10 Important SEO Tips for Your Forum

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The requirements to rank well in search results have changed a lot over the years. Search engine optimization (SEO) has developed more and more into a complex discipline.

Create a Forum with WoltLab Suite

We would like to shed some light with this article and have put together 10 SEO tips that you can do with your forum if you want to improve your Google ranking.

Make Your Content Accessible

It may seem obvious, but one of the most important points that support search engine optimization is often unknowingly neglected: make sure that search engines can see the content of your forum in the first place.

Search engines access your forum as a guest and shares their permissions. It may be tempting to make the forum content accessible only after registration, and for some communities this can be useful. However, you should be aware that by doing this you will exclude search engines from your forum and therefore will not show up in search results.

So wherever possible, you should allow guests to access the content of your forum to ensure that the content can be picked up by search engines.

Make Sure Your Forum Is Fast

A fast loading website is an important metric for ranking within search results. You should therefore make sure that your forum is fast. The issues that can slow down the speed of your forum include, for example:

  • Too many plugins
    Plugins can add useful features to your forum and make it more active. However, if you overdo it with the amount of plugins, it can negatively affect the loading times or clutter the user interface.
  • Image-heavy designs
    Your design uses many or large images? This can also have a negative impact on loading times. Check if you can do without images or if an optimization of the images is possible.
  • Poor, slow web hosting
    Inexpensive web hosts in particular rely on outdated components or squeeze many customers onto one infrastructure, which can have a negative impact on load times. In addition, outdated versions of server-side software (such as PHP or MySQL) are often used, although newer versions offer better performance.

Performance analysis with Lighthouse Performance analysis with Lighthouse

Use the Google Search Console

Google itself provides you with Search Console for free, a powerful tool for analyzing your website. If you haven't already done so, you should definitely register your forum in Search Console.

With the help of Search Console, you can check which pages are already included in the Google index and whether there are any problems with the indexing of individual pages. In addition, you can use the tool to determine how your forum has performed on Google so far and for which keywords your forum is already found.

The Search Console should become a regular point of contact for you, especially to check how effective changes made in the area of search engine optimization are.

Google Search Console Google Search Console

Perform a Keyword Research

It's great if your forum already ranks high in search results for certain terms, but it's of little use to you if virtually no one searches for those terms. This is where keyword research comes into play.

Your forum probably has a distinct main topic and thus associated keywords that people search for when they are interested in that topic. It's important to know exactly what these keywords are, as well as their respective search volume, so that you can target your website accordingly.

Free tools for keyword research are for example AnswerThePublic, Ubersuggest or the Keyword Planner from Google Ads.

Target Your Forum to Important Keywords

After you have completed your keyword research, it is of course a good idea to adapt your forum more closely to the results of your research. For example, you can map important keywords to the main topic of your forum as a category or forum section. It is also worthwhile to start your own discussions on important keywords, if there are no suitable topics in your forum yet.

Use SEO texts

Individual threads in a forum usually offer a lot of content and are therefore already very well ranked in the search results. For the typical forum home page or sub-pages like the thread list, this usually looks rather lousy. These pages usually consist only of links and contain no meaningful text content. Accordingly, it is difficult to appear with these pages on the first places in the search results for certain keywords.

Special SEO texts can enhance the content of these pages and thus lead to a better ranking. A typical SEO text is 400 to 800 words long and targeted to the desired keywords. Even though the text is primarily designed for search engine optimization, it should still read naturally and provide added content value for the people on your forum. Ideally, you place the SEO text below the content of the actual page, so that the usability is not limited too much.

For the forum start page this can be easily implemented with a separate box, for other pages we can recommend the following plugins:

Darkwood.Design
September 20, 2023 at 9:26 AM

Write Blog Articles on Your Topic

Especially at the beginning, a forum usually contains very few discussions and thus little content that can be captured by search engines. However, nowadays it is very important to provide helpful and high-quality content in order to rank well in search results.

The ideal complement to a forum can therefore be an editorially maintained blog, through which relevant articles on your main topic are published. This is also where keyword research comes into play again, so that you know what people are searching for and on which terms you should target your articles.

In an active forum, threads can quickly disappear to back pages in the thread list. This can make it difficult for search engines to find them, because the search engines have to crawl some links first. However, search engines prefer links that are not so deep in the link structure (so-called "crawl depth").

For important threads that generate a lot of traffic according to Search Console, for example, it therefore makes sense to link them in a prominent place. This can be done, for example, by pinning the thread in the thread list so that it is always at the top of the first page. Alternatively, a thread can also be linked in the footer menu or linked to a blog article.

Use a robots.txt

A well-filled forum quickly consists of several thousand pages, but a search engine will not capture all the pages on your website, as it only grants each website a certain quota (so-called "crawl budget"). It therefore makes sense to exclude less important pages from crawling, so that the search engines can concentrate on the important pages.

For example, pages that consist only of links and do not contain relevant content should be excluded. This includes user profiles, member lists and similar pages. But also forms (like login or registration forms) or URLs that are only redirects (like permalinks to posts) have to be excluded from search engines.

Many of these pages are already provided with the so-called "noindex" attribute in WoltLab Suite to signal to search engines that they should not index these pages. Nevertheless, a search engine must first retrieve the associated URL to see the "noindex" attribute. It is therefore much more effective to exclude the URLs across the board with the help of a robots.txt.

Submit Your XML Sitemap to Google

The XML Sitemap is a map of your website in the form of a file in XML format. The file contains all important links and makes it much easier for search engines to find these links. After you have registered your website with Google Search Console, you can also link your XML sitemap there.

Add your XML Sitemap in Google Search Console Add your XML Sitemap in Google Search Console

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Do you have other useful tips for search engine optimization of forums? Share them with us in the comments!