XML sitemap that can be submitted to Google, other search engines and other sites. Having an XML sitemap helps your SEO by giving Google a list of all your pages that you wish them to crawl. While Google can crawl your site without an XML sitemap, the larger and more complex your site becomes, the higher the chance that their crawler will get confused and miss pages or even whole sections of the site.
     
  • Cron is a system that maintains and cleans up your Drupal site. It does things like check for updates, index content, and rebuild XML sitemaps. Now your XML sitemap will stay up to date with all the new content that you add to your website.
     
  • The Google Analytics module adds the Google Analytics code snippet to your website and allows you to control how and when it is used. Google Analytics is an incredibly important tool for any web marketer. It allows you to find valuable insights into your visitors including demographics, behavior on your site, where they found you online, what keywords they used to find you and more. However, Google Analytics isn’t perfect. For example, it tracks all visitors by default—even Admins. The Google Analytics module can fix that by only showing the Google Analytics code snipped when a non-admin is using the site. This keeps your data clean and your reports more useful.
     

5.     Download the best Drupal modules for SEO

No one thing is so powerful that Google is going to suddenly fall in love with your website and boost you in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). Rather, all the tools work together to produce an outcome that is significantly better than the parts alone ever could. The Drupal modules I’ve mentioned above are just a few of the very best. I’ve listed others in the book and in the Drupal SEO Checklist including:

  • The preferred method of adding schema markup to your website is through JSON-LD (JavaScript Object Notation for Linked Data) using the Schema.org Metatag modules. While Drupal now includes RDF (Resource Description Framework) baked into the Drupal core, you will have a higher possibility of getting rich snippets in the search results by using the Schema.org Metatag modules. This is important because, as Schema.org describes it, "[JSON-LD] markup helps search engines understand the information on web pages and provide richer search results.”
     
  • The Google Tag Manager module provides an easy method of installing your Google Tag Manager snippet, and one that marketers can complete without the aid of a developer.
     
  • You want your site to be fast, and the Advanced CSS/JS Aggregation module (AdvAgg) is one way of making sure your site is as fast as it can be. The AdvAgg modules aggregates (combines), minifies, and compresses .js and .css files, reducing their sizes and improving the time to download.
     

6.     Speed up and secure your website

Two important attributes of your website are security and speed. Google rewards websites that are secure (using https with a valid SSL certificate) and quick to render. All the great SEO in the world won’t make your site great if you get hacked. There are bad people on the internet who want to break your website, infest your visitors, steal your data, and/or blackmail you. From the Panama Papers fiasco (yes, Drupal was involved) to your garden-variety script kiddie, you’ve got to protect yourself and your Drupal website.

Speed became a ranking factor for Google searches in April of 2010. This means that, all else being equal, the faster site will rank higher. Therefore, it makes great sense to ensure that your site is as fast as you can reasonably make it within your budget.

Drupal has responsive web design as its default methodology. That’s good because Google specifically states that they prefer this method for serving mobile devices. In this setup, the server sends the same HTML code to all devices and CSS is used to change the way the page looks for each mobile device. It allows a single URL for the same content and that’s great for sharing and for offering up pages to all visitors. One way to speed up your website and be mobile-responsive is by downloading and implementing the Google AMP module.

Learn More with Drupal SEO

Search engine optimization is a game of inches. A title tag that’s missing a keyword, a body that doesn’t talk about the topic, metadata that isn’t quite right. Together, that’s enough to kick you off the front page of Google. Using just the tips above will help you down the path toward a rockin’ Drupal website. Of course, there is much more to learn. If you want to optimize your website yourself, you can find all the details in my book, Drupal 8 SEO or our Drupal SEO Guide.

If you don’t have the time to optimize your own Drupal website, sign up for our Drupal SEO Quick Start program -- we'll get these items (and a lot more) installed and optimized in short order. Volacci can implement the best of Drupal SEO whether you are creating a new website, you are migrating from one platform to another, or you just need to fix what you have.

Jun 10 2021
Jun 10

When you're working on your Drupal SEO, the Meta tags module is important to your site because it tells the search engines what the content you have is all about. That is right, it's pretty much data about data. And while this seems redundant, it is incredibly important for the overall optimization of your site.

A controversy occurred during the dawn of the search engines (circa 1997) when many people abused meta tags by stuffing them full of keywords. While they were invisible to visitors, search engines gave a lot of credence to the meta tags, so it was a viable way to get to the top of the search engines.

These days, search engines use metatags less for rankings and more for determining what your website and pages are about and which keywords they best fit. Making sure these tags clearly state what your site and pages provide to a visitor will go a long way to ranking in the search engines.

There are also specialized tags that can help with local SEO and provide information that can get your products listed in the Shopping sections of the search engines, which is always helpful.

To get step-by-step instructions on how to make sure your Drupal website's metatags are properly set up, download our free Metatag module guide available within our Drupal SEO Guide section.

***

If your website has specific needs (e-commerce, local, etc.),
feel free to sign up for a free no-obligation consultation
to see if Volacci can help you with any SEO problem you might have.

Feb 28 2019
Feb 28

basketball hoop demonstrating a goalChoosing good SEO goals is a critical first step in your digital marketing campaign. As with any long-term endeavor, knowing your marketing end goals and working directly toward them saves time, money, and stress.

Good SEO cannot be done in a vacuum. It depends on business goals, the needs of the sales and customer support team, and intimate knowledge of the competitive landscape in which you work. Engage the critical stakeholders in each area of your business and work together to come up with a list of needs. You may be surprised at how SEO can help each team meet its objectives.

It’s important to choose the right goals before implementing any SEO strategy and get continual buy-in from your team. Combine and categorize ideas to find the ones that digital marketing is well suited for. If possible, pick some “easy” objectives and start stacking up quick wins with your team. This buys you time for longer-term strategies that SEO is suited for.

If you’re struggling to get buy-in from team members, or they don’t have enough knowledge to understand how SEO can help their department, it may help to bring some ideas into the conversation to get the creative juices flowing.

