XenForo is outranking WordPress in Google search results on my site

DeltaHF

Well-known member
I'm doing research into my SEO and uncovered some interesting findings in my Google Search Console data that I wanted to share.

First, a bit about my site: it's 18 years old and runs on a combination of WordPress (for the homepage and articles) and XenForo 1.5. Both installations are large, with 6,000+ published WordPress posts and 12m+ forum posts. Both run custom-built themes which I designed and implemented myself with SEO in mind. I have long heard that Google penalizes forum content. I wanted to see if this was actually true on my own site, so I dug into the data to see if I could answer the question: do my site's WordPress posts rank higher than XenForo content?

To accomplish this, I created two reports in the Search Console to separate the areas of my site as best I could.

My XenForo install is located at mydomain.com/forum/, so for the forum's report, I only included page URLs with that pattern. I also excluded queries which contained my site's name (it is somewhat well-known in its niche, and queries which included the site name could skew the CTR and position metrics). For the WordPress report, I just inverted the filter to exclude all /forum/ pages. Here are the results over the past four months:

XenForo Search Traffic
193843

WordPress Search Traffic
193844

The higher volume of clicks and impressions for the forums should, perhaps, not be too surprising. With over 12 million posts, there is a tremendous amount of long-tail content from the forum in Google's search index. Nevertheless, we can see the forums bring in a significant majority of search traffic to the site.

However, I found the "Average CTR" and "Average Position" to be the most interesting. There is a negligible difference in click-through rate (~0.3%) between our carefully-written article headlines and the sloppy, user-generated thread titles (we don't modify them for SEO purposes, but probably should). More importantly, the "Average Position" shows us that the XenForo pages, on average, out-rank the WordPress pages on the same website. That is not what I expected to see!

To double-check, I modified the filters to only include queries that contain a specific, popular keyword that brings people to both our forums and news articles:

XenForo Keyword-Specific Search Traffic:
193845

WordPress Keyword-Specific Search Traffic:
193846

XenForo still leads in Total Clicks and Impressions, but WordPress has a more distinct advantage in CTR. I suspect this might have to do with appearing in "news"-related search results, as this keyword is connected to "newsworthy" events within this niche that would cause temporarily higher search volumes. XenForo remains dominate in the rankings over WordPress, maintaining exactly the same 2.4 advantage in average position.

Of course, it is hard to make direct comparisons such as this. There are simply too may other factors at play to make sweeping generalizations. It should also be noted there are significantly fewer WordPress articles (6k) in Google's index than there are XenForo pages (at least 410k). The WordPress articles are much more efficient at bringing in traffic, with an average of 40.65 search-clicks per page over the last four months, while XenForo posts have brought in an average of 1.03 search-clicks per page, if my back-of-the-napkin math is correct. However, there is a lot of very old, mostly irrelevant content in my XenForo pages, so this must be taken into consideration as well.

Regardless, The Average CTR and the Average Position provide us with the most relevant metrics of how the two sections of the site are performing in search today, and XenForo appears to be holding its own — if not winning outright!

I welcome any feedback on my testing methodology or conclusions. I would also encourage anyone else running WordPress and XenForo together to dig into their Google Search Console data to create similar reports. It would be fascinating to see how these results compare across different websites.
 
Last edited:

joroom

Member
Well, these are some impressive numbers.

I am more curious about your "custom-built themes which I designed and implemented myself with SEO in mind".

Do you mind sharing a few tricks there? :)
 

DeltaHF

Well-known member
Thanks. :)

I don't have any secret ingredients or "special sauce", I just followed best practices as closely as I can, with clean code, proper page structure, and structured data (JSON-LD), although that's an area where I need to focus more for my next redesign with XF 2.1. I see many areas of improvement for SEO with my overall site structure, but that's a topic for another day...

Also, for WordPress I use the Yoast SEO Premium plugin and I've been very happy with it.
 

Alfa1

Well-known member
6,000 Wordpress pages generate 248k clicks.
18,000,000 XF posts generate only 425k clicks.

It seems to me that Wordpress pages outrank XF here by a very large margin.
 

DeltaHF

Well-known member
It seems to me that Wordpress pages outrank XF here by a very large margin.
I acknowledged the WordPress pages are more efficient at bringing in traffic, but the subject of "out-ranking" is not up for debate.

Google Search Console clearly shows that XenForo pages have a higher Average Position in search by 2.4 positions, which applies to overall searches and keyword-specific searches.
 

Dakis

Well-known member
Nice report. I ran my own and here's what I came up with.

Last 6 months, xenforo traffic:

194109

Same 6 months, wordpress traffic:


194110

Obviously for me these numbers are completely different because my forum has been around for 13 years and has over half a million posts, but my wordpress has only been there for 18 months and only has something like 550 articles.

It seems to me I have to wait for my wp to grow up and become an adult before I can compare numbers like you @DeltaHF , my wp is still a baby :D
 
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