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Author Topic: SEO Question  (Read 2399 times)

Offline delta5

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SEO Question
« on: September 09, 2019, 08:15:47 PM »
I have an outfit working on some SEO items for my forums and they need to know if items they want to add to the front page should be done on the default theme files and/or current theme or both?

Offline drewactual

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Re: SEO Question
« Reply #1 on: September 09, 2019, 10:40:46 PM »
fwiw:

chances are your non-default theme uses the display, the boardindex and the messageindex from the default theme.  your non default theme's indextemplate will be the basis for the entire SMF implementation...

now you're asking what files they need to alter:  I suggest through experience that adding headings to the boardindex, messageindex and display templates DO help.  IF your 'non default' theme uses the defaults templates, you'll be needing to alter both themes.  if the non-default theme has those files, you'll only need to alter the non default. 

here is what I would do:  I'd COPY those three files into your non-default theme... that is the boardindex, the messageindex, and the display templates... the non-default theme will NOW use THOSE, and because of that you can leave your default theme files virgin.  which is a good plan if something goes wonky with folks unfamiliar with SMF fiddling around with them.

now to the meat and potatoes:

adding a H1 in a hidden div allows you opportunity to describe your page in a manner google, for one, appreciates and responds to.  that's done in index.template... plopping the Boards into H2's (boardindex.template) furthers that... h3's encapsulating your thread names in boardindex.template has benefits....

on messageindex.template, adding h1's for the category/board helps.. i use a simple exterior php script included on this page to do so- simple if/elseif/then statements so that each board has it's own H1.. the thread titles are h2's, and the summaries of each thread are h3's..

on display.template, i also use an exterior php file included- does the same thing as the first one but for threads.. H1 is the title, h2 is the post itself.. h3 is the username- i've found a lot of my posters post on my 'competition's' boards, and that username's hold weight especially in search results. 

if you want a look at the include file, let me know and i can post it.  it can do other things too which is good for UX such as rotating header banner on only the main page (or where i want it), other images specific to the board.... and also, the main H1's for the BOARDS....

if you want to know what i'm talking about, check out https://www.cfb51.com for a 2.0.15 explanation (flip through the boards and see how the interface changes, and view source to see the heading tags).. or check out a new launch i've not done anything with yet using 2.1RC2- https://www.cfb51-LINE.com ....

my 'market' is saturated, and i still register around 18 rank or so with Google.. it was up as high as 11 last week...

Offline delta5

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Re: SEO Question
« Reply #2 on: September 09, 2019, 10:51:59 PM »
Thanks for the reply! I will forward your post to them. I think they are more familiar with wordpress.

Offline Kindred

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Re: SEO Question
« Reply #3 on: September 09, 2019, 11:08:53 PM »
You're advice, as usual, is incorrect and potentially damaging to the site's search rating. If you use text in hidden divs Google will blacklist you
Please do not PM, IM or Email me with support questions.  You will get better and faster responses in the support boards.  Thank you.

Offline drewactual

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Re: SEO Question
« Reply #4 on: September 09, 2019, 11:16:15 PM »
as usual, you approach... you're a funny one squatting on your precious SMF... I wonder how many people avoid using this engine because of the behavior of you and your kind?

it works. get over it.  i don't need your approval.

Offline Arantor

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Re: SEO Question
« Reply #5 on: September 10, 2019, 01:50:05 AM »
Thing is, he’s kinda right.

For example it already ships with an h1 at he top of the page (forum title) and another has never been good practice.

Also I’d actually be highly surprised if the reason you rank well is these changes, far more likely is that your site is busy, that people link to it, and that you get ranking in all the other ways.
Don’t try to tell me that some power can corrupt a person. You haven’t had enough to know what it’s like.

