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IPB 3.1: Search Engine Optimization

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Many of our customers have expressed interest in optimizing their forums for search engines, and to that end IPB 3.0 introduced many great features to facilitate this. You may recall from our blog entries leading up to 3.0 that we introduced friendly urls, canonical tag, dynamic meta tag support, and many other useful changes to make indexing your website easier for search engine spiders.

Here are a few blog entries detailing the new features in IP.Board 3.0.

[*]IP.Board 3: Friendly URL Enhancements [*]IP.Board 3.0 Search Engine Optimization [*]IP.Board 3: Friendly URLs at last!


For IP.Board 3.1 we have consulted with an industry specialist to determine some areas of IP.Board where we can optimize the software to better adhere to standards and facilitate easier discovery of content. By making some minor changes to how the software behaves, we can help search engine spiders more easily index your forums, and more easily filter out content that should not be indexed.

Appropriate header codes for errors

Error pages do not need to be indexed by search engine spiders, as they provide no real content that one would expect to search for using a traditional search engine. We have changed IP.Board 3.1 to issue a 500 header code ("Internal Server Error") for most generic error messages. Errors that are indicating the user does not have appropriate permissions will now be delivered with a "403 Forbidden" header code, while error messages that indicate the content could not be found (i.e. an invalid topic id) will issue a "404 Not Found" header code. By using more appropriate header codes, search engines will more easily be able to identify that certain pages should not be indexed, as they are true errors.

The infamous "icon" alt attribute

XHTML Strict standards dictate that an alt attribute must be supplied with every image. The idea is that the alt attribute can be read by screen readers and other assistive technology (as well as by search engine spiders) to better identify what an image represents. Many images in IP.Board are used merely for visual "eye candy" purposes and don't have specific meaning. The title attribute used for anchor tags wrapping the images is more than sufficient to dictate what the link itself is used for, while the image is routinely nothing more than an icon used in place of text to look nicer.

As such, IP.Board 3.0 frequently used "icon" as an alt attribute for many images, because that is what the image was. However, search engine spiders are seeing this as an increasingly relevant term on many IP.Board forums as a result, when clearly many (if not most) forums are not really about "icons". To that end, we have removed "icon" as an alt attribute (in some places, specifying no text as the alt attribute) to de-emphasize the unimportant term. We will be making similar tweaks to other textual and meta data on the page to better help search engines identify what is truly important within any given page.

Cash in on social networking

Social networking is all the craze these days. Love it or hate it, it is hard to deny that social networking is changing the landscape of the internet. Sites like Facebook and Twitter are serving millions and millions of users on a daily basis, making them excellent places to promote your own website to garner interest and put out word of mouth advertising for free.

While IP.Board 3.0 already supports Facebook Connect out of the box, making it easy for users with a Facebook account to simply login to your site using their Facebook credentials, we decided we wanted to do something more for IP.Board 3.1. Pulling IN content is great, but pushing OUT content is even better.

IP.Board 3.1 will feature buttons when viewing a topic that will allow you to quickly push out any given post to Twitter and/or Facebook, making it easier for you and your members to share specific content on your website with large audiences. What's great about this is that this sort of content sharing is much more targetted than generic advertising. If a member shares a specific post on his Facebook "wall", it's much more likely that his friends and colleagues will be interested in the content, and more prone to following the link to your website, than an advertisement block on a random website, or within search engine result listings. Friends and colleagues often share similar interests, after all.

Even more to come

While we feel the above changes are simple but useful tweaks to the existing software, there are some more similarly simple changes we intend to implement to IP.Board 3.1 in order to better position your site to stand out from the crowd. We hope that you feel, as we do, that these improvements will only improve your site, both for search engines, and for your actual users.






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25 Comments

Posted

Looks good!

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I've said it in private, and just posted about it on my blog, but I'll say it here too. I'm delighted to see you guys taking on the advice I gave you and implementing some of those last-mile things that a lot of forum software vendors (and web app vendors in general) forget, or don't consider to be important.

Great work! :)

Massimiliano likes this
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Posted

that really shows you care about your customers :)

thank you very much for being the best :thumbsup:

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Posted

Happy about FB and Twitter :) but sad about no mention of "tags". :(
IPB greatest lack is a tags/labels system for administrators and folksonomy for users. How can it not be on top of your priorities?

Hatsu, TrixieTang, Kfir and 2 others like this
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That's me, dancing a jig over this news.

Thanks to everyone at IPB for listening to what we've been saying. Just more affirmation that converting to IPB was a good move for me.

OK, OK, so it was a great move. :thumbsup:

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Posted

What is the possibility of pushing out feeds to Twitter? I would love if when a member submitted an entry to IP Downloads.....if it could automatically push that link to Twitter on my behalf. Other possibilities would be a push of the most popular post of the day to Twitter.

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Posted

sounds great, but would like additional social bookmarking options :)

Also no mention of sitemaps -are these not required?

