Forum Software SEO - bbPress, SMF, Xoops
Okay - this is a non-medical education related topic, but something that I felt was worthwhile to post here, and see what kind of responses I get over time.
This website started out as a xoops based website. It got a decent amount of traffic from search engines, but I found the forum software was slow to load at times. Also, there seemed to be a lot features of the xoops software that I didn't need. I checked out several free forum bulletin board scripts. I didn't want to pay money for Vbulletin which is probably the best forum software out right now. I considered phpBB, but I was concerned about getting a lot of spam and security risks. phpBB is a great program, but I ran another forum with their software, and I was getting a lot of spam, probably related to all of the exploits written specifically for that software, because of it's popularity. I took a look at SMF - Simple Machines Forums and I really liked it. I had read some posts with concerns about getting decent search engine rankings in Google. I assumed that given my knowledge of SEO, that I would be able to customize it to work okay. I really liked how the software worked - the look and speed were good, and it had tons of great features. I had figured that most people probably had problems getting good rankings because of duplicate content. I was very careful to make sure that any duplicate content type pages would get excluded in the robots.txt file. I made a google sitemap and submitted it. It was very very bizarre, but for whatever reason, googlebot never spidered the forum threads! I waited well over a month, and the only time googlebot visited my site was when I removed the robots.txt exclusions and then googlebot would only visit the pages that were duplicates of the main content - not the main posts. I sent a quick email to Google, but I'm guessing I'll get no response.
After waiting over 1 month and getting none of the main threads indexed in Google (I had checked the robots.txt exclusions and the main threads were definitely not being blocked) I decided it was time to change software again. I probably would have gone with phpBB at that time, but their servers were down, and I couldn't find if they had a good conversion script from SMF to phpBB.
I recently had set-up a site using Wordpress blog software, and realized that it was the best I've used so far for SEO. I did have to set-up a few parts of it to not create duplicate content, and to block out some of the pages from robots.txt, but I think I got that all set-up very nicely. Those sites seemed to do well right off the bat for search engines.
Wordpress was modified slightly to create the forum software called bbPress. It is very simple forum software, and not overly developed at this time, but I've always been a fan of the simple websites that are clean, easy to navigate, and straightforward.
I did have a difficult time converting over the database from SMF to bbPress, but I got most of the threads converted and I got the userbase converted. I was able to fairly easily add on a sitemap and edit the themes to meet my needs. It only took about 3 days before I started to see the threads showing up in Google again, and several of them are ranking #1 (which is I think where they were when I was running the site as a xoops site). It's only been about a week since I switched the site over, so we'll see if this continues.
The main reason I'm posting this thread is because I had a difficult time finding clear information on SEO results for different forum software.
I'm still thinking that at some point I should probably just shell out the money for vbulletin as it is a much more robust software package, but I hate the thought of spending money on software when there are many good free options out there. The newest version of phpbb looks really great too - but I don't know how it'll work for search engines. I'll probably follow the development of that software and perhaps at some time, decide to make another switch. For now, I seem fairly content with bbPress. Now, I just need to start getting some medical education questions and posts going again!
Interestingly I am having the same issues with SMF forums as well. I found your site via a Google search relating to SMF and SEO functionality. I have a SMF forum and am fining while it's increasingly popular, releveant, and chalked full of quality content it is tuck in the supplemental index. I have been researching mods to correct the duplicate content issues, but am feeling like I might have to make a switch at some point in the near future.
bbPress actually looks as though it ranks well and individual threads have PR and are indexed (unlike other software). Out of curiosity how much manipulation was needed for bbPress. I have also read that wrodpress hacks and plug-ins work for this siftware as well. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.
~ another frustrated SMF user.
I only added a few mods to get things set-up how I liked it. I'm fairly comfortable with making code adjustments when I have a guide to direct me, so I'd say it isn't necessarily automatic. Overall, though, it was fairly easy to get the site set-up how it is now.
However, I've noticed that the activity on this site is not as high as I would have expected. I do get visitors, but not a lot of posts and replies. I think that for whatever reason, people don't browse other threads when they get here, and they don't take the time to register. It doesn't have the same "stickiness" that the more popular forum software seems to have.
Even with that, I do still get a lot of spam sign-ups - bots that will sign-up just to get their forum name in my member list.
Overall, I'm leaving it how it is for now. At some point, I plan on adding a few more mods to bbpress to see if I can improve the stickiness of the site.
I haven't tried adding any wordpress mods out of the box, so I can't really comment if they will work as well.
I still wish that smf forums had gotten indexed in the search engines better, as that was definitely much more fun software to use and look at.
Agreed. SMF is nice to use, but really of no use if people can't find your forum.
Okay - trying something new to see how it works:
We'll see how well phpBB works for this website. See the above link for details. I'm just now starting to format and set-up the forums over there. I'm not overly optimistic for results, but I am a bit bored with bbPress just not getting much action.
Great topic, and please do update this thread with whatever you experiment with.
I found these 3 sites VERY important
The last one is by a SEO company that seems pretty cranky with ALL free-open-source forums and CMS software. I'm only just starting at this web game, and so measuring SEO is a bit beyond me at this stage.
Note: Joomla has a new integrated plug-in forum called "Agora" which, while quite ugly at the moment, will have heaps of new templates as soon as version 3 comes out. (The developer is MANIC about his product, logs into people's websites and codes stuff for them, and basically offers better than paid service as many will testify). No idea how his SEO is working out or when version 3 will come out, but could be soon.
Other idea: maybe if the forum is linked to a blog home page, and the blog has good SEO and "regular enough" updates, then this forum can be linked to that blog and so that referrals come across from the blog? So if SMF is REALLY usable but for SEO, is it really everything?
I am looking at setting up a blog/forum combination. At this stage I'm thinking of Wordpress and SMF. Wordpress will host maybe 1 political article a week (we're looking at Abolishing the States in Australia and having a 2 tier government system of National and Local government, cutting the duplication and legislative waste and inconvenience of State parliaments... just way to wasteful, and having local governments administer the currently State run infrastructure). So the blog gets the SEO in, and each controversial article is then discussed in the forums. And who knows? SMF 2 stable will be out soonish..... these things are not set in concrete but do evolve.
EDIT TO ADD: I just noticed this fairly technical SEO thread on SMF with them replying to the charge that SMF are no good for SEO.
Discussion is good and thanx for posting the information