Marketing, SEO, PPC

Mobile Performance with Drupal - Part 1, Testing

I don't think you need yet another blog post to tell you mobile is becoming a bigger and bigger thing. Your website has to look good and perform well on mobile - you know that. But is it? How do you tell? How do you improve?

We here at FireRoad Digital are very data driven. So our process for improving mobile performance for our client Drupal sites uses the same general methodology we use for most everything:

  1. Implement best practices techniques for implementatng a certain functionality or improvement, based on our experience with developing and enhancing literally figuratively millions of Drupal websites
  2. Test, measure, analyze the results
  3. Iterate based on what we've learned

Let's look at our own FireRoad website as an example of this process. We developed it in Drupal 7 to be mobile responsive from the beginning, meaning it dynamically optimizes how the content and user interface is displayed and interacted with by the viewer based on the device being used. So we've already done part of Step 1- the basics- but for the sake of example, let's do some testing and analyzing of the initial website before we would normally go through our typical optimizatition process.

We can also use this opportunity to try out Test My Site, a new super easy to use and understand website usability and performance test tool from Google. Based on their PageSpeed Insights, which has been embedded in their other tools such as the Google Search Console, this tool doesn't require a Google account to use and provides results easily understandable results, with clear actions for improvement.

Let's be brave (and transparent) and run this tool on

Google mobile test - first screen


Click TEST NOW and the tool will scan and process your site for a few seconds, and dispense some wisdom about mobile viewing habits and statistics while you wait.

Shortly you will see the results summary page, which for our site is ..


Google mobile test results summary


Our "mobile friendliness score is good" !  Good ... but looks like we could improve.  Click on the GET MY FREE REPORT button and Google will send you a lovely PDF with more details and action items. We can also step through the different categories right now and drill into the details.  Just scroll down ...


Google mobile test results- friendlinessGoogle mobile test results- SpeedGoogle mobile test results- Desktop

So what to do next?  The first category - Mobile Friendliness - shows how well we developed our mobile look & feel to both look good on mobile devices, as well as be optimized for mobile interaction. Looks like we've done pretty well there- the general process of developing Drupal mobile friendliness deserves a blog post of its own, including Drupal theming, media querries, Bootstrap and grids, and lots more ... which we totally should get around to writing one of these days. But looks like there are still a few points we could eke out with some tweaking.

We did the worse on the second category - Mobile Speed. We already run on the fastest, most powerful Drupal hosting platform around - Pantheon - with plenty of processing power, RAM, SSD drives, Varnish caching, and just about anythng else that can be done to increase server response. Since we are not directly managing our web server (with good reason), we do have limited options on what we can change there. On the client side, maybe some of our images are too large to download on mobile quickly. Maybe we should us e a Content Delivery Network. Maybe we haven't configured caching on the client side correctly. Lots of options here.

And thirdly, this test looks at our desktop speed. There will be some similar criteria as the mobile speed, with more leeway given since desktop users typically have more bandwidth available and larger images are needed to fill up bigger desktop monitors.  We did well, but we won't ever be satisfied with a B+.

in parts 2,3 and 4 of this series we will look at each category - why we received the grade we did and what specifically we can do to improve each number. Stay tuned - we are going for 100 / 100 / 100 !

Longer Title and Descriptions on Google Search Results

In their often unannounced, sneaky fashion, Google has apparently snuck in an update to search results pages (SERP) that increases the size of the display Titles and Descriptions.  This gives webmasters and SEOs more room to describe and market pages!

The previous generally-accepted guidance for page title lengths was around 55 characters before Google chopped it off ... now it looks like you can to 65-70 characters.

For page descriptions, 150-160 characters was the consensus length, which generally came in around 2 lines ... now we are sometimes seeing 3 lines, and up to 15-20 more characters per line. That is a lot more space to descirbe your pages.

