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Sometimes I think I was way better with vB 3x + vBSEO

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by TheBigK, Jan 17, 2013.

  1. TheBigK

    TheBigK Well-Known Member

    I love XenForo; but the fact is that after converting to Xenforo; our traffic sank and it never came back. I was looking at the analytics data and it makes me feel really bad. We used to draw so many visitors and the user registration rate was all time high. But we converted to Xenforo in December of 2011; and things haven't improved - except for the regular members loving it.

    ...but they loved the old forums as well!

    After converting; I prepared myself for a 6 month dip in traffic. But the fact is that it never recovered fully. In August last year; we went closer to 80% our traffic just for a few days before the Google disaster that reduced our traffic to almost 1/5th of what it was during our vB days.

    I never imagined myself writing this post. I'm a supporter of Xenforo and will continue to do so. But if I don't get my traffic back; I might have to go back in time.

    I see a lot of members having super amazing traffic levels after conversion to XF; but that doesn't seem to be the case with us.
    Bram likes this.
  2. Adam Howard

    Adam Howard Well-Known Member

    You are the minority (by minority, I mean to the best of my knowledge, only person) experiencing this.

    I'd question what other factors if any maybe playing a role in this outside of just switching to XenForo.

    What is your domain name?
    What is in your htaccess?
    What is in your robot.txt
    What IP's have you blocked?
    What is your noise ration ... ie... Do you have signatures public to guest (for example)
    How many outbound links to you have?
    Is your forum sounded by another software?
    Is your forum part of a site?

    Tons of things can change this factor as you have stated, Google has changed a few times.
    Anthony Parsons likes this.
  3. Jake Bunce

    Jake Bunce XenForo Moderator Staff Member

    You put too much emphasis on SEO and perceptions of SEO. SEO is not the source of success. At most SEO can be called a marketing strategy that doesn't hurt and might help.

    There are different parts to SEO:

    1) The art of manipulating search engines to increase your page rank. This is called black hat SEO and search engines frown upon this.

    2) Techniques for better defining your site for search engines. XenForo does this with semantic HTML, microdata, etc. This is neutral in terms of page rank. As Kier once said:

    3) Then there is the aesthetic component like friendly URLs which are not functional at all with respect to search engines, but many people think it's functional and many prefer the look of friendly URLs to non-friendly ones, so many web applications implement friendly URLs because there is public demand for it. XenForo includes friendly URLs.

    Page rank is the main concern. Simply put, page rank is a function of how many other sites link to your site. SEO doesn't increase page rank. I hate saying that as a matter of fact because SEO is such a squishy term in common usage. But it's not like you can add a meta tag to your site to increase your page rank. If you could then it would be manipulation and Google would fix it. In fact I recall a recent change in Google's page rank algorithm which was said to punish sites that are "overly optimized" which means they are punishing manipulation.

    You need to get your link out there. Advertise. Publish content on your site and then submit it to other sites so they will link back to you. That will increase your page rank = higher priority in Google search results = more traffic.

    Once you drive traffic to your site then XenForo's superior UX will help to keep people engaged and coming back to your forum. But you have to provide the content and the traffic, and work to increase your page rank. XenForo doesn't do that for you, nor does vB.

    Why did your traffic decline after converting to XF? There are many possible explanations, but SEO isn't one of them. What metric are you using? I assume you setup redirects for old thread URLs?
    hellreturn, Chris D and Adam Howard like this.
  4. TheBigK

    TheBigK Well-Known Member

    @Adam: The setup has been the same for years: WordPress on the main domain and forum on /forum (vB+vBSEO); which we migrated to XF on /community. Everything else's been the same. There were proper redirects and all!

    Let me quickly answer your questions -

    1. Domain is in my signature.
    2. htaccess has redirects from old forum to XF
    3. Robots.txt blocks unwanted WordPress pages and XF directories as well (which is based on the robots used on this website).
    4. No IPs have been blocked from accessing the site.
    5. We don't expose user signatures to public; but we've 10 posts per page, than 15 or 20 which seems to be the standard on most forums.
    6. Outbound links are mostly moderated; but XF takes care of those links automatically; I suppose.
    7. We've WP in main domain and forum in /community subdirectory.
    8. Yep? Didn't get this question.

    Google did change a few times; but the site was never affected; except for the decline we experienced starting December (after conversion to XF). I thought we'd recover in a few months; but full recovery (and growth) never happened.
  5. Jake Bunce

    Jake Bunce XenForo Moderator Staff Member

    What declined? What is the metric?
    Adam Howard likes this.
  6. TheBigK

    TheBigK Well-Known Member

    @Jake: Agreed. I'd not focus much on SEO; but the fact is that we've had super great results with vB+vBSEO in the past. XF does have great SEO inbuilt; but for some damn reason - it's not working for us. The threads that used to fetch us super traffic were pushed down in rankings after the conversion. I think some of them did recover; but overall; the traffic is down 40-50%.

    Our site's accumulated high quality links over a period of time and I see no change in PageRank. It's steady at 5, which I believe is good. What worries me more is that our earlier setup used to drive more traffic to us; so that we could focus on creating more, useful content than investing time in promoting the content.
  7. TheBigK

    TheBigK Well-Known Member

    It's the number of unique visitors from search engines that has declined; along with the pageviews - an important factors for the advertising revenues. I'll post a graph in some time.
  8. Adam Howard

    Adam Howard Well-Known Member

    I see a few issues right of the bat

    You changed software

    - 1 points (this is normal when you first change to anything)

    You changed the path

    - 2 points (redirect can only go so far).

    You have a Word Press as your main site

    - 1 point (WordPress will impact XenForo. I know, I tried it, don't know why)

    Check to see what you have for htaccess and robot.txt in your main domain (wordpress). Also what plug-ins if any you have with it.