Let’s look at seven different SEO Goals and how they can impact your business.

hands with fingers that are also handsSEO Objective #1: Lead Generation and Direct Marketing

Build customers and revenue, one form-pop at a time.

If you are a lead-driven business, it’s likely that your customers require at least one personal contact from your company before they buy. You may have a higher-than-average purchase price, or your solution involves customization. The key to a thriving lead generation SEO campaign is the conversion rate.

CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization) is almost always the best place to start when you are looking for more leads from your website. It’s easier to make direct changes that can dramatically increase your lead flow.

Implement A/B testing to try different approaches that make it easier for your customers to convert. Here are several ways to make an impact right away:

  • Shorten your forms. Do you really need 2 different phone numbers and a full mailing address on the very first customer interaction?
  • Inform your visitor precisely what will happen when they submit the form.
  • Don’t use the word “Submit” on your form buttons (Who wants to submit, anyway? It sounds painful.)

Once your on-page conversion rate is at least 5% (or higher—hopefully much higher), you can turn your attention to increasing targeted traffic. This can be accomplished by creating excellent customer-focused content and don’t be afraid to ask for the conversion. Consider offering a valuable freebie for newsletter signups and then market to your newsletter to create demand.

Capturing their information is only the first step. Make sure you use a good marketing automation tool and CRM to keep in touch with your customers.

 crowd of people walkingSEO Objective #2: Increase Raw Traffic to Your Website

Traffic for traffic’s sake.

This is just what it sounds like. Get as many click-throughs to your content and try to keep them on your site as long as possible. You want to use this objective when you can monetize traffic without actions or financial transactions. If for example, your site is sponsored or ad-driven, this is an excellent place to start.

Concentrate your efforts on great content and conduct keyword research to find topics that are of high interest to your target audience. And make sure to use those keywords in your content.

Use Google Answers to find questions that people ask and then write a series of blog posts to answer them. This will earn traffic on long-tail Google queries. Make sure your articles are easy to share and optimized for viral spreading by employing share buttons.

However, be cautious about using clickbait or fake news to drive adrenal-based clicking. People are becoming savvy to this kind of egregious traffic generation, and you could set yourself up to tarnish your brand for a short-term gain. Focus instead on helpful, interesting, or timely content that truly provides value to your target audience. Provide follow-up content and give them a reason to stay. Bounce rate is an important SEO ranking factor so do what you can to increase the time that visitors spend on your site.

online shopping or ecommerceSEO Objective #3: Increase E-commerce Sales

Focus on driving relevant traffic to your online store and boost transactional sales.

About 10% of the retail sales in the USA comes from e-commerce. Only about half of that is Amazon, which means there are millions of other websites competing with you for your customers’ clicks and purchases. Leveraging SEO can create long-term, competitive advantages for any business in this hyper-competitive space.

When you have transactional products and/or services for sale on your site, do not overlook the funnel in your keyword strategy. Generally speaking, this means the more precisely a visitor is searching for a product, the closer they are to making a purchase.

  • Industry words (“vacuum”) are top-of-the-funnel. They require a lot of information, are looking broadly for a solution, and may not even be looking for the product that you offer.
  • Generic product names (“vacuum cleaner”) can be considered top or mid-funnel. They know they need a solution but don’t necessarily know what. Provide comparative information, and show your product in many different scenarios.
  • Longer tail generic phrases (“robot vacuum” or “automatic robot vacuum cleaner”) could be considered mid to low in the funnel. They know what they want and are looking to compare similar products to help them make a decision.
  • Branded searches usually are considered lowest in the funnel, especially when combined with buy words (“buy roomba vacuum” or “discount roomba vacuum”).
  • Specific part numbers can be a good indicator that someone is looking to buy right this minute. Maybe its a replacement or refillable part, or that they know exactly what they want. You will find the more specific the keyword, product name, or even part number, the more likely your visitors will purchase. Optimize content for the problems that your product solves; create very focused content that builds confidence and leads your customer through the purchase.

Once you’ve identified your audience and keywords, focus on making the transaction as easy as possible with conversion rate optimization (CRO). The objective of CRO is to increase average conversion value. A good way to test the efficacy and potential ROI of keywords and phrases is to conduct a pay-per-click campaign to discover if they are providing traffic and conversions.

cow surprised at getting a brandSEO Objective #4: Branding

Increase customer awareness and lower resistance to future transactions.

Branding is often overlooked but is a mission-critical part of an ongoing marketing campaign.

If you’re just starting to build your brand with your target market, branding eases future conversations by creating space for you in your customer’s mind. It’s easier to engage with a known company than a new entity you only recently found.

For established brands, ongoing branding protects your domain and builds trust. Ranking well for industry terms around your business can create awareness of new solutions and gain a quick customer while lesser brands struggle. Leverage your brand by making your presence known in keyword searches that involve competitive words and products. Make sure you are part of every conversation.

SEO gets consumers participating and interacting with your brand. Your keyword focus becomes straightforward as you will be targeting your company and product name so you will achieve more with less intensive effort. Make sure your site is accessible with good link structure and focus on links from high-quality sources that legitimize your brand. These high-quality links are valuable to Google as an indicator of the importance of your website.

star wars troopers needing reputation managementSEO Objective #5: Reputation Management

Protect your brand.

We get it. Everybody makes mistakes. In the Internet era, every mistake is magnified and can stick around hurting your brand for months or years.

When you are trying to protect your brand from having a negative reputation or change an existing negative image, SEO can be a huge help in achieving this perspective shift.

First, own your brand name in all its forms. You want to have 10 out of 10 branded search results in Google in your control. This involves optimizing pages on many different domains so you can “own” complete pages of search results. Create presences on Facebook, Linkedin, Github, Reddit, Twitter, etc. and run branded SEO campaigns on those pages. When you own the top 10, don’t relax. Keep steady pressure with additional unique content and links relevant to your brand.