Here is a very recent example of a Google search:

So what to do with this new exciting update? Update your pages with longer page titles and meta descriptions! Give it a day or two, then check your search results and see how it looks. Iterate and tweak as needed.

And how do you do that on your Drupal website?  Our Implementing Google Ranking Factors in Drupal guide will give you the step-by-step details, or you can just make sure you are running the Drupal Metatag module and use it to set detailed, active and unique description and page titles for you home page and all other pages on your site. Be sure to check your Google Search Console results for what Google thinks of your page titles and descriptions.

Google Wants to Help Plumbers and Other Handypeople Find Customers

How many times have you typed "OMG I NEED A PLUMBER RIGHT NOW - MY HOUSE IS AWASH IN RAW SEWAGE!!" into Google because of a minor plumbing emergency and you need the services of a local home professional? First off, that's a really inefficient search query that you just didn't have time to type in, and there is no need to use all caps, regardless of your panic level.  But it would help you find help.

If you are a local plumber, you'd probably like to your listing to show up for that intense query, or even for something less explicit like "clogged toilet". With Google AdWords, enough budget and a good landing page, you could get your ad in front of searchers.  But Google is making it even easier, for both handypeople and prospective clients.

As part of their easier-than-regular-AdWords program, AdWords Express, Google is introducing AdWords Express Home Service Ads, connecting searchers with qualified, pre-screened home service providers directly.  You don't even need a website- Google will create a polished profile page for you.  AdWords Express of course costs money, but could be a great way to get right in front of new customers, just when they need you most.

More from the Google and Your Business blog.

(one note: only available in the SF Bay area right now, but coming soon to a backed-up toilet near you!)

You Think YOUR AdWords Keywords are Expensive

Many of our clients, like many of you, use PPC / Google AdWords to help promote their business. And they may complain that the keywords they are targetting can be expensive- $5, $7, maybe even $10 per click!  Well, if you were going after some of these keywords, you'd be thrilled to pay so little.

From a recent post by Brent Carnduff, with some research from SEM Rush, the most expensive keywords are ..

  Keyword Cost per Click
  San Antonio car wreck attorney $670
  accident attorney Riverside VA $627
  personal injury attorney Colorado $553
  top personal injury attorneys $551
  motorcycle accident attorney Los Angeles $551

A $10 keyword isn't sounding too bad now, is it? Those advertisers must earn enough from the traffic to make it worth the cost though.

You can see the rest of the bankrupting keywords at this post.

Drupal 8 Mega Resource Guide

Drupal 8 is coming soon (ok, soonish), so we've put together this mega guide for all your Drupal 8 edumacation. And don't forget our North Texas Drupal Users Group meetup Drupal 8 Extravaganza! here in Dallas in a couple weeks.

Official Drupal 8 page

"Drupal 8 Will Have Something for Everyone to Love"

Drupal 8 Preview Slideshow by webchick

"Drupal 8 will be the best release of Drupal yet."

The Drupal 8 Sessions - DrupalCon Austin

Links to 17 sessions related to Drupal 8

Why Drupal 8? Why now?  by jam

"As of March 2015, when should you deploy Drupal 8?"

Ultimate Guide to Drupal 8 by webchick   (eBook link)

"This blog series will attempt to enumerate the major changes in Drupal 8 for end-users, for site builders, for designers and front-end developers, and for back-end developers."

Drupal 8 - What's in it for me?

He looks at the benefits of using Drupal 8 for both marketers and technologists.

Try out Drupal 8 on Pantheon

It's still in beta, but Pantheon lets you spin up a Drupal 8 site quickly and easily.

Drupal 8 Release Date

A mathematical estimate on when Drupal 8 will be released based on the remaining number of critical bugs and tasks against Drupal 8 punched into a Monte Carlo simulation.

Drupal 8 Changes Twitter Bot

Follows changes from and tweets them.

Acquia's Drupal 8 Blog Series

It's a series of blog articles. By Acquia. On Drupal 8. That's pretty much it.