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[quote name='AndrX' date='05 January 2010 - 05:26 PM']
Happy about FB and Twitter :) but sad about no mention of "tags". :(
IPB greatest lack is a tags/labels system for administrators and folksonomy for users. How can it not be on top of your priorities?


We definitely want to add tagging in, it's been much discussed among us. However, IP.Board 3.1 is a chance to refine some of the core features based on the feedback of the community. Such as the hooks system, the search interface, master skins, etc. These are all things that we must address in the core before adding new core features.

Adding tagging app-wide is no light undertaking. It will affect many different areas of the board and we want to ensure that we add an efficient and robust solution.

In short, we hear you loud and clear but let us clear up some other must-have issues first. :)

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[quote name='.Ian' date='05 January 2010 - 06:29 PM']sounds great, but would like additional social bookmarking options :)

Also no mention of sitemaps -are these not required?

Hi Ian,

Adding support for sitemaps were amongst the recommendations I sent over to IPS. Whether or not that functionality will be included by default I don't know, but there are a few good sitemap generation plugins available already that you could use if you want that functionality today. I'd definitely recommend having one, though they're not strictly necessary.

- Dan

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"Appropriate header codes for errors"

I'm thrilled you guys decided to do this. I remember starting a topic a while back asking for this, and it was shot down as not being important. Glad to see that it was re-evaluated. Another good header to use is 400 for "Bad Request". I use this one when someone tries to edit a document that doesn't exist.

I would hope that the database error produces an error of 500?

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Posted

Looking good

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great post, I can't read it all right now. (I should be working) but I have the link and will read it when I get some time to look things over.
It's great to see the interest in IPB-SEO.

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Posted

Great news guys. Nice change to see a company listening to its clients. :thumbsup:

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[quote name='Dan C' date='05 January 2010 - 06:36 PM']
Hi Ian,

Adding support for sitemaps were amongst the recommendations I sent over to IPS. Whether or not that functionality will be included by default I don't know, but there are a few good sitemap generation plugins available already that you could use if you want that functionality today. I'd definitely recommend having one, though they're not strictly necessary.

- Dan

Sadly they do not work with large databases

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Posted

Oh. In that case I might write one...

.Ian and teraphy like this
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[quote name='Matt' date='05 January 2010 - 06:35 PM']

We definitely want to add tagging in, it's been much discussed among us. However, IP.Board 3.1 is a chance to refine some of the core features based on the feedback of the community. Such as the hooks system, the search interface, master skins, etc. These are all things that we must address in the core before adding new core features.

Adding tagging app-wide is no light undertaking. It will affect many different areas of the board and we want to ensure that we add an efficient and robust solution.

In short, we hear you loud and clear but let us clear up some other must-have issues first. :)

Spot on MATT, and I'm glad to see that kind of mentality taking place here. Things in the CORE should be either improved first or fixed (if need be). Before anything else should be added, which with it might bring it's own set of issues to add to the ones not already fixed first.

I also hear you guys are working with a SEO specialist to make IPB3 as SEO Friendly as possible. That's very good to know indeed.

Mainer82 likes this
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[quote name='Matt' date='05 January 2010 - 06:35 PM']
Adding tagging app-wide is no light undertaking. It will affect many different areas of the board and we want to ensure that we add an efficient and robust solution.

In short, we hear you loud and clear but let us clear up some other must-have issues first. :)

I totally agree Matt. A tagging app-wide is not just a one more feature but it's about the "concept" and it may cross many different areas.
Mainly we miss a solution to aggregate the information across the various threads beyond the strictness of the structured data defined by forum->subforums->thread hierarchy.
When you have thousands if not millions users/threads/posts to aggregate the information later (that is to say in a semantic way) is vital. ;)

Keep up the good work. :)

AndrX

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Posted

Hope 3.1 support Chinese search well.

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the only reason I have sticked to vbulletin is because of vbseo .. IPB is more intuitive and user friendly but for SEO.

IPB beats vbull hands down if it gets better SEO for its forum

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Posted

Sounds great, roll on 3.1 :thumbsup:

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+1 for sitemaps. SEO 101. Especially useful when changing URLs sitewide such as implementing friendly URLs.

In my experience with similar sites, vB with VBSEO will outperform IPB. This should help level the playing field (I hope).

I had made a decision to convert to vB. However, between the vB4 complaints and improvements to IPB3, I'm back on the fence.

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Posted

Great stuff! Thanks to the staff of IPB for making the move towards total forum dominance! :D

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I think the section on image tags might be a bit short sighted. Yeah it's great that you're no longer going to be pushing the "icon" alt-text out, but a good many of the pictures posted on my board are photographs and really could use proper image tagging.

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Posted

The 'icon' alt tag was only ever used on icons. This won't affect images you post through forum posts.

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Posted

Thanx for sharing!!!

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