Then, focus on keywords that are highly relevant to your brand. It could be your legal business name, personal name, brand name or a popular variant. Use public relations, press releases, social media profiles, links from networks of sites you may own or control.

Do not underestimate the power of a personal response from the founder or CEO to an online complaint. However, if you aren’t experienced or comfortable doing this, consider using outside professionals, because responses must be carefully crafted. Quick, unconsidered comments can be seen as flippant, out-of-touch, uncaring, or worse: defensive and angry. However, an appropriate word can diffuse a situation and actually increase customer loyalty in the long run.

Even if you don’t have a negative situation, consider starting now to protect your brand. Reputation management is one of the most challenging SEO practices when done in an emergency. Plan ahead, build your reputation, and be ready when an emergency does happen.

girl holding a sparklerSEO Objective #6: Customer Service

Your customers are asking questions on Google. Make sure the answers come from you.

If you want long-term relationships with your customers, be there when they need you. That means anticipating their needs after the sale and providing answers to questions that they have at each stage of the ownership cycle of your product. Each interaction is an opportunity to reinforce your brand in their mind, control negative impressions, and build a relationship that will last.

Find content ideas by mining your customer service logs, online support requests, or looking at other companies in your industry. Answer questions with a blog post, video, or instructional document and then link to it from relevant places on your website. That’s just the beginning.

Another tactic for acquiring new customers is to create content that answers questions about competitor’s products! Help them without reservation, and gently guide them to your solution.

one smiley face in a sea of unhappy facesSEO Objective #7: Target a Specific Person or Company

Reach out and touch someone.

One last SEO objective to consider is the Internet’s unique ability to target specific individuals with your content. Say that a salesperson has been trying to break into a company with your product. But, try as they might, they can’t get past the gatekeepers for a phone call. Email isn’t working, and cold calling is a non-starter. Should you give up? Hardly.

There is an entire marketing sub-industry around the idea of marketing to the individual. It’s called Account Based Marketing (ABM). ABM is a strategic approach to business marketing in which an organization communicates with individual prospects or customer accounts as markets of one. Although it’s typically employed in enterprise level sales organizations, companies of any size can and do use these techniques to make key account acquisition easier.

The first step is to clearly identify the exact people you need to market to. The list is usually relatively short, 25-100 people. You can then combine SEO practices—like buying their name on Google Adwords or Linkedin and running a simple ad which leads to a personalized landing page—with the best of ABM and create unique solutions to help you reach new customers.

Final Thoughts

This stuff isn’t easy. If it were, business wouldn’t need marketing professionals like yourself to figure out these objectives and implement them. There is no cookie cutter approach to marketing. Every company has different customers, products, and competitive pressures, so be careful when applying these objectives to your situation. Nothing can replace genuine conversations and openness.

And these are just some of the top objectives of SEO. Here are several secondary objectives that I’ve seen over the years:

  • Increase the number of product pages in Google SERPs
  • Reduce leads from low-budget customers
  • Reduce customer service calls
  • Apple/Android App Store SEO
  • Amazon product listing SEO
  • Educate the consumer
  • Measure coupon use
  • Event-specific SEO
  • Drive retail sales
  • Reduce returns
  • Ego

Whether your objectives are on this list or not, Volacci stands ready to help you create the best possible online presence for your business. If you’d like a quick leg-up on your Drupal SEO, take a look at our SEO Quick Start Plans and give us a call us today. Whatever your objectives, Volacci can help.

Sep 12 2018
Sep 12

Creating great website content and presenting it well is the best way to improve Google rankings and engage more visitors. While you need to create the content, Drupal 8 is one of the elite Content Management Systems (CMS) available to organize and show it off well. Drupal’s ability to organize your marketing content is one of the reasons it has always been great for SEO.

A winning SEO strategy requires relevant, timely, and well-organized content. Website content provides the relevant substance for your keywords and includes links to related content. Fresh content takes precedence over older, stale content in Google search results. When your website content is well-organized, visitors and search engines will find it easier to navigate and Google will reward your site with even higher rankings.

6 strategies and actions for better content management with Drupal 8

With that in mind, here are a few tips to create great content and organize it well in Drupal 8.

1. Create great content

Write content that you would love to read. This holds your audience’s interest and gets them talking about--and linking to--your website. Remember to write for your audience not for the search engine. Search engine algorithms are smarter than ever and consider much broader concepts than just keywords. The search engine will evaluate your entire page for the best search match.

With Drupal, you can turn great ideas into organized text, graphics and videos that are valuable to your users. Drupal’s built in Taxonomy system allows you to categorize and tag content so that it is easy for your audience to find what matches their interest. Another building system, Views, gets your content out of Drupal and onto the page without needing a query. You create views and filters that meet specific needs.

natural seo keywords2. Use keywords naturally

While the latest Google search algorithms may lessen the need for exact key phrases, don’t give them up just yet. You should still optimize your content with keyphrases, just don’t overuse them or use them unnaturally. Repeating keywords without any valid reason will turn off visitors and search engines. Even so, make sure your keyword shows up once or twice in the document.

To find related words that will help your ranking, try typing your keyword into Google like this: ~yourkeyword. This is an approximate or synonym search. It finds terms that are related to the one you’re searching for. Pay attention to the bolded items in the search results and you’ll see keywords that Google considers approximate and relevant. Write additional content around those terms and Google will reward your efforts.

In Drupal 8, the Real Time SEO module can help you optimize your content around keyphrases. This module evaluates your text and compares it to SEO best practices.

When you create a new node, you’ll see a section called Real Time SEO for Drupal. Here you can identify the focus keyword. The module shows you what your listing will look like in Google and allows you to edit it. You can also edit the title tag, URL path and meta description. Then the module evaluates your content and makes recommendations on what to change to improve SEO. It will give you a list of items to fix as you create content. Having this module will keep your SEO strategy on track.

