Yes, it is possible and it happened to me several times. Google does not send a message about every single penalty. For instance, once without knowing it one of my website provided a different content to googleBot and to the user, the incoming traffic sharply decreased in google search console. There were no messages in “manual actions”. I didn’t receive any emails from Google. Once I fixed the problem the traffic started to increase again.
Another time, I had many duplicate titles on a website. I could see that Google search console displayed “errors” in the HTML improvements section. However, I didn’t receive a message or I didn’t see a notification in Google search console.
That’s why it makes it difficult to investigate the root cause of a google penalty. Furthermore, webmasters should really carefully look into everything that could cause a drop of traffic coming from Google.
First of all, we bought Avalanche a phpBB 3 premium theme.
The theme looked good until we discovered that all the buttons to modify a post, delete a post, report a post or quote a post disappeared and it was not possible to modify, delete or report a post.
With bulletin, we had an issue when we wanted to modify the color of different items that were originally apple green. There were a customizer to change the color and it downloaded a small CSS file to our computer. In the code of the theme, it was mentioned that we could upload a custom.css. So we pasted the code in the custom.css where it was mentioned in the code. Unfortunately, it didn’t work. Then, we added important to every CSS directives and it was a mess because we could not read the fonts anymore.
I have ended buying the Milk phpBB3 theme from themeforest which works well and give the opportunity to modify the theme without CSS.
Interestingly enough I have spent a total of $111 US dollars buying themes for phpBB which could have been equal to a Xenforo license in 2017.
First of all, I felt very enthousiast when I discovered those services. I extensively used lastpass on every browsers on my mac and PC. Then, once I had a red banner from lastpass as it didn’t successfully connected to its server.
Then, at some point, I understood there could be a big danger, because I understood that a hacker could steal all my passwords in one-go if he had access to my Lastpass account. So, I started to trust it less. Do you imagine just for one moment, what would happen if a lastpass server was hacked? It would be a proper disaster because we don’t talk about alleged sweet hacking from twitter accounts but access to all your websites where you have an account. It is huge.
A page load problem:
Then, I discovered that the extension slowed down the page load in chrome. So, at that point, I told myself. Ok, now it is over.
If lastpass slows down the page load just by 1 second, it is not interesting to install a plugin that will slow down your page load. Don’t get me wrong, the lastpass issue generated a downtime that exceeded 1 second. It went up to total freezing. So, I thought that it was not acceptable to use such a plugin because I am a webmaster and when I test my websites, I don’t want to believe that they load slowly when it is in fact the lastpass extension of chrome that slows them down.
Subdirectories not supported:
I discovered that LastPass didn’t support multiple websites in directories. In fact, LastPass suggests the password from the parent website when someone tries to login to a subdomain.
I have uninstalled the extensions.
Since the risk related to hacking is too big, I have decided I would not take another service like this one.
In other words, WordPress plugins are almighty. Consequently, any WordPress plugins can get your website penalized. They can hide content from Googlebot without you being aware of it. For instance, GoogleBot may not be able to see images and text because of a plugin.
They can add hidden links on your web pages. The links can be in a form, at the bottom of your web pages.
They can block access to some of your webpages thanks to googlebot or by adding a robot meta tag to your webpages, a directive to your robots.txt or even a X-Robots-Tag to http headers. Check this page from google about it.
Also, they may slow down the page load of some pages without you being aware of it.
When you start with your free forum software, you already have to keep in mind that you could move to Vbulletin, Xenforo someday.
Be prepared with redirections:
All your old pages will require pointing to new pages URLs in the new forum software. This will require redirection directives. It is easy because there are plenty of tutorials to add the right directives in HTACCESS to automatically redirect the URL of your old forums and threads to the new ones.Here is an example of a tutorial from phpBB 3 to Woltlab forum.
However, you can face a major problem. That’s when a webmaster has decided to install an SEO friendly plugin on phpBB, myBB or SMF. In this case, I haven’t found any resources about redirections. On the other hand, if you decide not to install an SEO friendly plugin, I think that your forum threads will not rank as well as if they had SEO friendly URLs.
In this case, you will have to have many directives in the htaccess file that map the old URLs to the new ones like:
It is going to be really difficult. It is feasible but the mapping may not always work. It is possible to find a SEO software and mass extract the urls, then import it into excel and then add redirect 301 to it. Then, it is possible to paste the new URls however, it is going to be a very hard job. I have found that many webmasters just sacrificed the link juice they received. They just moved to a paid forum software, the URLs were different and the old URLs were dead. This leads to a big loss of pagerank & Google juice.
