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vBulletin, an SEO nightmare... here are some tips

Discussion in 'Search Engine Optimization' started by KLB, Nov 30, 2006.

  1. #1
    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.

    2) Add the following entries to your robots.txt file This will stop bots from crawling pages they don't need to crawl:
    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
    
    Code (markup):
    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? Oh and yes DP needs to kill these two links.


    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.
     
    KLB, Nov 30, 2006 IP
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  2. petertdavis

    petertdavis Notable Member

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    #2
    The problem with taking advice on WMW is that you don't know if the person has years of experience running highly successful website, or if he fell off the turnip truck yesterday. On the other hand, there's a guy at another webmaster forum who runs a fairly successful vBulletin forum who says that "There is basically nothing that needs to be done" to optimize vBulletin. But, he adds what looks to be identical advice to your points one and two. Regarding your point 3, dunno if you noticed but it looks like DP has them nofollowed. It is something I hadn't thought about. Thanks for the tips.
     
    petertdavis, Nov 30, 2006 IP
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  3. a389951l

    a389951l Must Create More Content

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    #3
    Yup thanks for the tips! And the nofollow on the prev & next thread are by default "nofollow" on vb 3.6 (not sure when it started though could have been earlier).

    I do need to add the robots.txt though.
     
    a389951l, Nov 30, 2006 IP
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  4. KLB

    KLB Peon

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    #4
    Peter, I agree with you about not knowing the experience level of people on forums like WMW; however, the duplicate content issue is well documented and as soon as one starts looking at the query strings of URLs, one realizes that vBulletin has this really nasty habit of creating mess loads of different URLs to what is essentially the exact same page/content.

    I hadn't noticed the rel="nofollow" in the previous thread and next thread links of v3.6. That may very well be a solution, although I personally just deleted the two links from the templates of my forums and called it good.
     
    KLB, Nov 30, 2006 IP
  5. joeychgo

    joeychgo Notable Member Premium Member

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    #5
    joeychgo, Nov 30, 2006 IP
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  6. kkibak

    kkibak Peon

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    #6
    I'm also running PhotoPost with my vBulletin installation and ran into a total mess where somehow PhotoPost is causing spiders to crawl cron.php with all kinds of slightly varying querystrings. It's really hurt my Yahoo results and is basically generating thousands of pages of (nearly blank) duplicate content, so I just want to recommend that you add:

    Disallow: /forums/cron.php

    Hopefully this spares someone else..
    ---

    Also, interesting post joeychgo. Thanks for the link. I'm not saying you are incorrect or anything like that, but it seems to me that from an SEO perspective, there is no real point in directing PR or TrustRank or weight in general to pages that you don't expect to bring in search traffic. Why not disallow them and have this PR, TR, or whatever, go to more SE-friendly pages? Just a thought.
     
    kkibak, Nov 30, 2006 IP
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  7. joeychgo

    joeychgo Notable Member Premium Member

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    #7
    Well, I personally like to have my member profile pages crawled. For example - My profile on vBfaq - Joeychgo vBFAQ Profile - carries PR but I also have it set to include the last 10 threads - so its one more way for spiders to find recent threads.

    Also - I tend to look here many times when im not sure about something. DP clearly has good SEO - and my DP Profile is spidered, indexed and carries PR.
     
    joeychgo, Nov 30, 2006 IP
  8. KLB

    KLB Peon

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    #8
    Another reason I think that member pages and sigs should be allowed to be spidered is to show a little respect for the members of one's forums. Without good active members a forum is nothing. Getting to feed a little link bait to SEs is a small reward to the most active members.
     
    KLB, Nov 30, 2006 IP
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  9. joeychgo

    joeychgo Notable Member Premium Member

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    #9
    Well, only webmaster forums need to really worry about this. Members of Non webmaster related forums dont really care about links and PR. I dont show sigs to guests on my non webmaster forums.

    I do this for a few reasons. First, they are too hard to control. Second, sigs can load down a page with a bunch of unecessary images and what not. Third, they can throw off adsense. So, I dont show sigs to guests.
     
    joeychgo, Nov 30, 2006 IP
  10. kkibak

    kkibak Peon

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    #10
    Yeah, but DP also has an insane amount of weight to spread around--many new sites might not be so lucky. What about things like the FAQ, etc? Most people don't even change these from the default, so I don't really see any reason not to Disallow them..
     
    kkibak, Nov 30, 2006 IP
  11. KLB

    KLB Peon

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    #11
    I think you would be surprised at how many people care about this stuff on non-webmaster forums. What better way to build up relevant links, but to participate in forums related to the topic of your website?

    They may be hard to control, but you do realize that images can be disabled in sigs don't you? Controlling sigs doesn't require any special mods, it can be controlled directly from a default vBulletin configuration. Personally I do not allow images (other than maybe forum supplied smilies) in sigs on forums I manage.
     
    KLB, Nov 30, 2006 IP
  12. Voasi

    Voasi Active Member

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    #12
    Voasi, Nov 30, 2006 IP
  13. joeychgo

    joeychgo Notable Member Premium Member

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    #13
    Of course I realize images can be disabled - but in my case - I have all car forums - they all love to put a pic of their car in their sig -

    and really - its very few who care about the sigs being viewable to guests. Out of all my car forums - I have never received a complaint or a question about the sigs being viewable to guests (which include bots).

    Beyond that - there are other reasons to disable those sigs for guests. Adsense can be thrown off sometimes by the sig text and you get completely unrelated ads showing.
     
    joeychgo, Nov 30, 2006 IP
  14. petertdavis

    petertdavis Notable Member

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    #14
    Have you used it on a forum?
     
    petertdavis, Dec 1, 2006 IP
  15. mad4

    mad4 Peon

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    #15
    The previous and next thread links seem to be cloaked so the search engines can't see them on the latest VB.

    <if condition="!$show['search_engine']">
     
    mad4, Dec 1, 2006 IP
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  16. kkibak

    kkibak Peon

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    #16
    Wow, interesting.. thanks for sharing that.
     
    kkibak, Dec 1, 2006 IP
  17. KLB

    KLB Peon

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    #17
    For those who keep saying to use vBSEO, it isn't going to resolve these problems. All it does is rewrite URLs such that they do not have query strings because search engines used to have problems with query strings. Search engines no longer have problems with query strings so vBSEO really doesn't do anything to truly improve the indexablity of vBulletin. It doesn't resolve the duplicate content issue caused by multiple URLs to individual threads.
     
    KLB, Dec 1, 2006 IP
  18. petertdavis

    petertdavis Notable Member

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    #18
    I don't currently use vBSEO, but I thought it did a lot more than rewrite.
     
    petertdavis, Dec 1, 2006 IP
  19. KLB

    KLB Peon

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    #19
    The multiple URL issue is the number one SEO issue with vBulletin. When one really looks at vBulletin and vBSEO, vBSEO really isn't that big of a help. On page two of his article The Ultimate vBulletin Optimization Guide Chris Beasley gives some compelling reasons why one should not use any SEO mod that rewrites vBulletin's URLs.
     
    KLB, Dec 1, 2006 IP
  20. petertdavis

    petertdavis Notable Member

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    #20
    I think Chris's concerns about vBSEO are something everyone who uses or is thinking about using it should consider. However, I think there is more to vBSEO than just rewrite.
     
    petertdavis, Dec 1, 2006 IP