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Thread: SEO tips for vBulletin

  1. #1
    Site Contributor KLB's Avatar
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    SEO tips for vBulletin

    So I was over at Webmaster World today and found a couple of really interesting discussions about vBulletin and the duplicate content issues it poses.

    vBulletin like so many forum packages is and SEO nightmare of worst practices when it comes to query strings causing duplicate content. I single thread or post can sometimes be access by up to ten different URLs as a result of query strings.

    Here were some tips that were suggested to reduce some of the duplicate content issues:

    1) disable the "search engine friendly" archive. All this does is create a duplicate copy of your entire site, which is what we are trying to avoid. Oh and yes Chris you need to disable your archive for this forum.

    2) Add the following entries to your robots.txt file This will stop bots from crawling pages they don't need to crawl:
    Code:
    User-agent: *
    Disallow: /archive/
    Disallow: /attachments/
    Disallow: /calendar.php
    Disallow: /clientscript/
    Disallow: /cpstyles/
    Disallow: /customavatars/
    Disallow: /customprofilepics/
    Disallow: /images/
    Disallow: /includes/
    Disallow: /login.php
    Disallow: /newreply.php
    Disallow: /newthread.php
    Disallow: /private.php
    Disallow: /register.php
    Disallow: /sendmessage.php
    Disallow: /sendpm.php
    3) eliminate the " Previous Thread | Next Thread " bread crumb at the bottom of threads. This can be found near the bottom of the "SHOW THREADS" template. The problem is that these two links create two additional copies of threads (e.g. /forum/showthread.php?t=87654&goto=nextoldest). This is bad, very bad and how many people actually notice these links actually exist let alone use them?


    The entire threads I referred to can be found at:
    http://www.webmasterworld.com/google/3133336.htm
    http://www.webmasterworld.com/forum30/33094.htm

    I love using vBulletin, but it most certainly wasn't designed by someone who had a clue about SEO.
    Ken Barbalace - EnvironmentalChemistry.com (Environmental Careers, Blog)
    InternetSAR.org: Volunteers Assisting Search and Rescue via the Internet
    My Firefox Theme Classic Compact: Based onFirefox's classic theme but uses much less window space

  2. #2
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    Simple solution: VBSEO

    Disabling the archive on a non-seo'd forum is like cutting HUGE profits. Archives work great for putting google ads on top

  3. #3
    Site Contributor KLB's Avatar
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    VBSEO isn't a total solution. You still end up with duplicate content. The archives are by definition duplicate content and this is why they need to be turned off.
    Ken Barbalace - EnvironmentalChemistry.com (Environmental Careers, Blog)
    InternetSAR.org: Volunteers Assisting Search and Rescue via the Internet
    My Firefox Theme Classic Compact: Based onFirefox's classic theme but uses much less window space

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    Quote Originally Posted by KLB View Post
    3) eliminate the " Previous Thread | Next Thread " bread crumb at the bottom of threads. This can be found near the bottom of the "SHOW THREADS" template. The problem is that these two links create two additional copies of threads (e.g. /forum/showthread.php?t=87654&goto=nextoldest). This is bad, very bad and how many people actually notice these links actually exist let alone use them?
    These links are a sad waste. They would be much more valuable if they were:

    Previous Thread: Seeking Testimonials | Next Thread: Link Units

    And linked directly to the destination thread instead of relative to the current thread.

    This way, they would push PR through internal links with good anchor text. Many vB links are structured this way to avoid unnecessary database lookups, but at the expense of a better UI and better SEO.

    Another way they could do that is to issue a 301 redirect for those links, but they don't do that either. Again, a 301 would put more load on the server for bigger forums. It looks like they are erring on the side of performance.

    vB really neglects the power of internal links by not using canonical urls.

  5. #5
    Wow. Life is short. Erin's Avatar
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    I use vBSEO, too. But I wouldn't want to turn off the archives, as it turns out that a lot of people use them from 'lo-fi' access points.

