SEO quality strategy for my xf board


Active member
i would like to share with you my new seo strategy for my xenforo forum

It's an 11 years old board (it was a phpbb2 before i move to xenforo 2 years ago)
i have around 15 000 pages indexed in Google

i decide yesterday to make a very big move in my forum management (good or bad i will see)

i remove acces to more than 80% of my pages to search engine

here is what i have done:

-i create a forum and move all threads with less than 3 answers and hide it to guest (lots of pages)
-i remove xenforo tags system (no more tags pages)
-i remove access to member pages with robots.txt (no more profil pages)
-i hide my members presentation forum from guest (lots of pages) (lot of this page have low quality content)
-i remove many pages with low quality content

what i can say is that i take this decision: quality vs quantity

Also i made this change:

Make all external links visible for guest (i used to hide links from guest)

i took all this decisions because my ratio indexed pages/search engine visitors is very low (for me)
and my bounced rate is high.

i know that all the pages that i moved or removed where already indexed in search engine so i will have a lot of 403 errors (already in my google webmaster console)
i will come here and tell you what's happen with my seo to see if it is a good solution or not (sorry for my english)
I have around 32,000 indexed pages, haven't done a lot though except deny access to things Google doesn't need to see.
Will be watching this with interest, please let us know how you get on. I've set my forum to noindex certain forums but nothing this drastic.
Day 4

Here what's happen after 4 days

- i lost around 8% visitors from search engine
- my position for primary keyword in google change every hours sometimes i am in page 6 then 3 then 4. It's in movement (i was page 3 before)

-I have only 350 pages in error in google console) (403)
It will take Google months to sort through the mess you've created. I would check weekly, to be honest, versus daily. Google moves constantly, but steady results will not be seen for weeks / months. You can tell what will happen though within the first few days, whether you see an increase or decrease in traffic.

An increase will usually then fluctuate and keep increasing. A decrease will typically fluctuate, and usually keep decreasing.

You would have been better merging similar threads together, redirecting the older ones to the newer, creating threads of similar context and relevance. Shutout Google from user profiles to limit irrelevant content.

IMHO... this will be interesting to read what you say, but I think you could have done it in better ways that XF give you control to manage your content and Google.
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I am going to do the same thing I think and it's a good idea of moving using the bulk update option to move threads with less than X replies.

My forum has 700,000 threads so I need to start removing the low quality stuff from Google.
Day 4
Here what's happen after 4 days
- i lost around 8% visitors from search engine
- my position for primary keyword in google change every hours sometimes i am in page 6 then 3 then 4. It's in movement (i was page 3 before)
-I have only 350 pages in error in google console) (403)

Hi, any update? Was a good move? Now you rank better?

Thank you,
@Anthony Parsons what would your approach be to minimize thin content?
This is not a new concept. I think it was around 2011 / 2012 the algorithm changed. Since then, it has changed a lot more.

Where does your traffic come from? That is the primary question which determines your possible solutions.

If the content is user generated, being a thread -- then you are best to use an add-on to simply add a no-index tag to a page with less than x words on it. That way you remove it from Google who does respect the tags use. But you may then lose other sources who don't care about thin content.

Every action has a reaction. Something like:

I don't use anything, because Google is pretty good at doing all this for itself. You don't get punished for user generated thin content, they just drop the page down if irrelevant. This way, I don't affect any other search engine results that don't care about thin content and are showing searchers based on the content that is there.

There are niches with thin content pages that stand the test of time and are good for decades. Then you have pages that are outdated in months or a year, which you should simply 301 to the newest content, thus keeping all links to the page and shifting them to the updated content.
@Anthony Parsons What about potential repercussions (internal from google) and loss of traffic for no-indexing existing thin content? Would it be better to no-index only thin content from now going forward?
What repercussions? Do you personally know Googles policy for thin content? From what I have read and watched from Google engineers, they seem to have varying opinions on that subject since 2011.

I don't know if there is a right or wrong to thin content. Trial and error is usually best IMHO. There are so many factors to Google, that its just a nuisance subject IMO to claim a right or wrong method. What works for some, doesn't for others, all due to factors elsewhere that are different which relate to a page ranking or not.

One day Google likes social networks, the next is doesn't, then it does again, repeat and rinse.

Try out a no-index solution on minimal thin content upon your site, measure over the next few months to see if there is any radical difference outside of normal growth or other normal analytics you see.

SEM is about trial and error. Playing around with website factors is no different from someone convincing themselves their $10k marketing video is going to go viral and bring in heaps of attention for them. They do some nothing event or funny video elsewhere, it goes viral and cost them nothing. You can't pick these things nowadays. Google is so localised, its hard to get traction outside of local areas / countries today without major regional investment to target exact areas of the world. There is just too much content flooding the www daily for them to do anything else with.
Thank you for your thoughtful reply. I appreciate your insight into testing when it comes to SEO.

I wish I had more to offer in this thread, but it is refreshing to read and talk about SEO. It seems forum / XF SEO is not a common topic these days.
I'm glad I found this thread. I'm working with a well-respected (and expensive) SEO consultant company and they are strongly suggesting that we noindex (via meta, not via robots.txt ) a bunch of areas of my site to reduce thin content and drag to the search / crawl budget that they allocate to my site.

A few examples of sections they want me to block / noindex:

a. Members
b. Review/members
c. Articles/author
d. Search
e. Tags
f. gallery

That's a LOT of content to block, and I'm not 100% confident that it's the right decision. I mean, blocking members profiles is pretty easy to justify... but tags and galleries? :O
Tags you can nonindex, don't add much to traffic but google can still crawl them then to discover (old) content faster/more easy. But google states it stops crawling known noindex url's after some time.

Search doesn't matter much if you are using elasticsearch and it has noindex on it already. Same principle as tags then.

Members you can block in robots.txt because of low content in most cases. You can add noindex buth then you should remove canonical from it (only use 1 of these).

Gallery you could if search traffic is low to it. Not sure if you should block it in robots txt if you got links to it comming in from other sites.

This is my robots.txt at the moment. Account, login and create-thread is added because it is sometimes posted in threads (doesn't matter much because there are more url's to private threads on our forum). Conversations to block viewing of title in google analytics when members follow a url from it. Style and language because google does sometimes follow nofollow (but no pagerank transfer). I also added nofollow to posts (redirect), goto, profile-posts, comments (media), poll results and thread filter links. The question is if nofollow is the way to go these days.
User-agent: *
Disallow: /account/
Disallow: /login/
Disallow: /members/
Disallow: /posts/*/likes
Disallow: /profile-posts/*/likes
Disallow: /conversations/
Disallow: /media/*/ratings
Disallow: /media/*/likes
Disallow: /media/comments/*/likes
Disallow: /forums/*/create-thread
Disallow: /mailto:
Disallow: /tel:
Disallow: /misc/style
Disallow: /misc/language
Allow: /

You could also block /posts url's fully in robots.txt, but i have redirects from our old forum to posts and not sure if this could have a negative effect. Ratings and Likes i block because i can't find a way to add nofollow to them. Mailto and tel because no use following those i think.
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Brilliant, thanks @dutchbb !

From the SEO firm:

"Several /tags/ URLs are showing up in Google's Search Index causing "index bloat"

All tag pages must be made "not-indexable" by way of meta robots tags.


Place the following code into the <head> of all /tags/ URLS:

<meta name="robots" content="noindex" />

Only add this code to tag pages. Adding this anywhere else could result pages not indexing.
Be sure it is only "noindex"
Make sure the snippet is found in the <head>"

I'll need to dig into the pros/cons of doing this stuff via robots.txt vs. noindex in the header.
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