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Make your forum spiderable and search engine friendly

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Author JmZ
Guest
#1 | Posted: 18 May 2005 15:57 
Hello everyone,

I recently installed miniBB on my website instead of my old monstrous phpBB forum, and am _very_ content with the software and the help that is offered here, all for free. I've also been doing some tweaking to integrate the forum into my website design and to make it more spiderable and search engine friendly. To express my gratitude for this software, I'd like to share my enhancements here to help other miniBB users to get the best out of the forum's search engine placements. Here's a little guide I wrote, I hope you find it useful. And if you have any search engine tips yourself, don't hesitate to post them too! :)

1. Think about your forum directory name

Search engines look at the words that are in your URL. Therefore it's good to rename your forum directory. Don't name it /minibb/, but make it relevant to your forum's theme. For example, if your forum is about cars: /carforum/, /cars/.... well, I'm sure you get the idea here.

2. Deliver valid HTML

MiniBB already does a great job on making the forum spiderable by delivering completely valid XHTML. You don't have to do anything about this. :)

3. Get rid of SIDs

Luckily, miniBB does not make use of session ID's (SIDs). Search engine spiders don't like these at all, so if you did switch them on for some reason in your setup_options.php... turn them off again!

4. Use mod_rewrite

If you have the possibility on your server for using mod_rewrite, use this functionality. Spiders don't like dynamic URLs (with lots of question marks and equal signs, such as index.php?action=vthread&forum=12&topic=222) and will result in getting very few pages spidered and indexed. The mod_rewrite will make all URLs nice and small like 12_222_0.html. Spiders love 'static' html pages. The mod_rewrite is without a doubt the best way to increase your spiderability. Details on how to implement this can be found in the manual: http://www.minibb.com/forums/index.php?action=manual#mod_rewrite

5. Use descriptive titles

Search engines place a lot of weight on the <title> of pages. Again, you don't have to do anything special about this, because miniBB takes care of dynamic titles. The only thing that you can do is give your forum a recognizable name with your site's main keywords in it (for example, if you have a forum on cars then you should name it something like 'Car Forum'). The same principle applies for all subforums you have: give them short, recognizable and on-topic names. You should also encourage your forum users to enter adequate and descriptive titles if they're placing a new topic on your forum.
Read more at http://www.w3.org/QA/Tips/good-titles

6. Use <meta> tags

Although search engines don't really place emphasis on meta tags for ordering their results these days, it will never hurt to get your forum's meta tags in order. The most important one to use is is the meta "description" tag. Here you can put something like 'The Car Forum: discussions on all cars, automobiles, trucks and their engines'. This description will appear on the search engine result pages directly under the page's title, so it's important that this is a clear sentence with a relevant description of your forum's theme. You can adjust your meta tag settings in your templates/main_header.html page.

7. Implement <h1> headings

Search engines also place a lot weight on <h1> tags. Now, at the moment, miniBB does not make any use of headings at all. Luckily, it is pretty easy to implement them, and will help your search engine placement a lot. I'll tell you what I did:

Open your templates/forums.html and place as the very first line:
<h1>{$sitename}</h1>

Open your templates/main_topics.html and place right after the <script>...</script> tags:
<h1>{$forumName}</h1>

Open your templates/main_posts.html and place right after the <script>...</script> tags:
<h1>{$topicName}</h1>

That's all really. Now, if you don't like the look of the titles, you can adjust their appearence in your stylesheet (e.g. bb_default_style.css). For example, you can add something like this:

h1 {
font-size: 17px ;
text-decoration: none ;
font-family: Arial ;
text-align: center ;
color: navy ;
}

Further reading: http://www.w3.org/QA/Tips/Use_h1_for_Title

8. Place relevant text links to your forum

Try to get as much links pointing towards your forum as possible. Place a direct link in your navigation menu, try to get links from other websites, etcetera, etcetera. Important is that you make use of ordinary text links, no images or fancy JavaScripts. Spiders know how to handle simple text links best. Also, be sure that the 'anchor text' of the link is relevant, because this is another important point for search engines to define your forum's relevance. So if you place a link to your forum don't make it "click here for the car forum", but make it like: "visit our Car Forum".
More info on http://www.w3.org/QA/Tips/noClickHere

9. Make use of 'Last Discussions'

The last discussions feature is not only very handy for your forum users, but will also contribute to the number of spidered topics of your forum. Because your forum's main page (index.php) is always (usually) the most important page with the highest search engine ranking, the 'last discussions' will help to get new posts and topics indexed more quickly. Set the number of last discussions that are showed to your own liking (I personally recommend 10 to 20). You can adjust the number of shown last discussions in your setup_options.php.