3. Use internal links

Properly formed and placed links are a powerful strategy for any SEO campaign. Quality links can improve navigation and increase website traffic. Links to other sites and link to pages within your own website are also useful in helping visitors to view more relevant content.

Ensuring that your internal links stay accurate is made easier using the Linkit module for Drupal 8. This module provides an autocomplete field in your content editor making it easy to create links and ensures that the links are well formed, up to date, and accurate. The Linkit module replaces the built in linking mechanism in your WYSIWYG editor. Once the module is installed, all you need to do is select the text that you wish to link and click the link button.

To get even more value from links, you can install the D8 Editor Advanced Link module. Now when you add a link in your text, there will be an “Advanced” dropdown box. Here, you can fill in the appropriate fields such as title, class, id, target and rel for each link in CKEditor. SEO is improved because there is more text information about each link on your page.

4. Organize your content

Organized content is useful content. Organize your content around categories, then create sections on subtopics that support the main idea. Drupal 8 has built-in modules to help you do this already, which is another reason that Drupal is the best CMS for SEO. By keeping similar ideas together, your website will be more useful to your visitors. It’s also easy to see where to focus your writing efforts to fill in content categories.

For the main content of your site, you should create a taxonomy category with a handful of keyword-rich terms that all of your content will fit under. If you have great categories and loads of content in those categories, it’s easy to add a few relevant keywords to the category pages. If your content is spread out over too many categories, or it’s not organized at all, it’s almost impossible to get all those ideas onto one page.

Organized paths and URLS matter too. No content should be 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.

Using Drupal, it’s easy to create paths that give your site a nice, clean hierarchical structure, making it easier for visitors to find their way around. Using the Pathauto module you can automate SEO-friendly URLs. Putting good words in the URL is great for SEO so this module is essential. Drupal URL paths with Pathauto operate in patterns. Instead of creating a path to every single piece of content, it’s better to specify a pattern for groups of content. Drupal will follow the pattern so that you have consistency across your website.

breadcrumb examples on a cat website

The organization and labeling of your whole website is important. Taxonomy (for example, blog categories and tags) should be well-structured and hierarchical. Google loves hierarchy because it helps them understand your content. Visitors love hierarchy because it helps them figure out your site’s organization structure.

Another way to show your site’s hierarchy is through breadcrumbs. Breadcrumbs are top-of-page navigation elements that show visitors where they are on a website. Drupal 8 will create breadcrumbs automatically for you when you add the Easy Breadcrumb module. This module builds the breadcrumbs from the Drupal path. Each “/” becomes a part of the breadcrumb. The first breadcrumb comes from the Easy Breadcrumb configuration page while the title of the node becomes the last breadcrumb. Breadcrumbs help SEO by showing the hierarchy of your content to Google too.

Navigation is also improved when you provide an html sitemap. The Sitemap module for Drupal 8 provides an html sitemap which is a “cheat sheet” that makes it easier for visitors and search engines to navigate your website. Your visitors can use the sitemap to find the content they are looking for. This increases their time on site and reduces the bounce rate.

6. Keep your content compliant

Poorly written HTML might confuse the Googlebot or even your visitors’ browsers. When your HTML follows web standards such as the ones created by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), you may find that better SEO follows. Thankfully, checking your website’s HTML is easy with the W3C Validator module. This Drupal 8 module checks the markup validity of your website. Once you run the module, you will receive a list of errors for each page which you can turn over to your web developer. While you don’t need to obsess over every error, fixing the big mistakes can make a difference for your SEO.

Improve your Drupal 8 content management

Using the tips above will go a long way toward improving your Drupal 8 website for more website traffic and quality leads. If you need step-by-step guidance to improving Drupal 8 content management and SEO, take a look at Drupal 8 SEO. This book is the definitive guide to optimizing your content and boosting your Google rankings and it covers all of these tips in step-by-step detail..

Volacci is the expert when it comes to specialized Drupal SEO. Our Drupal marketing services will help you gain better, faster results for your website marketing strategy. Whether you are migrating from another CMS, upgrading from older Drupal platforms, or optimizing your current Drupal 8 website, we can help.

Give us a call at 512.989.2945 or get in touch on-line.

Jul 31 2018
Jul 31

Topic clusters has been a hot topic in the SEO community lately. They move the emphasis in SEO away from individual keywords to broader categories. Instead of optimizing a page for a keyword like “reduced fat mozzarella cheese”, the goal is to create valuable content for a strategic category such as “cheese”. By focusing on multiple topics within categories and linking these pages to the main topic page, businesses gain authority and performance for the entire topic cluster.

I agree that it’s a great idea, I’m just not so sure that it’s a “new” one. Organizing by topic clusters is old news for Drupal; it has had this capability for years. If you have a Drupal website, you may be ahead of the trend and well positioned for changing SEO strategies. Even if you haven’t designed your website around content categories, your Drupal website already has the tools you need to organize around topic clusters.

hummingbird updateWhat are Topic Clusters for SEO?

Topic clusters for SEO really got its start with the Hummingbird update to Google search in 2013. In this release, Google began to pay more attention to the context of content. Instead of focusing on individual words in a search for content, Google began to pay more attention to the intent of what the person is trying to find out. This began to push the focus of SEO strategy to content not just keywords.

The first article I remember written on the subject, was at moz.com: "Building SEO-Focused Pages to Serve Topics & People Rather than Keywords & Rankings." In this whiteboard Friday blog, Rand Fishkin wrote about how SEO is more effective when focused on a topic.

"With updates like Hummingbird, Google is getting better and better at determining what's relevant to you and what you're looking for. This can actually help our work in SEO, as it means we don't have to focus quite so intently on specific keywords.... And this is why we're seeing this big shift to this new model, this more modern model, where SEO is really about the broad performance of search traffic across a website, and about the broad performance of the pages receiving search visits.”

