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XF 1.5 xenForo Google results fall behind vBulletin

Discussion in 'XenForo Questions and Support' started by ekool, Sep 30, 2015.

  1. ekool

    ekool Member

    We run a very large number of community sites (upwards of 200). We started moving a few sites over to the xenForo platform over the past few years and we do prefer this product over vBulletin.

    However, Google prefers vBulletin. What can we do about this?

    Here are a few examples to illustrate:
    *) in google webmaster tools we receive notices about vBulletin patches that are available, we have not received any concerning xenForo
    *) Google search results for a vBulletin forum landing page will have it's title prepended with the brand tag "Forums: ", xenForo titles are not.
    *) We have started up sites in xenForo with SEO in mind, at the same time as a competitor starting up a vBulletin version. Our site shows more activity (traffic and posts), however the vBulletin competition's site still ranks higher in Google results. To be fair, in Bing we rank higher but the vast majority of our search traffic comes from Google.

    The conclusion seems to be that Google is aware of vBulletin and not xenForo. Is there anything being done about this, or is there any interest in doing anything about this?

    We prefer the xenForo product, but at the end of the day we are a business specializing in forum communities, so if our main source of traffic will always recognize vBulletin over xenForo then to remain competitive we will be forced to stop investing in xenForo licenses and continue with vBulletin. At this point any new sites we build are being done in vBulletin 4 for this very reason.
     
    Weppa333 likes this.
  2. Alfa1

    Alfa1 Well-Known Member

    If you own 200 sites which are mainly vbulletin then you will have applied the needed seo tweaks. If this is the case then take a similar approach to xenforo. You will find that less tweaks are needed as xenforo has many things already included. Like microdata.
     
  3. ekool

    ekool Member

    Alfa1, obviously anyone can spend hours and hours tweaking SEO related items and hoping for the best. That benefits one person/entity. However, if we can get Xenforo to include said tweaks in the default package, the entire community benefits. I see no reason why you wouldn't want that done?

    We are asking that Xenforo reach out to Google and become officially recognized as a "forum" so that SERP's are displayed similarly, so as not to be at a disadvantage to vBulletin in that regard.
     
    optrex and Weppa333 like this.
  4. thedude

    thedude Well-Known Member

    Can you post a search we can run in google to see a few different forums prepended with this tag (not necessarily your forums)?

    Both our large and small sites have been doing well since the switch to XF, compared to their VB competitors, so we personally have no complaints about XF's SEO.
     
  5. Mr Lucky

    Mr Lucky Well-Known Member

    I don't think this is about the fact that out of the box xenforo is good for SEO, but more about how the content is good/bad for SEO.

    By their nature you cannot SEO (if that is a verb) a forum very much these days s so much relies purely on content, and unless you can manipulate what people post, then there's not much you can do.

    So what I think is the issue here is that by their nature forum threads are crap for SEO, full of badly written off topic stuff. Normally Google would not like that but perhaps they are thinking "There's some random stuff and thin content on this site but hey, it's a forum, what do you expect? so let's give it a break"

    So maybe the OP is saying Google recognises this with Bulletin, but not yet with xenForo. I'd be surprised as xenForo has now been around long enough, but who knows?
     
    optrex likes this.
  6. ekool

    ekool Member

    Here's an example that illustrates the vB - xF - google issue:
    https://www.google.com/?q=mustang+ecoboost+forum

    Ignoring any ads that may show at the top (we've since started an adsense campaign), you may notice the top two results are
    - Mustang Ecoboost Forum (www.ecoboostmustang.org)
    - Forums - Mustang Ecoboost Forum (www.ecoboostmustang.org/forum)

    There's also another vBulletin listing further down:
    - Forum: 2.3L EcoBoost I-4 Engine Modification/Discussion (www.svtperformance.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?468-2-3L-EcoBoost-I-4-Engine-Modification-Discussion)

    If you were to check the page sources for the svtperformance example and the forum landing page of ecoboostmustang.org both have their titles set to exactly what comes after the prefixed "Forum(s):/-"

    Our site 'mustangecoboost.net' lists below the above even though our site sees a lot more activity and ranks at the top in other search engines. (Again, ignore the adsense campaign, that was added after the fact to make up for the poor ranking).

    This apparently has come up a number of times on different sites we've launched using xenForo, meanwhile the vBulletin sites we launch make far greater leads over the competition.

    It seems to come down to a Google preference of the vBulletin product.
     
  7. Brogan

    Brogan XenForo Moderator Staff Member

    If you believe that to be the case then there's very little XF can do about that.

    Personally I doubt Google have factored any particular vendor into their search algorithm.

    Almost all of the feedback we have had is that XF performs as well as, if not better than, other similar software.
     
  8. melbo

    melbo Well-Known Member

    I would actually try to not show 'forums domain forum' as forum(s) twice isn't very aesthetically pleasing in the SERP. Do you think that there is benefit to the Forums- tag?
     
  9. thedude

    thedude Well-Known Member

    Google is prepending "Forums" for the second SERP result because both urls (http://www.ecoboostmustang.org/ and http://www.ecoboostmustang.org/forum/) have the exact same page title: "Mustang Ecoboost Forum" which is generally considered bad SEO.

