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Unhappiness with paths and routes and imperfect SEO options

Discussion in 'General XenForo Discussion and Feedback' started by TacticsUK, Nov 27, 2013.

  1. TacticsUK

    TacticsUK Member


    I am transferring an old 3.7.1 forum to Xenforo. Really liking it so far but I have a couple of issues. My main issue is that I would really like to see better content categorisation to help with SEO. In VBulletin with VBSEO I was able to have the URL structure as I like to have it, not just in forums but in all sites I run. I like to categorise as I believe the URL structure helps with relevancy and therefore SEO. I have been making sites and doing SEO since 1999 and while I appreciate that many will not see URL structure as a big deal I would much prefer a system with more URL control so if you have any suggestions or help as to how I can achieve my goals I would be most grateful.

    For example, if you have a content category on your site about widgets:

    I would expect content in that section to be placed in that virtual directory. So if you post something about the benefits of blue widgets you would get:

    I do not like seeing all articles dumped in the virtual root:

    Unfortunately this is how Xenforo appears to act. I have a node on my forum for Graphic Design, currently the URL is:

    Threads in that forum look like this:

    This is the most sensible structure and I would dearly like to replicate this, this is the only short-coming that I have found with Xenforo and I would be a truly happy customer if you could fix this...

    My second issue is that even though I have installed Xenforo in the root of the site it still insisted in putting /forums when looking at the node:

    I have changed this using a Route Filter to be:

    As even though I love to see content rich URL structures I don't want to see too much of it! If I wanted that directory structure to be relayed in the URL I would install it in that folder. Why oh why can't I just have this?

    Lastly, I have implemented the full redirection so that now:

    redirects to:

    This may be a better demonstration as to the lack of virtual folder structure not giving as good a keyword structure to the site. I would also really like to be able to choose to have a .whatever (html php etc) file extension on the end as I do feel that Google prefers this, it helps the bot to understand what is a page and what is a directory IMO.

    Anyway, that wasn't the point I was about to make! The point is this. On my existing VB install the forum is this:

    But on my test install if I hit this page I get a page not found, I would expect it to route to:

    So I put a new route filter in:
    Find Route: graphic-design-forum/

    Replace with:

    Incoming URL conversion only: ticked

    Enabled: ticked

    But hitting:

    Still results in a page not found. Yes, I know I can accomplish this with Apache rewrites but would have hoped I could do it all from the admin area. Any idea why this doesn't work? And also this is a good note for anyone else moving from VB to XF, yes make sure your threads are redirecting but also don't forget to check your main forum paths!

    The site I am transferring currently ranks at 4 for Graphic Design Forum in the UK and if I had put the site live without checking the paths then it could have lost traffic. This isn't a high traffic domain for me anyway, it has lapsed and I am hoping a shiny new interface and some hard marketing work will bring it back to life. But I do have some bigger sites that I would look to transfer to XF if, and only if, the URL structure can be tightened up. This is a big failing of the system for me at present.
    Alfa1 likes this.
  2. Brent W

    Brent W Well-Known Member

    What you are looking for isn't possible and I don't think it will ever be possible out of the box with xenForo.

    You will have to setup redirects for each forum if you did not include a forum id in the url. All your other thread redirects will be easily redirected, as you have seen.

    Directory structure like you want has little to no effect on SEO so I wouldn't worry about that. Its more of a personal preference that vBSEO made possible. No other forum software offers this out of the box.
    Adam Howard and wickedstangs like this.
  3. Claudio

    Claudio Well-Known Member

  4. TacticsUK

    TacticsUK Member

    Cheers for the reply. In my opinion URL structure can be a massive help with SEO and it is a disappointment that Xenforo wasn't set up in a way that this could be achieved. XFSEO anyone? :LOL:
  5. TacticsUK

    TacticsUK Member

    Hey Claudio. As I said, I have been gaming Google since 1999, looks like the author of that piece was still in nappies then. Think about hierarchical structures, linking patterns and how they merge and you might get where I am coming from. If you don't agree then that's fine but the article you linked to gives me no reason to think any differently. It is a cheap bit of blog spam from what I can see, nothing of any real interest in the piece at all.

    Here is another viewpoint:

    Like most SEO, one person's preference means nothing, but I think the fact that XF doesn't cater for all tastes is a let down in an otherwise good product.
  6. Claudio

    Claudio Well-Known Member

    Hi TacticsUK,

    As Matt Cutts says:
    So..the same quote is in the viewpoint you've linked. It seems Google consider up 5 words in the URL as a normal title which is what XenForo does...

    Any normal thread have that number of words. If you also add the node title to the URL that won't help to the SEO
    Hoffi and Adam Howard like this.
  7. Digital Doctor

    Digital Doctor Well-Known Member

    If you don't like Xenforo's SEO, you might want to try vB5 with vBSEO. :sneaky::eek:.

