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Search Engine Optimization

Best Practices for Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Search Engines, like Google, use different data to determine how to display search results. This is usually referred to as "meta data". Search engines can detect this information on a site if it is properly labeled (semantically codes through HTML).  If a search engine cannot find relevant information on your site using such as page title, description, or headings, it may try to fill in the blank on its own or keep that information blank. When someone does a search, it will be harder for that search to recommend your site. 

Page Title

In the Drupal template, a title is required when creating a page with any content type. The block for Page Title can be found under Structure -> Block Layout (site builder roles only) under the Content Header section. This can be configured. By default, all sites will have page titles displayed for all content types except People Profiles. It is highly recommended to keep page titles displayed on all other pages.

Content Header - Page Title

 

Meta Description aka "Summary"

Think of a meta description as a "Summary". In fact, in Drupal, there is a "Summary" section on most content types for this very reason. This is a short blurb to summarize the information on a specific page. This meta description, or summary, is often used as the description of the page in search results and is also displayed on social media platforms when the page is shared. 

[Meta descriptions] should generally inform and interest users with a short, relevant summary of what a particular page is about.” – Google 

The "Summary" in Drupal allows editors to write their own meta description. This description will be truncated. Google, at the moment, will take 160 characters, however, they have been known to change this and at one time allowed for 300 characters. Other search engines may allow more or less. This is why Drupal will not limit you, but it is good to keep in mind the limitations. It is recommended to fill out this "Summary" section. It is found in the Main Body box, and reads "Edit summary". Once clicked, it will expand to a field box.

Edit summary link to expand
Edit Summary
Summary box on content types
Summary field box

 If you do not fill out this summary, typically, search engines will try to search your content. It will look for the "body" of your content and take the first number of characters on the page to fill their quota. While this is better than nothing, your first few sentences it uses as a description may not be ideal. In Drupal, if your page does not contain any body content, let's say you used custom blocks, it will be harder for search engines to find information to populate this meta description. And the next question is, if found, would this be a satisfactory summary for the page? 

Meta Description Best Practices

So how do you write a good meta description or summary? 

  • Be accurate and specific - what should the visitor expect of this page?
  • Actions - is there something visitors should do on this page? Sign up or view a schedule? This can be part of the summary.
  • Benefits vs details - don't focus on the details, focus on what is to be gained from the page.
  • Special formatting - avoid it. 
  • Unique - make sure each page has a unique summary. If many of your pages are using similar summaries...maybe it is an opportunity to consolidate content.
  • Be friendly and inviting.  
  • Keywords - They are out! A long list of keywords or "hashtags" is not wanted.

* Summaries for basic pages are not displayed anywhere on the published Drupal page. Summaries for events and articles are used in the teasers.