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:
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.