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Timing the move to Xenforo

Discussion in 'General XenForo Discussion and Feedback' started by Live Free, May 20, 2013.

  1. Live Free

    Live Free Active Member

    Hi everyone,

    I have a XenForo license and I run a forum approaching one million posts. It's currently vBulletin, and I know I want to leave the platform. I like Xenforo, but I feel it's not yet ready for my site. My concerns are losing rankings during the migration, but we also have blogs. I was hoping to wait to make the switch until there was an official blog and article system/CMS, and at the very least until 1.2. I realize this might be a long while. That said, I don't currently employ vBulletin's CMS. I'm looking to launch articles on my site in the very near future, so I'd like people's honest opinions here as to what would be best strategically from a web dev perspective, and also keeping in mind I'd like to migrate to Xenforo eventually.

    I've decided I really need some sort of CMS for my forum, which currently is vbulletin 4 with blogging, no CMS activated.

    - Use vBulletin's CMS, switch once Xenforo develops one.
    - Use a a vBulletin modification that turns a specific forum into an Article display (might benefit migration to Xenforo later?)
    - Use Wordpress as a CMS for articles, switch once Xenforo develops one.
    - Switch to Xenforo sooner rather than later, use third-party Xenforo CMS (I don't think I'm ready for this in several regards)

    Also, I have a few other questions. If I were to use third party Xenforo CMSs and Blogging platforms, how difficult would it be to switch to Xenforos offical once when/if they are released?

    Is there a large enough Xenforo developer community where I could find developers to code several custom modifications? This is important in my decision.

    My tendency is to lean towards waiting, but I really dislike vBulletin's CMS. So right now I'm leaning towards either using a "Article Forum Modification" for vBulletin or separate it and do a lose integration with Wordpress for articles. But when I entually switch to Xenforo, would Wordpress be able to be imported?

    I'd love to hear some unbiased thoughts here as to what approach is best, and most importantly, why This is a big decision for me. Thank you in advance for any feedback you can give me.
     
  2. craigiri

    craigiri Well-Known Member

    There are literally dozens of threads about similar issues. The really honest answer is almost always "it depends".

    In my case, and maybe yours, it depends on exactly what the articles represent to you? How important is it that they be dynamic and totally integrated with XF? If it's not real important, using WP can be a good solution.

    Most blog articles are basically a title, an author and the content (and date, etc.) - so the exporting and importing of them in the future can usually be accomplished.

    I moved to XF over a year ago and the forums are proving so popular that my old articles are seeing less traffic. That's fine with me, as the forums have grown in traffic much more than the articles decreased. Give the people what they want!

    I think a lot of people could use the Xencara wiki for an articles repository. The only thing missing, IMHO, is better article formatting which might be solved by the new editor in XF...

    I would not hold my breath for a factory stock solution to the CMS...they have a lot of work to do on the core forum and have generally stated that they'd rather do the best forum than a compromise on everything.
     
  3. Live Free

    Live Free Active Member

    Thanks for the response. I have read several similar threads. I creating this one because in my situation I actually don't have an article system set up on my site, but want to asap - I thought it might be different than someone who already has such a system in place because I have options. What I choose I want to choose based on what is best for my site long-term.

    I'd also like to add that I'm in a similar situation with a directory/review system. I'm looking to set up a review-type directory for site/products, but I'm unsure to choose something with Wordpress, vBulletin, or Xenforo. (Usually I'm against directories, but there's actually a demand in my situation) This feature too might pose an integration issue in the future.

    With the directory, blog, articles, and every other regard, my main concern is the ability to eventually migrate to Xenforo since I have faith in it as a long-term solution and because vBulletin is... well... vBulletin.

    I realize that a Xenforo CMS is not happening soon. I do have some issue using a third party addon indefinitely, though. I'm willing to use it until Xen's CMS comes, but that's assuming it does come eventually.

    So considering I want to make the move to Xenforo long-term, and I want all aspects of the site to be Xenforo-powered, what approach would be best? Regarding using Wordpress - I don't mind if it's not completely integrated (user-wise, for example, design-wise is a must). I'm willing to use a limited-integrated WP set-up NOW without changing to Xenforo. But once I change to Xenforo I'd like to be able to (eventually) port my Wordpress articles to a Xenforo-system, leaving my entire site Xenforo-powered.

