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IP.Board 3.3 Dev Update: New SEO Tweaks Roundup

We released IP.Board 3.3.0 as beta yesterday to our clients and I wanted to just round-up some of the very latest SEO changes we've made this week.

We've invested a lot of effort into making sensible non-invasive changes to IP.Board to encourage search engines to spider pages we want them to spider and to remove extraneous links, potential crawler errors and non-desirable keywords. We routinely check progress on this forum in Google Analytics and Google Webmaster tools to identify any areas that need further work. I spotted a few things which I've fixed which include the following.

We added tags back in 3.2 and we've continued to make improvements including adding 'other items tagged' which is now an option when viewing a topic. However, guest and search engine access to tags was largely blocked and the URL to fetch a list of matching items wasn't very friendly.

This has now been changed. The old format URL was 'index.php?app=core&module=search&do=search&search_app=forums&search_tag=tagName'. It's now a much snappier '/tags/forums/tagName/'.

Search engine bots now have access to the tag results page within the search engine so they can spider the results of specific tags. This should increase good keyword density.

Guests and 'unread' links
The default setting in 3.3.0 is to disallow topic tracking for guests. This means this setting applies to search engines too. However, the 'last topic' link when viewing a list of forums still retained the '/unread/' parameter. This is fine as it sends a soft redirect header which Google correctly picks up. That said, it is an unnecessary hoop for Google to jump through and as topic marking is disabled, there is no benefit to this parameter.
This has now been removed in 3.3.0.

Title tags
We've also gone through and removed some more unnecessary title attributes from links such as the 'Go to latest unread' which preceded almost every 'last topic' link when viewing a forum, search results and sub-forums. This further reduces undesirable keywords.

Soft 404s
On reviewing the crawler errors listed within Google Webmaster Tools, I noticed a lot of largely irrelevant pages were listed as being 'soft 404s'. Google declares a page a soft 404 if it sends a standard OK header (200) but it seems to contain no valuable data such as a generic 'No data to show' message within a table. This occurred with regularity with the 'Who Posted' feature as well as the 'Display Name History' button on user's profiles. I've now removed both links to Guests as arguably they serve little purpose to a non-member.

I've added schema data to the IP.Board topic rating system so Google will detect and show the relevant rating with the search result.

These are all fairly little changes but they'll further improve your forum's SEO which can only be a good thing! We're looking forward to seeing these new changes and features in action on your forums.

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