    But I find over and over again that the forums just aren't indexed nearly as much as custom content, so I don't worry about it too much.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by KLB View Post
    VBSEO isn't a total solution. You still end up with duplicate content. The archives are by definition duplicate content and this is why they need to be turned off.
    I've seen study's done comparing forums with archive on and off. Not 1 had the archive "HURT" them in serps for their non-archived pages.

    Use VBSEO and DISALBE the archive is what I'm saying... no need for the archive if VBSEO is installed as all pages are seo friendly.

    If you don't use VBSEO then keep archives enabled.

  7. #7
    Administrator Chris's Avatar
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    Ahem ahem, how quickly my articles are forgotten?

    http://www.websitepublisher.net/arti...-optimization/

    I don't like vbseo for a few reasons.

    1. It isn't needed. In the past you may have needed it to have search engines deep crawl your site. But not now.

    2. It locks you in. You're changing your URLs from a frequently updated third part piece of software. What happens if VBseo stops being supported? What happens if vbulletin comes out with their own nice-url setup? What happens when you wait to apply security patches so vbseo can catch up?

    Relying on two companies to keep producing compatible code in tandem is not wise I think, if someone goes wrong you can lose all your incoming links because all your URLs will change, or you could end up getting hacked because you waited too long to apply a security update.

    On the archive, I say not to use it in my article, but I'm testing keeping it on and just cramming ads all over it to see if that makes it worth while. I don't like it because it also isn't needed, and there is nothing on archive pages that keeps people around. No prompt to register, reply, or search for other threads. So it is on in this forum and now that it is likely fully crawled (I turned it on a few months ago) I can add some ads.
    Chris Beasley - My Guide to Building a Successful Website[size=1]
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  8. #8
    Administrator Chris's Avatar
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    Here is the appropriate bit of code from VB for the previous/next links...

    PHP Code:
    <if condition="!$show['search_engine']">
    <
    br />

    <
    div class="smallfont" align="center">
        <
    strong>&laquo;</strong>
            <
    a href="showthread.php?$session[sessionurl]t=$threadid&amp;goto=nextoldest" rel="nofollow">$vbphrase[prev_thread]</a>
            |
            <
    a href="showthread.php?$session[sessionurl]t=$threadid&amp;goto=nextnewest" rel="nofollow">$vbphrase[next_thread]</a>
        <
    strong>&raquo;</strong>
    </
    div>
    </if> 
    I'm wondering if it is already taken care of, do they remove such links for search engines like they remove session ids? I'm not sure what the IF statement is for but I have to guess.

    ....

    Checked the cache, and yes, that either doesn't show up for SEs or doesn't show for non-logged-in users. Maybe it is a new thing with vb 3.6, but I wouldn't worry about removing it.
    Chris Beasley - My Guide to Building a Successful Website[size=1]
    Content Sites: ABCDFGHIJKLMNOP|Forums: ABCD EF|Ecommerce: Swords Knives

  9. #9
    Site Contributor KLB's Avatar
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    Chris I was wondering the same thing about the !$show['search_engine'] comment. My thing about it is that someone somewhere along the way is going to inadvertently or intentionally link to a page via the URL provided by those links, which still posses a problem.

    Good article Chris, I hadn't noticed it before.

    In regards to adding member pages to the deny list in the robots.txt file another way to deal with spammers is simply to not allow new members to show up in the members list. Only allow people to show up in the members list once they have a certain post count and have been members for a certain number of days. This can easily be done by creating a new user group for "full members" and renaming the existing member group "new members" and restricting its permissions accordingly. Once a member has reached the required thresh hold they can be promoted automatically.
    Ken Barbalace - EnvironmentalChemistry.com (Environmental Careers, Blog)
    InternetSAR.org: Volunteers Assisting Search and Rescue via the Internet
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  10. #10
    Site Contributor KLB's Avatar
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    For those who would like to turn off their vBulletin archive without messing up inbound links (e.g. from SEs) to archived pages, here is a set of .htaccess instructions that will reroute requests for archived pages to the "real" page:
    Code:
    RewriteEngine  on
    RewriteRule ^archive/index.php/f-([0-9]+).html http://{YOUR_FOURUM'S_DOMAIN}/forumdisplay.php?f=$1 [R=301]
    RewriteRule ^archive/index.php/t-([0-9]+).html http://{YOUR_FOURUM'S_DOMAIN}/showthread.php?t=$1 [R=301]
    You may need to adjust the directory path and of course put your own domain name in.