    Do you think this would definitely be possible?

    Wordpress -> Xenforo CMS
    or Wordpress -> 3rd Party CMS/Articles -> Xenforo CMS (assuming it comes someday)?

    I'm assuming you agree with me that using Wordpress would be better than vBulletin's CMS? how about the benefits of using a vBulletin mod that makes it look like a lose article system but it's still treated as a thread in a article forum? Might this benefit an eventually switch to a Xenforo article system?
     
  4. craigiri

    craigiri Well-Known Member

    As far as the CMS exporting, it should all be relatively easy as long as you don't care about such details as keeping the comments and every bit of formatting.

    I know I am giving short answers to long questions, but I think one of the primary questions is whether your site intends to be 75-80% or more forum based in terms of traffic.

    The "flow" between CMS and forum has to be taken into account - that is, exactly what you need. That sounds a bit fuzzy, but I will give you some examples....

    On my main site, I had a place for reviews of wood and pellet stoves. BUT, these reviews are not tied to a particular account - anyone can add one, even if not a member (we catch spam before it can get there!). So, Jake helped me and we created this:
    http://www.hearth.com/talk/ratings.php

    You will notice that it shows up in the regular XF menu.

    Then there were other places in my site (I used EE CMS before) where I had questions and answers. We moved them to a closed forum.....here:
    http://www.hearth.com/talk/forums/questions-and-answers.38/

    I had another section with stories about our industry. This is typical CMS stuff. But I just moved those to the wiki - as a section of the wiki. Just because it is called a wiki does not mean you have to give other permission to edit or add to it. When you think of it that way, it IS an article section. I have not done any customizing on this year - but this is the "story" section of the wiki:
    http://www.hearth.com/talk/wiki/stories-and-hearth-lure/

    I have one last piece in the old CMS and those are longer and more mature articles. But they don't need input from the community (editing, comments, etc.) so I will just leave them there and maybe someday move to an added on CMS or the wiki.

    On the other hand, my new site (see sig) - I just bought an abandoned blog with some traffic - was a WP blog and still is. I want to post more mature articles on that, but also want a forum - so I simply installed XF on that site and have very little integration except in menus. The only real integration is that, when I desire, I have continuations of the articles (WP) in the new XF forum. I set these each up as a thread.

    There are a couple WP add-ons which do more than that here.....

    You have to break the BIG problem (moving) down into many small problems, which will make it easier to solve. In my case, I looked carefully at trends and traffic flow and community was winning out over static (CMS entries) content. So I bit the bullet and it has been all good since.....

    If, on the other hand, my site was set up as "one to many" with me doing 90% of the writing and blogging, I'd go with wordpress as the main part of the site....
     
    Tracy Perry likes this.
  5. Live Free

    Live Free Active Member

    Thanks so much for the detailed reply. I think I understand what you're saying. Unfortunately, I'm unsure in my situation. I have a somewhat large established forum. However, posts have dropped in recent years as have search engine rankings. The main purpose of me adding this articles section (powered by some type of CMS) is to add value to the users and to hopefully increase search engine rankings. That said, I realize that the biggest challenge of implementing something like this is the flow; forum members might not travel that far from the forum, though the articles may be a gateway to the forum for new users.

    So the truth is that while I would like this article section (amounst other sections I'm adding, directory/reviews and others) to be a large part resource of the site and receive much of the traffic, I'm unsure if this is possible. While I will be writing a lot of the content myself, I would like it to eventually become user-generated. However, this wouldn't be a free-for-all where any members could post. I'd likely set up a small team of around ten users to write/post articles, in which case I don't think the user/login system is as big of a deal. So I'm leaning towards just using wordpress and incorporating the forum design.

    Can anyone comment on the state of freelance developers for Xenforo? Are there many? Talented? Would I have trouble finding a programmer for custom mods if I'm willing to pay a fair price?
     
  6. craigiri

    craigiri Well-Known Member

    I don't think you will have much trouble getting relatively simple mods made. XF is on a roll and developers are flocking to it because they see growth possibilities.

    As far as the SEO, this is a very valid question and concern. My guess is that google is somewhat "smart" in regards to where the good content is, but at the same time I see that Wordpress is definitely very findable....

