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:
Open your templates/main_topics.html and place right after the <script>...</script> tags:
Open your templates/main_posts.html and place right after the <script>...</script> tags:
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:
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
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.