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IPB 3.1: Search Engine Optimization Part Deux

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

http://yoursitehere.com/forums/






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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I'm glad you guys see we're listening to feedback and taking it into account. :)

I just want to point out that "SEO" is not an exact science, and many people feel differently about different aspects of it. Some people think meta tag options are critical, and some people feel they are utterly useless. Some people feel we should not change the established url structure, and some people feel we should.

We will continue to tweak and improve the software to the extent possible, maximizing it's potential while trying to please as many customers as possible. Naturally with something that different people have different opinions on, we can't please everyone 100%, but hopefully the changes we've made will benefit everyone. :)

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[quote name='bfarber' date='08 January 2010 - 04:02 PM']
I'm glad you guys see we're listening to feedback and taking it into account. :)

I just want to point out that "SEO" is not an exact science, and many people feel differently about different aspects of it. Some people think meta tag options are critical, and some people feel they are utterly useless. Some people feel we should not change the established url structure, and some people feel we should.

We will continue to tweak and improve the software to the extent possible, maximizing it's potential while trying to please as many customers as possible. Naturally with something that different people have different opinions on, we can't please everyone 100%, but hopefully the changes we've made will benefit everyone. :)


thx. Meta tags are important and some search engine (i think almost all :D) uses it for the descriptions in their results. Meta tags are important for users and search engine too.

The most importants things that IPB doesn't have are:
1- customizable paths with Hierarchic URL Structure (my previous post)
2- good meta tags
3- good headers response (also for bandwidth usage)
4- Daily sitemap generator with lastmod option (to increase spiders indexation and reduce badwidth usage)
5- Remove non necessary pages (no-follow + noindex/robots.txt)
6- canonical urls
7- Speed up loading page deferring javascript (move js load to the footer)
8- Similar topics optional view (disabled by default). It increase cross-linking: google and bing love theemm! :D


If you want i can help you, even for free. I'm a SEO/SEM, Expert PHP Developer (also Zend Framework) and IPB fan (from 1.3) but i'm a vbulletin/vbseo customer :(. If you want a curriculum i'm here ^^

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[quote name='Enkidu' date='08 January 2010 - 02:03 AM']
I have already put a canonical tag to my board index page and issued nofollow noindex to the error template (so in theory, spiders won't index them), and finally rel=nofollw to links like login, register, delete cookies, back to top and so on :)

IMO I think we need to put some weight on the <h>s tags, because currently we have:



is the board stat really that important to give it h2 weight? :huh:

H-tags barely have much relevance in our time any more.

Oh - bfarber - I have to disagree. SEO definitely falls into the category Science. It's not about "feelings" or what people "feel" or "think" is good or not. While you can not put exact numbers behind every statement you certainly can prove what does have impact and what does not.

<h2>Our Board Statistics</h2>
 
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[quote name='jmueller' date='09 January 2010 - 10:23 AM']
H-tags barely have much relevance in our time any more.
I, for one, strongly disagree with that statement.

Header tags can be used quite effectively to improve on-page SEO. A lot of sites misuse them, but savvy admins/webmasters are using them with positive results.

Obviously this is nothing more than my not-so-humble opinion and possibly worth exactly what I charged you to read it. But my experiences with testing header tags on my own sites have convinced me of the value to be gained by properly using them.

One thing to keep in mind is that several of us posting responses here are recent converts from vBulletin and were vBSEO customers to boot, so we've got a pretty good feel for what has SEO relevance and what doesn't.

Thanks to IPS for working to optimize their scripts, out of the box. It will only lead to bigger and better things for everyone.

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[quote name='Matt' date='06 January 2010 - 11:50 PM']
I have considered doing that but I'm wary of making too many changes to the FURL structure now it has been established. We'd have to ensure one 301 redirects to the new, etc. We couldn't simply change it on a whim.


The double underscore is just so ugly. Why is it used? Why is that info structured like that?



Soooo ugly!

/page__pid__1911229__st__0&#entry1911229

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Please also take a look at removing the "Board name" from the <title> tag. Having only the thread title in the <title> tag is far better for SEO. There are also manuals how to achieve that with style edits, but that could be in your stock version, as it's that easy to accomplish. 

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[quote name='Bryan Sammers' date='29 January 2010 - 03:18 PM']Please also take a look at removing the "Board name" from the <title> tag. Having only the thread title in the <title> tag is far better for SEO. There are also manuals how to achieve that with style edits, but that could be in your stock version, as it's that easy to accomplish.

