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Partial remedy for a community website

     
12:56 pm on Oct 23, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Hi everyone. I just wanted to share this in case others in my situation can benefit somehow from this. I have a large forum with many millions of posts. Since the last 2 months or so the forum was very slowly losing organic traffic. I made some changes about 10 days ago and for the last week might traffic is up 15% or so and still going up every day. I can't be sure this is permanent, but in any case methods here are just good housekeeping and probably won't hurt your forum/website anyway.

I had a large off topic section. I trimmed it big time. All pages had noindex in the off topic. But anyway I kept the last 2 years of threads and the rest I removed from the off topic.

I created safe outbound domain list then looped through every single post with external links and removed any link not flagged as safe.

For internal links I made sure the broken links are fixed, the redirect are fixed and are pointing to the canonical form of the url.

Before all these I also switched the forum to https urls.
3:12 pm on Oct 23, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I also removed large signature blocks from inactive users. Any signatures containing links.

Vbulletin also has homepage field in the profiles. All account that had no activity in the x months and contained homepage link I removed them too.
5:50 pm on Oct 23, 2015 (gmt 0)

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It's not that easy with big/huge forums.

- I've put noindex on offtopic/thin content/sales sections
- the signatures of users are not viewed by guests or search engines
- disable status pages (for invision boards)
- disable access of member profile for guests and bots
- all external links have nofollow!


https is a big resource eater, especially on forums
7:11 pm on Oct 23, 2015 (gmt 0)

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We have deleted all topics with no answers and noindexed all member profile pages. Next to that fixed all internal links, but not the external ones yet. All external links are nofollowed.

It seems 're be getting much harder to get the forum on going.

What have you alle done with similar questions? I am now thinking to link all the questions from one post or linking to the best topic or canonical to the best topic.

Could that be a panda issue?
10:44 pm on Oct 23, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I am also thinking about finding a list of top 100 or so most misspelled words and doing a regex on the forum to fix them. But then at times it seems the idea might be going to far. Maybe for the forum not to look suspicious to a robot it is supposed to have some level of spelling errors and this might mess that.
12:09 am on Oct 24, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Fixing spelling errors sounds like good idea. I like your list of things you've done so far. One thing I like to do on the main index page that (for me) has improved rankings is to remove the link to the top level category (where there are no discussions, just links to the subcategories). It seems a waste of PageRank to run a link to a page that's just another page of links. My site architecture looks like this:

Category 1
Link to subcategory 1
Link to subcategory 2
Link to subcategory 3

Category 2
Link to subcategory 1
Link to subcategory 2
Link to subcategory 3

Category 3
Link to subcategory 1
Link to subcategory 2
Link to subcategory 3


For the off topic forums what I did was to close them off to crawlers and guests.

The other thing you can do is make sure you have unique meta description tags for all discussions. I pull the first ten or fifteen words from the discussion and incorporate that into the meta description. The same meta description across all discussions aren't going to help, so diversifying those is a good idea.

I hacked my forum to use the discussion title as an H1, made sure it's not a redundant link to itself, and then made the title tag in the head section pull content from the discussion title.
1:10 pm on Oct 24, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Another thing I probably will try to do is to find and remove very large bodies quoted text. You know hen there is a 5 paragraph post quoted in reply that has only 1-2 words or a sentence max.
3:53 pm on Oct 24, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I dislike large quotes of another member but I don't think it matters because it doesn't happen enough sitewide to become a false positive signal. So I wouldn't worry about that.

Have you implemented schema markup?
4:10 pm on Oct 24, 2015 (gmt 0)

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It seems a waste of PageRank to run a link to a page that's just another page of links.

What about links to profile pages - when the same user posts multiple times then there is the same link to his profile page - isn't it wasting PR too? Maybe it's better not to link to profile pages at all to improve ranking of discussion pages.
5:16 pm on Oct 24, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Have you implemented schema markup?


Not yet, but that is a good suggestion and I am going to do so. Thank you.
1:04 am on Oct 26, 2015 (gmt 0)

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What about links to profile pages - when the same user posts multiple times


That's a good question that maybe can be best answered by asking if your users find the profile pages useful. Prior posts are useful statistics that members may look for. If that compromises the user experience then it's not going to be good for you.
The link to a profile exists at the lowest page level. It's not as important as a link from the index page of the forum. The links are important to admins/mods but it's possible to make them invisible to all but admins and mods so that you can have your link and not have it, too. But I'm kind of on the fence about whether that's something to pursue or not. That's me. It might be good for you.
Something to think about.
3:07 am on Oct 26, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Out of the box, many forum templates come with images for buttons and icons that can be optimized in Photoshop to be dramatically smaller. Faster downloads help your server to handle heavy traffic and your users can experience the site faster. Take a look at all the images that go into making your template and downsize them.
3:59 am on Oct 26, 2015 (gmt 0)

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What is the depth of indexing of the content rich pages? Under 80 percent?

Some have reported a hand crafted sitemap has got missed pages indexed and resulted in some slight traffic improvement.

By no means am I suggesting using a simple utility that starts at the top and makes a map of everything. Definitely leave out what others have suggested above.
9:48 am on Oct 27, 2015 (gmt 0)

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See my older thread for Invision Board:
[webmasterworld.com...]
11:37 am on Oct 27, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Mentat,
I see you blocked signature links from guests/crawlers. Did that have any effect on rankings?
1:56 pm on Oct 27, 2015 (gmt 0)

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In my case, the signatures were always hidden from guests/bots!

What seems to help was the deletion/hide (only for members) of areas with thin/expired content and fact that I've blocked access to member profiles.

Now I'll implement "noindex" for threads with no reply, if older than 6 months.
 

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