As a result of the Hummingbird and other updates, experienced SEO providers began changing their tactics. Even so, HubSpot’s article in May 2017, titled “Topic Clusters: The Next Evolution of SEO,” generated a lot of attention in the SEO world. This blog clearly defined topic cluster strategy. Mimi An states:

“SEO is now shifting to a topic cluster model, where a single 'pillar' page acts as the main hub of content for an overarching topic and multiple content pages that are related to that same topic link back to the pillar page and to each other. This linking action signals to search engines that the pillar page is an authority on the topic, and over time, the page may rank higher and higher for the topic it covers. The topic cluster model, at its very essence, is a way of organizing a site’s content pages using a cleaner and more deliberate site architecture.”

Because these articles have done a great job of explaining why we should be using topic clusters, I’m not going to expand on this.

What I bring to the table is years of experience in specialized Drupal SEO that includes helping clients organize their websites into topic clusters. And one thing is sure: Drupal 8 is great at organizing content around topic clusters. That isn't new at all.

How to Organize Around Topic Clusters in Drupal 8

One of Drupal’s greatest features is the way it manages, stores, and displays content, which is one reason why it is such a great CMS for marketers. Drupal gives you the control and flexibility necessary to customize how and where your content is displayed. This flexibility sets Drupal apart from other CMSes.

Drupal 8 has two core modules that allow you to organize content around topic clusters: Taxonomy and Views. (Incidentally, these features are available or can be added to older versions of Drupal, too.)

The Taxonomy system controls the categorization of your content. Other CMSes call them “categories” but in Drupal is a little different. And, in a way, "taxonomies" is a more accurate description anyway.

The first step to any topic cluster strategy is to choose your topics. The topics should be driven by your business strategy and the Taxonomy should be determined by the business requirements of your website.

To choose topic clusters, think about how your customers categorize what you do or sell. Consider what key issues your customers are dealing with when they are searching for your website. Once you’ve chosen one or more high-level topics, think about how the topic cluster can be broken down into subcategories.

grocery store organized by product taxonomyYour local grocery store is a good example of how this should work. Grocers divide the store into aisles of related products. In the dairy aisle, you will find products further segmented by cheese, sour cream, yogurt, etc. Think about how crazy your shopping trip would be if the grocers just put the items in the store without categorization.

Instead of simple trips up and down aisles, you would probably have to navigate back and forth across the store. (Insert sound of shopping carts crashing here!) Would you go back? When it is easy and quick to find what you want, you are more likely to go back for more.

Your website should work the same way. The product segments, like cheese, make up topic clusters; Taxonomy is like the refrigerator aisles and shelves that neatly hold the products.

Real-Life, Drupal Examples of Topic Clusters

Now let’s get into how this really works in Drupal. Once you have chosen your topic clusters, you can use Taxonomy to organize and display your content.

(Really quick aside: the Taxonomy system contains multiple Vocabularies. Each Vocabulary contain many Terms. It’s confusing at first but makes a lot of sense once you understand it. Just remember: Taxonomy > Vocabulary > Term.)

An often used Vocabulary is called “Tags”. The Tags vocabulary holds all of the terms that you’ve used to tag content on your site. I think everyone knows what tagging an article on your website is, but just in case: it’s a small snippet of text that describes what an article is all about. For example, this article is tagged with “Drupal 8” , "Drupal Tips", and “SEO”.

When you tag content as it’s created, Drupal’s taxonomy system creates a term in the Tags vocabulary. By tagging each piece of content, you connect, relate, and classify your content. Each term can be reused for other content as well.

Taxonomy keeps track of all the content that has a particular term applied to it and provides menu and navigation schemes to view and display that content together on a single page, called a "Term page". Hmmm...that sounds a lot like a content cluster, doesn’t it?

If a user selects any category term, Drupal will display the content links tagged with that term. Drupal automatically creates searchable topic cluster pages with links to relevant content.

Here's an example on the Volacci.com website. Our whole website is about Drupal SEO, but we have topics within that subject, such as Drupal 8 SEO and Drupal News. In this website, Drupal SEO is the main topic cluster. Within that topic, we have detailed content such as Drupal 8 SEO lead generation that add up to provide a broad range of knowledge about Drupal SEO.

why amazon bought whole foods article on volacci.com

Under the title and subtitle, you’ll see the tags I chose for that article — some already existed, some were new. Once I put the tags on this blog, Drupal automatically created a searchable page for these categories. When the reader clicks on the “Planet Drupal” tag, they see this:

taxonomy topic cluster for planet drupal on volacci.com

I don’t have to do anything to create this page; Drupal will just show all the content that is published and tagged. The module that does this for you is Views. Views is a core module in Drupal 8 but is also available as an add-on in previous versions.

The Views module allows you to use the default taxonomy term view but see it differently without the need for additional coding. For example, you can filter the results or sort it alphabetically. A great example of this is customer information; you can create customer views that show current orders sorted by product or date.

Once you’ve selected the topic cluster you want to view, Views allows you display the content in multiple forms. For this particular view, I added an author name and picture. Now, the user can click on one of the links to read more about the topic category, or even explore a new category.

This is a very simple example of how Drupal creates Google-searchable pages around topic clusters. You can even try it for yourself with this post. Take a look at the Drupal 8 tag under the title of this post right now and click on the following tag: "drupal 8". Go ahead. I'll wait.

You should have gotten a page that looks something like this:

topic cluster drupal 8 taxonomy on volacci.com

Implement Topic Clusters on Your Drupal Website

Would you like your Drupal website to be easy to explore? If you need some help setting up your website for topic clusters, contact Volacci. Using our proven processes and strategies for Drupal SEO, we can work with you to choose topic clusters and implement them on your website.

Aug 23 2017
Aug 23

[Photo credits: Ben Finklea, Jan 2017. Photos captured from iPhone video shot at Texas Grappling Challenge Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu tournament in Cedar Park, Texas.]

