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Search Engine Optimisation in IP.Board


Having a forum is great, but what use is a forum that nobody can find? Forums are at their best when they have a steady stream of new members finding them, often searching for the answer to a tricky question or looking for a place to chat about a common hobby. Making sure your site appears in search results for relevant keywords is the best way to keep this stream flowing and to this end, we’ve made a significant effort to ensure IP.Board is as search engine friendly as possible.

Whether you’re just setting up your new forum, or you’ve just migrated to IP.Board 3.1, there are a few settings you’ll want to get right. This tutorial will walk you through them.

Getting Started
Firstly, open up and log into your Admin CP, then navigate to ‘Settings’ -> ‘Search Engine Optimization.’

The first group of settings you’ll see here are related to the recognition of search engines when they visit your site. The default settings here are optimal, as you’ll want to recognize their visit, but not to treat them differently to any other guest visitor. This is more important than it sounds, as treating a search engine differently can see your site penalized for a practice called ‘cloaking’.

Friendly URLs
Having keywords in your URLs is an oft-contested, but also widely agreed SEO “win”. It can add to the relevancy of your page for the keywords it contains, so it’s a worthwhile change to make. For an optimal set up in this section, you’re going to want to make some changes.

Firstly, change your “URL Type” setting to “Path Info”. Then, enable the “Use .htaccess mod_rewrite” option and make sure you create the .htaccess file as instructed. This will change your forum to use URLs such as: /topic/123-my-test-topic/ instead of the old-style /index.php?showtopic=123 ones.

Finally, make sure the “Incorrect Permalink Handling” setting is set to ‘Redirect to the correct link with a “301” header’. This will make sure that typing errors don’t result in broken links nearly as often on your forum.

If you’ve upgraded from a pre-3.0 version of IP.Board, make sure you enable friendly URLs .

Board Index
IP.Board automatically generates titles and meta descriptions for most pages, including topics and forum views, based on their content. However, it’s nearly impossible to do this for your board index.

As the board index is generally, from an SEO perspective, the strongest page for your whole forum, it’s vital that the title and description on it are right. So we’ve given you the ability to set them manually.

We can’t tell you how best to describe your forum, but should keep the following in mind:

  • Your page title should be no more than 70 characters in length.
  • Your page description should be no more than 155 characters in length.
  • You should try to include words that describe your site, that people may be searching for. So, if you offer furniture widgets, make sure you use the term ‘furniture widgets’ in your description, and aim to include the type of furniture they are for. Do not, however, make this a wish list of keywords you want to appear in search for, it won’t work.

The key thing for this section is that the title and description are what your potential visitors will see in their search results, so you need to make your site sound interesting!

robots.txt

Another good practice change to make when you first set up your forum is to enable the robots.txt file we ship with IP.Board. To do this, find the file named robotstxt.txt and rename it to robots.txt. If your forum is not in the root of your domain (i.e. it is in /forums/ or /community/ or similar instead of just being yourforums.com) then you'll need to move the robots.txt file so it can be accessed at the root of your domain, i.e. yoursite.com/robots.txt.

This file simply tells search engine spiders which pages they should and should not go to. We've added some common areas that spiders have no reason to view.
  • Bendensin and Eric Allione like this



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