Drupal Essentials – Basic Stuff Vital for a Good Website

A Drupal Essentials guide to help you choose the best set of modules and configs you need to help you kick start your new Drupal website.

Drupal is said to be one of the most powerful CMS platforms for building websites. It boasts 1000s of in the box and downloadable modules and 1000’s of geeks ready to lend a helping hand when you get stuck. Boy do you need that helping hand sometimes because Drupal ain’t easy. To get a website up and running isn’t too difficult, but to start changing the layout and look and feel of the site you’re gonna have to hit the books and do some serious learning. If you have got over that initial WTF is going on here stage and understood the basics of Drupal then you’re ready to start producing a half decent site.

I’ve created the following guide to help you choose the basic set of modules and configurations to download and activate once you’ve set up a basic Drupal website.

Pick a Theme and make a Sub-Theme or Child

Go to the Drupal Themes Page and search for a theme that has the features to suit your website requirements and has a similar layout to what you have in mind for your site. Once you’ve installed the new theme you should create a Sub-Theme. A sub-theme or child theme as it is sometimes known is a copy of the original theme’s customisable bits which allows you to make modifications to your site without interfering with the original theme files. The reason for this is that from time to time, the creator of the theme may release a theme update. Installing such an update usually means replacing the entire set of theme files with a new package of files which would mean that any changes you made to the original theme files would be washed away for good.

Find a Drupal Theme
How to Create a Sub-theme

Get SEO Friendly Links with Path and Pathauto Modules

Default Drupal pages are linked to with URLs that look like this “http ://” This is great for the mechanics of Drupal core but for a search engine robot crawling the Net it means no extra weight added for this site for my search engine ranking. What search engine bots wanna see are links that people can read and understand, a URL which contains words and can be read to get some idea about the context of the related page.


Path, an out of the box module allows you to create more descriptive aliases for your websites. Instead of “?q=node/8” you can define that “drupal-essentials-basic-stuff-vital-good-website” should be used. To use Path you need to go into Drupal admin Modules and enable the check-box next to “Path” in the list. You will then see in your content editor window, a new “URL path settings” tab at the bottom of the page. Here you can manually enter your SEO friendlier path alias.


If you would like this renaming to happen without you having to do anything then you will need to Download and install Pathauto and Token. Pathauto adds functionality to “Path” so that when you save a piece of content, it automatically creates an SEO friendlier alias for the link for the search engine bots to crawl through.You’ll have to download and install “Token” for Pathauto to work.

Get the Token module – it has files needed by Pathauto
Get the Pathauto module

Generate Sitemaps with the Sitemap XML Module

So you plan to produce lots of content and you naturally want the world to see it. The majority of Internet content is discovered by people using the main search engines such as Google and Bing. These web search giants have swarms of web bots crawling all over The Internet looking for new content to add to their indexes. With the billions and billions of web pages on the Net these bots could do with your help. Sitemaps are essentially text files listing of all of the URLs to every webpage within a site. Website administrators create sitemaps using a standard format and then upload the file to Google or Bing. Doing so means that the search engines can index the web pages long before the bots have had a chance to come across the content. To automate the creation and submission of sitemaps to Google and Bing, download and install the Sitemap XML module. Once activated you can configure the module to include certain directories, schedule to automatically submit to search engines at certain frequencies and select what types of content to include in the sitemap.

Get the XML sitemap module

Add Tags to Your Pages with Metatag

Search engine crawlerbots love metatags. Metatags are bits of text which are placed in the <head> section of a web page that describe what the web page is about. Because they are in the <head> section of the page, these tags cannot be seen by your site visitors in their browsers. Web crawlers on the other hand read the entire text of the web page from top to bottom, including all the stuff in the <head> and everything in the <body>. Metatag makes it easy to add tags such as “Description” which uses the Summary of the Drupal page and uses it in the overview text you see in search engine results.

Get the Chaos tools module – It includes files required by Metatag
Get the Metatag module

See How Popular Your Website is with Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a tool which allows you to get detailed statistics about the way visitors are using your website. It tells you how many visitors your site gets, where your visitors a located, how long they stay on your web pages and loads more. It’s very useful for marketing your site content as it gives you insight into what you might need to do in order to target your audience more effectively. To use this you will first need to set up a Google Analytics account. Once you’ve got an account you’ll be able to get a tracking ID. The next steps are to install and activate the Google Analytics module and add your tracking ID to the configuration. In a few hours you’ll start to see charts and tables detailing your web visitor statistics.

Get a Google Analytics account
Get the Google Analytics module

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