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IP.Board 3: Friendly URL Enhancements

Since we unveiled the new friendly url feature on our preview board, we have received a lot of feedback on how it could be improved with regards to maintaining good search engine optimization (SEO). Every feature we add has to be weighed against the impact to efficiency and memory usage. We understand that not every customer has the luxury of a dedicated server. We want to ensure the very best experience for a wide variety of hosting environments.

However, in this case we felt we could make some improvements to the friendly url feature without compromising efficiency. The new settings can add some small overhead, but we felt that those who wanted the very best optimized content would accept that.

Meta Tags
I have added a way to add meta tags to the final content through:

$this->registry->output->addMetaTag( 'name', 'content' );

This is used internally to add a meta tag for 'indentifier-url' and 'description'. The description is the first post of a topic; a forum description or the user's "About Me" information using the signature if no "About Me" information is present. You can use this interface in your own code to add more tags if desired.

A primary concern for those interested in SEO is duplicate content. There are many ways to access a single topic due to the different variables that are used; pagination and search strings are a few examples. To help limit the duplicate pages indexed, IP.Board now ships with an example "robots.txt" file for you to edit and upload to your root directory.

Redirecting 'old style' links
Another concern was that the old style links, for example: index.php?showtopic=10, are still able to access pages. This is necessary so that you do not lose bookmarks or traffic from currently indexed links. You can now choose to redirect with an optional "301 Moved Permanently" header to the new link format. This is transparent to the end user but will help search engines locate the correct copy of your content.

Incorrect Permalink Handling
The new friendly URLs are often based on user generated content. For example, a topic called "My Great Topic" will have the permalink "/topic/10/my-great-topic/". Now, when this topic title is edited, the permalink will change too. For this reason IP.Board allowed access to the topic as long as the topic ID was present, so all of the following links resulted in the same topic being shown:


The downside to this is that some may consider this duplicate content. You can now opt to redirect with a "301 Moved Permanently" header to the correct permalink. This again is transparent to the end user but it will help search engines locate the correct copy to index. You can also opt for IP.Board to simply add a 'robots' meta tag with the value 'noindex' if you do not wish to redirect. This will tell the search engine to not index that URL.

We hope that these improvements will be seen as a good first step in basic SEO without impacting performance.

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