27 Questions (and Answers) from My First Drupal 8 Site Build

"Slowly, through trial and lots and lots and lots of error, I found answers to all of my questions. Those answers follow."

Dallas Course: Online System for Small Business Success

Are you a new small business owner who needs to build an online presence, or an experienced one who wants to learn more about building your website and improving your online marketing? If you live in the Dallas area, then do I have a learning opportunity for you!

Beginning on Tuesday, March 17, 2015, I am teaching a new continuing education course at the Collin College Courtyard campus in Plano. It will run for 6 weeks, 3 hours each Tuesday night from 6:30 - 9:30. The tuition cost for the entire program is just $199. It's the same place I teach Drupal courses, if you've ever been to one of those.


Register Button

Course Objectives:
Create an online website/system with compelling content; analyze website activity and improve results; research valuable keywords and competitor’s online activity; perform email and pay-per-click marketing.
Recommended Prerequisites:

Students should have a basic comfortableness with computers and the Internet.
Course Description:
Learn how to build a complete online presence to help make your small business or non-profit successful. This is a fast-paced, hands-on course with between-class “homework”. At the end you’ll have your own professional-looking and search engine optimized (SEO) website, along with integrated content and email marketing, analytics, social media and Google tools. You’ll understand how to attract prospects to your website using both organic and paid search techniques and encourage them to stay and convert.
This will be a comprehensive, fast-paced course that will cover a lot of ground. Be prepared to spend time in-between classes on specific “homework”, or you will fall behind. Some additional small student- paid expenses will be necessary for optimal results, including website domain registration (around $10, if needed), website hosting ($25 / month), and Google AdWords (pay-per-click) cost (varies, but we will initially keep the amount small just for testing and learning).
Those who do not have a current website or are willing to rebuild theirs will get the most out of this class. We will use the free, open-source Drupal content management system (CMS) to build websites. For students who do already have a business website, those with a Drupal-based website will get more out of this course than those using a different system (such as Wordpress) as the optimization techniques and plugins used will all be based on Drupal.  The marketing concepts will apply to any small business website however.
Lesson Plan (by week):
  1. Introduction, basic concepts, goal setting, begin initial website
  2. Continue website - look & feel, content, launch initial website, basic Google tools
  3. Advanced Google tools & analytics, configuring conversions, keywords, inbound marketing
  4. Social channels and sharing, media (photos, video, sound), email marketing
  5. More website functionality, link building, metadata and on-page SEO

  6. Ongoing website and marketing maintenance, CRM tools, going forward and review

I've poured everything I've learned in my 85 years about creating websites and online marketing for small businesses that attract viewers and converts them to customers into this course. Come learn and succeed!

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Drupal Podcasts - Keeping Up While Doing Something Else

Podcasts, or "a digital medium that consists of an episodic series of audio, digital radio, PDF, or ePub files subscribed to and downloaded through web syndication or streamed on-line to a computer or mobile device" (wikipedia) have been around a little over 10 years, and lately have seen a resurgance in popularity. It's a great way to learn something, or least be entertained while you are commuting to work, exercising, or just cleaning the kitchen.

My preferred iOS podcast app, Downcast, shows me subscribed to about 50 shows. Which of course is way more than I can listen to, but at least gives me choices. Many of those are Drupal, technology and marketing related. Some of the best:


Dropcast from Mediacurrent. Brand new from one of the top Drupal shops in the world. The first show comes in at 45 minutes, with a variety of topics. logo from Lullabot. has been around a while and generally puts out 1-2 shows a month, each running 15-50 minutes.



Drupal Easy logo

Drupal Easy. With nearly 150 episodes, it's been around forever. Tends to go long and sometimes sound amateurish, but they have great guests.



Hacking Culture logo

Hacking Culture by Lullabot. Also brand new, and not Drupal-exclusive. But their first episode featured a Backdrop CMS (the Drupal fork) discussion.



