SEO Tweaks for PHPBB3

Since I’ve been installing a new webmaster forum on this domain, I’ve learned a bit more about PHPBB3 and the SEO challenges it presents “out of the box.”

First of all, I have to state that none of these modifications would have been possible for me without this SEO for PHPBB3 guide and I really wish it had been located a bit higher in the search results rather than forcing me to dig through the links and eventually find it. [Unfortunately, the post and domain seem to be completely gone now, so read on for more info I gleaned from it while it survived]

In the meantime, here is a summary of the PHPBB3 modifications I’ve made and the potential optimization benefits I expect them to deliver:

Canonical URL for the Root

The Problem: By default, PHPBB3 shows two possible addresses for your site.  The forum homepage is visible from the /forum/ folder root, but it is also visible from /forum/index.php and many of the links point back to this index file.

You can’t really just block the index file from the robots, either.  Why?  Because extensions and dynamic URLs can be built off of it to point to unique pages.  This is like slicing off your nose to spite the zit on it.  Or something.

The fix: Involves modifications to functions.php and that index.php file itself.  Basically, you’re just telling the software to use /forum/ as the root and changing a few links that point statically to index.php

The Benefit: No pagerank split between multiple URLs!  No duplicate indexing of the homepage!  This is perhaps the one move that can make the biggest difference.

Invisible Category Descriptions

The Problem: The problem here is that the software, by default, doesn’t show the information about a category on the category page.  Well, it kind of does because that info is stored in the code, but it really doesn’t because the words are made “invisible” to the user. Search engines don’t like this one bit!  Its like keyword stuffing, or trying to trick the bots into reading something that your human visitors can’t see.  If its good enough for the bots, its good enough for the people – so let’s get these visible before any problems pop up.

The Fix: This is an easy one.  Just head to the file at /template/viewforum_body.html

There’s even a note in the code telling you how to fix it “when you’re ready:”

<!-- NOTE: remove the style="display: none" when you want to have the forum description on the forum body -->
<!-- IF FORUM_DESC --><span style="display: none">{FORUM_DESC}<br /></span><!-- ENDIF -->

The Benefit: Avoids potential search engine penalties, while building up some unique keyword-rich content to your forum category pages.

Now obviously, this is just scratching the surface of SEO for PHPBB3.  There are mods for RSS feeds, mods for “prettier” URLs, and probably a hundred great SEO mods that I haven’t even heard of yet.


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