My Drupal developer friends and I (like any friendship) don’t always see eye-to-eye. While we have much in common—we both want stylish, high-performing websites—in some areas our goals are different. This can create the appearance of conflict. However, after working through the issues (or hitting the mats, as they say in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu), we can find common ground and mutual respect.

In Drupal 8 SEO, I lay out a list of modules that should be installed on your Drupal website to enhance SEO. I wrote this book for marketers and provide the step-by-step details you need to increase Google ranking, website traffic, customers, and revenue. While most of these activities can be completed without a developer, there are times when more expertise is needed.

Recently, one of my readers contacted me with a problem: his developer was pushing back on SEO recommendations with “I don’t see anything here that looks critical to your SEO activities.” Respectfully, I disagree. I’ve done hundreds of Drupal SEO projects and have the results to prove that these methods work.

Who’s right? You decide. Read on as a Drupal Developer and the Drupal SEO Guy spar. This blog post is based on a real email exchange and includes pushbacks and recommendations for one particular project.

Common Drupal 8 SEO Pushbacks: “You don’t really need it.”

Drupal Developer: The Admin Toolbar is totally not related to SEO. If there is something you can’t find, just use the “Go To” link on the toolbar and type to search admin pages.

Ben Finklea, the Drupal SEO Expert: I agree that this is not *necessary* for SEO. It's necessary to make Drupal easier to use, though. The problem with using the toolbar is that it's difficult to know what to search for if you don't know Drupal well. In fact, I'm experienced in Drupal 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 and still don't always know where to look. I use the Coffee module when I know exactly where I want to go and Admin Toolbar when I don't.

Drupal Developer: I’m skeptical of the benefits of using RDF UI.

Ben: RDF UI simply exposes the existing RDF. I have used RDF with much success. Every product you have on your site should have this. You can display ratings, reviews, price and more in google listings. It's amazing. The added product information gives your search listing more presence and searchers are more likely to click through to your website.

Drupal Developer: Linkit and D8 Editor Advanced Link are helper modules and aren’t relevant.

Ben: Internal linking is important for SEO. The only reasons you don’t need these modules is if you will never publish content on your site, never write blog posts or articles, or never create special listing pages for products or promotions. These modules make linking easier and more accurate. Linkit makes it easy to link on important keywords across the site. Is it necessary? No. But with Linkit, you reduce the time spent adding those links to your body content. D8 Editor Advanced Link prevents a problem that new sites won’t have right away. As sites grow and age, content is moved around (in Drupal parlance: the path is changed) and that breaks links and causes redirects. Redirects are bad for SEO. This module makes sure that links are formed properly so that they don't break even when content is moved.

Drupal Developer: Creating a sitemap isn’t useful for our platform. We don’t want to expose our human visitors to this.

Ben: Sitemaps can be very useful for bots and spiders (although not all of them use it), and it can also be helpful to site visitors if configured properly. I wouldn't put thousands of products on it. Instead, put your product category pages, taxonomies, tags, etc.

Drupal Developer: Scheduler isn’t relevant unless you feel the need to put front page callouts on a rotation.

Ben: This module works great for product promotions and blog posts, or a product released on a certain day or time. Leave it off until you need it.

Drupal Developer: AdvAgg is relevant to performance but not SEO specifically. I don’t think it makes a perceivable difference for users on high-speed connections but could save some seconds for mobile users on slow connections.

Ben: Speed is very important to great SEO results and the user experience. I talk about speed and Google SEO in this article: How to Improve Drupal 8 Website Performance. But you don’t have to take my word for it, Google has indicated the speed matters in this blog. You can also learn more at moz.com.

Google has also placed high significance on quality mobile interactions. That’s not surprising given that mobile devices have overtaken desktops as the primary search device.

“Mobile has grown so fast that it’s now the leading digital platform, with total activity on smartphones and tablets accounting for two-thirds of digital media time spent…”

Source: comScore

Having a slow page speed can cause higher bounce rates and lower average time on page. It can also mean that search engines crawl fewer pages which can lower your SEO results.

Common Drupal 8 SEO Pushbacks: “It’s too much work.”

Drupal Developer: The Easy Breadcrumb module would require a rework of our theme and will cause too many problems.

Ben: If you have a budget to make the changes, I highly recommend it. Easy Breadcrumb helps with SEO especially when you tag the breadcrumbs using Schema.org's RDF or JSON-LD. This improves your listing in Google by displaying the breadcrumb instead of the URL. Your search results will be clearer and should get more searchers clicking on your links.

Breadcrumbs are especially good for users on e-commerce sites. This article by BigCommerce has a great explanation of the importance of using breadcrumbs. According to the article, breadcrumbs not only improve click-through rates but also make it easier for search engines to crawl the site.

Drupal Developer: Yoast SEO makes sense. But keep in mind it depends on the Metatag module which takes a long time to configure.

Ben: Yes, Yoast SEO requires the Metatag module. Configuring it is indeed very time-consuming. It takes me about a day per site and I’m a pro.

Drupal Developer: The Metatag module can be used to add these page header tags, but I can do better. The Metatag module lets you dynamically add tags based on entity content but those tags can be added through our theme layer as well. I can program the website to use meta tags well outside the capability of the metatag module.

Ben: Metatags are mission critical. It's much more than just a tag. It's used by search engines, social sites, crawlers, browsers, etc. in a lot of ways. For example, the description tag is what shows up as the description in a Google search. The OpenGraph image tag determines the image that Facebook will show when a product is shared on their site. Twitter tags have a similar function.

In your past, presumably you tried it and it didn't work so you programmed a different solution. It’s possible your products are complicated and can't use straightforward Drupal SEO methods, but I can't really say so I'll withhold comment for now.

Generally speaking, unless it’s absolutely necessary, don't go out of your way to recreate functionality that a module already has. Other modules work well with Metatag—like the Realtime SEO for Drupal and the Schema Metatag module.

(Psst...Would you like to learn more about these and other Drupal 8 SEO modules? Check out Drupal 8 SEO.)

Drupal Developer: The Drupal AMP module would require a new mobile theme, so this is not one you should install.

