Optimizing Drupal for Page Speed

Drupal is not very SEO friendly

Requires you to install third party modules to improve its SEO

Updated: June 14, 2019
By: RSH Web Editorial Staff
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Drupal is a great Content Management System (CMS), over 1 million users globally are using Drupal to build some of the best and powerful websites. To maximize SEO with Drupal you should first configure with the proper settings

Optimize Drupal

Lets start with Clean URLs and the Pathauto Module. These will give you the benefit of being able to control the use of keywords in each URL based on the title of the page
Install and Configure the Metatag Module You will need these for advanced configurations of HTML, Open Graph, Twitter Card, and Dublin Core meta tags required for social media and SERPs
Use GTmetrix PageSpeed to test the site. Follow the recommendations for web-page performance according to this framework to fine tune the Drupal site settings
Use the Advanced Aggregation Module (AdvAgg). This module overrides Drupal’s core aggregation to compress CSS and JavaScript, providing more options to optimize for page speed

With installing these modules - paying close attention to the configuration and settings, the core variable system can effectively generate complex metatag results for dynamic content without having to manually enter the information for every web page. By installing advanced aggregation of CSS and JavaScript, Drupal pages will consistently score high results on PageSpeed tests

Clean URLS

When installing Drupal 7, the CMS will automatically run a test to see if the server will support the use of Clean URLs. The main reason for this is to confirm that the “mod-rewrite” extension for Apache is available. Clean URLs will remove the “?q=” string that appears after the domain name on every Drupal page and also allow for further customization of URLs with keywords based on the page title using the Pathauto module. The use of keywords in the URL is considered a major factor of the Google PageRank algorithm for categorizing the content of pages of search engine result pages (SERPs)

Sites that fail the Clean URL test on shared hosting can typically correct this by adding “RewriteBase /” to the .htaccess file. For more information on this process, visit the Drupal.org Clean URL page The only difference with Drupal 8 is that Clean URLs are enabled by default in the installation process and there is no admin section to disable them. For more information on configuring a web server to use Clean URLs with Drupal 8, visit this overview page on Drupal.org. The important point with Clean URLs is that they are just the starting point for maximizing SEO performance on a Drupal site with Pathauto

Configuring the Pathauto Module for SEO

The installation process for the Pathauto Module, Metatag, & AdvAgg modules is standard: download the files from Drupal.org, unpack the zip files, and upload them to the server in the sites/all/modules folder or use Drush to install them with the command line. Enable each module in the Drupal administration section and check the permissions. (Note: Metatags requires both the CTools & Token modules)
The Pathauto Module can also be used to organize content for site programming, such as when placing dynamic blocks on a page according to content type

There are only a few main values to consider with Pathauto, then the module will automatically translate the page titles of Drupal content into SEO friendly URLs which are keyword rich for content searches. Navigate to the Pathauto configuration section and review the default settings, replacing any of the program variables using keywords

Configuring the Metatag Module

When using the Metatag module with Drupal 7 and 8, the most important settings relate to the page title, canonical URL, and description. These meta tags determine what summary text will display for each page in the Search Engines results page. The page description can be the same for all pages on a site or set individually for each unique page. Because pages with a unique description will perform better in the SERPs, it is important to configure the description to be based on the teaser summary

The Metatags module will integrate with Views and also allow for the custom setting of page descriptions according to content type. Best practice is to configure the page description for the homepage and main menu landing pages manually, then use Drupal systems variables to auto-write unique values for dynamic content. Use of the Dublin Core tags is considered optional. The module also allows for custom icons and favicons to be programmed through metatags for web apps and mobile

PageSpeed Tests

GTmetrix PageSpeed is probably the best site to test the performance of your website and to ensure that all Search Engines are happy with your site. The PageSpeed requirements are related to factors that go beyond the use of just metatags in HTML. GTmetrix tells you a lot about your website performance. Their Report gives you the full picture on how your site loads and helps you find problems

Key features include:

  • PageSpeed and YSlow scores and Recommendations
  • Page Load Details (time, size, number of requests)
  • Various Analysis Options
  • Waterfall, Video and Report History
  • Optimize the order of styles and scripts
  • Defer parsing of JavaScript
  • Inline small JavaScript
  • Minify JavaScript
  • Minify CSS
  • Specify a cache validator
  • Leverage browser caching
  • Optimize images
  • Minify HTML
  • Avoid bad requests
  • Avoid landing page redirects
  • Enable gzip compression
  • Enable Keep-Alive
  • Inline small CSS
  • Minimize redirects
  • Minimize request size
  • Put CSS in the document head
  • Serve resources from a consistent URL
  • Serve scaled images
  • Combine images using CSS sprites
  • Avoid CSS @import
  • Prefer asynchronous resources
  • Specify a character set early
  • Specify image dimensions
  • Avoid a character set in the meta tag
  • Specify a Vary: Accept-Encoding header

You should also use TinyJPG.com for better image compression of .jpg and .png images, which optimizes better than Adobe Photoshop

For more advanced page caching than Drupal core provides, use the Views Content Cache module, Boost, or alternatively a solution with APC, Memcache, and Varnish

Advanced CSS and JavaScript Aggregation

Use of the AdvAgg module with Drupal is standard and simple but contains a wide range of settings that can be combined to optimize CMS performance for PageSpeed. The AdvAgg module overrides the standard CSS and JavaScript aggregation in Drupal core and can be accessed through the “Performance” area of the CMS administration section. The main sections of the AdvAgg Module contain the settings for:
CSS and JavaScript compression
Third party compression plugins
Experimental applications
Change these settings to see which combinations work best for the website pages by visiting the GTmetrix PageSpeed test again and using a feedback process to find the optimal combination. Another option is to use the Speedy module to replace the Drupal core JavaScript files with optimally compressed versions of the files. Speedy will also work well with the AdvAgg module, but needs to be updated with every Drupal core version change

Summary

We hope this tutorial will help you create a fully optimized for SEO Website with a lot of flexibility. While some aspects of page speed will depend on the server environment, using advanced page caching, properly deploying CSS and JavaScript aggregation, and optimizing image files will significantly improve GTmetrix’s PageSpeed test scores. Using the page description metatags, keyword-driven page titles in the URL structure, and using the various modules mentioned above should ensure optimal SEO configuration for a site that you built with Drupal

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