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IPB 3.1: Search Engine Optimization Part Deux

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Earlier this week we discussed some of the changes you can expect to see with regards to search engine optimization in IP.Board 3.1. Mostly, the changes are basic tweaks that will have great impact. These are the best kinds of changes.

Based on the feedback received, we've implemented a few other changes related to optimization of your site for visiting search engines. As before, most of these changes are pretty basic. In the end, the goal is to help streamline your site for purposes of search engine indexing. We want to promote the content that is valuable and worth indexing, de-emphasize the content that isn't, and overall adhere to common industry standards and protocols for purposes of ensuring IP.Board does everything it should to help your site position appropriately.

Removal of a setting

We have removed the "Use 301 for friendly URL redirects" setting from the ACP. After reviewing the functionality and purpose of this setting, we have decided it is unnecessary. If you enable friendly URLs and decide to redirect the wrong urls to the correct friendly URL version, you will always want to use a 301 header. By removing the setting, we have effectively hard-coded this to "Yes". The purpose of this is to remove unnecessary options, in favor of presenting you with the options that truly are important for optimizing your site.

Centralize SEO-related settings

We have created a new "Search Engine Optimization" setting group in the ACP to better pull out and separate settings meant for this purpose. We have moved the existing friendly URL settings to this new setting group, and have added some other new settings we will discuss later on in this blog entry.

Addition of "canonical" meta tag for board index

This is an addition we feel is very important and beneficial. A "canonical" meta tag identifies the proper URL for a webpage to a search engine spider. For instance, all of the following urls will load the IP.Board forum index

http://yoursitehere.com/forums http://yoursitehere.com/forums/index http://yoursitehere.com/forums/index.php http://yoursitehere.com/forums/index.php? http://yoursitehere.com/forums/index.php?act=idx


There are many other variations that will do the same. But which one is correct? How can a spider know which version to index, or should it index them all? At the end of the day, they are all different urls, and can potentially be treated differently by a search engine spider. With dynamic software, such as IP.Board, it is often difficult to ensure that the URL used to reach a page is the "correct" version and to redirect appropriately. It is not difficult, however, to tell a search engine which version of the URL SHOULD be used. When a search engine reaches the board index page in IP.Board 3.1, through any URL listed above, or any other variation not listed, the canonical tag will instruct the spider to use one specific version of the URL for that given page. This will help consolidate inbound link weight to the single/correct version of the page, and consolidate duplicate results in search engine listings to the single/correct version of the page.

More improvements for the board index

Many users have requested that we provide a way for them to specify the page title to be used on the board index page. The board index page is going to be the most important page of your forums (in the eyes of a search engine spider), and having complete control over the page title is important. Prior to IP.Board 3.1, the "Board Name" setting was used for the board index page title. This works well for many users, however it is also appended to the end of the page title for many other pages, so depending upon your specific needs, you may want to use different text for the two locations. IP.Board 3.1 has a setting to allow you to change the page title for the board index page specifically. If left blank, the board name will be be used, just as with previous versions.

Additionally, we have added settings to allow you to specify the meta keywords and meta description tag values in the new Search Engine Optimization setting group mentioned earlier. The end result is that you now have much more control over SEO aspects of your board index, arguably the most important page of the forums for search engine spiders.

De-emphasize unimportant pages

IP.Board 3.1 will now issue a meta robots tag with the value "noindex" for some common non-content pages. Examples include the login page, the register page, and the lost password request page. The purpose of the tag is to suggest to the search engine not to index the page at all. Every IP.Board installation on the internet will have effectively the same login, registration and lost password pages, and these pages have no valuable content that search engine spiders want to index anyways. By de-emphasizing unimportant pages, more emphasis is placed on the content-heavy pages we want search engine spiders to spend their time on.

Wrap up

We've got some more feedback and suggestions we would like to take into account and implement in a future version of IP.Board, however we feel that for 3.1 we've taken the most important changes that do not require many invasive core changes to the software and implemented them in a manner that will benefit customers the most. We are working hard to ensure we've done our part to help your forum stand out from the crowd, and are confident that the changes made to IP.Board will have actual, useful benefits to your forum with regards to search engine indexing.

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