5 Must Have Drupal SEO Modules
5 Must Have Modules for Drupal SEO

I have been doing Drupal development for the last four years. During that time, one concern from potential clients has been that Drupal isn’t SEO friendly. While Drupal may not come ready for search engine optimization out of the box, with a few additional modules and some proper configuration, Drupal can be a successful SEO platform. Below are what I consider must have modules for Drupal SEO.

1. Pathauto
Pathauto works by creating automatic URL aliases based upon tokens that you set in the configuration. By default, Drupal’s URL structure looks similar to “/node/75” where 75 is the node id of the page. With Pathauto, your urls will transform into keyword rich URLS such as “blog/five-must-have-modules-drupal-search-engine-optimization”. Each URL pattern can be configured on a per-content type basis, and you can add alias patterns for your taxonomies as well as your users.

2. Global Redirect
The Global Redirect module works by automatically redirecting visitors from the node/xx URL to the aliased version of the URL. This is important as it prevents duplicate content penalties within Drupal. This module also allows you to add a canonical tag to your pages as well.

3. MetaTag
The Metatag module allows you the option of configuring metatags for your site at both the individual and global level. As of the time of this writing, the Metatag module has support for the following tags:

4. XML SiteMap
The XML SiteMap module create sitemaps that you can use to submit to Google, Bing and Yahoo’s Webmaster tools. You can indicate which content types you’d like to see included and indicate the priority of those content type pages on your site. The benefit of submitting an XML Sitemap is so that the search engines know about all of the pages on your site. Without it, they will only know about the pages found during their normal crawling process which sometimes misses pages.

5. SEO Checklist
The SEO Checklist module doesn’t add any functionality to your site directly, but it does serve as a reminder for SEO related tasks that still need to be completed. It separates items by category and allows you to check off items as they are completed. SEO checklist also saves a timestamp of each completed action so that other site administrators will know when items are completed. This module is updated frequently with the latest SEO techniques and helps ensure that you are maximizing SEO for your site.

LightSky recommends Drupal as a solution too many of our clients who want easy to use and maintain websites that are also flexible and secure. One of the great features of Drupal is that it is so easy to customize. Adding the above modules for SEO is an example of how Drupal can easily be adapted for our clients’ needs. What are some of your favorite modules for SEO in Drupal?

Web Application vs Website
Web Applications vs Websites: Understanding the Difference

If you are a bit confused as to the difference between a website and a web application, fear not. You are not the only one. In fact, many of our clients ask us that very question. It’s not always an easy one to answer, but let’s try to break down their differences.

What is a Web Application?

The actual definition of a web application is a bit ambiguous. Still, one way that I encourage clients to think about it is to think of a web application as equivalent to the software you’d use on your PC or an app on your mobile device. A web application is built on the same fundamental technologies that power most websites, but the difference lies in their purpose and complexity.

Whereas a website is meant to present some sort of information, a web application is designed to solve a specific objective. So if you were the owner of a small restaurant in town and you approached me and asked me to build you something that would represent your business, I would consider that a website (as I’m sure most would). However, if you asked me to build you an online ordering system that integrated with your internal fulfillment processes, that would be more of a web application.

So why the confusion?

Often this can get a little confusing as websites are getting more sophisticated and go often go beyond serving up information. It’s not uncommon for a client to ask us to build a brochure-type website with a bit of “custom” functionality that does a specific thing, such as adding a dealer locator or even some basic e-commerce functionality. This type of workflow automation has the potential to save organizations money and increase their return on investment. That said, at the end of the day, I would still consider that a website as its original purpose is to serve up information.

Web Application Examples

Clear as mud? If you are still a little confused as to the difference between the two, maybe it would be helpful to look at a few examples:

Your Bank – The main landing page you arrive on once you type in their URL would be their website. However, once you login to their online banking system, that would be a web application.

Facebook/Twitter/Etc – Almost every social media platform out there could be considered a web application because they solve a specific purpose — to connect people together.

Google – You could consider Google both a website AND a web application.

At the end of the day, that is the point. There isn’t a significant difference between the two terms and can, and often are, used interchangeably. That ambiguity can be confusing, but thinking in terms of complexity and purpose can go a long way towards clarifying the differences between the two.

NavBar in Drupal
NavBar – The Next Step in Drupal Navigation

So I am not kidding NavBar is literally the next step in Drupal navigation, it is being used in core for Drupal 8.  This is great news because not only does it mean that the Drupal 8 core will contain some much needed improvements to the administration navigation scheme.  Back end user improvements like this are perhaps the thing that makes me most excited about what Drupal 8 is bringing to the table.  Lets look a little bit at NavBar.

What You Get

Drupal's Navbar ModulePretty simply put NavBar gets you a responsive administration toolbar for your Drupal users.  It really isn’t going to do anything for what your visitors see, but your content creators, site administrators, and even site builders will see this as a much welcomed change.  NavBar is first and foremost completely responsive, and for those of you who use the traditional Drupal administration toolbar on your mobile phone oh boy are you excited.  The standard Drupal 7 install, not to mention Drupal 6, doesn’t offer the most mobile friendly administrative experience.  NavBar helps resolve this.  NavBar also offers a more flexible navigation option.  You are able to use NavBar at the top of your site above the header, or as a sidebar on the left hand side.  The customization of the tool, really helps set it apart.

