Content Marketing, WordPress

Do Search Engines Care If You Use Drupal?

SEO and Content Management Systems
Content Management Systems and SEO

How much do Content Management Systems (CMS), like WordPress, Drupal, Joomla!, play a part in search engine optimization (SEO)? 

Certainly bad site design (not clean urls, bad content, poor use of domain names, etc) in a CMS like Drupal is going to affect SEO (great tools used in a bad way idea). But do content management systems themselves lend to better SEO over others, if all the other good practices are done? And, how would mixing systems (ex, WordPress or Drupal blog supporting a Shopify site) affect SEO (again presuming all the other good SEO practices are followed)?

From a search engine point of view, there is no distinction between Drupal, WordPress, or Shopify. Before I get hit with “Wait a minute”, let me clarify. Search engines look at the HTML that is served back to them when they crawl links. They are not looking at the database behind the website and they are not looking at the admin page used to configure the site. What search engines are looking at is the HTML generated, or rendered, by the content management system.

Drupal, as a CMS, utilizes a framework of PHP code, APIs, databases, template files, CSS, and JavaScript to mange the process of creating (aka rendering) a web page’s HTML. The HTML is what the search engine is looking at. This rendered HTML contains all sorts of information that the search engine uses to classify and codify the web page. So when someone says one CMS is better than another for SEO purposes, what is really being said here is the “better” CMS helps render “better” HTML for search engines.

For example: When using Drupal, you have to option of turning on clean URLS. You don’t have to use clean URLS, but when you do, you get a URL that a human can understand (ex: http://example.com/products?page=38661&mod1=bnr_ant vs http://example.com/consulting/marketing). And, yes, clean URLs can help SEO.

Another example: Drupal, through its Pathauto module, will create meaningful URLs based off the page’s title. For example, a page titled “10 Summer Activities For Your Kids” will automatically get a URL of http://example.com/10-summer-activities-for-your-kids . You don’t have to use Pathauto but you should as it help make the page URL easy for people to read and remember.

Last example: Site maps help search engines understand what is on your site. While you can manually create (ug) a site map and submit it to Google or Bing, it is a task better suited to computers. Drupal’s XML Sitemap module is a must have as it automatically generates and maintains the site map files and offers the ability to submit them to search engines.

Google or Bing are not so much interested in whether or not you use Drupal, all they really care about is the output of Drupal. But you need care about using Drupal, as it is a tool that makes easy the process of creating SEO friendly HTML and URLs.

Brief aside… Drupal is just a tool. It will provide the features and functionality needed to setup and run a website. It will not write great posts for you. That is still up to you. The number one thing you can do to influence any SEO rankings is have information that is well written, meaningful to the topic, and consistently created over time.

4 Comments

  1. 1

    You’re absolutely right, John… search engines do NOT care what your CMS is. However, having worked with many content management systems, I can tell you that there are many older systems out on the market that don’t have the features necessary to fully optimize them. The ability to update robots.txt, sitemaps.xml, pinging the search engines, formatting pages (without table layouts), optimizing for page speed, updating meta data… you’ll find that many content management systems constrain their users. As a result, the client works hard on content that’s not fully leveraged.

  2. 2

    You’re right on, John. I come across a lot of questions on Quora and by others which CMS is best for SEO. The answer is just about any of the newer content management systems that have the ability to make clean URLs and utilize many of the tools that search engines like to use.

    @Doug – you’re right as well. Older content management systems often lack the ability to properly engage in SEO.

  3. 3

    In some cases, even a modern CMS can have a negative, or at least, less than optimum effect on SEO.

    Joomla, for instance, has a configuration setting for creating a site-wide meta description that will be applied to every page where an author does not create a custom meta description. This has led some of my clients to assume they did not need to create descriptions optimized for the page.

    For a seasoned content author, this would not be an issue. However, all content management systems lower the bar for authors, enabling less-experienced authors to contribute their own content, unaware of optimization concerns.

  4. 4

    Well CMS’s are outputting the HTML so of course they affect SEO. Drupal is a complete pain to configure properly for SEO, for anything you can to nominate. xml sitemaps, friendly URLs (always reverts to /node), independent URLs/page titles/headings, img alt tags, blogging (don’t get me started, blogging in Drupal has nothing on WP). 

    We love Drupal for large sites, but it’s not fun to SEO’ify. WP is astronomically easier.

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