That’s why the best solution would be to avoid installing a SEO friendly plugin.
Be prepared for exporting your old forum:
In the paid forum softwares, you can find import modules that allow you to import forums. This module usually import all the members, the categories, the forums, the threads into the new forum software.
This issues explain why it is better to start with a paid forum software rather than a free forum software. Don’t forget that all the paid forum softwares come with all the features by default. For instance, the SEO friendly URLs is a default feature of Vbulletin, Woltlab, Xenforo.
Install phpBB, SMF or myBB. Don’t install SEO friendly plugins. and check if you will able to import it into a paid forum software like XenForo, Vbulletin or Woltlab. Once you know, be ready
Create a second directory and upload the paid forum software to it.
Import the content of your old forum to the new forum using the importer provided by the paid forum software.
Create a redirection from the old page URLs of the old forums to the new page URLs of the new forums.
Delete the content from the old forums but keep the htaccess config file in place.
Many of them modify your htaccess file: You may not aware of it but many cache plugins of WordPress modify your htaccess without warning you about it. We never know the consequences of modifying htaccess.
They modify the HTTP headers response of your files: The http headers are meta information about your page. Example of HTTP headers:
Incompatibility with many plugins: We have found that many cache plugins aren’t compatible with many plugins. It can generate 500 server errors for some web pages and you may not aware of it because the homepage is working well.
As you can see, using a cache plugin in WordPress has many consequences.
Don’t listen to the hype when people tell you to install a cache plugin to speed up your WordPress installation. For instance, if you have a WordPress installation in Hungarian, you don’t need a cache to speed up your WordPress installation as your visitors are close-by.
In order to know it, identify the day before the start of the traffic drop in Google search console or Google analytics. Here we can see a Google traffic drop on the 18th of September 2017.
1. Take a look at the date of your WordPress plugins
Open your favorite FTP application and go to the “/wp-content/plugins” folder. Sort the folders by date just like on the picture below. As you can see below, a WordPress plugin has been installed on this very same day (18th of september). It was the wp fastest cache plugin. We decided to delete it right away.
2. Other plugins prior to the traffic drop
Then, I took a look at the plugins that have been installed just before the date of the Google traffic drop. That’s the ones that you should disable in priority. This technique will prevent you to disable all WordPress plugins.
3. Some plugins don’t change your website code
Take a look at the remaining installations, several WordPress plugins have no consequences on your webpage’s code. Here, on the picture above, it is the case of “search and replace” and also “broken link checker”.
4. Take a look at the WordPress plugins that have been modified
Some WordPress plugins installed before the traffic dropped may have been modified. It would important to investigate the modifications. In my case, there were no significant modifications done.
Here is a list of companies that can send you money using the bank details from the global payment tab of a Payoneer account on their website. The companies don’t require the additional procedure of due diligence from the money sender. I have only listed companies that aren’t a scam and that really send money. The goal of this list is to help people to make money online.
123RFlimited (image database)
99Designs (image database)
Amazon UK, USA, France, Germany, Spain (Affiliate program)
Dreamstime (image database)
Envato market (themeforest, codecanyon)
Fiverr (small jobs)
Guru (freelance jobs))
Istock (image database)
Taboola (ad network)
Upwork (freelance jobs)
If you know other companies that are pre-authorized by Payoneer global payment service please write a comment.
We have extensively tested phpbb, myBB and SMF. We faced many issues that are not
Some default themes of free forum platforms are not responsive:
We found that the myBB and SMF default themes were no responsive so that it was even not an option to start with a default theme of myBB or SMF.
Many broken themes of free internet forum softwares:
We bought myBB and SMF themes. We faced many issues with free and paid themes. Sometimes some links of buttons (login, search) were missing. Sometimes, the responsive theme looked messy. Sometimes, the toolbar of post editing was missing.
We also bought phpBB themes from themeforest. One was called bulletin. We had to use display: none to hide a big content. We don’t like to use display:none for SEO reasons. Then, we wanted to change the colors of the themes and we added it to the custom.css file. After purging the cache and adding !important it still didn’t work. That’s the type of issue you never face with paid forum softwares.