Ben: AMP is more for news sites, so if you don’t have a lot of news, skip it. However, if you want your news to be top-of-page for Google, make sure this fits with your theme.

Common Drupal 8 SEO Pushbacks: “I can do this, but...”

Drupal Developer: Yes, we can do this but W3C Validator is more or less a one-time thing, not something that needs to be run regularly since we won’t be doing regular markups.

Ben: I agree and good call. Do this on the W3C site instead of using the module. As of right now, the module doesn't work like it should. I've posted a support ticket to Drupal about this but it hasn’t been resolved.

Drupal Developer: Search 404 sounds like it might be useful.

Ben: Search404 helps users and bots find content that has moved or find a relevant page if it has been deleted. As products go away and are replaced with new ones, you don't want to strand your visitors.

Drupal Developer: Diff gives you a view into what has changed between revisions, so this is just a content management aid. If you want you can install it, but revisions are not supported for products, promo boxes, brands, collections or mini-sites so I say don’t bother.

Ben: I use Diff to identify revisions that may have caused an increase or decrease in website traffic, but I didn’t know that it doesn’t work on products.

And the Winner Is...

Okay, shake hands–the match is over. Who won? You did! When the developer and I are on the same page, we can agree on most things. We just need to get our wires uncrossed and work out a solution that makes everyone happy. Sometimes that means I need to know more about your specific installation, and other times, the developer needs a little more education on Drupal SEO.

If you haven’t read the book, I highly recommend getting Drupal 8 SEO to learn more about my recommendations. While the book is written for marketers, if you are a developer, you may find it useful too. If you have any questions about how your Drupal SEO should be set up, give me a call.

Aug 17 2017
Aug 17

Decoupled—or “headless”—content management systems have been trending in the last few years. This web development strategy, in its most basic form, is a “write once, publish anywhere” technology that separates the content from the presentation layer. Well, um...what the heck does that mean? It means that you can publish a piece of content and then use different systems to display that blog post on a computer, a mobile device, a voice-based system like Amazon’s Alexa, or even a smart watch. Basically, it allows developers to write to many different platforms without having to tediously recreate the wheel each time. (I think…)

It is a hot topic in the Drupal community. In fact, Acquia is holding Decoupled Developer Days this weekend (August 19-20 in NYC). Much of the conversation is still occurring in the developer community, but it is also important for marketers to understand the implications of this strategy as well. The strategy has its place, but is not always the best option for several reasons.

But first, here are some terms marketers should know. Then I’ll share what factors you should consider when deciding whether to follow a decoupled CMS strategy.

What is Decoupled (Headless) Drupal? Some Terms to Know

A decoupled CMS is one where the CMS serves as the backend to store, maintain and edit content but no longer necessarily provides the delivery of that content. It’s considered “headless” because it means chopping off the part of the CMS that provides the web display.

A headless CMS usually delivers content through an API, which means that it can deliver content anywhere, on any device. You will often hear this strategy as API-first.

API-first is an approach that starts with the RESTful API as the communication between the backend, headless CMS and user devices such as websites, mobile applications, wearable, IoT devices and more.

Content as a Service (CaaS) is like a Software as a Service (SaaS), headless CMS. Think of Drupal as the host, managing the content and offering that content as a service. This separated content management and display means that the content is easily used by other sites and apps.

The decoupled CMS approach is industry wide and affects more than just those using Drupal. But if you have a Drupal website, you will want to know more about headless Drupal. In normal installations, Drupal provides a way to store data, an administrative area to manage content, and a way to display data. In a headless installation, the data display functionality is replaced with an API to the data. Then, a different framework uses that API to access, format, deliver, and display the data.

Drupal 8 includes a RESTful Web Services module in its core which plays well into adopting a headless CMS. This module along with other powerful modules such as Views and Paragraphs makes Drupal a good choice for a decoupled application.

Benefits of Decoupled Drupal to Marketers

With a headless CMS, it is possible to build flexible, responsive, interactive experiences for your users. New devices are popping up all the time and one of the big questions that marketers need to ask is how they will provide content on them. When the user interface is decoupled from the CMS, the logic for displaying content on each device is on the front-end and can provide full control of the user experience in its native tools. In other words, you, as a content provider, no longer need to worry about how the content is going to be displayed as that is handled on the device itself.

Decoupled CMS may also be faster. When the logic is on the front-end interface, the back-end CMS can be streamlined. The back-and-forth interaction happens in real-time in the browser.

At this point, you might be wondering why everyone isn’t heading toward decoupled CMS. After all, as a marketer, being able to get content out to any device quickly is paramount. However, there is a price to be paid for this ability. In many cases, that price is quite high.

Reasons Why Marketers May Not Want to Decouple Drupal

Drupal is a complete CMS with years and millions of hours of development behind it to provide a full-featured system. Going headless bypasses the value that Drupal brings to content delivery. You lose a lot of functionality that must be re-created on the front end. That will cost you more in development time and expense. Often, headless sites need multiple layers of complexity to gain back the advanced features that you have lost by rejecting the full Drupal system.

For example, if you need multi-lingual content, you will pay more for that functionality with custom development for a decoupled Drupal backend.  Meanwhile, the full Drupal CMS offers multilingual support out of the box.

When you choose to use a decoupled Drupal strategy it is also important to consider the impact on SEO. You will lose standard SEO functionality and SEO will take considerably more time and money.

Here are three examples of real-life problems we have faced when working with customers who have decoupled Drupal 7 or 8 websites:

  • Meta tags are not automatically output. While the Metatag module was installed and properly configured, the data wasn’t being pushed to the page. Search engines weren't seeing them. Extra code had to be written to retrieve the meta tags from Drupal. This took weeks of lost time and dozens of hours between the developer and the SEO team.

