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IP.Board 3.0 Search Engine Optimization

Posted by bfarber , 03 October 2008 · 6,930 views

IPBoard
We receive requests quite frequently to "add SEO to IPB". This is a very difficult request to quantify and to fulfill. What is SEO? What is wrong with IPB's positioning to search engines presently? What can be done better?

We've seen some suggestions over time that make sense, and some we feel would be better left to modifications. While we are not jumping full force into the "SEO" arena with IPB 3, we have made changes throughout the software that we believe will help you position yourself better for search engine indexing. This blog post will touch on a few of these changes.

Semantically correct HTML
The word "semantic" means the study of meaning in communication. Basically, when used in the context of an HTML document, to state that the source code is semantic means that the HTML tags used are appropriate for their representations. It wasn't too long ago that tables were used to position elements in your browser window, and 1x1px gif images were used to pad areas so things looked nice. Those days are (almost) long gone, and today's modern web pages are focusing on producing HTML source code that makes sense, while separating styling to CSS documents and javascript to external javascript files.

When IPB 3 ships it will validate as xHTML valid, and the source code will be semantically correct. Deprecated HTML tags and excessive and unnecessary tags (such as 3-layer nested divs) are not used, and the javascript is not obtrusive (*see comments). Screen readers and search engine spiders should find it much easier to read a topic generated by IPB 3 than IPB 2. Furthermore, all functions should work (although in some cases to a lesser degree) when javascript is not available. Heading tags are used properly and feature keywords related to the content on the page. They also cascade in a defined format so that they represent the content in a meaningful way.

*Note: HTML will be semantic and javascript unobtrusive to the extent possible. There are thousands of configurations, literally, and with so many browsers, options and features it is hard to make a blanket guarantee of this sort. Rikki has explained more about our goals for the skin in another blog entry if you are interested in the new skin.

Microformat support
Microformats are common ways to represent similar data. For instance, it is not uncommon for a random website to have some sort of news or articles data and some sort of user profile page for each user. Microformats were developed so that these common things could be represented in a common way to help further the web. By utilizing microformats, other webpages and scripts can parse your page and extract valuable data that they can then share. Even Internet Explorer 8 will be making use of Microformats for some of it's cooler new features, while other browsers already do or are also planning to.

IP.Board 3 makes use of several microformats to help your document make sense to tools that can read and understand these formats. Specifically, we are making use of the hCard, hCalendar, rel-nofollow, rel-tag, and rel-home microformats. We also make use of some other common relationship attributes where appropriate (such as "rel='help'" for the link to the help documentation), even though they are not necessary full-fledged microformats at this time. Furthermore, we will continue exploring and watching microformats, and applying them as they develop and relate to IPB.

rel='nofollow' Support
This is another common request we receive: making all posted links in topics utilize the "rel='nofollow'" attribute appropriately. Many users, on the other hand, have asked that we do not implement this. The idea is that search engines should understand "rel='nofollow'" to mean that the webmaster is not endorsing the link, so when the search engine follows it, the search engine shouldn't penalize the website the link is hosted on should they determine it was a bad link, or irrelevant to the linking site.

We have added a setting to allow users to enable this without having to make source code modifications. The rel='nofollow' attribute will be automatically appended to all urls posted and parsed through the normal bbcode routines when the setting is enabled.

Removal of "(Powered by Invision Power Board)" from board index
For years, since the beginning of IPB, the page title of the board index page has had "(Powered by Invision Power Board)" added to it if you did not purchase copyright removal. We did not disallow users from removing this text, however, and many users did.

We've gone ahead and bit the bullet, and removed this text from the base release.

Removal of "lo-fi" version
The lofi version in IP.Board was meant to provide a toned-down basic representation of the current topic or forum. It was useful for both search engines and mobile browsers. It was so useful, in fact, that many times when you reach an IPB in a search engine listing you will actually end up at the lo-fi page instead of the full-version page.

In IP.Board 3 we have removed the lofi version entirely in favor of the new output engine capabilities. A mobile skin can be set directly through the admin control panel, negating the necessity for an entirely different script to serve the content. This is the great thing about the MVC pattern for all you developers - leave the model and controller alone, and just change the view itself.

The relationship to search engine optimization comes into play when you consider that the lo-fi version and the full version are essentially duplicating the content from one another, and a commonly held belief exists that search engines penalize you for duplicate content. While we can't speak for what any given search engine actually does, we did feel this feature was deprecated and no longer needed given advances in the skin system in IPB, and have removed it entirely.

Changing of modes moved to user control panel
It's not uncommon for a search engine to index a link to a topic on a site running IP.Board, and for some unknown reason decide the topic is best represented when "&mode=outline" is added to the URL. While this doesn't stop you from visiting the page, it DOES change the layout of the page, and for newcomers some of the alternate layouts may not be as easy to follow when they first visit your site.