Bad themes of free forum platforms for SEO and readability:
We saw that plenty of themes from free internet forum softwares that were not designed with SEO and readability in mind. For instance, there are plenty of SMF themes and phpBB themes with a header that is around 300px. It is just too much. On the other hand, when you look at Vbulletin, Xenforo, woltlab forums you can see that valuable information is displayed right from the top.
Upgrades from free forum softwares are dangerous:
Due to how the theme’s files are integrated into the internet forum softwares and since plugins are necessary to get important features, updates can break phpBB, myBB, SMF installations. Themes and plugins may not be compatible after an upgrade. We witnessed this issue with myBB themes. We also witnessed this issue with phpBB and myBB plugins.
Missing features and mandatory plugin installations:
We found no free internet softwares with SEO friendly URLs. This always required the installation of a plugin to get the title of a thread as keywords in the URL. Additionally, many plugins aren’t maintained by developers. It means many of phpBB, myBB, SMF plugins don’t work.
Also, things that seem obvious on every single forum isn’t already provided by a free internet forum installation. It is the case for the User karma system (also called reputation system) that is no embedded in the phpBB default installation. The nofollow features aren’t installed by default on phpBB, myBB or SMF. In other words, when you install phpBB or SMF, all the URL in the posts are dofollow. This will attracts spammers.
Paid forum softwares are ready out of the box:
I have found that Xenforo, Woltlab, and Vbulletin were ready to be used out of the box without looking for a responsive reliable theme, modifying CSS, adding plugins, changing colors. This tremendously speeds up your forum installation project because you don’t need to spend hours to look for plugins, installation of plugins, coding.
Think about the future migration
I have noticed that many internet forum webmasters moved their forums to XenForo. There is an import module in XenForo. However, URL redirection needs to be in place and it looks like it is still complicated today. To write this article I have browsed the internet and looked at the forum softwares of major forum websites and I have discovered that most of them use Vbulletin. Then, I think the most common free forum installation is phpBB but I also noticed that nobody install the mod to turn the phpBB urls into SEO friendly URLs.
The free forum platforms like phpbb, mybb, smf aren’t as reliable as Xenforo, Vbulletin among others.
Free forum softwares and the many theme issues
I have downloaded SMF, MyBB and phpBB. For sure, the default themes don’t look appealing. So, I have decided to look for themes. First of all, I have discovered that many themes were not compatible with my version of SMF and myBB. Then, I have discovered that many themes were incomplete. I have witnessed issues with phpBB, myBB and SMF themes such as links that didn’t work, text fields that opened partially, toolbars of edit page that didn’t show.
I have bought a theme called flatOne for myBB and I discovered that the login link and the search link didn’t work. However, it was a premium theme and I paid $30 for it. Then, I have discovered it was very difficult to modify a theme in myBB. I wanted to buy a theme to use it on several websites. I have bought several premium themes for myBB and none of theme suited my needs.
On the other hand, the themes of Vbulletin and Xenforo look professional and they are reliable out of the box. Nothing is broken.
On one forum, I have discovered that theme authors didn’t use to maintain their themes. I have found a thread of someone complaining that a theme footer was broken since several years!
At the end, the amount of money that I have to spend in buying premium themes for free internet
Free themes from free forum softwares aren’t responsive
I have found that the default themes of myBB and SMF were not responsive. Then, I have discovered that many free themes that were advertised as being “responsive” were barely responsive as they looked messy when I visited the forum from a mobile phone. Items were not aligned. Titles were not at the right location. By the way, if you test a forum, don’t use a mobile phone simulation, use a smartphone to see how it looks like.
By the way, if you test a forum, don’t use a mobile phone simulation, use a smartphone to see how it looks like.
On the other hand, all the paid internet forum softwares are perfectly displayed on mobile phones and tablets.
Free Internet forum softwares and SEO:
On the developers’ forums from SMF, myBB and phpBB no one is interested in implementing friendly URLs into their internet forum software. So, they want to keep URLs looking like: /viewforum.php?f=2&sid=6793ae5b47125325d08772c73d628200 which is a URL from phpBB 3.21
If you want a friendly URL for your free internet forum you have to download a plugin.
On the other hand, friendly URLs are default features of Xenforo, Vbulletin, and other paid internet forums.
If you can afford it, It is advised to buy a serious forum platform like Xenforo, Vbulletin because you will save time building up your forum and its template. Also, you will get a reliable solution and you will not need to install any plugins.
If you opt for free internet forum platforms, I would suggest sticking to the default theme and develop your own theme if your community gets bigger.