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Offline drewactual

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Re: SEO Question
« Reply #6 on: September 10, 2019, 03:09:08 PM »
i chopped that h1... I use only one per page, stay light on h2's, and tag h3's with some idea that they'll describe better what the user should expect...

the thing about these SEO discussions is they are like describing smoke- that which changes as soon as you recognize a trait... fleeting, at best.

there is more than evidence that engines use h1's as a title expectation... h2's as important information expectations.. h3's and descending as further explanation of the hierarchy tags.  i don't think that was intended when the tags were introduced way back when- they were simply a means to present.  however, they're well suited for what the engines are doing with them.

i don't question the expertise of the board elders, here- that would be folly... but if some clown comes in making personal insults because they feel they're being crowded i'm going to respond.  pretty simple.  mean one or not, i fight back.  the dynamic 'the mean one' presents is the cause for message boards to be dying anyway- where some prick squats on a board and runs everyone off.  for that bully to be in a position of authority on a webpage that makes forum software is... ironic?

the predominant participants in this support community knows this engine throughout- that can't be argued.  the construction is superb.  the function, though fluid- is reliable and stable.  that's something most of us user's can't do... just because somebody offers a little twist doesn't detract from your product.... these tags in question are highly valued by google and other engines.  i don't know if they were when you guys set out with 2.0RC1 or not, but they are now. 

eliciting a response from an 'elder' such as happened here is something that only happens in interwebworld- they wouldn't dare speak to me like that in person.  carrying the weight of an elder and thinking calling themselves 'mean one' somehow excuses that behavior is a good way to drive potential users away... and all for----- ego.  friggin' ego.   

Offline Kindred

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Re: SEO Question
« Reply #7 on: September 10, 2019, 04:09:29 PM »
funny thing is... you're wrong again.

I speak the same in person as I do online -- so, if you had said the same thing to me in person, I would have said the same thing in response. :P
and it's not because I am "feeling crowded" (whatever the heck that means)  or anything to do with ego...

<yawn>

I said nothing about the importance of TAGS... I know all about them. I use them on my own sites. What I said was that putting tags behind a hidden div to slide in keywords (because that's what you implied that you were doing) will get you blacklisted...
Please do not PM, IM or Email me with support questions.  You will get better and faster responses in the support boards.  Thank you.

Offline Arantor

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Re: SEO Question
« Reply #8 on: September 10, 2019, 04:26:44 PM »
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i chopped that h1... I use only one per page, stay light on h2's, and tag h3's with some idea that they'll describe better what the user should expect...

Which is great. (It's also a step that wasn't explained previously, whereupon if the OP had followed it, would have broken their setup worse.) But it's also more meaningful in that 1) you're tagging content for *users*, 2) it's better for accessibility e.g. screen readers and 3) you're focusing on making something for your users which inevitably means a focus on producing something they care about, which is an investment in the future of your forum.

This is part of the problem, though - it's not just about recognising a trait and acting on it, it's the very strange faulty pattern recognition that people misattribute to things. If someone spends a lot of time on their forum, making content, engaging with people (and also encouraging them to engage), and also tweaking the tags, which one of these is most likely to actually produce results, and which one is attributed to producing results? That's what I'm getting at - all of these things help, but people think twiddling tags produces more results than having something that brings people to the site and gets them to engage, link back, share on social media etc. and because they see the tag twiddling as 'a thing they did' (in a way that writing content is somehow rationalised as not a thing they actively did), they ascribe better engagement to it.

And no, we don't know what combination of things helped. Google doesn't tell us what they use to identify the relevancy and authority of a site. We know that historically backlinks were important, we know that outbound links are important too because Google has told us this. Google has also repeatedly told us, build for users, not for search engines. Twiddling tags tends to fall into the latter not the former. Tweaking the hx tags *can* improve it but in very specific ways that on their own may not do a fat lot.

Is h1 important? Sure. Is it the most important thing? Questionable - and historically the advice from the likes of Google was to use the h1 to be the site name. They haven't given us better advice since so whatever we're doing is somewhat guesswork - tempered by the fact that we're really not doing it in isolation. So you'll post content, you'll share on social media and you'll adjust the tags but you have no way to reliably know which has the real impact.

Quote
there is more than evidence that engines use h1's as a title expectation... h2's as important information expectations.. h3's and descending as further explanation of the hierarchy tags.  i don't think that was intended when the tags were introduced way back when- they were simply a means to present.  however, they're well suited for what the engines are doing with them.