    Once you add this code to your .htaccess file you can turn off your vBulletin archive via the admin panel without messing up links.
    Ken Barbalace - EnvironmentalChemistry.com (Environmental Careers, Blog)
    InternetSAR.org: Volunteers Assisting Search and Rescue via the Internet
    My Firefox Theme Classic Compact: Based onFirefox's classic theme but uses much less window space

  11. #11
    Site Contributor KLB's Avatar
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    So I started this very same thread over at DigitalPoint forums and it is amazing how religiously some individuals over there defend and evangelize the use of vBSEO. It is almost like you are insulting them personally when you say that much of what vBSEO does to improve the SEO of vBulletin can be done without vBSEO and that many of the other things really aren't that big of a deal or that at least the long term risk of vBSEO not being properly supported might outweigh the short term SEO benefit one gets from vBSEO.

    That is one thing I like about folks here, most of you are sharp enough and experienced enough to look at things more objectively. It always seems that it is the newbies and fairly inexperienced that have the strongest opinions on SEO type issues and are the least able to look at an issue from the big picture or look at an issue objectively.

    Oh well, as they say you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.
    Ken Barbalace - EnvironmentalChemistry.com (Environmental Careers, Blog)
    InternetSAR.org: Volunteers Assisting Search and Rescue via the Internet
    My Firefox Theme Classic Compact: Based onFirefox's classic theme but uses much less window space

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by KLB View Post
    So I started this very same thread over at DigitalPoint forums and it is amazing how religiously some individuals over there defend and evangelize the use of vBSEO. It is almost like you are insulting them personally when you say that much of what vBSEO does to improve the SEO of vBulletin can be done without vBSEO and that many of the other things really aren't that big of a deal or that at least the long term risk of vBSEO not being properly supported might outweigh the short term SEO benefit one gets from vBSEO.

    That is one thing I like about folks here, most of you are sharp enough and experienced enough to look at things more objectively. It always seems that it is the newbies and fairly inexperienced that have the strongest opinions on SEO type issues and are the least able to look at an issue from the big picture or look at an issue objectively.

    Oh well, as they say you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.
    Just ask Chris about his recent argument with a moron at SP. It was funny and sad to say the least.

  13. #13
    Site Contributor stymiee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KLB View Post
    So I started this very same thread over at DigitalPoint forums and it is amazing how religiously some individuals over there defend and evangelize the use of vBSEO. It is almost like you are insulting them personally when you say that much of what vBSEO does to improve the SEO of vBulletin can be done without vBSEO and that many of the other things really aren't that big of a deal or that at least the long term risk of vBSEO not being properly supported might outweigh the short term SEO benefit one gets from vBSEO.

    That is one thing I like about folks here, most of you are sharp enough and experienced enough to look at things more objectively. It always seems that it is the newbies and fairly inexperienced that have the strongest opinions on SEO type issues and are the least able to look at an issue from the big picture or look at an issue objectively.

    Oh well, as they say you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.
    Welcome to digitalpoint. If you ever want to be frustrated by stupidity hang out there. It's just a bunch of kids who believe whatever they want and to hell with whomever disagrees with them.
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    Quote Originally Posted by stymiee View Post
    Welcome to digitalpoint. If you ever want to be frustrated by stupidity hang out there. It's just a bunch of kids who believe whatever they want and to hell with whomever disagrees with them.
    I'll second that.

  15. #15
    Administrator Chris's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ToddW View Post
    Just ask Chris about his recent argument with a moron at SP. It was funny and sad to say the least.
    The funniest thing was that by the end of the thread he had actually come around and realized we might be right... that hardly ever happens.
    Chris Beasley - My Guide to Building a Successful Website[size=1]
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