Drupal Easy logo

Full Stack Radio. A podcast for "developers interested in building great software products, product design, user experience, testing and system administration."



Social Media Examiner. If there is a marketing and social media podcast out there that has more immediately actionable information in it, I don't know it.


What others do we like that maybe aren't Drupal or developer focused? Well, since you asked: Sword & Laser, TED Radio Hour, Science Friday, Radiolab, Duct Tape Marketing, Cool Tools, and Ask Me Another.

Happy Listening!

North Texas Drupal February Meetup

We've announced the first meetup of 2015 for the North Texas Drupal Users Group - Monday, Feb 16th at 6:30 at the Addison Treehouse.  If you do Drupal in the Dallas area, you should be there!

First off, we'll be learning How To Integrate AngularJS into Drupal.  AngularJS a lightweight Javascript open-source web application framework maintained by Google and a community of individual developers and corporations to address many of the challenges encountered in developing single-page applications.

Then, we will take a look at Structural SEO in Drupal.  Come learn how to optimize the structural elements of your Drupal website to optimize your on-page SEO - all with just Drupal contrib modules and configuration - no programming!  You know, the stuff we talk about here at FireRoad all the time!

We'll be announcing the March meetup soon, and it's all about the Drupal 8.

More info and register on our Meetup event page.  Free as usual.

And what's with the two guys holding fish?  They're ... Anglers!  We are so clever..

Making Marketing Automation Work for SMB and Non-Profits

Marketing Automation!  You are probably starting to hear that phrase more and more.  What is it you ask?  Software and technologies that help marketers more effectively market on multiple channels (websites, email, social media) and automate certain tasks (sending welcome emails, tweeting, lead nurturing) as well as analytics and marketing intelligence  (tracking site visitors, search terms, A/B testing, buyer behavior).  Even some older ideas such as auto-responders are now being called marketing automation - like at MailChimp:

Mailchimp Marketing Automation intro diagram

The underlying principle of marketing automation is to take a process that is effective in bringing you customers and automate it.  

The first part is the most important - if you automate a process that doesn't work, then you will just become much more efficient at failing to get new business.  So first you must understand and identify your successful process, or you must develop an effective one.  There are so many moving parts in today's digital marketing - a small business owner or director of a non-profit just doesn't have hours in the day to perform everything manually.  Research shows it often takes five "touches" before converting a prospect to a client.  That's a lot of work, done over and over.

Marketing Automation is still in an early phase, and most of the solutions available are intended (and priced) for large enterprises and big brands.  A Hubspot or Eloqua implementation can cost $2,000 a month plus five-figures and dozens of hours of training to get it going. But here at FireRoad Digital, we provide solutions for small businesses and non-profits.  So we are going to help you get going with a marketing automation process you can understand and afford.

This is start of a series of blog posts that will cover all aspects of SMB and non-profit digital marketing automation, with of course, a slant toward use with Drupal websites.  We will cover :

  • creating a strong marketing message and effective marketing process
  • understanding the Reach, Engage, Convert funnel process that turns anonymous Internet users into clients
  • learning which marketing channels your business should be in, and the tools used to market to those channels
  • understanding how your prospects are finding you, and what is important to them 
  • automating your email marketing messages, social media postings, client touches
  • creating eBooks and premium offers to start the lead nurturing process with prospects

Since we are not FireRoad Analog, we won't cover offline activities such as mass snail mail, phone calls, and other non-Internet activities that may be important to your business.  But digital stuff - we got that!

I've been a triathlete and multi-sport athlete for many years, and my coach once told me - "if your training consist of lots of slow runs, bikes and swims, then you will get really good at running, biking and swimming slowly."  So let's not get good at performing a bad process over and over - let's put together a killer process for generating growth, then let the robots take it over.

Stay tuned..

