Why bbPress Is Good For SEO

ryan hellyerThis is a guest blog post written by Ryan Hellyer, who operates PixoPoint.com. While you’re there, check out his WordPress Menu Plugin

Unlike blogging software like WordPress which usually feature good on-site SEO even from a default install, forum software typically has never featured good on-site SEO features. Default themes with nested, non-semantical tables, inappropriate use of headings, lack of any real attempt to use semantical code and appalling use of permalinks are standard features of off-the-shelf forum software.

bbpress_permalinks
The bbPress.org support forum demonstrating the pretty permalinks available in a default bbPress installation.

However, unlike it’s more bloated counterparts, bbPress has extraordinarily good SEO features straight out of the box. The only other forum software I know of which is capable of doing Pretty URL’s/permalinks straight out of the box is Vanilla. There is a free MOD available for SMF which accomplishes this, but for vBulletin this requires a paid MOD.

smf_urls
The simplemachines.org support forum demonstrating the the standard SMF URLs. Note how the bbPress URLs describe the content whereas the SMF ones are simply a number.

Another major SEO feature which a default installation of bbPress is capable of is pingbacks/trackbacks. No other software is able to do this by default. There is no MOD currently available for SMF to do this and (again) vBulletin requires a paid MOD to to add the same feature that bbPress can do by default.

The default bbPress theme (Kakumei) features fairly semantical code which has led to most of the bbPress themes available featuring a high level of on-site SEO in comparison to their larger competitors.

bbPress is much maligned by it’s competitors and the average Joe web developer seems to dismiss it as being too basic and “not really useful for anything”. However they are missing the real point of bbPress. It may be a super simple forum system, but although it is lacking in whizz bang features which it’s larger more bloated competitors have, it does include extra more complex features under the bonnet which many do not realise are there.

Having said all this, I actually use SMF myself. Both my support forum and my site about Hockey in New Zealand run SMF. The reason I don’t use bbPress for either of these forums is because it would require too many plugins and the workload required to create a custom theme of high enough quality is simply not worth it. Some basic features I would like to have available in my forums are not currently possible with bbPress without considerable effort.

15 Comments


  1. bbPress is truly awesome and has taken (and wasted) much time of mine to integrate it wit my WordPress blog and get the permalinks going. I’m not saying it is not good, I really mean it’s awesome but maybe just a bit to young for me to use it.

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  2. It’s funny you should say that Kevin, because that’s one of the things I love most about bbPress. It’s new and young. The directions it goes in aren’t set, and there’s lots of room for people to jump in and take ownership with new features and ideas. The market for this type of thing with vBulletin or phpBB is just too saturated for most people to consider seriously.

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  3. I like the similarities with WordPress, which make it easier to modify templates, install plugins, etc if you’re a WordPress user.

    I agree it’s a little immature still and that makes me nervous. Cruise the bbPress forums and it seems plugin questions can go answered indefinitely.

    I thought the same about WordPress when it started though and used Pivot for quite a while before WP took the next step :)

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  4. @Will Anderson – It might be a good avenue for developers to jump in to the development but for average users (like, let’s say my classmates of non-geeks) won’t come to appreciate the beauty that we all know about the software, that’s why it doesn’t suits the requirements and expectations of my users (yet)

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  5. Ok, here is my summary: What makes a bbPress forum better in eyes of search engine?
    – proper use of headings
    – more semantic HTML, no layout-tables
    – pretty permalinks
    – trackbacks (sending or receiving or both? how do they help?)

    Is there something more? And is there any evidence about the impact of points 2, 3, 4 on page rating?

    Don’t get me wrong, just trying to have clear knowledge. I’m a user of bbPress too and like it, but I have doubts about being it a significantly better platform for SE.

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  6. @Peter Kahoun – Reversing the question. What makes any other forum software as good as bbPress? I can’t think of anything they do to match it.

    Sending trackbacks help as it automatically posts links to the forum on other sites. It’s like having a little automated spammer running around posting on random blogs, except those blogs are willingly allowing it since they’re legit trackbacks.

    Acquiring evidence of the effects of SEO is difficult and I doubt anyone has tried to quantify the difference between bbPress and any other forum softwares. However the SEO benefits of trackbacks, semantic HTML and pretty permalinks is well known so it seems reasonable to assume that bbPress will perform better than other software since it has these extra features available to it.

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  7. @Ryan

    hat makes any other forum software as good as bbPress?

    Nothing, they are already about the same… (We’re speaking about on-page SEO qualities.)

    Sending trackbacks help as it automatically posts links to the forum on other sites.

    …expecting they’re using bbPress (or WP blog) and they didn’t disable the feature. Other side most likely uses rel=nofollow on these links so their benefit for our ranks is… is?

    Acquiring evidence of the effects of SEO is difficult and I doubt anyone has tried to quantify the difference…

    Sure, I form my opinions by opinions of SEO experts, that is the kind of evidence I’d like to see.

    the SEO benefits of trackbacks, semantic HTML and pretty permalinks is well known

    IMO, they might be well believed by WP community, but I wouldn’t say that they are well known and I would say they are overrated. About the keywords in URL, well, these probably matter. But how much? http://www.seomoz.org/article/search-ranking-factors

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  8. @Peter Kahoun – I never said anything about how much these SEO benefits are worth, just that they are beneficial features which other forum softwares don’t have.

    Whether a backlink is nofollow or not is irrelevant to whether it is beneficial to have SEO wise or not. Non nofollow links are better, but nofollow links still have SEO benefits as it exposes your site to more people and hence are more likely to be linked to in the future. It’s an indirect SEO benefit.

    Most other forum software do not include good on page SEO optomisation in their default theme, bbPress does.

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  9. @Ryan – if you meant indirect influences on SEO, than you’re undoubtably right. I agree these features are worthy for user’s experience, for the success of the forum or for myriads of other aspects, but since you addressed the article on SEO benefits, I needed some explanation. Now I think I got it – your understanding of SEO is just wider than mine. Thanks.

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  10. @Conorp – Yeah, I’m wondering the same thing! It’s possible they have it turned off on bbPress.org I guess.

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