    I could write a whole White Paper on that, but the short and sweet is that if your forum has been around for a long time and is properly transferred to XF with redirects, I think your SEO will be likely to improve if your content is decent. WP may just seem better because many WP blogs and articles are older and therefore have more juice (weight) with google if they have been regular visited and read over the years.

    My new drone site provides a window into this - right now, the WP blog is doing much better than the XF installation there.....but that's probably because I bought an existing blog (one year old) with 50 articles and then updated it quite a bit. Goog likes that - whereas my XF installation over there probably has to prove itself to XF.

    In the end - when all is said and done, I don't think there is any magic involved here. We are still back at Content is King and if people go to your site (from goog), then good tends to add more weight to it, etc.
     
  7. usAdultAds

    usAdultAds Active Member

    I am not so sure setting up articles is going to be any sure fire solution, and i would imagine that people are on the go quite quickly....
    articles may help for short term indexing, but just like your falling forum engagement, the articles will too just end up falling out of the serps....
    yes google does like content, but if members do not engage with the content, then why would google keep the serps high for the forum?
    I am not saying articles is bad, but it does not seem like a longterm cure if there are other issues at hand. Have you conducted any
    polls to see what your members think? Why do they not visitor as often, what can be improved, bla, bla....and google is the all seeing
    eye, they know everything, and if they see your site becoming less popular, then there would be no reason for them to keep you on top
    of the world, it would be like keeping a dead site at the top of google, when everyone else has pretty much left the site...
    your members are key, turn to them and ask them what the hell is going on, they often will know more then you....

     
  8. CyclingTribe

    CyclingTribe Well-Known Member

    @Live Free - are you wanting to increase activity and engagement at your forums? i.e. - are your forums the most important part of your site?

    Articles are great if your site is a blog or information-based site, but if it's mainly about community and being social then I'd not worry too much about a CMS at all - instead I'd suggest you get XenForo set-up as a test install and show it to your moderator team and key members - then ask if they want a CMS/articles or XenForo? ;)

    I'm by no means a marketing, promotion, or SEO expert but I would expect the articles / CMS system to do very little for increasing engagement at your forums - the XF alerts and intuitive (and fast) interface on the other hand should go down really well with your membership and I would imagine would do a great job of encouraging people to participate more.

    Just out of curiosity - what's your site URL?

    Cheers,
    Shaun :D
     
  9. CyclingTribe

    CyclingTribe Well-Known Member

  10. usAdultAds

    usAdultAds Active Member

    I am not against unique content, even article content. An article would be used for SE content (serps) in order for that article to be popular, then that means
    readers like the content to the point they send a backlink back to the article thus increasing the serps for the article; higher serps means more traffic....
    but if no one links back to the article, then sooner or later then that article will just float down the serps like all other content does, so that alone does
    does not solve the issue with declining numbers, and that is why it is important not to just backlink the home page, but internal pages also....

     
  11. Live Free

    Live Free Active Member

    The mods I have in mind are probably not "simple" but more intermediate. I haven't followed the XF Dev community much, but based on the continued exodus from vBulletin I'm included to think you're right.

    Regarding using Wordpress. Is there a current Xenforo mod or porting system that would allow me to move Wordpress articles to a Xenforo system, set up redirects, etc.? Or would I be trapped with WP until something was eventually developed?

    To be honest, I think the activity issue was related to my move from vBuletin 3.8 to vBulletin 4. Traffic dropped and has remained near the same level since, whereas before it was on the incline. My purpose in adding articles is not just for SEO, I really want to add value to my userbase and website.

    Currently the forums are the most important part. Aside form blogs, the forums are really the entire basis of my site. I do want to increase forum activity, but I also want to expand the scope and resources of the site, which I hope will also translate to more forum activity. More forum activity is one of the goals.

    The URL isn't the livefreeordie.com website. It's my writing community. :p

    Say the userbase does read, follow, and look forward to future content, but doesn't link to it... then what? Is engagement enough? I've never added such a significant portion to a site like this before. I understand that user engagement is a must, otherwise it's not worth the trouble, but I'm uncertain as to how to create user-engagement. I think top quality content that is worth reading will be enough, but I'm not certain.
     
  12. Live Free

    Live Free Active Member

    I'm also curious about the Resource Manager. Would this work well as a website directory with description, categorization, and comments/reviews by users?
     