  • Decoupled sites that have non-standard URLs. If you are changing the way that URLs work, other things break, like Sitemap. This is another case where functionality had to be re-created. In fact, we opted to not use the available modules and use a third party service to crawl and create a sitemap manually because the development overhead would have been too costly. This functionality is trivial in a non-headless environment, not to mention free.

  • The current crop of SEO SAAS tools do not work on headless sites. If you use any third party tools like Moz, you’re out of luck when it comes to crawling and understanding your decoupled site. While those services may add support for headless CMS in the future, as of today, many hours of manual evaluations and looking at pages that used to take seconds with an automated tool are required.

And a lot more. Almost none of the recommendations I make on my SEO Checklist work with decoupled Drupal sites without some kind of additional development time and effort.

Keep in mind that all of this custom development means that you are responsible for maintenance and upkeep of this code. If there are issues or bugs with your website, your IT team will need to resolve them. Security problems? You’re largely on your own.

Can You Justify Headless Drupal?

If all you need is a CMS to manage content for a responsive website, headless Drupal is overkill and will actually slow time to market. The times to consider decoupling Drupal is when you have several different uses for the same content such as multiple websites displaying the same articles, various front-end device, and custom user experiences. Or, perhaps when you need truly real-time updates to a site where performance would be killed by using Drupal’s entire system (and even then, there are ways to do this without headless).

Powdr Ski Resorts could justify using headless Drupal because they have multiple websites for their network of ski resorts as well as around 50 unique events each year. They need flexibility to have different designs on the front-end but uniform data on the backend to manage content. The website project was completed by Elevated Third, Hoorooh Digital, and Acquia. You can learn about the challenges of this project in this blog: Decoupled Drupal: A 10,000 Ft View.

When the right situation exists, you still need to evaluate the financial impact of decoupling Drupal.

Additional costs for decoupling Drupal include:

  • Custom development to recreate existing Drupal capabilities

  • Custom development to create the data hand-off

  • Custom development for each device

  • Additional development to implement SEO

  • Added SEO maintenance and reporting costs

  • Maintenance of custom development

You may evaluate these costs and still find that headless Drupal is the way to go for your business. But in the majority of cases, the costs are too high.

And just to be perfectly clear: I’m not anti-headless Drupal. In fact, I’m very much in support of it when there are very good and specific applications that call for that particular set of functionality. It’s not bad, it’s just not the right tool for most sites.

That said, I’m very anti-headless when it’s just “for fun” or “that's the way the cool kids are doing it”. That’s crazy and expensive. Unfortunately, that’s what I’m seeing more and more. Implementing headless Drupal for static brochure websites is irresponsible and will drive people away from using Drupal in the long run.

Drupal SEO Services

Before you head down the decoupled Drupal path, be sure to factor in extra time and expense for Drupal SEO development. Volacci can work with your development team to ensure that the right functionality is available in the finished product. Contact us for an evaluation of your SEO needs.

Aug 10 2017
Aug 10

 “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Benjamin Franklin

This age-old advice from Benjamin Franklin is applicable in many situations but is a clear truth when you are upgrading or migrating your website to Drupal 8. The fact is: if you do not plan for SEO in your website transition, you will see a drop in Google rankings and traffic.

Whitepaper Cover_Key Steps to a Successful Drupal 9 SEO Website Migration or UpgradeVolacci has over ten years of Drupal experience and has created meticulous, process-driven methods for SEO during website migrations or upgrades. We've detailed all of our steps to a successful transition in our new whitepaper: Key Steps to a Successful Drupal 8 SEO Website Migration or Upgrade. Download for free here.

We’ve seen it happen over and over again: prospective clients come to us, after completing a website migration without an SEO plan, desperate to get their rankings and search engine traffic back. They are getting those dreaded 404 errors because URLs have changed and they are missing valuable content from their old site. By failing to plan for SEO during the transition, they have prepared to fail in Google search results!

The best Drupal migration or upgrade starts with a plan. Starting with an SEO transition plan helps you avoid these problems. In fact, if done right, your traffic and rankings will improve.

What Does a Drupal 8 Migration Plan for SEO Look Like?

“If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could better judge what to do, and how to do it.” Abraham Lincoln

Just as Abraham Lincoln suggests, the first thing to do is evaluate where you are, where you want to be and then determine how to get there. A Drupal SEO transition plan should include the steps below. Following these steps will take you from where you are with your old website to where you want to be with your new one.

  1. Establish a ranking and traffic baseline on the old site.
  2. Agree upon goals for the newly migrated website.
  3. Evaluate your customer and how you target them.
  4. Analyze the competition. Steal their best ideas.
  5. Review content: keep, improve, or redirect.
  6. Implement technical SEO for the new website.
  7. Evaluate your landing and transaction pages for conversions.
  8. Communicate with Google and other sites about the change.
  9. Measure and monitor your new website before, during and after the migration.

Learn more about each of these steps in Volacci’s new whitepaper: Key Steps to a Successful Drupal 8 SEO Website Migration or Upgrade. You’ll see key metrics to evaluate, questions to answer, and other things to consider in a complete Drupal SEO transition plan.

Transition to a New Drupal 8 Website with Confidence

"Once you have commitment, you need the discipline and hard work to get you there." Haile Gebrselassie

The greatest SEO transition plan is useless if you don’t follow through. Once the plan is in place, the hard work begins. Upgrading or migrating your website to Drupal 8 can be time-consuming and costly, but the results may be essential to improving your digital presence and business growth.

You don’t have to do it alone. Volacci offers specialized Drupal SEO services so that you can make the transition with confidence.  Contact us to sign up for a free migration evaluation or give us a call at (512) 989-2945 x201.

About Drupal Sun

Drupal Sun is an Evolving Web project. It allows you to:

  • Do full-text search on all the articles in Drupal Planet (thanks to Apache Solr)
  • Facet based on tags, author, or feed
  • Flip through articles quickly (with j/k or arrow keys) to find what you're interested in
  • View the entire article text inline, or in the context of the site where it was created

See the blog post at Evolving Web

Evolving Web