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IP.Board 3.3 Dev Update: A few more SEO tweaks

Our core goals for IP.Board 3.3 where to clear up the moderator tools, make IP.Board more efficient for larger communities and improve SEO.

We've already blogged twice on our SEO improvements outlining tweaks to improve good keyword density, reduce crawl errors and improve good keyword placement.

Our own company forums are very busy and get a lot of traffic and we monitor the data via Google's Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics. As we upgraded to IP.Board 3.3.0 last week, I was curious to see how the data looked even though it's too early to really spot any differences, a few things did become obvious.

Duplicate TITLE tags
I noticed that Google had recorded thousands of 'duplicate title tags'. This is where separate content shares the same <title> tag in the HTML document. This can weaken the impact of the page within its algorithms so it made sense to clean that up.

There were three very common areas that accounted for nearly 99% of all these errors:

Profile Tabs
When viewing a user's profile in IP.Board, you can click the side-bar tabs to view recent topics, posts, gallery images and more. This is handled by javascript where available with a linked back-up. Google naturally selects the linked back-up which has the correct content, but the actual document title still says "Viewing Profile {name}" hence the duplicate title tags warning. The simple fix is to add the tab name in the title 'Viewing Profile: Topics {name}'.

Skin Selector and Language Selector
At the footer of each page is a skin and language drop down selector. When you have more than one visible skin, the drop down is visible allowing you to move between them. This is completely lost on search engines and they crawl the links leading to more duplicate content.
As of IP.Board 3.3.0, they are no longer shown for search engines.



Direct post links
Each post in a topic has its own post number and this is a link to that particular post. Currently, this is a unique link (page__findpost__12345) which flags up as a warning because it is not unique content. The easy solution is to simply use a standard HTML anchor tag. This doesn't flag up as a warning as it is using basic HTML as intended. As an addition, I removed the generic "Link to post" title attribute to something more suitable.



An interesting topic was started a few days ago about a possible SEO pagination issue. The author feels that our pagination method could do with a few more links in to encourage Google to crawl deeper into your forum. While I feel the user/search engine trade off wasn't worth it, I make it simple enough to change.

As of IP.Board 3.3, simply add:

$INFO['show_x_page_link'] = 9;


into your conf_global.php file to tailor how many pagination links are shown so you can find the best balance for your needs.


These changes will help reduce crawl errors and strengthen your ranking. It's the little additions like these that really add up over time.

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With regards to the direct post links... if the admin was to change the number of posts per page in the ACP, will that mean that all existing anchor links just become dead (should posts fall of their respective page?)

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1. Looking good.

2. On the optimisation of hiding the skin selector and Language Selector from Search Engines.
You may want to be careful with this, Google frowns on people showing different versions to human and its spiders. This may end out penalise some sites instead.

On my site, I just add the language selector links and skin links inside my robots.txt to exclude it from being crawled. Same effect but it is on the "safe" side of SEO.

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Another issue that could be addressed is the over abundance of duplicate links to profiles and threads on the main forum page. This can cause SEO penalites for too many URL links per page especially for large forums.

Examples of excessive links on main page:

1) the "By Forum Member" link
2) the forum members mini icon link
3) the "Yesterday, 9:36 PM" link

Examples of excessive links on thread page

1) Two links to a profile per thread post (member name and member avatar).
2) One link to member mini icon on thread header

So that is three links pointing to the same profile for just one post.

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[quote name='Hendry' timestamp='1327946988']
Matt, Google automates most of its task. While a human may see it as contextual interface. I hope Google's algorithm may decide that the page is different and not flag it as cloaking.

It's hardly any different to hiding the post box from Google, really.
I think it's more intelligent than blocking a site because it has less content for it to see than a real user would.

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  • Management

We removed two drop down boxes designed for humans to switch interface designs and languages. It's not 'gaming' search engines and its removal only prevents crawl errors.

The software already shows significant differences for guests and members. That's the norm for complex software that allows different permission models.

Google will not penalise you for that.

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[quote name='Charles' timestamp='1327939979']
One kind of needs those links so people can link to a member profile :smile:

two per user ?
if look at the forum indexes
been said before that the distinction between last post and user profile link is not at all clear

you have to make a determined effort to ensure that you click the right link

if adopt a grid type approach for your layouts with one column being for profile image including link and another for the last post info and link
you could then choose the correct link with your eyes closed

this would resolve this confusion and get rid of 50% of duplicated links

easier to navigate and less resources

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I think you misunderstand duplicate links with duplicate content.

What I have fixed is where two completely different links link to the same piece of content, so:

board.com/topic/123-hello
board.com/topic/123-hello/page__findpost__12345

Would show the exact same page.

There is nothing wrong with having multiple links if they're the exact same.

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Something else that might help: On a multi page topic you should probably add "Page #" to the title somewhere to distinguish pages from each other.

Lastly (and this is just a personal preference) it would be nice if you had a page number in the url rather than "st". On page 2 you get "st_20", but given you know how many posts to display per page it would be easy to do the math of ((2 - 1) * 20) to figure out the st. Granted there's probably a little more involved, but it would look cleaner. Users could easily change the page number in the URL without doing the math themselves.

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[quote name='Matt' timestamp='1328017852']
What I have fixed is where two completely different links link to the same piece of content, so:

board.com/topic/123-hello
board.com/topic/123-hello/page__findpost__12345

Would show the exact same page.

But canonical metatag should resolve this issue, shouldn't?

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[quote name='Luke' timestamp='1328025281']
Something else that might help: On a multi page topic you should probably add "Page #" to the title somewhere to distinguish pages from each other.


We already do.

[quote name='Axel Wers' timestamp='1328025638'] But canonical metatag should resolve this issue, shouldn't?

To a point. Google still flagged them as an issue because of two different links with a single title.

[quote name='nhLangley' timestamp='1328028043'] My members frequently post links to older posts on the forum. Will the old direct post links still work in 3.3? Edit: Also, what about users who view a different number of posts per page?

Yes, older links will work fine. We still use the 'find post' method internally here and there so it won't be removed.

The ability for users to change posts per page was removed in 3.2. We want to slowly remove the 'st_x' in favour of 'page_x' but that will take a little longer to come to fruition.

[quote name='Neuro' timestamp='1328039857'] "Dyslexics of the world untie!" - surely? Many thanks, that is all :)

Good piont!

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Finally you guys will kick azz with these changes that focus on SEO and growing/larger boards.

Still disappointed I can't join the team but oh well.

No matter how great IPB in "general", it would never get pickup or noticed if communities on IPB find it harder to grow than when using other more SEO friendly forum softwares out there.

THANK YOU!

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We have so much problems with links to posts in new format. There is no options to take back 3.2 page__findpost__12345 links? If i delete some posts in topic then old links become wrong because of pages changed. Moderators and users have different page count because moderators can see hidden messages in topic. So users can't send these links to moderators as result. And everybody can't go to quoted message if there is deleted posts in the topic.

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