    So Google will take hints for a more proper page title from various sources, including anchor text:
    serps.png


    If that forum (not sure if it's yours) fixes the page title on http://www.ecoboostmustang.org/forum/ so it's unique from http://www.ecoboostmustang.org/ then Google wouldn't have to use other signals to make a unique title.

    It has nothing to do with Google identifying that site as a forum vs not as forum.
     
  10. ekool

    ekool Member

    That is a convincing theory and I don't doubt there's truth to it, however it does not explain why "Forum: " is prepended to the svtperformance example I also gave above which does not have a duplicated title on the results list.

    We are certainly convinced that Google is aware of vBulletin as a forum product, not solely for this branding but also since we have received notices from Google concerning available security patches for vBulletin. There must be some users here who have experienced similar notices. If I find an old one I will post it as an example.

    I understand xenForo has no control over how Google's search algorithm works, but we feel xenForo is a strong enough product now that Google should at least be aware of it on an equal basis to vBulletin. If just by Google recognizing a xenForo site as a forum brand helps to correct any difference between xenForo and vBulletin rankings that would be a major positive for the product.
     
  11. Brogan

    Brogan XenForo Moderator Staff Member

    Do you have any links from Google with regards to sites being officially recognised as forums?
     
  12. thedude

    thedude Well-Known Member

    Google tries to match up your search query words with serp titles and descriptions. I'll use your svtperformance question as an example:
    svt.png

    On the left, the user query included "forum" so Google prepended that to the title. The query on the right ("mustang ecoboost discussion") includes words already in the svt title, so Google is fine showing it stock and "Forum" is not prepended to the title.

    Do a few random queries and you'll see Google does its best to get your search terms in the search results themselves.

    Google has no issue identifying all popular forum software as what they are, not just VB.
     
  13. ekool

    ekool Member

    Not specific to forums, but in other ways for example they've been doing company names for years now:
    https://www.seroundtable.com/google-brand-title-appending-16432.html
    https://plus.google.com/u/0/108803085270706476599/posts/Mard8eAPpWh

    I hope you're right thedude, but focusing on the specifics of how a search title is formed is missing our larger concern that in general Google is ranking vBulletin sites higher then xenForo sites.

    At the end of the day, what we're hoping is that xenForo as a company can reach out to Google to ensure it receives equivalent ranking to vBulletin. In our experience it doesn't seem to, and I listed a couple flags (forum brand tagging and patch notices) that suggest that google is more "aware" of vBulletin.
     
    ForestForTrees and Weppa333 like this.
  14. Chris D

    Chris D XenForo Developer Staff Member

    Which site is third or fourth when you search for "iphone forums"?

    To expand on my point, somewhat, I know for a fact that the third or fourth result (it varies depending on whether it's .com or .co.uk) is a XenForo forum. And the only other results above it, aside from Apple's own forum, are XenForo forums. It's later down the list where there is a considerably busier, larger vBulletin forum.

    So my point mostly is, can you consistently prove that vBulletin sites rank higher than XenForo sites? Or might it just be that there are times where, for whatever reason, Google ranks certain sites higher than another independent of the software they are running?
     
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2015
  15. ekool

    ekool Member

    I managed to find one of the update notices that we hadn't yet deleted.. We've received many of these but only ever for vBulletin sites.

    Screen Shot 2015-09-30 at 3.12.28 PM.png
     
    ForestForTrees likes this.
  16. RoldanLT

    RoldanLT Well-Known Member

    That's nice to have (y).
     
  17. ekool

    ekool Member

    I'm showing 2 apple.com discussion links as #3 and 4 after iphoneforums.net which is one of our sites, one that is doing very well, however was originally vBulletin that we converted to xenForo. It doesn't seem to be as much of an issue with established sites as it is with new start up communities.
     
  18. Chris D

    Chris D XenForo Developer Staff Member

    The last sentence of that, could you link us to the blog post?

    It seems to me, based on the wording of that, we very much don't want Google to be having to warn users away from certain versions of our software, as it would appear that if they do so, they're asserting that the software is unsafe to use.
     
  19. Chris D

    Chris D XenForo Developer Staff Member

    I edited the post - I'll repost it here:

    To expand on my point, somewhat, I know for a fact that the third or fourth result (for me, at least; it varies depending on whether it's .com or .co.uk) is a XenForo forum. And the only other results above it, aside from Apple's own forum, are XenForo forums. It's later down the list where there is a considerably busier, larger vBulletin forum.

    So my point mostly is, can you consistently prove that vBulletin sites rank higher than XenForo sites? Or might it just be that there are times where, for whatever reason, Google ranks certain sites higher than another independent of the software they are running?
     
  20. Alfa1

    Alfa1 Well-Known Member

    The only clear point that I can confirm is that Google doesn't give update notifications for xenforo while it does so for vbulletin and other software. This indicates that there is a difference between how google identifies xenforo and other software which could be worth looking into.
     
    Mert, Weppa333, HWS and 2 others like this.

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