    You've hit yourself with 4 points right there.
  9. Adam Howard

    Adam Howard Well-Known Member

    What content is on your site?

    Post count is meaningless.... Depth is important.

    edit: Also are you running a lot of ads? This can negatively impact you as well (believe it or not). Google likes to rank higher those using Google ads -vs- 3rd party.
  10. Jake Bunce

    Jake Bunce XenForo Moderator Staff Member

    Page views always go down in XenForo for the same number of users because XenForo serves fewer complete pages due to increased use of AJAX and whatnot. This is a good thing.

    Where were your unique visitors coming from before? Google search results? You say some of your popular threads lost rank which would directly impact traffic from search results, so that makes sense. Assuming your redirects are working correctly for those threads, you can't do anything more. The redirects inform Google of the change. It is Google's responsibility to update their records and preserve your rank. XenForo doesn't control this. You don't control this. All you can do is instruct Google with the redirect.

    And of course you should keep working to publish your link on other sites to maintain your page rank. If sites start removing your link or your link exposure otherwise decreases then it will affect your page rank.
    Adam Howard likes this.
  11. TheBigK

    TheBigK Well-Known Member


    There's how it looks.

    The content has not changed; and the threads that used to drive traffic still do; but they aren't ranked as high as they used to. Of course several factors are involved; but they're always. We've been generating content at a better rate than before; and of course there are several quality threads that go in-depth into topics or problem solving; but they don't get to the top of search results.

    WordPress has been with us for a long time now and it's an integral part of the website.
  12. Adam Howard

    Adam Howard Well-Known Member

    Your site has errors

    - 10 points (this will very much impact your site)

  13. TheBigK

    TheBigK Well-Known Member

    Hmm; those were from the direct advertisers we served via DFP. I'll fix that asap. Our site suffered a ton of 404 errors; which Google said won't affect your rank. The PageRank itself is intact; but we have not had same SERPs.
  14. Jake Bunce

    Jake Bunce XenForo Moderator Staff Member

    Adam Howard likes this.
  15. vVv

    vVv Guest

    Sounds like TheBigK, did TheBigKO (knock out) to his own site... :p :ROFLMAO:
  16. Adam Howard

    Adam Howard Well-Known Member

    Don't care what Google told you. 404 errors are not good and they will judge you (some).

    But more importantly how are you getting those 404 Errors?

    If you did the re-directly properly there would be no 404 Errors (page not found) and people and bots, including Google would be directed to the current threads properly.

    - 10 points (missing content)

    edit: If Google doesn't judge you... The people trying to find things sure will. Most people when they reach a 404 will simply move on and not return.... ie... Less traffic.
  17. TheBigK

    TheBigK Well-Known Member

    It's the 'visits' as reported by Google Analytics; which is a combo of unique+returning visitors; I think. Just the graph that GA produces by default when you login.

    Yep; that might be the case. But I'd really appreciate if you could be a little more helpful :)

    The 404 issue was a different issue altogether. It originated from the Disqus plugin installed on Xenforo. I fixed it after a month of discovery (because the source of errors was not known) and since then Google took about 3 months to acknowledge that the errors are all gone. I've seen some improvement in traffic after the errors were all cleaned up from Google Webmaster Tools. It was a problem, not related to Xenforo.

    The point is - Xenforo didn't get the traffic recovery we were aiming for after a period of 4-5 months.

    PS: Could you please check if the error's gone? I don't seem to get the 'error' option in my FireBug.
  18. Adam Howard

    Adam Howard Well-Known Member

    Internet time for the average

    seconds = minutes
    minutes = hours
    hours = days
    days = weeks
    weeks = months
    months = years
    years = forever

    You had a bunch of 404 errors for 1 month or in Internet time, 1 year. When people don't find what they're looking for they move on and thus less traffic. If you have less traffic Google will rank you lower. It took Google 3 months to finally figure out around those 404's and so that's 3 months of links directing to missing pages (in Internet time 3yrs).

    On top of that you changed software which would impact you (as does everyone), but you also changed the path and re-directs are only worth so much. So that impacts you as well.

    Looking at your content I don't see a lot of depth. In fact the first 3 random threads I picked were basically 1 liners. This also impacts you.

    You have errors on your site. Google can neglect recording links with errors and since those errors where everywhere.... Guess the value of ranking your site now?

    This isn't going to correct it's self over night. 6 months maybe. None of which is the fault of XenForo.
  19. TheBigK

    TheBigK Well-Known Member

    Okay, I think I'll first put the things on a timeline.

    1 December 2012: We shift from vB+vBSEO to Xenforo. Traffic goes down ~50%; as you see in the graph. Traffic continues to show 'some' improvement over the next few months.

    28 Aug - 4 September 2012: Javascript error on the site makes 'google bot' discover several thousand (~34k) virtual URLs which end on 404 pages. Our traffic experiences another 50% drop. I continue to investigate the issue and by the end of September 2012; I setup proper redirects to all phantom URLs to correct pages. GWT then starts dropping the count.

    December 28, 2012: The error count reported in GWT is zero and the site is absolutely clean. There'd be a few normal, natural 404s because of the threads we deleted.

    So the errors were only discovered by GoogleBot; not by humans. Google said it won't hurt website; but in our case, it did. That's another problem though.

    The fact remains that our traffic didn't see improvement or recovery prior to August 2012.
  20. TheBigK

    TheBigK Well-Known Member

    Another reason: Our members aren't native English speakers. But that has been the case since long time. There are a few threads that have really great content and they'd bring most of the traffic to the website. I'm not sure how'd I ask my members to write in-depth content or ask questions that'd classify as 'good content'. Plus I see that more crappy sites are outranking us for the discussions we should 'obviously' rank well for.

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