They were never simply a means to present. The ML in HTML literally means 'markup language', i.e. add meta information to a document to describe the document better. The h tags were always intended as structural markers in a document and we've moved on as HTML is no longer a document markup language but a swirling dense soup of tags that don't mean a lot that somehow results in something we can loosely refer to as an application.

In the spec there was always a huge amount of talk, often very misunderstood, about presentation/stylistic elements vs structural elements. The use of i vs em isn't 'i is shorter and they both do italics' because while stylistically they might do that in a number of browsers, they *mean* different things, and to people who use screenreaders and other assistive technologies, it's a whole different world to understand - I'm only just getting my head around it after watching years of dogma be blown away by actually watching a guy with a screenreader use it and watch how it helps him do what he does.

To say that they're only for engines is a misnomer, because they're not. They're all sorts of things - so getting it right is important. I'm still trying to figure that out, but I'm consciously not trying to suggest how the SMF project should adapt - I am, however, interested in what works for all sorts of different use cases and trying to understand why so I can do it better in future. And then toe the party line here... long story.

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i don't question the expertise of the board elders, here- that would be folly...

There are times it is appropriate, and there are times it is not. And there are times when accepted doctrine is wrong and new doctrine can be right but it is complicated. For my part I was posting while multitasking and I generally don't engage too well with people who assert that they want to do something in a certain way that has problems.

The other part of questioning the elders, so to speak, is that in any environment you're going against an amount of inertia and stubbornness (elders do not get that way without themselves being stubborn and full of inertia to get that way), and what would be normally described as anecdata isn't usually enough to argue with that kind of inertia. Hell, even documented evidence with scientific rigour is usually not enough because inertia is hard to deal with.

And is it ego driven? For sure. But consider the reverse situation - if I came on to your site and started arguing with you about the way your football team plays and going against the current understood wisdom, the odds are I'd be reacting the way you are now. (Not saying I would; I have no interest in American football, let alone enough to build up a position whereby I'd feel sufficiently knowledgeable to believe I could argue against current received wisdom)

People who get entrenched as the local subject matter expert inevitably get some ego trip out of it, desired or otherwise, just by nature of the 'job' so to speak. It takes a certain amount of ego to get to that point in the first place, to become knowledgeable enough to be comfortable offering oneself up as any kind of authority. (It amused me no end during the early 2000s with the amount of webmaster forums that were set up by people who had made a site in GeoCities and that apparently qualified them to be an authority on making a site.)

Quote
the dynamic 'the mean one' presents is the cause for message boards to be dying anyway- where some prick squats on a board and runs everyone off.  for that bully to be in a position of authority on a webpage that makes forum software is... ironic?

Yes, and no. Again we're back to that slightly weird faulty causation observance. You're right - but not necessarily for the reasons you might think.

Problem 1: People who post a few lines tend to post from mobile, in between other things, not really giving it much time and/or thought. Posts from mobile are usually more blunt than strictly necessary as they're a diversion from 101 other demands on our time at any given time. Hell, I'm just as guilty, I post in between waiting for my work PC to do things. (Though I'm posting from iPad, it's slightly less painful than typing on a phone. But not a lot. And the interruption nature means I am more blunt than maybe I should be.)

Problem 2: A holistically adopted conservative attitude. No, I don't mean any political position, but simply one about preserving the way we are. Kindred will, on most provocations, point out how long he's been doing this. This is an interesting double edged sword. On the one hand, he was there before forums were forums. He's got decades of observing people discussing online - and while it has changed, people are still people, and there's still the average a-hole quotient inside any given population. But that also shrouds him from necessarily observing changes; why change if people are habitually the same as ever? The same mentality extends throughout this forum, that how we've always done it is how we should always do it because that's how we've always done it. (It's mostly this reason that I left being an active member of the dev team in 2014. Little has, as far as I can see, changed. The names change, the mindset stays the same.)

Problem 3: Power corrupts. Becoming any kind of subject matter expert in a field, even a mediocre low-level one, changes you. SMEs tend to present opinion as fact and defend it as such, which is pure breeding grounds for tempers and strawman arguments. I'm guilty of it too but I can usually back up what I'm saying with more than just fluff.