Not only is the mobile experience improved, but there is a much cleaner and professional looking image presented than the Drupal 7 administration menu.  Though this might not seem like much, for those of us who build Drupal sites for clients this is a big deal.  Image is everything, and it is tough to sell Drupal’s out of the box usability against WordPresses out of the box usability.  We have a lot of admin usability improvements in our standard Drupal installation to help combat this, but now NavBar is another one.  Users almost expect clean and friendly design, and now they can get it.

Installation

I am not going to lie, NavBar in its current state is a bit of installation work, but most people should be able to figure it out if they have a little understanding for how Drupal is structured.

The first step for me is downloading and installing the project. I think that drush is the best tool for installing and enabling projects like this, but particularly for NavBar I suggest installing the project before moving to some of the other steps.  The reason is that once the project is installed and enabled it will put some indicators on your /admin/reports/status page that can really help you troubleshoot in the next steps.

Once the NavBar module is enabled, you can visit the site’s status report using the path above and notice that there are a three statuses now associated with NavBar, and this is where the fun comes in.  NavBar requires the installation of three libraries (Modernizr, Backbone, and Underscore), and you may have them already installed, or at least some of them.  Using the status page at this point will help you find out if you have them already installed and ready to run, or whether you need to install them.
If you find that you need to install them, the process isn’t all that complicated, there are some helpful guides on the project page that will point you in the right direction.  Or give us a shout we would be happy to help.  Essentially it is a matter of downloading the libraries, or cloning their respective repositories, and moving them to your libraries folder in the Drupal installation.  The Modernizr library requires you to follow a link and download a specific minimized version of the library but there are specific instructions to follow on the project page to help guide you here, so I won’t reinvent the wheel here.  The instructions are pretty thorough, and relatively simple.

Once you have the libraries installed you can disable your regular administration toolbar and you are off and running.  If you follow those steps and still aren’t having any luck, the site status report is the best place to look.  Most likely it is an error with the libraries that were installed, and that report will point you to which library is causing trouble, and maybe even what the problem is.

We have fallen in love with NavBar, and it has started making a huge impact on our clients and how well they like using Drupal.  We highly suggest you use it.

Improving Drupal Usability
14 Modules for Improving Drupal Usability

Often times, Drupal gets a bad rap for usability. That’s because out of the box Drupal isn’t very user friendly. As with everything Drupal, it requires a few contributed modules in order to really make it shine. Below are a list of fourteen modules that you can add to your Drupal site to increase its usability. Let’s begin!

Views Bulk Operations – VBO is a module that allows you to execute bulk actions on views rows. The actions it comes with are pretty standard, but you can extend it using the Rules module or even roll your own if that’s your thing. This module allows for your site admins to be able to do things like mass delete nodes, mass publish/unpublish nodes, or even mass change the nodes author.

Admin Views – Admin Views is a module that replaces the stock administration screens with views. Why is this neat? You can add additional exposed filters to your users administration screens, or change which columns appear in order to help your site admins easily find the information they are looking for.

Draggable Views – Draggable Views is a module that allows your rows in a view to be reordered using the same javascript implementation that you find scattered about the Drupal admin (blocks, menu, etc).

Module Filter – Module Filter is a module that seeks to garner control over the unwieldy module listing page. It does this by adding a tab on the left hand side for each package, as well as one for showing the modules alphabetically. It also adds a textbox that you can search to quickly filter the module listing.

Autocomplete Deluxe – The Autocomplete Deluxe module replaces the default autocomplete element with the jQuery UI version making it much more user friendly than the default implementation.

Pathologic – The Pathologic module is an input filter which fixes image and link paths that would otherwise cause them to break. This is useful in situations where your site admins have content on both staging and live sites. Gone are the days of the live site pointing to the test site by accident or vice versa.

Custom Contextual Links – Contextual links was one of the features that our D6 -> D7 clients really seemed to love. One great usability improvement that you can make is to add a contextual link to a view (for example) that would allow them to quickly add the piece of content that corresponds to that view. Normally you’d add these custom contextual links through a set of hooks, but this module provides a nice UI to make it simple.

Conditional Fields – The Conditional Fields module allows you to create fields that are dependent upon one another in order to be shown. One example of this would be to show a textarea of an admin (or user) selected “Other”. I added this module because it can be go a long way towards cleaning up administration screens when adding content types with lots of information.

Linkit – The Linkit module replaces the default CKEditor link icon with an autocomplete field that allows admins to easily drill down to the content they are looking to link to.

Edit – Drupal 8 will ship with inline editing, and if you are too excited to wait, check out the Edit module. Edit module allows you to do just that, edit content in place. Note that you’ll need to use the CKEditor WYSIWYG if you want this to work on WYSIWYG fields.

