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Changing count of posts per page on forum & its effect on rankings
TheBigK




msg:4535212
 6:36 am on Jan 11, 2013 (gmt 0)

I'm wondering if we should change the number of posts displayed per page from 10 to 20 in our community forum. The forum's operational for a long time and we've been considering whether showing more posts per page would be a good move. The prime concern is - whether it will affect our rankings in any way.

There are several thousand discussions that span multiple pages; so Google Bot might just not like side-wide changes!

Would welcome suggestions, recommendations. :-)

 

Str82u




msg:4535228
 8:56 am on Jan 11, 2013 (gmt 0)

How is your traffic now? If it ain't broke - don't fix it... or just experiment with it.

It will reduce your sites number of pages.
It would increase the size of each page.
How many redirects/missing pages are there going to be?
is the sitemap going to adjust automatically?

You probably have a long list of things like that, those were retorical - no need to answer. If the traffic were really good and the site contiinues to grow then I wouldn't change anything except to maybe try to freshen up code or remove errors in the pages.

EDIT: Sorry to forget - if you do end up with enough 404 errors - YES, it will affect rankings.

TheBigK




msg:4535260
 12:19 pm on Jan 11, 2013 (gmt 0)

@Str82u : The traffic got hit in September last year because of the massive amount of 404 URLs generated through a bug in Disqus plugin. We seem to be on our path of recovery and the traffic is up by about 20%.

I was thinking if we offer 20 posts per page, Google will have more content on each page and may boost our rankings.

PS: I've had a big debate with several people on whether 404 errors will affect rankings or not. While folks on GWT forum say that it doesn', it *did* in our case; and as the count's gone down to zero, Google's crawling our site more than before and we've seen a little growth in traffic.

Just curious to know, how long should we wait before we see our rankings getting restored after cleaning up the errors? Our site's got ~400,000 URLs indexed and the error count had shot up to 99k in September. I got it down to 0 by December end (as reported in GWT).

Thaparian




msg:4535280
 1:56 pm on Jan 11, 2013 (gmt 0)

With less posts per page I had more page views per visit.

If there are less page views per visit, Google might think that the site isn't sticky...more page views per visit is probably a positive factor.

If there are very few posts per page, pages might be considered as thin content...

Sgt_Kickaxe




msg:4535286
 1:58 pm on Jan 11, 2013 (gmt 0)

Ideally if you could have ALL content for a thread on one page that would be ideal, it's the paginated stuff that doesn't rank as well, adds to the number of pages Google won't rank and in many cases creates multiple pages with duplicate titles and descriptions.

The problem with showing all posts on a page is of course your template. If you alloted a lot of space for signatures, a title area and a long member info area then you can't fit it all in vertically because it would stretch downwards too far.

Look at ycombinator, it's essentially a forum stripped down to bare bones and it does just fine showing a small book's worth of content per page.

driller41




msg:4535287
 2:13 pm on Jan 11, 2013 (gmt 0)

The prime concern is - whether it will affect our rankings in any way.

Decide how it will affect you customers first - does it improve their experience and go from there is my advice.

TheBigK




msg:4535296
 2:26 pm on Jan 11, 2013 (gmt 0)

@Thaparian: Less page-views may even result into loss of ad-revenues; but I'm more focused on getting more visitors. I noticed that lot of good content got pushed to second page and I *think* bringing it to first page may make Google think it's a content rich page.

It also lets me have more text/ad ratio.

@Sgt_Kickaxe: The user signatures are all available only to logged in members. Not displayed to guests (and of course, Google bots). My concern is, I've been with the 10posts/page setup for long time and I'm wondering if I should update it. Will there be fluctuations in the rankings? Is the step good or bad in the longer run?

@driller41 : I asked our members and they're fine with 10 or 20 posts per page. Doesn't bother them.

TheMadScientist




msg:4535298
 2:32 pm on Jan 11, 2013 (gmt 0)

Why not update it moving forward? So, rather than changing the old threads that are historically 10 posts per page, just switch to 20 for new threads and leave the current ones 'stable' as they are...

Str82u




msg:4535300
 3:00 pm on Jan 11, 2013 (gmt 0)

Why not update it moving forward? So, rather than changing the old threads that are historically 10 posts per page, just switch to 20 for new threads and leave the current ones 'stable' as they are...
That's more like I was thinking if it's possible for you to do with your current set up. More text and better content per page might raise the value of the current "page 1" pages but if you saw a drop in ranking due to 404s then you know what to expect as far as damage AND damage recovery.