Problem 4: Perceived entitlement culture. There is an interesting tendency growing for the "I reject your reality and substitute my own". There has been a strong vibe in this community for a number of years that what users want, users should get. Users must have the freedom to indulge. Unfortunately, when someone who does know better comes in and explains why things are bad ideas, it's drowned out in a well-intentioned display of 'ignore them, you can do this anyway, here's how', often to the greater detriment of all concerned over time. The elders, such as they are, tend to shut this down to get out ahead of it, knowing it can't go anywhere good.

Does all that legitimise the perceived flaws in Kindred's style? No. But it helps us understand better why things are so and why people react the way they do. That alone is, for me, worth the price of admission. All these combined are what is killing forums - a reluctance to move forward, a reluctance to adopt to changes because the changes infer other changes that aren't perceived positively and to the detriment of the whole, and those that stand defending the old ways become grumpy old people who resent those trying to move them on in favour of "new thinking" that usually hasn't gotten its fill of wisdom from the old thinking yet.

Quote
just because somebody offers a little twist doesn't detract from your product.... these tags in question are highly valued by google and other engines.  i don't know if they were when you guys set out with 2.0RC1 or not, but they are now.

No one is questioning that they are valued. The only debate in my mind is whether the correct amount of importance is placed on them, and that part is impossible to know because people don't ascribe correct value to things.

Let me give you an example. I've routinely heard it said that paid forum software makes better forums. Better tools apparently make all the difference. But what gets missed is the fact that someone just shelled out $150+ for a forum software for a site, you can pretty safely bet they're going to put a lot more time and energy in to that site than they ever would if they got it for free. Does that mean that free forums always get beaten by paid entries? Of course not, there is a complete spectrum in all directions. But there is a huge feeling that paid platforms succeed more because they're paid - and never because owners have a tendency towards trying to stomach the sunk cost of putting $150 or more down to get the site going, and that huge feeling is frequently missed by bystanders who only see 'oh that site is using XenForo rather than <insert free software here>'. Same deal historically with vBulletin.

If you have a barrier to entry, you're probably more likely to make that investment pay off for you. But that somehow often gets overlooked because people don't realise they're investing their time and energy to pay off that sunk cost, and people just see a correlation that isn't really there, because it's a completely different correlation.

Quote
they wouldn't dare speak to me like that in person.  carrying the weight of an elder and thinking calling themselves 'mean one' somehow excuses that behavior is a good way to drive potential users away... and all for----- ego.  friggin' ego.   

I dunno about that. I'm definitely an elder in the various groups I'm a part of and invariably the issue I have is that people don't want to ask me questions because they think they're taking too much of my time up. At least, so I've been told by the other people in such groups.
Don’t try to tell me that some power can corrupt a person. You haven’t had enough to know what it’s like.

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Offline drewactual

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Re: SEO Question
« Reply #9 on: September 10, 2019, 04:51:23 PM »
funny thing is... you're wrong again.

I speak the same in person as I do online -- so, if you had said the same thing to me in person, I would have said the same thing in response. :P
and it's not because I am "feeling crowded" (whatever the heck that means)  or anything to do with ego...

<yawn>

I said nothing about the importance of TAGS... I know all about them. I use them on my own sites. What I said was that putting tags behind a hidden div to slide in keywords (because that's what you implied that you were doing) will get you blacklisted...

blah blah blah... you had your little feelings hurt some months back and since have attacked anything i have to offer.  and, no, you wouldn't speak to me like that in person.  your opinion of yourself is much grander than reality... the reality is you fancy yourself more important than you are, and in person would cower.  you wear that profile to a T.

Offline Illori

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Re: SEO Question
« Reply #10 on: September 10, 2019, 05:01:11 PM »
how about everyone stop attacking each other or we will need to take further action.

stick to the facts and not attacking each other.

Offline drewactual

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Re: SEO Question
« Reply #11 on: September 10, 2019, 05:02:12 PM »
Arantor, thank you for the thorough response.  i haven't digested it all yet, but it is much appreciated.  i like rational people. 

