Holistic SEO and Drupal

Best practices in an ever changing search landscape

Created by Jim Birch
Xeno Media, Inc.

Holistic SEO is a term used to describe development in which content, marketing, technical SEO, performance, security, user experience and user intent come together to create an ideal url on the internet, about a certain topic.

Why take a Holistic approach to seo?

It defines a set of best practices that ultimately benefits the user.

As search engine algorithms get more personalized, complex and intelligent, we won't be able to control or predict changes.

Today's Google algorithm puts more value on Topic and User Intent than Keywords.

a page we created containing a very specific search term

Once upon a time, we were able to create small pieces of keyword specific content...


ranking for a very specific search term

And we were able to get it to rank on the search engines!

Floor Finish Guide

These days, one piece of holisticly created content can be returned for different worded search terms.

HouseLogic.com's Guide to Hardwood Floor Finishes

Is listed for the following search terms:

  • hardwood floor finishes
  • wood floor finish
  • how to finish a hardwood floor
  • wood floor finishing

It is a very well written article in an excellently architected site, from a domain with value.

  • Nice big image
  • Over 1000 words
  • Great meta tags
  • JSON-LD Markup
  • Fast
  • Mobile
  • and more

Three basic types of searches

  • Navigational
    Searcher want to go somewhere, online or offline.
  • Informational
    Searcher want to learn something.
  • Transactional
    Searcher want to buy, sell, sign up, etc.
search results - hardwood floor finishes

hardwood floor finishes
1st Result

  • Primarily Informational, but also has Transactional elements
  • Lots of informative links, and a shopping box.
  • We also have similar results for "wood floor finish"
search results - wood floor finish

Here's where it gets interesting:
"how to finish a hardwood floor"

search results - how to finish a hardwood floor

how to finish a hardwood floor
8th Result

Informational Search

  • Knowledge box and videos all are "How to"
  • Knowledge box is from the 7th result, same site as our page
  • Our page is a product guide, not a How to, but the information is still percieved as valuable.
search results - wood floor finishing

Wood Floor Finishing
3rd Result

Transactional Search

  • Business listing showing local floor finishing companies
  • Yelp business reviews, and Home advisor business listings
  • Contractor websites
  • The page in question does not fit in with Transactions, but is still listed!

rekkyvajavick coffee

How Americans search for coffee in Iceland

search results - coffee in Iceland
Little Bub Video

One more example showing how semantic Google is.

little bub fireplace

searching for little bub fireplace on google

Now, Google knows the piece of content I need, even if I get 2 of the 3 words wrong!

"little" nor "fireplace" exist on the page, yet I get the result.

Google is

  • Topic based - Returns good content that is related, but not specific to the search term.
  • Semantic - Understands synonyms, pluralities, misspellings, homonyms and more
  • Focused on User Intent - What the user is trying to acheive by searching

Let's talk about scale

Search Engine Land

On May 24th, 2016 Google revealed that users make at least 2 trillion searches per year

Google now handles at least 2 trillion searches per year - Danny Sullivan, Search Engine Land

Search Engine Land

How that breaks down

  • Searches per year: 2 trillion
  • Searches per month: 167 billion
  • Searches per day: 5.5 billion
  • Searches per hour: 228 million
  • Searches per minute: 3.8 million
  • Searches per second: 63,000
  • ...at least...
Rand Fishkin Tweet

Rand Fishkin, Moz Founder

Which would put it closer to 3 Trillion searches a year!

Inc Magazine
  • Over half of those searches happen on smartphones.
  • Nearly one third of all mobile searches on Google are related to location.
  • Location-related mobile searches are growing 50% faster than mobile searches in general.
  • More than half of all web traffic for the millions of website owners using Google Analytics now comes from smartphones and tablets.

Google Execs Share 10 Incredible New Mobile Web Stats - Larry Kim, Inc.

Search Engine Ranking Factors

Search engine ranking factors are on- and off-site items that search engines use to evaluate a web property's placement in the search results for a certain query.

Search Engine Ranking Factors

There are possibly


ranking factors

Google’s 200 Ranking Factors: The Complete List - Backlinko
Google's 200 Ranking Factors - Search Engine Journal
Penguin is now part of our core algorithm - Google Webmaster Central Blog

Search Engine Land

On Mar 23, 2016 Google's Andrey Lipattsevm stated that links, content and RankBrain are the top three ranking signals in Google's search algorithm.

Now we know: Here are Google's top 3 search ranking factors - Barry Schwartz, Search Engine Land


  • Quality of links
  • Keywords in links
  • Quantity


  • Quality writing
  • Keyword Research
  • Freshness
  • Images, Video, News related to content or vertical
  • Does the content answer questions?

What is Rankbrain?

  • RankBrain is a machine learning artificial intelligence system ...
  • If RankBrain sees a word or phrase it isn’t familiar with, the machine can make a guess as to what words or phrases might have a similar meaning and filter the result accordingly, making it more effective at handling never-before-seen search queries. - Wikipedia

Learn more about Rankbrain

Those who monitor and decipher Search Engine Ranking Factors

Searchmetrics General Search Ranking Factors

Searchmetrics General Ranking Factors 2016

Moving forward, Searchmetrics is going to be publishing detailed industry report, instead of a general report.

