Drupal 6 Search Engine Optimization Review

I recently had the pleasure of reading Drupal 6 Search Engine Optimization by Ben Finklea, published by Packt Publishing. As the lead developer of a small start-up that depends on organic search traffic (as well as Search Engine Marketing, SEM, campaigns) I already have a keen interest and generally thorough understanding of SEO practices in general, and SEO tricks specifically for Drupal. I approached this book wondering how much I may or may not actually learn. Gladly, it was worth the read.

Drupal 6 Search Engine Optimization is a book that any Drupal shop should have on the shelf for reference, and any budding (or experienced) Drupal dev should read to help them add value to any customer site they are building. Search engines many times send the lion's share of traffic to new sites, so building a site that search engines view favorably should always be a priority for any serious site construction project.

In a certain sense, this book is more than a Drupal book as it expounds on a few SEO topics and tools that are completely separate from Drupal. For a few site owners, this is golden as they will not have to plunk down another $20 (or euros, or pounds) for a general SEO book. In the first few chapters general marketing advise, how to set up a Google Analytics account, and even the value of viewing user activities though a click heat map are discussed. All are outside Drupal proper, but are topics that help round out the general knowledge base of the reader. The book assumes a very rudimentary level of Drupal understanding, and assumes no SEO knowledge.

Without going into a chapter by chapter overview (read the back cover and TOC for that), I do want praise Ben for reasonably trying to introduce all the important site-wide tips (robots.txt updates, .htacess forwarding of domains, sitemaps and URL lists among others), the different SEO tools including Google's webmaster tools, click heat maps, and Google Analytics, and he explains the importance of thinking in marketing terms when dealing with SEO, which is spot on.

This book also deals with the important on page optimizations that Drupal excels out with its plethora of modules. From Page Title updating, to Token/Pathauto mentions, and Path and Global Redirects settings, modules are mentioned and configured left and right. A whole chapter also specifically looks at media optimizations. This is where the book really shines and is well worth the read.

One critique of the book is that some non standard terms were used for certain Drupal functions. This might have been done to smooth the edges on some confusing Drupalisms, but may cause confusion for the reader. I had to read the section on account types a few times before I figured out Ben was talking about user roles. Another criticism is that at times modules were introduces and configured very quickly, and in a clunky fashion. Also a few challenging topics of SEO were brushed upon that I may disagree with (one point being when canonical links should be used, and another the dimishing importance of Page Rank).

Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn't mention a few pointers or modules that were new to me. Specifically:

The Alinks module automatically links specific keywords in your content. The Top Searchers modules add a block to the most searched for terms on your site, and the Menu Attributes allows for more menu attributes to be configured including the rel, target and class/ID of menu items. Also Taxomony Title also you to edit the page title of Taxonomy terms (as the Page Title modules does for nodes, maybe they should be merged.), and the Read more links (D7 Read More module) places the 'read more' link inline with the teaser instead of in the Drupal links section as well what the text of the read more link is.

In all, definitely worth the read and hopefully extends Drupal onto the SEO shelves at book stores.

Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of Drupal 6 Search Engine Optimization to facilitate this review. All opinions are my own.