Offline Arantor

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Re: SEO Question
« Reply #12 on: September 10, 2019, 05:04:35 PM »
Illori: Let me know where to get actual facts rather than speculative guesswork about SEO ;)

Drew: I try. If I'm actually in front of a real keyboard I can usually take the time to talk things through properly.
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Offline drewactual

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Re: SEO Question
« Reply #13 on: September 10, 2019, 11:12:07 PM »
Arantor,

much of the bordering psychology you speak of (if that is what it can be called) reminds me of a simple and profound statement folks often screw up by not completing (or maybe the end of the statement is implied) "history is doomed to repeat itself because the nature of man doesn't change...

the basis and sentiment of that follows us everywhere we go.  Power does corrupt- everywhere.  being blunt is actually preferable in most instances when bereft of emotions, whether it's driven by convenience (time) or simply flopping out a response.  However, this is not what happened here.  I can't say anything here without an abrasive response from two posters, and one 'mean one' in particular.  it's more fascinating than anything else.  it's to the point i will see a thread with someone else requesting assistance, and know that anything i offer whether valuable or not will do one thing for certain: bring one or both of those two, and with them help.  whether i was accurate or not doesn't matter... the original poster will get the help they need even if the thread was ignored or at least without response for the hours or days prior.  it's comical in it's trend.

insofar as 'tags' are concerned- again, i don't know but what i've read- and... i've seen the effort presented to me on search engines themselves after making the adjustments.  where there was nothing, there is now and an explanation.  i have a 'control' board to prove this- it actually reads on google for that board "no other information is available for this site", whereas the others have the information provided in h1, 2, and 3 tags.... I've since added the info to match the other boards, but they haven't been picked up yet... i can give you the search phrase and board URL so you can see it yourself, if you'd like.  it's the second most popular board i have... it's a close knit community so i wasn't worried about it's search presence- a matter of fact i've actually made promise to those guys that "if you ever get run over, i'll make a private board just for you guys" and let the new crowd (sports posters can be rowdy) have the old space.

You mentioned OG and meta descriptions in another thread that is similar to this one... I mentioned there and i'll mention here, too- you gotta cover ALL the points we know to be valued... the OP mentioned H1's.. that was why i spoke only of them (and h2s and 3s)...

facts, per request:  I don't see where i implied multiple h1's either here or the thread on the 2.1 board.. i DID mention different H1's for individual pages.. which cascades to OG and meta descripts too... more than one of any of those on a single page 'ain't too smart'... several h2's and a handful of h3's don't hurt- and as long as they aren't being abused can likely help. 

loading keywords is dumb no matter what or where... it beckons a memory of my mentor back in the nineties who introduced me to web design and while using freakin' FrontPage... he straight up told me to use a font the same color as the background in the 'white space' and load it with keywords... it didn't make sense to me then and certainly doesn't now as spiders (a term not used often then) don't 'see' pages- they see code.  all this 'trick' of his did was trick himself.. i never did it, but i DID start to question my 'mentor's' wisdom...

in the precise same vane, 'hidden' is NOT hidden to spiders or crawlers... it's only hidden to organic eyes... the computer sees it just fine.  not only that, though- the crawlers see that you're trying to hide something.... and hiding something implies dishonesty and is something nobody likes- even computers.  but... every 'responsive' page i've encountered 'hides' stuff either from small screens or large screens.  that makes the practice of 'blacklisting' because of hidden elements antiquated by itself, and something google themselves have mentioned... now hear this next bit carefully so those painting me ignorant, dumb, or nefarious aren't successful in that........ 'hiding' things for the benefit of presentation is widespread, EVEN IF HIDDEN ON ALL SCREENS- it is a tool.  it's not an accidental tool.  it's not a 'trick'.  it's something EXPECTED.  therefor the statement 'google will blacklist you' is straight up BS and nothing but an attempt to despair the poster (me) and sourced from supposed position of authority(kindred).  Google is NOT dumb.  they're pretty friggin' good at what they do.  I used to think of them as a hurdle, but- i realized what they were/are trying to do is somewhat noble- they want some sort of standard so they can be fair in their 'grading' and positioning. 

meta description and OG, h1-3 do that... they APPRECIATE and reward the effort to demonstrate to them what a page is all about... this 'hidden' div may not show up on a users screen, but it does to google.. and they figure "oh, nice- a more fine tuned description!.. we'll weigh that too" and simply because, hidden or not, they know precisely what i am doing and realize it's not trying to game the game.  it's a straight up honest effort to help them do what they do. 

but let's stop talking falsely here- if anyone else had offered what i offered the 'mean one' would have stayed clear of the thread altogether.  that, too, is a 'fact'.