  • Travel
  • eCommerce
  • Finance
  • Health
  • Media
The Periodic Table Of SEO Success Factors

Search Engine Land - The Periodic Table Of SEO Success Factors


Search Engine Ranking Factors 2015
Expert Survey and Correlation Data

"Every two years, Moz surveys the opinions of dozens of the world's brightest search marketers and runs correlation studies to better understand the workings of search engine algorithms."


According to Backlinko, there are over 200 Search Engine Ranking Factors

"Some are proven. Some are controversial. Others are SEO nerd speculation. But they’re all here." - Google’s 200 Ranking Factors: The Complete List by Brian Dean

Content strategy should guide development.

The Content Strategy Quad

Content Strategy Quad by Brain Traffic
  • Content Components
    • Substance
    • Structure
  • People Components
    • Workflow
    • Governance

Brain Traffic Lands the Quad - March 2011

The Basics of Content Strategy

Content-oriented Components

  • Identify Goals and Substance - focuses on what content is required to successfully execute your core strategy.
  • Determine Structure - focuses on how content is prioritized, organized, and accessed.

Content Strategy Basics - Usability.gov

Identify Goals and Substance

  • Who are the users the client wants to visit the website?
  • What content is the client going to be able to create and publish?
  • Who are the client's competitors, and what content are they ranking for?

Identify Goals and Substance

Tools for Content Creators

Determine Structure

  • Content Types and Entities
  • Sitemap
  • Menu Structure
  • Functionality/Views

Determine Structure

Drupal Tools

Once you can define your Content Types and Entities, you can use these Drupal tools to connect them.

Technical SEO best practices in Drupal

Let's review the major ranking factors, and present ideas how we can implement in Drupal.

Ranking Factor Categories

On Site

  • Content
  • Architecture
  • HTML

Off Site

  • Trust
  • Links
  • Personal
  • Social


  • Are the pages well written?
  • Does is include keywords and phrases around your topic?
  • Is the content new?
  • Does the content include related content (Images, News, Video, etc)?
  • Does the content answer questions?
  • Negative Factor: Is the Content thin?


Is the site easily crawlable?


No Duplicate content


Does the site work on mobile?

Make sure you use a responsive theme, and it passes the Google Mobile-Friendly Test

Consider adding Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) structured markup to your site. Drupal AMP module.


Does the site load quickly?

  • So many different types of Caching available in Drupal.
  • CDN like Cloudflare
  • Responsive Images/Small image sizes in Image Presets


Does the site contain keywords in the url?

Use the Pathauto module to set friendly URLs


Is the site secure?

  • Use HTTPS with an SSL certificate for all sites here on out.
  • Keep core and all modules up to date
  • Limit server access, and keep server up to date if not managed
  • Require strong passwords - Require Strong Passwords module



Negative Factor: Showing different content to humans and search engines.


Does the Page Title contain keywords?

Properly set up html title using Token values in Metatag module


Does the Meta Description describe the pages?

  • Add a "Teaser" field which can be used with the Token and Metatag modules for meta description and search results.
  • Same goes for a Feature Image field, used for OG/Twitter Card Meta Images.


Does the Meta Description describe the pages?

Teaser and Image Field on XenoMedia.com


Does the site use Structured data?

Schema.org markup in content & themes



Does the site use Structured data?

JavaScript Object Notation for Linked Data (JSON-LD)
View block/pane using a contextual filter




Does the site use Structured data?

Open Graph Protocol
The Open Graph protocol enables any web page to become a rich object in a social graph.

Facebook Debugger




Does the site use Structured data?

Twitter Cards
With Twitter Cards, you can attach rich photos, videos and media experiences to Tweets.

Twitter Card Validator




Does the site use Structured data?

Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)
Allows publishers to create mobile optimized content on Google.
AMP Drupal Module

Drupal AMP Drupal Module


Does the site use Structured data?

Facebook Instant Articles
Allows publishers to create fast, interactive articles on Facebook.
Facebook Instant Articles Drupal Module

Facebook Instant Articles Drupal Module


Proper use of headers

  • Proper, ordered use of h1, h2, h3
  • Remove h1 from WYSIWYG if set by template
  • In the theme, remove h3 from block headers, to reserve for content use.

This is also good for Accessibility. As a rule of thumb, what is good for A11Y is good for SEO.


Negative Factors: Hiding and Stuffing

  • Don't overuse keywords just for Search engines.
  • Don't use CSS or JS to hide words you want to be ranked for.

Offsite Factors


  • Authority: Is the site a trusted authority? External links
  • Engage: Bounce Rate
  • History: Has the domain/site been around?
  • Identity:
  • Negative Factor - Piracy: Flagged for pirated content
  • Negative Factor - Ads: Too many ads above the fold

Offsite Factors


  • Quality: Links, shares, social
  • Text: Bounce Rate
  • Number: Has the domain/site been around?
  • Negative Factor - Paid Links: Don't buy links!
  • Negative Factor - Spam: Comment/Forum Spam

Offsite Factors


  • Country: Same country as searcher
  • Locality: Same city/town
  • History: Has the user visited the site before?
  • Social: Has the site been shared in circles?

Offsite Factors


  • Reputation: Is your site respected on social networks?
  • Shares: Content shares

Tips & Tools for Developers

Tips & Tools for Developers

Google Search Console

Has the following tools:

  • View (and fix) Crawl Errors
  • Fetch as Google
  • robots.txt Tester
  • Submit Sitemaps
  • Configure URL Parameters

Stay up to date:


Continuing the conversation:

Created by Jim Birch
Xeno Media, Inc.