Rome wasn't built in a day, as the saying goes, so I wasn't expecting immediate results. However a pleasant surprise is always a good thing, so I was delighted to see how quickly some of the issues were getting resolved.
The most obvious area that needed attention was the forum's content itself. There was a LOT of spammy junk, which caused two problems:
- It was being indexed by Google et al, so the site was appearing in the results for search queries that genuinely alarmed me
- The content had put off new and existing members from hanging around
I'd love to say that I've managed to remove all the spam posts, but I know there are probably plenty of them still lurking (though searching for certain keywords isn't turning up much these days).
Vbulletin's plugin and permissions allows you to customise a site to your heart's content, so I've added a few plugins and settings that mitigate spammer activity. For example, users cannot post external links until they've got a post count of 15. The same kind of logic is applied to signatures ie. the links / tagline below someone's post.
Another thing that needed to be addressed was the site's visible focus, so some of the sections have been either removed entirely or moved around a bit ie. topics that are not related to the site's core topic have been moved to the "off topic" area.
VBSeo's tools definitely help in deciding which areas of content you want to optimise and which areas you want to "devalue", so ignoring the "member profile" pages seems to be a good idea (some of the member names are barely "safe for work" at the moment!)
Measuring progress isn't that easy, but there are a few tools that help. So I've spending a lot of time poring over the Google Webmaster Tools console, as well as checking Analytics.
What is interesting to see is the significant jump in GoogleBot activity (click to enlarge):
While bot activity can be quite meaningless in isolation, when you compare it with the previous levels it's very interesting. (To me at least, I wouldn't expect everyone else to be this fascinated by it!). One of the conclusions I've drawn, which may or may not be realistic, is that the site's new hosting helps ie. it's the only site on that particular server and the server itself has very good connectivity.
Unfortunately I don't have enough web statistics data to work with as yet, but I did notice that the site now has a Google Page Rank score, which it didn't have a short time ago.
James, from the excellent Forbairt Media , has been tweaking the site's layout, so it's now a lot simpler to look at and hopefully more pleasing to the eye.
Of course it's very early days yet, so I expect it will take a lot longer to see any real jump in visitor levels and member activity. Thankfully several people who read my original post on this have been kind enough to join and "get the ball rolling", which is fantastic and is much appreciated.
Let's see how it goes from here ...