Offline Kindred

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Re: SEO Question
« Reply #14 on: September 11, 2019, 09:48:29 AM »
That last statement would be an "Alternative fact"....
« Last Edit: September 11, 2019, 09:58:36 AM by Kindred »
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Offline Arantor

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Re: SEO Question
« Reply #15 on: September 11, 2019, 09:56:52 AM »
I’m on mobile and can’t reply in depth but the substance of what has been said is actually correct, just not necessarily for the stated reasons.

It’s also hard to have “alternative facts” without any “actual facts” to base it off given that search engines are notorious for not telling how they work, though from what has been said it’s possible to make some reasonable inferences.
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Offline Biology Forums

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Re: SEO Question
« Reply #16 on: September 11, 2019, 01:45:37 PM »
I think where SMF places its <H1> is incorrect. It should be on the threads subject most importantly. For SEO purposes, that should be corrected

Offline Arantor

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Re: SEO Question
« Reply #17 on: September 11, 2019, 01:50:15 PM »
I think where SMF places its <H1> is incorrect. It should be on the threads subject most importantly. For SEO purposes, that should be corrected

I agree. I even agree to some extent about changes to h2 and h3. But I disputed how important these perceived changes are meant to be.
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Offline drewactual

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Re: SEO Question
« Reply #18 on: September 11, 2019, 05:35:04 PM »
I think where SMF places its <H1> is incorrect. It should be on the threads subject most importantly. For SEO purposes, that should be corrected

on the display.template, yes.. in messageindex.template, in my humble opinion h2's for thread titles- the BOARD name as H1...

on the boardindex.template, the h1 out of the box isn't bad(index.template;"forum title").  adding h2's on BOARD names and h3's on 'most recent subject'... (the problem with h3's on 'most recent subject' is they are in constant flux.. hopefully, anyway- it may be better to have the board descriptions as h3's on boardindex.template).

since we're talking SEO and not 'just' heading tags, google places a lot of emphasis on canonical URL's.  they care a lot about responsive (which is kinda funny if you've ever tried to use google tools mobile)... and they care about speed.   lack of 404's and 500 series is big.  maybe a site map helps, maybe it doesn't- i love how they phrased the answer on a direct question about that... but if you have a site map you better have a robots.txt and have it configured right, as well as have every page in the sitemap acceptable (canonical, not just for logged on users creating a soft 404, mobile accessible, ect).

my main page's GT score is- okay.. but my pagespeed score is usually 100- sometimes 98 or 99 but depending on which of the random header images shows.. mobile is usually 95+... the pingdom tools grades me in the lower 80s or upper 70's- but only because i use brotli for compression as opposed to more traditional means.  it sill pushes a little over 2KB under a second (DOM) and 1.5 seconds complete load from their non-cached browsers.  the funny thing is cached browsers are only marginally faster... a 1/4 to 1/2 second or so.

requests for that page is under 30.   when a cron isn't running, it's usually 17.  for some reason graders like that, which is funny because yahoo loads over 300... a matter of fact i've seen them over 600 before- to no real impact on speed. 

anyway... all these things matter.  it's not just a matter of title tags or OG or even meta descripts.   

Offline drewactual

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Re: SEO Question
« Reply #19 on: September 11, 2019, 05:48:47 PM »
studyforce- most users here are only interested in a means to provide their community a place to park.. a few bells and whistles, and a comfortable place to hang out... you are not one of those.. you're a rare bird that takes the engine and makes it dance.  you've done a spectacular job with your forum.

i also think you'd be a great candidate to do the exterior file include thing to help you with a lot of the items discussed here.