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We develop and sell components for other software developers through our website. The main products are ActiveX and WinFroms.NET grid controls. Some years ago we established a forum dedicated to our products, and it resides on the same website in a subdirectory (maindomain.com/forum). We left it opened for search engine robots trying to increase the occurrence of the specific keywords we optimized our website for - and thus have a better SEO effect (examples are "activex grid", "winforms grid control").

At some point we discovered that Google Webmaster Tools suggest us to fix some problems on our website, and the most of them are forum topic pages. For instance, we have a lot of "repeated titles" errors on our forum pages because of the forum engine we use.

So, the question is: should we hide our forum from search engine bots to avoid those errors (in their "eyes") and thus enhance our rank? And is it good at all to open forums like our one for indexing to have better SEO?


Some detailed info as an example. We use the YetAnotherForum ASP.NET forum engine. Google bot reports the "duplicate title tags" error for the following pages:

/Fo​rum​/ya​f_p​ost​sm5​67_​Dis​pla​y-T​ime​-Di​ffe​ren​ce-​in-​eac​h-G​rou​p-T​itl​e-i​n-D​ata​Gri​dVi​ew.​asp​x

/Fo​rum​/ya​f_p​ost​sm5​67f​ind​las​tpo​st_​Dis​pla​y-T​ime​-Di​ffe​ren​ce-​in-​eac​h-G​rou​p-T​itl​e-i​n-D​ata​Gri​dVi​ew.​asp​x

/Fo​rum​/ya​f_p​ost​st2​44f​ind​las​tpo​st_​Dis​pla​y-T​ime​-Di​ffe​ren​ce-​in-​eac​h-G​rou​p-T​itl​e-i​n-D​ata​Gri​dVi​ew.​asp​x

/Fo​rum​/ya​f_p​ost​st2​44f​ind​unr​ead​_Di​spl​ay-​Tim​e-D​iff​ere​nce​-in​-ea​ch-​Gro​up-​Tit​le-​in-​Dat​aGr​idV​iew​.as​px

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2 Answers 2

No, don't do anything like that! The bonus you get from fresh content is a lot more than the penalty you get for those titles. Which forum software are you using? Some of them have very decent plugins that will optimize the page titles for SEO and in the meantime get rid of those repeated titles.

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I've updated the original post to answer your question. –  TecMan Aug 30 '13 at 15:24
1  
Ah, it looks like it can be fixed more easily. I'm assuming those links all go to the same page, but different posts depending on what you're searching? You can just add "findlastpost_" etc to robots.txt in this case. Not doing this will actually hurt you since you have the same content spread out over multiple url's. –  Ivo van der Veeken Aug 30 '13 at 15:28
    
as I know, in robots.txt we can specify only the start substring of URLs we want to exclude - see this specification. –  TecMan Aug 30 '13 at 15:34
2  
True, but that's just the standard. Google (and some others) don't follow it 100%. Wildcards should work, though I've never tried itr. See stackoverflow.com/questions/4833413/… –  Ivo van der Veeken Aug 30 '13 at 17:38
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That's what I would do. To be 100% sure you won't get penalized for duplicate pages, you can add rel"canonical" to those pages too. support.google.com/webmasters/answer/139394?hl=en –  Ivo van der Veeken Sep 2 '13 at 12:03

Search engines love fresh, new content. This is the paramount reason why forums 'can' rank well in organic search and will give the appearance that your 'SEO' has improved.

If your forum is well maintained and serves value to its target audience, sure it is worth allowing the indexing of your key content. Don't forget you can instruct crawlers only to index those pages of worth from your forum.

Now if these duplicate page titles from the forum are these pages of worth, then you'd be better making a modification to the forum engine to create unique, descriptive page titles for these pages. If they aren't pages of any worth and don't need to be found via search engines, then just prevent these pages from being crawled/indexed.

Hope that helps.

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our forum topics aren't optimized for search engines - but they do increase the occurrence of the main keywords. –  TecMan Aug 30 '13 at 15:26
    
We use the YAF ASP.NET forum engine "as is", and update it frequently as the authors release new versions. We do not to modify its source code to have headache with merging our changes with all new updates every time. –  TecMan Aug 30 '13 at 15:27
    
robots.txt does not allow to use wildcard masks so we can exclude pages with duplicate titles from indexing so easy. Are there other ways to do that? Or maybe, this is not a problem at all? Maybe, Google so smart so it does not treat this problem as a serious one? –  TecMan Aug 30 '13 at 15:30

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