Like any professional worth their salt in today's world I have a daily regimen of reading blog posts, watching videos and attending online webinars for continuing education in my field. As SEO is an ever changing discipline I must remain sharp. This morning I read a great post by Mike Pantoliano over at SEOmoz. Mike's post, Tips and Must-Haves for your eCommerce Platform, is an overview of key elements that you should look for when choosing an eCommerce platform. As I rolled through each of his well stated criteria I could not help but to proclaim "Drupal Check! Ubercart Check!"
So as I strolled through the list I thought I would continue my quest as a Drupal and SEO evangelist and give my 2 cents by highlighting each point with a comment and moving on. As it turns out there are a lot more points worth emphasizing. So I am going to take a deeper dive into each aspect.
Proper eCommerce Image Handling
Most ALL eCommerce sites rely heavily on images, and for good reason. Images are extremely helpful for visitors to your site and, when properly configured, they perform remarkably well for search engine optimization purposes . You must be able to properly control what is displayed to the customer. From an SEO standpoint there are many things to consider when displaying a product image.
Image Swapping URL's
Matt highlights URL generation on image swapping and his example is completely taken care of by Ubercart Option Images. We have used the module a few times and it is great "out of the box". However if you decide that you need to alter the template files or swap more than one image you will need a bit of custom programming.
The folders on your server should always be properly organized. Drupal gives you complete control over creating a proper folder structure to help organize and silo your content. This means that you can follow best practices by implementing keywords into your folders as well as the image titles.
By default, many other platforms construct very deep and ambiguous file structures. When constructing folders, try to limit the depth of your URL to 4 folders or fewer (e.g., /sites/default/files/Drupal-SEO/drupal-seo.jpg)
Alt text is the text that you provide for an image in case it can't be displayed. There are many reasons for an image to not load in the browser correctly. Without an alt tag, the user gets just a broken image icon. With thoughtful, descriptive alt tag content the user still knows what that image contained. The same applies for search engines, who never see images.
Much to our chagrin, many of our clients, love to leverage WYSIWYG editors. Apart from being annoying and mostly producing badly formed markup, WYSIWYG editors lack some automated sophistication that Drupal's Insert module provides. The ability to control the alt and title tags without knowing the proper HTML syntax has been huge for us in educating our clientele. As an added bonus, the Insert module integrates nicely with the top Drupal WYSIWYG editors.
Size Control and Caching
Imagecache is a staple of almost every Drupal install. The ability to create presets for image processing is a huge advantage. This helps increase site speed, as Drupal will dynamically generate the image file and cache it. If your browser is having to process and scale down a very large image, then without this module the page load would increase dramatically.
This post just touches on the image handling aspects of Drupal and Ubercart. Check back soon for my take on sitemaps and site structuring.