Triphp’s Journey converting from vbulletin to xenforo 12th December 2011

While i do not usually document changes on any of our sites and after many of successful phpbb – vBulletin and vBulletin 3 to vBulletin 4 upgrades in terms of traffic increases and usability this time i have pondered as to whether i should take the leap of faith in a still very new xenforo.

Being someone that is hugely concerned with a sites performance in the search engines and with the majority of our sites solely being promoted via SEO and no other form of advertising it (with the exception of a couple of banners last month which brought next to no traffic )  has been somewhat of a big deal considering there is no proven results of how xenforo truly performs in an SEO sense.

From the outset Xenforo looked promising and being a bit of vBulletin “fanboy” in recent years because of my hatred of IPB and non commercial products for their inability to retain the same SEO standing as a vbulletin/VBSEO installation  it soon became apparent ( within hours ) that finally there maybe something to rival vbulletin .

So after that little bit of background this is probably the only time you will see me writing something on a step by step basis on  Journey with a full conversion of a sub Alexa 10k forum from vbulletin to Xenforo .

Triphp at this very moment current receives over just  240,000 impressions per month with a rough 50% of that traffic coming from the  blog and 50% coming from the forum. Currently Alexa Ranking of 9385 and i have also noted privately the current revenue the forum generates to be able to give a good comparison when i revisit this article in a couple of months time.

I will be converting vbulletin CMS which is split between subdomains, running xcache and vboptimise  to a wordpress platform integrated with xenforo .  The Current page speed according to Googles page speed tool  :

CMS : 81 (out of 100)
Forum : 81 (out of 100)

Now let’s get to the process from start to finish.

Image Borrowed from WireFresh.com

 

Creating a theme easy or not ?

Preparation of recreating our old Forum theme for xenforo was something i was dreading as a whole, not knowing what to expect and as stated before being a vbulletin junkie Skinning was something that came easy,  Again Xenforo has been  a breeze with only  one small issue with moving the visitor bar to a new location , but that was my fault for overlooking certain parts of code rather than a fault of anyone else’s.   Over all the theme although looks much like vbulletin and does eventually need a good over haul of the sites entire design i was happy with how it turned out.  It looks smoother than before and there is a feel of better functionality and usability about its suppleness.

Importing vBulletin retaining Userid’s , post and thread id’s

While I had some teething problems with not knowing that there was an unofficial vbulletin 4 importer which required a different installation and the fact i got this error : “Mysqli statement execute error : Duplicate entry ‘1’ for key ‘PRIMARY’  ”

This was because i was retaining importid’s i had failed to delete the test threads on the xenforo install which resulted in a couple of failed attempts to run the import,  I’m not sure whether  i was tired and totally over looked that it was written somewhere that this would happen or whether the documentation didn’t mentioned it and it was overlooked with the understanding that people would just know . Either way the support from the guys over the xenforo community soon gave me the hints i needed to guess what i had to do .  After those problems had been resolved the import was amazing , simple and pretty fast and best of all mostly automated . So far so good.

Redirection of old VBSEO Url’s to the new xenforo

This was a major point for me and most likely the single most important part of the whole upgrade as far as i was concerned.  Much to my surprise it was very easy Ive provided below some useful links to help things along including a link to the VB4 importer which isnt included in the default importer setup. These links are for normal vbulletin URL rewrites and for VBSEO ( which is what i had ) .

While i was using VBSEO and VBSEO’s rewrite rules i did have to manually enter around 40 category 301 redirects into the .htaccess , because there was no category id’s on my url and they were nice and clean with vbulletin for example : mydomain.com/my-catregory/ apparently there is no way to rewrite them as a whole so going through all of the categories was tedious to say the least.

However everything else was taken care of, all threads , posts, member pages absolutely everything was considered and for that it was extremely happy.  All in all im liking xenforo more and more as i use it.

Useful Links :

Installation of mod’s and plugins.

Although this isnt really relevant for anyone else i just wanted to say that although xenforo is pretty new still the plugin liberary or the amount of plugins available is quiet honestly fantastic,  without all the bloat and crap the plugins in installed were ones of which i consider a must have along with some custom modifications which we were using with VB which will remain nameless.  Here is the small selection of modifications i installed :

  • http://xenforo.com/community/threads/azucloud-long-tail-seo-cloud.8659/
  • http://xenforo.com/community/threads/xxsy-xenxero-syntax-highlighter.17393/
  • http://xenforo.com/community/threads/signatures-control-plugin-max-chars-max-links-max-lines.19277/
  • http://xenforo.com/community/threads/prevent-guests-users-from-using-proxies-at-your-forum.14394/
  • http://xenforo.com/community/threads/rike-old-thread-warning-require-user-to-tick-to-reply-to-old-threads.12019/
  • http://xenforo.com/community/threads/separate-sticky-and-normal-threads.15124/
  • http://xenforo.com/community/threads/splendidpoint-com-antispam-prevent-links-and-emails.18431/

Plus some custom mods.

 

Finalising and stabilising

Ive now been running the board for 2 days and all is well , the more and more i use xenforo the more likely i am to convert all of my forums to it,  the under laying factor will be if there is any traffic decrease and usability but obviously as stated above thats something we will revisit in 4 weeks from now and again in 8 weeks.  Of which time i will edit this post and retweet it.

Over the past couple of days i can honestly say its been a joy to work with such a well built script and although at times being extremely tired and not being able to figure something’s out i realise those hitches were my fault and no one elses lol.

One thing that did bug me a little was the inability to have an option to allow or disallow nofollow signature links,  As default xenforo is a nofollow signature link platform . If you want to have a “follow” xenforo signature forum like Triphp’s SEO forum then you will need to edit a core file,  this means the continued update and editing of this file every time xenforo has an update.  Im hoping there is a modification release for this soon or i will just have to get one made myself.    For those of you that wish to make this file edit i have done it below.

Edit this file:

library/XenForo/ViewPublic/Helper/Message.php

Find :

if ($options['signatureKey'] && isset($message[$options['signatureKey']]))
{
if ($options['showSignature'])
{
// note: signatures are always nofollow'd by default
$message[$options['signatureHtmlKey']] = new XenForo_BbCode_TextWrapper(
$message[$options['signatureKey']], $parser, array('lightBox' => false)
);
}
else
{
$message[$options['signatureHtmlKey']] = '';
}
}

Replace with :

if ($options['signatureKey'] && isset($message[$options['signatureKey']]))
{
if ($options['showSignature'])
{
// note: signatures are always nofollow'd by default
$message[$options['signatureHtmlKey']] = new XenForo_BbCode_TextWrapper(
$message[$options['signatureKey']], $parser, array('lightBox' => false, 'noFollowDefault' => false)
);
}
else
{
$message[$options['signatureHtmlKey']] = '';
}
}

Conclusion

LOVE IT………………I think i have rambled enough and i apologise for the long winded way of documenting this but as i stated before i NEVER write , im not very good at it and as a youngster i was considered dyslexic so creative writing doesn’t come easy to me ( although spell checks are my best friend :) )

Thanks for reading and ill see you all again in 4 weeks time for the update of stats.

Just for the record since upgrading the page Speeds as mentioned above have been great with the following :

CMS ( Now wordpress )  : 85 (out of 100)
Forum : 87 (out of 100)

 

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