Get Insights from Google about your Drupal Website using Webmaster Tools

Webmaster Tools, according to Google, is a "free service offered by Google that helps you monitor and maintain your site's presence in Google Search results" and "can help you understand how Google views your site and optimize its performance in search results."  It is an invaluable tool that you should be using.

Some of the things you can do with Webmaster Tools:

  • receive messages from Google about issues it has found with your site (including crawling and security issues)
  • be sure that Google can properly view all your content
  • understand which search querries are leading viewers to your site
  • see which websites are linking to your site (backlinks)
  • confirm that Google is reading your sitemaps
  • see how Google views your semantic microdata
  • find out recommended HTML improvements
  • learn if you have duplicate or short meta descriptions and page titles
  • see how fast your web pages are loading

This information covers the core of modern SEO practices.  But to view it and use it, first, you need to verify your site ownership with Google to begin using Webmaster Tools.  Which we hve covered in a previous blog post - Verify your Drupal Site!.  Do that first, then wait a few days for some data to accumulate.  Then come back here and we'll walk through a few of the most important Webmaster Tools reports.

First, let's look at the home page.  You should see all the sites you have added and verified.  And hopefully a "No new messages or recent critical issues." message for each.

Google Webmaster Tools home page

Click on your website name link to bring up the dashboard for your site.  If you have any messages, check those first.  It could be that Google can't index your Drupal site, or worse, that it found malware or a security issue.  Take care of those first- a security issue could get you completely blacklisted from Google!

Our example site below shows no messages or site errors that Google tracks.  There are some 404 errors shown under URL Errors.  You can learn more about those errors so you know what to fix under Crawl >> Crawl Errors.

You want to see those pretty little green checkmarks.  A upward trend on your Search Queries is also a good thing.

There's too much to cover completely here, but you should definitely check :

  1. Search Traffic >> Search Queries.  What terms are Google users searching for that leads them to your site.  There is also data on your click-through rate and the average position you show up on search results (10 per page).  Are these the terms that you want to be found for?  Are people seeing you in search results, but not clicking?  Here at FireRoad we once wrote a blog post about configuring a certain type of complicated large computer monitor we were using.  We get tons of traffic to that post, but it really isn't useful traffic since we don't sell or service those monitors.
  2. Search Traffic >> Links to Your Site.  Which sites link to your site?  Lots of quality links (that is, from sites that Google thinks highly of) helps your SEO.  it shows those sites respect your site and content enough to link to it.  Lots of un-quality links (that is, from Estonian link farms) can really hurt your SEO.  If you've been using offshore "$100 gets you on the front page of Google" link building services ... stop.  That might have worked years ago, but now it does the opposite.  You can also disavow any links that you don't want and request Google not consider them.
  3. Search Traffic >> Mobile Usability. Having a mobile-friendly website is critical now.  Google will tell you if it thinks you have issues with mobile usability.
  4. Search Appearance >> Structured Data.  If you are using semantic microdata on your site to better tell Google what your content means, it will show up here, along with any errors.  We will have a guide to using microdata on Drupal websites out soon.  You can also use Search Appearance >> Data Highlighter to manually identify it.
  5. Search Appearance >> HTML Improvements.  It only shows a few suggestions, but on important issues it may find on your meta descriptions, page titles and non-indexable content.
  6. Google Index >> Index Status.  Make sure all your pages are being indexed.
  7. Google Index >> Content Keywords.  What does Google think are the most relevant keywords on your website?  Are they want you want?  If not, change your content.
  8. Crawl >> Sitemaps.  Do you have a XML Sitemap on your website?  It helps Google understand your site structure.  It should show up here, and make sure all your pages are included.  If not, see our post on Setting up an XML Sitemap in Drupal.
  9. Other Resources >> PageSpeed Insights.  How fast does your site load?  The faster it loads, the better you will rank.

With very little work, you will be up and running with Google Webmaster Tools and using its free tools to better understand and improve your Drupal website.