    In all seriousness, maybe just stick with vB3 ?
    In it ain't broke ..
    Adam Howard likes this.
  8. TacticsUK

    TacticsUK Member

    XF doesn't limit the number of words in the URL, here is one I made on my test site just now:

    Having the node title in the URL does help, it helps with relevancy. There are nuggets in the Fatty Cutts videos you haven't latched on to that are much more pertinent to the discussion.

    My point is that URL routing should be better. It should not be that difficult to do on the framework provided. There is obviously a good market for it otherwise the death of VBSEO wouldn't have caused the furore it has.
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2013
  9. TacticsUK

    TacticsUK Member

    In all seriousness, speak to the hand!

    Joking aside, given the mac rumours (a VB3 site) being badly hacked, I don't really fancy my chances with VB. But if XF can't provide a more flexible URL structure then VB might be the best of a bad bunch. That said though it does look like a mod account was compromised and there isn't much you can do when that happens.

    I like what I have seen of XF so far though and as I said, this is a minor site for me so I am willing to take a risk on it and see how it performs. I may be back with more gripes yet though :LOL:
  10. Brogan

    Brogan XenForo Moderator Staff Member

    There are no plans to change the structure of the routes and URLs.

    From everything I've read, mainly from feedback from customers here, XenForo has no issues when it comes to SEO.
    Hoffi and Adam Howard like this.
  11. Claudio

    Claudio Well-Known Member

    I think you should pay more attention on quality content instead of add the keywords of the nodes to the URLs. I haven't seen any xf board that whose ranking has decreased due missing node keywords in the URL
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2013
    Adam Howard likes this.
  12. Alfa1

    Alfa1 Well-Known Member

    I have been managing top ranked websites since 1998 and completely concur with tacticsUK. XenForo's url structure is unflexible and very unfriendly to SEO optimized vbulletin websites.
    I have seen more than a few complaints about the url structure and the /community/forums/ structure.
    It's an issue that does not seem it will be fixed in the core.
    TacticsUK likes this.
  13. Brogan

    Brogan XenForo Moderator Staff Member

    Saying it's an issue that needs to be fixed implies that it is broken.
    Adam Howard likes this.
  14. TacticsUK

    TacticsUK Member

    Hi Alfa1,

    I am kind of glad that someone else has voiced this concern and I am not the only one thinking this. I look at forums in the same way that I look at a CMS. In drupal I can adapt the URL structure to suit my needs and likes, same with Wordpress. I can hack VBulletin about (or at least could before VBSEO got canned but looks like a replacement for that may be here) but Xenforo is very inflexible in this respect and I do feel it is a shame.

    Brogan, it isn't broken, it just isn't flexible as it could (should IMO) be. I started looking into the SEO of Xenforo a bit more and came across this thread just now:

    It looks like some big forums have come over to Xenforo so I thought I would have a look at them in Alexa:

    Some of these seem to have done OK since the conversion to XF, some seem to have taken a bit of a hit. I am looking more at the overall traffic stats rather than percentage of Google traffic as if a good proportion of a site's traffic is from Google then the proportion can stay constant or even rise when rankings get knocked. Digital point seems to have taken quite a whack. I know that the conversion of the board doesn't account for everything, I have seen forums lose the power they held in Google over the last 12 months, definitely not as many forum results in the serps as there used to be. Also panda and penguin have hit some forums quite hard, especially where SEOs were using them to spam their clients or own sites and Google sees too many spam links.

    Don't feel that I am knocking Xenforo massively, it is a brilliant looking system but I like to be fully aware of what I am doing and the potential ramifications they may have. I might PM a few of the big board owners and see if they have anything they would like to contribute in terms of Google rankings following their conversion.
    z3r010 likes this.
  15. Alfa1

    Alfa1 Well-Known Member

    When something works as designed it is not broken. But when the design causes significant headache for webmasters who want to migrate their successful big boards to xenforo it is an issue to resolve.
    z3r010 likes this.
  16. Claudio

    Claudio Well-Known Member

  17. Digital Doctor

    Digital Doctor Well-Known Member

    Is Alexa relevant ?
  18. TacticsUK

    TacticsUK Member

    As a general gauge of site traffic I find it to be a very good indicator. Site traffic rises and falls that I see in Google Analytics for the sites that run are mirrored in Alexa more often than not. Is it 100% reliable? No. Nothing apart for on page analytics or server logs can give you the full and true picture but when you see massive traffic drops from high visitor properties like DigitalPoint then it should be enough to raise a question.
  19. TacticsUK

    TacticsUK Member

    Nice find! Anyone got a hitwise account so we could double check against ISP data? :D Forgive the cynical side of me but what would a big advertiser say in the face of very big traffic drops apart from "Nothing to see here!". The extra pages pulled by Googlebot don't really mean anything, especially after a full-scale URL remap of this nature. Note the lack of any Google referral statistics post-March which is when Alexa suggests a fall in traffic.
  20. Alfa1

    Alfa1 Well-Known Member

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