  13. usAdultAds

    usAdultAds Active Member

    This is one of many stories I have heard in the past, not particular to VB, but i have heard stuff like..Well, i changed this, or i changed that, then
    i noticed my serps take a noise dive, or just lose all of their rankings period. I am the wrong person to ask about making changes, then seeing
    a negative reaction from google indexing. If i were to choose between VB/xF, then I certainly would move away from VB. I also had vb 3.8
    and I stopped using it once it got into the 4.x range. VB just made things more complex, and designers loved 3.8 but when vb changed, then
    it become much harder to find a good coder as they were hesitant about vb's code, and some designers never upgraded their vb themes, at least
    when I left anyway. VB caused their own problems by adding complex code, bloat on top of bloat, and it is just turning people away from VB.

    I honestly do not know. google knows what everyone is doing, what they are looking at, what sites they are going too....
    So does google give you credit for members looking at your articles? let me ask you this, with no backlinks, what happens
    to the serps of that article when it becomes old, and your members have seen the article? with nothing backlinking the article,
    then there is only one direction it can go, down in the serps. You dont need a million backlinks in order to keep it high in
    the serps, you just need a few quality backlinks, and that can make the different between page 1-2 or 50-100, or 1000, or 1million deep...
    then there are other things to think about; are you a good writer, or are you going to have to hire a good content writer? then the
    cost of that can add up from there, but if you can write your own content, then you are in better shape then most....


     
  14. craigiri

    craigiri Well-Known Member

    I don't think there is any semi-official (add-on) to move articles to XF - because there is no CMS for XF. That gets back to the same thing....it's a forum, not a CMS and unlikely to ever favor the CMS end of things. There are a couple bridges and Single Sign on add-ons. Search around for them....

    An active forum provides both engagement and search mojo.

    Here's a good example. An old woodstove was named Fisher, after it's founder.

    I have a Fisher article in my old CMS. I also have a couple of articles and manuals in my wiki.
    BUT, I created a sub-forum for them at:
    http://www.hearth.com/talk/forums/fisher-stove-information-parts-history-and-more.28/

    This created a community and content and users interested in them.

    Now, go to google and search for Fisher Woodstoves...

    Result - the XF forum beats EVERY other mention of the stoves anywhere on my site and the internet.

    Now, if we wanted to find out about the founder of Fisher and searched
    Bob Fisher stoves

    Well, then my XF wiki (Xencarta) article comes up....
     
  15. usAdultAds

    usAdultAds Active Member

    Another thought that comes to mind is that she does not have a buy/sell section...
    She does not appear to be short of writers seeing that it is a writing forum....
    and there are always people looking to buy quality content of all sorts....
    she would then be opening up a new market on her forum; people that
    are looking to buy unique quality content. ie: buyers come to her forum
    then they engage in buying content from writers....

     
  16. CyclingTribe

    CyclingTribe Well-Known Member

    Do you have any analytics data for your site? Can you separate the forums from blog content and look at the traffic levels for each?

    Having looked at the first 10 pages of your current blogs they seem dominated by short, and for a writing forum I would guess meaningless, Photo of the Day posts by TheLeonard112. Do they add value and bring traffic? Are you looking for more of the same or will you be writing the articles yourself?

    I can see what you're thinking - it's a writing forum and written articles would be very on-target for your audience - a CMS / blogs would be the best way to organise and present such material, but how, specifically, do you see the articles converting readers into forum members? Will you be employing any techniques or devices to push people at the forums, such as "... join our forums to read the rest of this article" < linked to the forums ?

    I think you need to be sure that you've thought through how the CMS will lead to increased forum registrations / participation and how you are going to ensure that that happens - as opposed to simply being convinved that that is what you need!

    Could you not simply add the "articles" as threads in a read-only forum - one where you post the content and people have to register (as forum members) to read it? You could even announce the new threads in the public areas of the forums, give a half-page of the article as an intro, then encourage people to register to read the rest ... ;)

    Either way, I think you'll benefit from moving the forums to XF regardless of how you wrap the articles around it - it's compelling forum software that is shortly due to get a whole lot better too. :D

    You sound like you're taking a good, thoughtful approach to it and doing your research beforehand so I hope with works out well for you whenever you move over to XF.

    Good luck. (y)

    Cheers,
    Shaun :D
     

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