Many users do utilize the different layout options (which are handled on a per user-account basis) so we did not feel it wise to remove these options. Instead, we have moved the ability to change the layout of topics to the user control panel. This should stop search engines from indexing topics with "mode" parameters in them, reducing confusion for visitors actually clicking the link to visit your site.


Additional features
Additionally, we've already gone over a few other changes that are related to better search engine positioning which we need not repeat here. Just as a brief recap, you may also be interested in reading these blog entries



There are many more minor but important improvements buried deep within IP.Board 3 that should help you keep your site listed in search engines appropriately. While we won't jump on the SEO bandwagon and advocate certain styles of running your site or formatting your urls, we are doing our part to bring basic functionality our users have requested with regards to their site's optimization into reality with IPB 3.

  • #officialmbtshoes likes this



Sweet first! Amazing
The link to the entry by Rikki doesn't link properly in the news on the forums itself rather than in the blog.

Aside from that, nice to hear the update! I'm getting even more excited.
QUOTE (Malefickus @ Oct 4 2008, 01:01 AM)
The link to the entry by Rikki doesn't link properly in the news on the forums itself rather than in the blog.


That's the way it should work. The news topic is just a mirror original.gif
QUOTE
It's not uncommon for a search engine to index a link to a topic on a site running IP.Board, and for some unknown reason decide the topic is best represented when "&mode=outline" is added to the URL. While this doesn't stop you from visiting the page, it DOES change the layout of the page, and for newcomers some of the alternate layouts may not be as easy to follow when they first visit your site.

Man, this is nice to see. This has been a big problem on my forum, as users would visit the site through a Google link and have their view switched. The most commonly asked question on my forum is, "What the heck happened to the topic display?!!" I recently modified my robots.txt file to hopefully fix this, but having it fixed by default in 3.0 is great to hear..

..Al
Will 3.0 Search Engine support double-bytes character in UTF-8 encoding well?
Nice! thumbsup.gif
cool
I trhink it should be a 301 redirect from the old urls to the FURLs, implemented in IPB 3 so that we don't loose the indexed links.
And what if I purchased a copyright removal? It was just a waste of money?
QUOTE (Kfir @ Oct 4 2008, 11:17 AM)
And what if I purchased a copyright removal? It was just a waste of money?


no, because you could allready remove the (powered by ..) part in the page title.

When you purchase the copyright removal you are allowed to remove te copyright part in the footer of your board.
QUOTE (Mesmer @ Oct 4 2008, 09:38 AM)
QUOTE (Kfir @ Oct 4 2008, 11:17 AM)
And what if I purchased a copyright removal? It was just a waste of money?


no, because you could allready remove the (powered by ..) part in the page title.

When you purchase the copyright removal you are allowed to remove te copyright part in the footer of your board.

I didn't yet used my license, as I have been waiting for IPB3.
So now I'm stuck with a useless add-on which costs close to 300$.
Is the powered by IP.Board going to be a no fallow link?
I don't like that lo-fi version will be removed.
QUOTE (xper @ Oct 5 2008, 09:37 PM)
I don't like that lo-fi version will be removed.


why not?
Brilliant, absolutely brilliant, this is one of my fav updates so far! Thank you for doing this shocked.gif) - I hope someone can create a Sitemap generator mod to work alongside SEFURL's

Really looking forward to see a preview now! original.gif
QUOTE (xper @ Oct 5 2008, 03:37 PM)
I don't like that lo-fi version will be removed.


There'll still be a 'lo-fi' version, only it'll be handled by a skin now. And using the new user agent mapping feature, you'll be able to make sure search engines use that optimised skin original.gif
It's been quite a long time since I've posted over here (a testament to the stability of the software, I suppose) but I have to comment on this one.

I hope the LoFi version does not go completely away, but instead goes the way of SSI.php from back in the old days, being an option that can be implemented by the site admin.

The reason is that while lofi may have originally been intended for people using limited browsers, it has transformed for a lot of people (that I have seen) into a revenue generator-- something that IPS would not likely realize since they don't have ads on their forums.

Placing context-based ads on the lofi version has been an immense source of revenue for my site, being credited with almost 75 percent of my total revenue. In the grand scheme of things, a very very small percentage of people are likely browsing forums on a mobile device.

Yes, the content is very similar to that of the standard forum page, but it is unique enough that search engines, Google included, do not penalize sites using special versions of a page targeted at different types of users.

The question is, though, will removing thousands of pages from your site from a search engine's cache-- the lofi pages-- damage search engine placement? On my site, that is up in the air. But the certainty is that ad revenue will drop to the floor.

Thanks for reading,

Mike
To re-iterate.

We have removed the 'lofi' folder and contents. You can now better map search engines and mobile devices to specific skins. So, for example, you can create / import / whatever a skin specifically for PSPs. You won't have to access a different URL or do anything differently.

Regarding text-links, the same concept applies. Create a specific skin and map it to search engines. Same result.
Will all our indexed links to Lo-Fi 301 redirect correctly?

And what if we're using a plugin to get FURL links right now, will IPB 3.0 wreck our SEO?

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