Select2 – Like the autocomplete deluxe module above, the Select2 module replaces the standard select box with one that supports searching, remote data sets and infinite scrolling of results.

References Dialog – The References Dialog replaces all the standard reference fields with a dialog that allows them to add, edit and search for references. This can go a long way towards simplifying the administration workflow.

Content Menu – The Content Menu module adds the ability for administrators to be able to create pieces of content straight from the menu administration pages. When creating a piece of content, you have the ability to add a menu item, so it only makes sense that you can add a piece a content when adding a menu item.

Navbar – The Navbar module adds a mobile friendly navigation bar to the administration section of your website replacing the default toolbar which is non-responsive.

There you go. Fourteen modules to improve the authoring experience of your Drupal site. What do you think of the list? Are there any modules you would like to see added? Feel free to discuss in the comments below.

Software Development Services
5 Benefits of a Business Website

So you’ve thought about having a website for your business, but aren’t sure if having one is worth the investment? Regardless of the business goals of your website, having a web presence should be a part of any business plan. This article will describe five key benefits of having a business website.

Benefit #1: Demographic Data

Having a good idea of who your customers are, and what their needs are, are important aspects of marketing for a business. Having a website, combined with free tools such as Google Analytics can really help you determine your marketing demographics. These types of tools, such as Google Analytics, can provide you with a lot of different data – pages with the most hits to how people are finding your website. This type of marketing data can be used to grow your business.

Benefit #2: Customer Driven Approach

Having a website gives you the ability to drive more customers to your brick and mortar locations. Because your website is online 24/7, customers aren’t limited to learning about your business during normal business hours. In addition, you can tailor your website to give your customers exactly the information that they are seeking.

Benefit #3: Credibility

Having a well-designed, professional looking website, will provide credibility to your business. Well written web content will keep your customers engaged, and encourage them to explore your website and learn about who you are as a business. More and more people are search for services and products on the web versus. If you don’t have that crucial web presence, you are ‘giving’ business to your competitors.

Benefit #4: Ease of Customer Interaction

Many people think that a website is simply a place to put information, but at it’s core a well designed and maintained website is much more than that. Having the opportunity to get to know your customers through the use of social media and a blog will provide you with more information about what your customers are looking for and expecting from you. The easier it is for people to interact with your business, the more likely they are to remain a satisfied customer. You can also design your website contents specifically to address your customers’ needs. This drives more visitors to your website as they are more likely to share this information with people they know through the power and reach of social media.

Benefit #5: Maintainability

Unlike print media, a website is easy to change, and can be updated as frequently as needed. In addition, the cost to change content on a website is only measured through time, whereas a piece of printed material includes time and material. A website won’t replace the need for printed material, but a well designed site with targeted content can supplement the print materials. You can easily use your website to provide your clients with printed materials through downloads, or provide your clients with video media that they can watch directly within your website.

Twitter Hashtag Best Practices
Best Practices for Using Hashtags on Twitter

If you are new to the world of Twitter, you may have been wondering what all those words are prefixed with the # symbol were. Well, those are hashtags, and if used correctly can be a big benefit to your Twitter based social media campaign. In this blog post, we are going to look at some of the best practices for using hashtags on Twitter.

First, let’s look at what a hashtag is. A hashtag is a word, with no punctuation or spaces, prefixed with a # and usually denotes a category or topic of a tweet (e.g. #programming or #drupal).

What a hashtag does is it provides a way to tie in different users tweets into a single conversation. These conversations can generally be accessed via the Twitter search function, or if you’re using a third-party tool such as HootSuite or TweetDeck, then you can access them there. So what are some best practices for using hashtags?

Don’t overuse hashtags

Best practices generally suggest that you limit your use of hashtags to two or less per tweet.

Research your hashtags

Before using a hashtag, it’s generally a good idea to do some research. Is the hashtag you wish to use already being used? If so, is it surrounding a conversation you wish to have your tweet be a part of? Also keep in mind that an overused hashtag could dilute your tweet due to sheer numbers, so be open to creating a new hashtag if that appears to be the case.

Use hashtags that are relevant to your industry

When determining which hashtags to use, it’s a good idea to use those that relate to your specific industry or event. If you are tweeting regarding an event such as “DrupalCon”, try to determine which hashtag is already being used (e.g. #drupalconparis). You can usually determine this by doing a search on Twitter for the phrase, or by looking on that event’s website or marketing material. Using the right hashtags can get your tweet in front of the audience of which it was intended.

Incorporate hashtags into other marketing material

Hashtags shouldn’t only be displayed on Twitter. In fact, some of the best ways for getting your hashtag used is to incorporate it into other aspects of your marketing material. Say you are sending a flyer in the mail regarding a sale you are having, you may want to include a hashtag on the marketing material to start a conversation around that sale.

Now that you have a better understanding of what hashtags are, and how to use them, I encourage you to go out there and tweet. Hashtags can be a great resource for using Twitter to maximize its marketing potential.