Author Team
8-)
#2 | Posted: 23 May 2005 15:09 
Thank you for the tips!

7th is a very good idea (we know about <h1> tags - just have no time previously to implement this) - and in the future, we will also implement it officially.

Author Ivan
Advanced Member
#3 | Posted: 25 Oct 2005 17:34 
Here not all are so big fans of the search engines :)

Author Team
8-)
#4 | Posted: 25 Oct 2005 19:59 
If Google will not cache miniBB pages as they were there before their big update, Paul promised to write a truth story behind the SEO :)

Author Moony
Registered
#5 | Posted: 26 Oct 2005 11:20 | Edited by: Moony 
Open your templates/forums.html and place as the very first line:
<h1>{$sitename}</h1>

Open your templates/main_topics.html and place right after the <script>...</script> tags:
<h1>{$forumName}</h1>

Open your templates/main_posts.html and place right after the <script>...</script> tags:
<h1>{$topicName}</h1>


You may be banned by search mashines for using too manu h1 and h2 tags, especially in links. There should not be more than 1 h1 tag on page. and it should not be related to a link. Isn't it logical?

Author Moony
Registered
#6 | Posted: 26 Oct 2005 11:26 
I have made a separate h1 topic title in every topic. You can see it here (if you understand russian): http://www.indostan.ru/forum/2_775_0.html

It is in the second line under the header.

Author Team
8-)
#7 | Posted: 26 Oct 2005 11:43 
Moony
You may be banned by search mashines for using too manu h1 and h2 tags, especially in links. There should not be more than 1 h1 tag on page. and it should not be related to a link. Isn't it logical?

It's not logical at all. It's a SEO-"guru's" figment.

http://www.php.net/ - 28 H1's. Pagerank - 9.

Author Moony
Registered
#8 | Posted: 26 Oct 2005 12:17 | Edited by: Moony 
Its ok when you have much text besides h1 titles and links. But if you have no text , only h1 titles and links, then you will have broblems. Or you will have no result at all. Anyway, you can risk.

Author Team
8-)
#9 | Posted: 26 Oct 2005 12:20 
Moony
Hah, that's what you've meant :) That's for sure.

Author Moony
Registered
#10 | Posted: 26 Oct 2005 14:46 
You may consider adding h2 tag to [b] in bb_codes

Author Team
8-)
#11 | Posted: 26 Oct 2005 14:58 
? AFAIK, bold tags already means inportant word.

Anyway, we are not gonna to change nothing according to formatting text. Last days everybody sees that Google may be a bullshit, too. As it is was well-known fact many times ago, SEO science is a fiction.

Author JmZ
Guest
#12 | Posted: 27 Oct 2005 00:22 
Moony
You may be banned by search mashines for using too manu h1 and h2 tags, especially in links.

You misunderstood. This isn't what this implemantation does. What it does, is that it adds one h1 per page, namely it adds

- an h1 with the forum's main name on the index page (index.php)
- an h1 with the subforum's name on every forum's page (e.g. 1_0.html)
- an h1 with the topic's name on every topics's page (e.g. 1_1_0.html)

And one h1 per page is indeed the way it should be, in my opinion.

Author Ivan
Advanced Member
#13 | Posted: 28 Oct 2005 05:13 | Edited by: Ivan 
I all the time cannot understand why someone could be so keen to serve Google, and that much - to add searchable attributes in the text formatting. I, for example, want the formatting absolutely clear, and also want NOINDEX, NOFOLLOW.

If one wants to be everywhere in the search machines, he/she can rework his/her own copy of miniBB, why the entire distribution?

Author Mikado
Guest
#14 | Posted: 18 Jan 2006 14:13 
Here is an alternative solution without the need to change templates:

Just give Google your RSS2 output as a sitemap. That works fine always, even if you use PHPSESSIDs. However, you need to put RSS2.PHP in the root of your site, not in the forum subdirectory. To make that work, you have to change a few lines in RSS2.PHP to adjust the directory structure.

This way, you can solve the problem of impossible login with disabled cookies, and at the same time still be a smart site for Google.

Author Team
8-)
#15 | Posted: 18 Jan 2006 15:21 
Sorry, it's not really clear how RSS and Google maps, and login procedures are combined together???

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