I've seen this requested a lot lately, by a lot of people. So much so that I began to doubt my assumption that it was unnecessary, so I checked with one of our SEO experts here (I work for the #4 natural search marketing agency in the UK).

Advice was that removing the forum name from the title on topic/forum view pages would increase keyword density for the individual pages, but that doing so would have no discernible impact on SEO. I believe that 3.1 will have more consistent page titles, which should be more than enough.

I'd suggest if you're worrying about this kind of detail, you're missing the bigger picture - which is that your rankings will be primarily affected by the content you and your members create. Don't sweat it, it's not necessary.

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So few of my ideas and concerns about seo in IPB

First of all - it's still very poor

Canonical url - thanks, it was really PITA
Dynamic meta tags - great in 3.0 it really helped

Noindex for register pages? What for, it doesn't do any good or bad but it's crucial for internal search engine (like site:forum.com registration). Spiders will not refresh register page because it's not changing.


One more about putting forum name in title - I think it's good to leave it there.
pros: you have more targeted long tail.
Good example site name "Honda Accord forum" (found on vbulletin forum)
so topic can be
Which oil to use - Honda Accord forum

Why you need "which oil to use" - you will never be high in serps with such phrase.

Second thing - branding
You will get better traffic, more targeted and you work for your brand all the time.

But you should fight with IPB problem since 2.0 ? Maybe earlier.
All the:
/page_view_old
/page_view_new
/page_view_getlastpost
/page_view_getnewpost

They should be only for logged in users! Or at least give them nofollow tag!

This will reduce duplicate content and spider url to harvest few times!

For example:
http://www.google.pl/#q=site:http://www.webhostingtalk.pl/topic/21777-profesjonalna-usluga-hostingowa-poszukiwana/&hl=pl&lr=&filter=0&fp=736a0d45a056cacc

Another thing is very poor seo effect on anchor text.

How this should look like on your board index or category index?
Anchor text: (professional hosting service searched) profesjonalna usluga hostingowa poszukiwana
url:http://www.webhostingtalk.pl/topic/21777-profesjonalna-usluga-hostingowa-poszukiwana/
So you have perfect anchor and url

But it looks like:
Anchor text: (professional hosting service searched) profesjonalna usluga hostingowa poszukiwana
url:http://www.webhostingtalk.pl/topic/21777-profesjonalna-usluga-hostingowa-poszukiwana/page_view_getnewpost

With url pointing to different url every time (post, page etc.) google do follow redirects!

It's even worse in category index page:
anchor text is: topic title
but the icon has ending with /page_view_getnewpost
!!!!!

On the right side of category index you have perfect anchor text for your topic!
It is ..... date of last post!!! with url
http://www.webhostingtalk.pl/topic/21777-profesjonalna-usluga-hostingowa-poszukiwana/page_view_getlastpost

So you want for search engine per one topic to have one anchor text and one url (maximum power)
In IPB you have for one topic at least 3 anchor text (icon, date of last post and topic name) and at least 5 urls - in fact dozens of urls thanks to redirects!



Another stupid thing are links to user profiles on board index, category and forum index.

They all should have nofollow tags. This could give you much stronger impact.

I will not count Page Rank but on board index I have 232 internal links. Setting nofollow tag for user would reduce this number by more than 20% ! So every topic would have 20% more power!!



Hope someone will use this (it's based on experience and on vbseo which is almost perfect!)

I stopped hack IPB, it's to much job to do in every new version.

Thanks,
Bartosz

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[quote name='Enkidu' date='08 January 2010 - 04:03 AM']
I have already put a canonical tag to my board index page and issued nofollow noindex to the error template (so in theory, spiders won't index them), and finally rel=nofollw to links like login, register, delete cookies, back to top and so on :)

IMO I think we need to put some weight on the <h>s tags, because currently we have:



is the board stat really that important to give it h2 weight? :huh:

I was too lazy to read all the comments to see if this had been answered :ermm: but I'll answer it for you.

1) Remove those nofollow you made. They're not helping you because you can't sculpt pagerank with them. If they were dofollow they could help you with their minimal pagerank. Read my blog post on nofollow for webmaster for more info.

2) For your actual question, there's no reason to have it as an h1. Having "board statistics" on a site is not important for Google. It's not unique and it's not something someone would search for. You won't even get ranked higher if your "statistics" show more posts. Those just don't matter to Google.

<h2>Our Board Statistics</h2>
 
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Can we get 301 redirects from duplicate index pages to the actual index? That way people will all land on the same page so if they want to link they'll create links to the same page.

I tried doing this with my htaccess but it interfered with some other code and didn't work.

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