As @Sgt_Kickaxe mentions, the paginated pages will have some duplicated tags and possibly lower search engine value but they could be worse as a collection of 404 errors. You would be the best judge of that since you know how you cleared up the Discus caused errors - would it be that easy?

one thing though - using your tracking - how much traffic are you getting past the first pages of each thread/discussion?

TheBigK




msg:4535304
 3:32 pm on Jan 11, 2013 (gmt 0)

I doubt it's possible to change post count on moving forward basis. But it'd be interesting to find out.

Str82u




msg:4535309
 3:57 pm on Jan 11, 2013 (gmt 0)

@TheBigK - changing counts on new/future pages like that might make you feel like the site is less consistant but it might serve you better. You mentioned 400K pages in the G directory and almost 100K past errors, 25%. You could say that, theoretically, going from 10 to 20 posts per page might cause 50% of the site being 404. Is that pretty accurate?

You don't have to answer this question, but again, How much of the site's overall traffic LANDS on page 2/3/4/etc of discussions?

TheBigK




msg:4535312
 4:12 pm on Jan 11, 2013 (gmt 0)

@Str82u : Nope, changing post count won't create 404 errors, because the system handles it pretty nicely. The pages will redirect well.

Google says that the content hidden in page 2/3/4 won't appear in Google. So all I see is the direct traffic to the thread's first page.

Given the fact that there won't be 404 pages because of changing the post count - should I go for changing the post count?

Str82u




msg:4535398
 2:11 am on Jan 12, 2013 (gmt 0)

I'm gonna leave that to you - Personally I wouldn't if the traffic is right - you have a better head for your site and the way Google treats it.

Ever done a page comparison to see how much alike your pages are to another? Just to see about how much repetivie content is on the page (nearly every site has it; navigation, site links, etc.).

Robert Charlton




msg:4535412
 5:30 am on Jan 12, 2013 (gmt 0)

Google has an excellent support page on various pagination options you can use for your situation (viz, 'sequential urls for forum discussions')....

Pagination - Google Support
http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=1663744 [support.google.com]

For a forum, where you often can't know where in a thread your good posts (or your most relevant posts) are likely to fall, I myself would use the option of specifying a View All page and using the rel="canonical" link as well.

As the article describes the setup...

Specify a View All page. Searchers commonly prefer to view a whole article or category on a single page. Therefore, if we think this is what the searcher is looking for, we try to show the View All page in search results. You can also add a rel="canonical" link to the component pages to tell Google that the View All version is the version you want to appear in search results.

Other options described include doing nothing and letting Google figure it out, or using rel="next" and rel="prev" links. Again, because of the unpredictable shape of forum discussions, I would go with the View All option. I'm assuming that with the canonical link, this option would allow you to use any post count you like.

There's also a 16 min video that goes through all the options. I think it can be particularly helpful to see after you've read the support article (and in fact it's linked to at the top of the article)....

Pagination and SEO - Maile Ohye
Mar 12, 2012
trt 16:36
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=njn8uXTWiGg [youtube.com]

dethfire




msg:4568577
 8:47 pm on Apr 27, 2013 (gmt 0)

problem with a view all with forums is some forums have lots of 1000+ post threads

1script




msg:4568591
 11:29 pm on Apr 27, 2013 (gmt 0)

problem with a view all with forums is some forums have lots of 1000+ post threads
Yes, I would be very cautious with even having View All option available to users, let alone Googlebot and thousands of other crawling creatures that will hit it. I don't know about 1000s - I tend to split those up - but 200 or 300 responses in a thread slow it down significantly and 500 in one thread could bring the server to its knees - had this happened before. And what's sort of ironic - as soon as a troublesome page like that appears on the site, Googlebot starts to hammer on this page and make the load / speed situation site-wide or even server-wide worse.

Personally, I would not change pagination on a popular site. I did it before and ended up with a ton of additional 404s because people were bookmarking pages of the treads that were eliminated because the posts were packed more tightly. Say, a 100-post thread spanned 10 pages before. You made it 20 per page and now pages 6-10 are 404. Your natural reaction would be to 301 them [somewhere] and that in itself might be troublesome. I think they don't like a page receiving too many redirects from other pages. So, if you 301 to the first page of the thread - its title page for all intents and purposes, the first page gets penalized (or algorithmized - call it whatever you want but it has trouble ranking). Since the first page of a thread will almost always rank higher than the rest, the entire thread gets fewer visits, and that's automatically 4 more pages will less traffic.

I've been in this rut for almost 2 years now (although other changes were made at the time, too), so don't make that mistake, at least not without carefully considering where you'll send the traffic from the pages that were "compacted". Or decide that you will 404 them - also a valid option because at least in theory the thread can pick up more posts and become 10 pages again, only now with 200 posts.

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