Joomla vs. Drupal — A Comprehensive Comparison - Social Media Features and SEO

By Justin Kerr
March 15, 2014

Table of Contents

Social Media Features

Use and integration of social media channels such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn have become critical elements of successful web site marketing initiatives. Integrating social media into a CMS-powered website ranges from simple social media page links to interactive elements that share content and features between the CMS site and the external social media account.

Both Drupal and Joomla rely upon similar methods for social media integration, primarily installation of third-party software that enables various social media features. Links to social media pages can be integrated at the web page template level, or implemented through an installed third-party software package. Sharing services/links, social media voting, and content and feature sharing are likewise implemented through third- party software packages.

Dollar sign iconCost Conclusions

Given similar implementation methods and choice of third-party software available for implementing social media features on both Drupal and Joomla sites, the costs are essentially the same.

SEO Support

Search engine optimization (or SEO)  is the process of configuring website structure and elements to best sync with the methods that search engines like Google use to evaluate, index and rank content. Although some aspects of SEO are based on conjecture surrounding engines’ secret algorithms, a number of industry-standard best practices have emerged, including use of HTML header, title and meta tags; source ordering of HTML content; file naming conventions; implementation of search-engine friendly (SEF) URLs; use of sitemaps and webmaster tools; and shunning duplicate content. (See our SEO fundamentals blog post for more information.)

Both Drupal and Joomla include significant support for SEO features, however, each implements them in very different ways.

Drupal iconDrupal

Drupal’s SEO support can be significant, and it requires planning and implementation by the Drupal developer. Web page meta tags – such as Keywords and Description – are enabled as specific custom Fields attached to a Drupal Content Type: The Drupal implementer sets up this framework, and the content producer can fill out the fields as part of the process of creating new content; similar methods can be used to customize web page Title tags.

Source ordering of content and application of HTML header tags ties into how the developer designs and structures the site’s Theme that renders and lays out web page content. For sitemaps, a Drupal developer can turn to readily available third-party Modules, or develop their own implementation.

Some level of SEF URLs are supported by Drupal’s “Clean URLs” setting, which removes nonsensical code markup from URLs by leveraging the Apache web server’s mod_rewrite component and using an .htaccess file within the Drupal installation. However, this still may result in URLs with non-ideal syntax, containing Drupal-specific semantics like “node” or identifying numbers. An additional Drupal Module can enable custom, dynamic construction of SEF URLs, however, implementing this properly requires significant planning and configuration in order to integrate with a Drupal site’s Node structure and content hierarchy.

Drupal also includes a general redirect capability to enable custom URLs which point to a different, existing Drupal site URL.

Joomla iconJoomla

Joomla’s native support for SEO is extensive, and it can be further expanded with the installation of third-party software. Joomla’s Global Configuration settings contain options for setting site-wide Keyword and Description meta tags, as well as a switch that turns on SEF URLs for the site’s front end. (Like Drupal, this employs a combination of the Apache Web server’s mod_rewrite component, and an .htaccess file for the site.)

Proper implementation of HTML header tags is closely tied to the active Joomla Template and how content settings are applied in Joomla. By default, Joomla templates will try to properly enclose page titles and content item titles in a cascading series of header tags. However, the WYSIWYG editor provides rope with which a content producer can often hang themselves (as it commonly is configured to allow placement of H1, H2, etc. tags inside content). Similarly, HTML source ordering of page content is closely tied to how the Joomla Template has been constructed.

Joomla includes an “alias” setting for most content items where a practitioner can specify the exact syntax represented by that content element within a Joomla SEF URL. If a content producer does not specify an alias, Joomla builds one automatically based on the title of that element. Joomla then constructs its URLs using these aliases, as well as the aliases of the content’s containing elements, such as Joomla Categories or menu items. A Global Configuration setting allows for default control over filename extensions in the URL (e.g. adding *.html to the URL, or hiding it entirely).

Individual content items in Joomla tend to include their own meta tag parameters, which lets a Joomla practitioner override the site-wide default meta tags with more specific meta tags for that piece of content. Likewise, Joomla content elements commonly include options for specifying the exact HTML page title; a Global Configuration setting controls the default placement of the site name within the HTML page title structure.

Joomla includes a native “Redirect” component which records every instance of a “404 - Page Not Found” error generated by site usage. The Redirect component then lets the Joomla practitioner assign a new URL to any 404 error URLs, and Joomla automatically implements a search-engine friendly “301 - Permanent Redirect” command that points toward the proper URL. Likewise, the Redirect component can be used to create custom redirects, including supporting old URLs which might have changed due to a site upgrade or migration.

Third-party Component extensions that expand Joomla’s feature set (for example, an e-commerce catalog) may or may not support SEF URLs, or they might use different methods for their construction and how they interrelate with other SEF URLs on the site. As mentioned above, some third-party Components are designed to enhance Joomla’s SEO, including more specific control over SEF URLs, automated sitemap generation, keyword weighting analysis, and other SEO tools.

Dollar sign iconCost Conclusions

By default, Joomla contains more robust and easy-to-implement SEO features than Drupal, which requires significant configuration and site-specific development to enable SEO throughout a site, especially for high-quality SEF URLs. However, Joomla practitioners may face similar challenges when working with third-party Component extensions that don’t support SEO features properly or in a way that integrates well with the rest of the Joomla site.

It is worthwhile to note that both Drupal and Joomla suffer from problems related to duplicate content: Because of the Web sites’ dynamic natures, it is often possible to view the same site content at differing URLs. Google and other search engines commonly penalize sites with duplicate content as part of their anti-spam measures.