Optimize the welcome message for the visitor and the search engine

welcomeIt is always a good idea to optimize a site primarily for a few main keywords that you are targeted for a search engine ranking, but at the same time implement strategies to get all your threads indexed so you can bring traffic to a forum through long tail searches. There are a number of on-page and off-page strategies that can be implemented to help with the search engine rankings (see SEO).

The search engine spiders or crawlers are not registered members of your forum, so they only see what visitors who are not logged in see. By default, the welcome text provided by forum software is not very optimized to provide the keywords that the search engines can use to determine the relevancy of your site to a particular keyword(s).

For example, the default welcome header for vBulletin is this:

If this is your first visit, be sure to check out the FAQ by clicking the link above. You may have to register before you can post: click the register link above to proceed. To start viewing messages, select the forum that you want to visit from the selection below.

What does that piece of text tell the search engines? As the content of forums is user generated, the rest of the text on a page that the search engines see may or may not be relevant to your targeted keyword(s). I use the opportunity to edit the welcome information is say something like:

Welcome to the keyword forums, for communication between keyword professionals about keyword and related topics.
You are currently viewing our keyword forum as a guest which gives you limited access to view all keyword discussions and access our other features. By joining our free global community of keyword and other interested people you will have access to post keyword topics (answer and ask questions), communicate privately with other members (PM), upload content, view attachments, receive a weekly email update of new discussions, and access many other special features. Registered users do not get displayed the advertisements in posted messages. Registration is fast, simple and absolutely free so please, join our global keyword community today!
If you have any problems with the registration process or your account login, please contact us.

The welcome message is aimed at converting the visitor to a member, but also has a liberal sprinkling of keywords to help the search engines determine relevancy of the page to the targeted keyword(s). It also serves the visitor well in that it makes it clear what the forum is about. How often have you visited a forum that has the generic welcome message and you have no idea what the forum is actually about? Do not forget that that search engines see what a visitor who is not logged in see. What does your site look like to them?

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