I was chatting with a potential client recently when the conversation turned to which modules were best for marketing. You may be asking how a module can help with marketing, but actually there are some common marketing tasks most sites need to attend to and Drupal provides a nice selection of modules to help out.
When I started putting this list together, I began to see the modules fall into three general categories - SEO, social media and site engagement. Let's take a look at a few of these and how they can help support your marketing efforts.
The first module on the list is XML sitemap. This module falls under the search marketing or SEO category. It will automatically generate a XML sitemap and update it on a schedule you determine. This can then be submitted to Google and Bing, letting them know about all the pages on your site as well as any changes or additions you make in the future.
Another thing that makes this module particularly helpful is that you can determine which pages to include or exclude in the sitemap. You can do this on a node-by-node basis, or exclude whole content types. Very handy.
A lot of people overlook the Page Title module, but they shouldn't. It's a very useful module that allows you to set a title for your node - the one humans will read at the top of the page - and another for search engines.
This is great when you have a title that you think is really catchy, but doesn't target the keywords you're going after with your content.
Let's switch gears for a moment and talk about social sharing. Drupal has a number of modules that help site administrators easily implement the little "Tweet" and "Like" buttons that most sites have started using, but I have to tell you, I don't like any of them.
In fairness, there is nothing wrong with the modules per se, but rather the services behind them. For example, a very popular social sharing module is Sharethis. It works well, is easy to configure, so what's not to like? Well, after someone tweets using this module, the user is presented with a message saying that you - or your client - recommends that they follow Sharethis. After spending a few hours troubleshooting this issue, I found no way to turn off this message. So whether you like it or not, you're stuck with it. You can't even pay to get rid of it.
Other modules have different deal-killing issues, so what I recommend is just going to the various social services you want to use and getting the code they provide, pop it into a block and call it good. Here's the link for Twitter. Google will help you find and implement the buttons for the other services you want to include. It's worth the extra effort.
Measuring marketing performance is critical and Google Analytics rules the roost in web analytics, particularly for small businesses. This module is very easy to install and configure. Maybe you're anti-Google and will take a pass on this module, but if you're not using analytics of some kind, you definitely should look into other solutions. Mint isn't free, but may be more to your liking.
I love Pathauto. It gets rid of all that
node/98372897123 nonsense and turns your URLs into things that search engines love. That means higher rankings and more click-throughs to your site, which is what we're all going for, right?
I almost didn't include Pathauto because I thought it was too obvious and then I happened to notice that one of my favorite Drupal-powered websites isn't using it. That's right The Economist, I'm talking about you.
Earlier when I mentioned user engagement, it may not have been clear what I was getting at. Well, one measure of user engagement on a website is bounce rate. A bounce is basically a single page visit. The lower the bounce rate, the better. It means people are sticking around to check things out - they are more engaged with your site.
The Featured Content module lets you create "related content" blocks, thus offering your readers some additional reading opportunities and encouraging more engagement with your site. The module is easy to use and configure and is perfect for site builders that don't want to put together their own view.
The default commenting system in Drupal is OK, but it isn't that great of an option if you're seriously pursuing blogging/content marketing. That's where a module like Disqus comes in. The module actually implements the Disqus service which you have to sign up for separately, but it's free for all but the biggest sites. It makes it very easy for users to login using either their Disqus account or several of the more popular social media authentication services like Twitter and Google.
Another bonus is that many users will have images associated with their posts making the comments section feel more like a conversation among real people - a big plus for engagement.
Even though I recommend this module, I have to say it's not perfect. I recently migrated domains and things are still a bit messy from that process. Domain migrations aren't an everyday thing, though. Given that my comments are currently a little glitchy, it should tell you how much I generally like this module/service to still recommend them.
Even if you don't decide on Disqus, consider using a third party commenting system to make it easier for your users to participate on your site and interact with one another.
The Taxonomy Menu module is another one that I would say supports increased user engagement. The module makes it easy to create menus based on your taxonomy tags, giving your users a quick path to related content. This approach is particularly suited to smaller sites where a search function is overkill.
I'm sure I've left one of your personal favorites off the list. I'd love it if you shared in the comments one of the modules that make your marketing chores a bit easier to get through.