I’ve always been aware of how important having clear and properly defined html is, even at university we got into the habit of continuously leaving comments on code to help you understand your html better. Meta Descriptions & Page Titles can be an obvious oversight but might be one of the reason why i’m having an issue with Google’s definitions of my forum.
For a long time, i’ve been curious as to why Google has used these particular links when you Google ‘The Sapling Forums’:
The descriptions do not match at all, and seem to be completely random. The off-topic discussion description is for the log in screen and the shop description is for the ‘playing online’ category. In fact, at one point, they even decided to use an error page as one of the links! SEO for Growth has reminded me of how important proper meta descriptions are, and how they help search engine’s locate and proper describe your content. Page titles usually form the blue text link in the search engine and meta descriptions the test underneath. I believe my page titles are mostly up to date, however I am going to add proper meta descriptions and see if this solves Google’s haphazard labelling system.
What might seem somewhat outdated, is still wholly important. Keywords are an important factor of your on page SEO. When people search, they are usually using a few keywords or even a single word. The type of keywords can help search engines find and pick out your content quickly.
I came across a website called Semalt which gives you useful information into your website statistics and tracks your website ranking in Google. In particular, it listed various keywords people had used when they found my forum and listed them in terms of popularity. It is good to see that most common expected terms are the ones that find my forum the most such as ‘animal crossing forums’ but it’s interesting to see some of the more unique searches which link to my forum. Utilising this data I can focus more on the top pages and provide content focused to this.
Crazy Egg is a website tool which helps track mouse-movements and gives you insight into where most of your users are clicking on your page. It also provides great insight into what parts of your pages people are most viewing in the form of a scrollmap.
For clarification, the scale goes from red having the most activity and blue having the least activity, yellow/green being mid range.
Most users are staying ‘above the fold‘ and activity steadily decreases as you scroll down. However, unlike the image above shows, there is a section below the blue which is coloured green indicating alot of people are staying at the top, but also skipping to mid way. For a forum this is very useful because it shows me which sections people are most interested in.
With this in mind, I decided to simplify my forum so most of the sections can be seen at a glance. I put all sections up on the chopping board and worked out which ones I could merge into other sections, which ones were redundant and which could become sub forums. Combining all the sections was one of the best decision I could of done even though I was reluctant at first. It is not only tidier and easier to navigate but each section looks alot more lively now the threads totals are merged. It’s also much easier to manage!
Next up is the heatmap, this shows specifically which parts of the page people are clicking on.
What I noticed first was that most people were using the navigation bar at the top alot. People have adapted to find the quickest and easiest way to navigate a website/forum and tend to look for key points when learning a new website. It was nice to see that alot of the key functionality was being noticed such as using the short cuts, hovering over the animated spinning staff pictures, clicking the category headers to minimise the sections.
Crazy Egg has been extremely useful in helping me learn the best way to cater my forum to visitors and I wholeheartedly recommend it if you want to make your website more efficient!
In my post on ‘what is SEO‘ , I talked a little about affiliation. Affiliation has always been something young forums/websites can use as a ‘you scratch my back, i’ll scratch yours’ kind of thing. Both websites link to each other through a url link (or button as commonly seen on forums) in an attempt to bolster both their traffic.
In my recent studies i’ve read that the quality of your back links is more important than the quantity. With this in mind, i’ve been reaching out to well established websites/forums in an attempt to increase the activity on my forum. I must of sent about 20 requests by email or forum message and not all got back to me but the ones that did were all super friendly and had alot to offer (it pays to ask!).
Naming a few, MFGG is a strong established mario fansite with alot of traffic and have agreed to add my button and Nintendo Castle who have added a url link, publish nintendo news quite frequently. I’ve made sure to only request affiliation with video game websites or forums which have a similar theme to mine (nintendo or animal crossing based). Unfortunately, there isn’t much active animal crossing forums out there so I had to look outside the gates a little!
In particular I was thinking, who could I affiliate with that could benefit my members with new features? I asked alot of the affiliates if they wanted to host events and alot of them seemed quite keen but when I reached out to MoriDB’s animal crossing database I received an unexpected response. The owner was willing to send us their ENTIRE database!
In return we’ve given them a large advertising space permanently in the affiliates section of our forum. With this data and with help, I will be adding a huge animal crossing database on site which users can use any time.
Another passage from my studies mentioned that alot of top sites have a feature which allows users to search for content, so with some hope, this will encourage users to stay on our forum and participate more!
The Sapling Forums is an animal crossing forum I created in 2014 and has since become a lifelong project/community for me to maintain. When I was around 12-13 I developed a passion for creating forum communities and video game websites. I learnt how to code minor html so I could edit specific parts of templates and how to use graphic software such as adobe photoshop so I could produce graphics to match.
Since I left secondary school, university had taken up most of my time and my old projects faded away. In 2014, I wanted to re-ignite my passion for web content and hosting communities so I decided to create a forum based on one of my favourite video game series of all time, animal crossing!
A little history, it started in 2014 with zetaboard’s free hosting service and I slowly modified the template, added new sections, produced events and built up a small following. First of all I wanted to create a name which linked to nature, represented growth and was relevant to animal crossing. I created the name, ‘The Sapling’ (a tree sprout you can buy in the game) and purchased the domain ‘www.thesaplingforums.com‘.
I was paying for ad removal and eventually it become quite costly due to the traffic, so later in January 2016 after alot of hesitation, I moved to proboards and basically had to restart along with all the people who were loyal enough to rejoin. I still pay for ad removal, albeit not that much at all (possibly might have to consider moving to a paid forum hoster eventually).
Overtime I developed it into a great looking unique forum and have optimised it to the point where it shows on the first page of google when you type ‘animal crossing forum’. There aren’t much active animal crossing forums out there currently so there is a good market for this. To increase awareness, i’ve also recently created a facebook page and discord channel so people can easily keep up with news from the forum.
What started as hobby has overtime turned into an actual project and now I take it very seriously! I hope one day it becomes a massive thriving community and I will be using it as a medium for testing my SEO knowledge along the way.