Adding A Search Engine Friendly Forum

SEO company Los Angeles

Adding forums to your websites with a SEO company in Los Angeles is one of the best ways to increase your traffic and revenue.

A forum can increase your traffic and ranking because:

  1. it adds many content pages to your site
  2. each of these forum pages should link to your main pages using the proper anchor text
  3. your forum pages also participate in the rankings and can draw additional traffic from queries that match words in the forum posts

More traffic should turn into more revenue. A forum is a great way to turn your site into a community. Forum members will be exposed to the ads that you show. Even if you lose your ranking positions for some reasons, loyal forum members will still make you decent traffic and revenue.

What is a Search Engine Friendly Forum?

The major problem with forums is the usage of sessionIDs. SessionIDs are URL parameters that are used to identify forum visitors. They look like this: http://www.domain.com/page.php?PHPSESSID=as8d87ad68a7sd9a6 When you first open a forum page, you are assigned a unique sessionID parameter, which is added to all the forum URLs that you visit. The forum script will identify you by this unique session value. That situation creates many different URLs for the same pages. From a search engine point of view, this is a lot of duplicate content (many urls with the same content).

To make your forum spider-friendly you simply have to get rid of the sessionIDs. Unfortunately, most popular forums need additional modifications to implement this behavior.

Crawlers behave just like anonymous visitors. A search engine friendly forum is a forum that does not use sessionIDs for guest visitors. Additionally, I recommend that you disable sessionIDs for the visitors who have cookies enabled. You can find the solution at the bottom of this article.

Do I need to take out the other parameters?

Some optimizers and webmasters go further and make URLs without parameters. For example: http://www.domain.com/forums/index.php?showforum=1&showtopic=12 may become http://www.domain.com/forums/f1-t12.htm

These modifications are somewhat harder and more technical to do, and I think they are unnecessary. It is true that search engines crawl dynamic content a bit slower, but that won’t matter. There is a difference between crawling pages at a slower pace and crawling pages less often. Dynamic pages are not crawled less often. They are crawled more slowly. Crawlers request dynamic content at a slower pace because too many concurrent requests will slow down your server and may even lead to database/server crashes. Getting rid of dynamic URLs may have an advantage though – easier to remember URLs and higher CTR on the SERPs.

Some webmasters make their forum urls look like this: www.mydomain.com/forum/Forum_Title/Topic_Title/Topic_Number. Here instead of dynamic parameters, the urls are passed as subdirectories. I am against these types of modifications, because the number of “/”s in the urls play a role in the calculation of the crawling priority of a page. Google will crawl pages with more “/”s less often. In one of the Google patents, there’s ranking score mentioned which devalues URLs with more ‘/’s. These “search engine friendly” urls mean being crawled less often and having lower rankings.

So what is the perfect forum URL?

The perfect forum URL has a minimal number of slashes. You can achieve this by placing the forums on a subdomain or in the main directory of a site. Examples: forums.mydomain.com and www.mydomain.com/forums.php

Other modifications you should make:

  1. On your forum pages, put as many links as possible to your main content pages using the appropriate anchor text. Doing so, will increase the rankings of your main pages by diverting PageRank to them and increasing anchor text hits.
  2. Get more link popularity (importance) per content page

Most forum scripts inflate the number of non-content pages on your website. They do so by creating a myriad of non-content pages, which have no chance of ranking well (member profiles, member lists, reply to every post, reply with quote etc.). All non-content pages which have no business ranking, dilute the link popularity of all pages on your site.

It is common sense: if you have a given amount of link popularity from your incoming links, the more pages you have, the less importance each page will get! By the way, this inverse relationship between link popularity and the number of pages is not linear.

So how do I minimize the number of non-content pages in a forum?

I have searched for a script that hides all non-content pages from the search engines and couldn’t find one. That’s why I created SEO-Board, which is optimized in this regard. SEO-Board minimizes the number of non-content pages by calling them using form buttons that look like links. That prevents search engines from crawling them and adding them to the index. All other solutions (nofollow tags, robots.txt) only prevent the crawling, not the addition of these pages to the index. Adding pages to the index dilutes link popularity (these links by the way are dangling). To modify any of the good big boards to hide all non-content pages will require a lot of work.