The forum on your website can be a great source of user generated content, and it can help people easily get answers to their questions. However, with just a few modifications, you can make your forum a big source of free search engine traffic.
Since forums tend to include detailed questions and answers, and will include topics that you would never have thought to include as regular content on your website or blog, the forum can be a goldmine for picking up long tail search phrases – phrases that only get searched a few times a month. Normally, it wouldn’t make sense for you to try to optimize for these phrases for a few extra visitors, but if the people visiting your site are going to do this for you, then it makes complete sense to take advantage of this content.
The problem is that most forums are difficult for the search engines to crawl. The urls to your topics will frequently include a “?” which is a red flag for a search engine spider. This means that the topic can be dynamically generated and that it could get stuck in an infinite loop. The other problem is sessions ids. This is the id assigned to any visitor when they’re browsing your forum. If the forum assigns a session id to a search engine spider, your forum won’t be spidered properly or rank well. While the search engines are getting better at following those types of urls, there are some modifications you can make with just a little know how to make your site rank much better in the search engines.
While I won’t go into detail on exactly how to do it, since it’s different for each type of forum, I will explain the basic parts.
The first thing you need to do is have your server rewrite all the urls of the forum so that the instead of having a forum url that looks like this:
You’ll have one that looks like this:
The removal of the “?” will make it much easier for the search engines to spider your forum and as a result, your forum will rank much better in the search engines and you’ll see traffic from the search engines that you weren’t getting before.
This modification only takes a few minutes, but it can lead to thousands of new visitors to your site. I’ll provide you with some links on how to do this in detail below.