SEO Impact of Shutting Down & Redirecting Forums to Main Site

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Hi all,

I have a Wordpress site with Xenforo Forums on the same domain. The forums have over 200,000 threads and over 5,000,000 posts - they were once huge but have been dead for years. We've been debating to shut down the forums since they only account for 2% of traffic and are the most troublesome to host and maintain (98% traffic comes from the main site). On top of that, the forums were ported in 2017 from vBulletin to Xenforo, but it wasn't done properly and hundreds of thousands of 404 errors showed up in Google Search Console, new threads are barely getting indexed anymore etc.
Redirecting all forum URLs to a landing page on main site would fix hundreds of thousands of 404 errors in Google Search Console.

On the other hand, shutting down the forums would result in hundreds of thousands of new redirects and a lot of Google-indexed content disappearing. We'd redirect the /forums/ path to a new landing page on the main site to inform users of the shutdown (note: the forums are NOT hosted in a subdomain, they are on /forums/ path). I worry having this much content disappear would be a major red flag for Google and hurt our site rankings big time. So the worry is that it would mess up SEO beyond repair.

What are your insights on shutting down the forums from an SEO standpoint? Would it hurt the main site? And how would you go about doing it (e.g. 301 redirect to a landing page on main site)?
#forums #impact #main #redirecting #seo #shutting #site
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  • Profile picture of the author MikeFriedman
    Do the forum threads generate significant search engine traffic themselves? If so, you are likely to lose that traffic. And if they do, is the traffic worthwhile in the first place?
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  • Profile picture of the author DarkHydra
    Hi Mike, no the forums only bring in like 500 clicks from search engines per month and about 500 from direct traffic. There's only 1 post every 2-3 days now. Overall only 1000 of 500,000 pageviews are from forums (everything else comes from the main page).

    And the traffic is not worthwhile anymore (it used to be many years ago). The forums rank very poorly in Google. From my standpoint, it's time to shut them down, but I haven't because I fear Search Engines will hate when a lot of indexed content disappears all of the sudden and then hurt the rest of the domain. So I'm just keeping them running because of this uncertainty.
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    • Profile picture of the author MikeFriedman
      Originally Posted by DarkHydra View Post

      Hi Mike, no the forums only bring in like 500 clicks from search engines per month and about 500 from direct traffic. There's only 1 post every 2-3 days now. Overall only 1000 of 500,000 pageviews are from forums (everything else comes from the main page).

      And the traffic is not worthwhile anymore (it used to be many years ago). The forums rank very poorly in Google. From my standpoint, it's time to shut them down, but I haven't because I fear Search Engines will hate when a lot of indexed content disappears all of the sudden and then hurt the rest of the domain. So I'm just keeping them running because of this uncertainty.
      The only problem I see you having is that is a lot of internal links you are going to lose. I'm assuming each page of the forum has some sort of navigation that links to the main site. Maybe even some threads themselves have links in the comments linking to pages on the main site.

      Even though most of the links are probably very weak, it's still over 200,000 pages you are talking about. It adds up.

      That's where you might lose out.

      I think what I probably would do is shut down the forum a section or two at a time. Redirect that section to the main page or if you want to create a new landing page that says the forum is shutting down, do that.

      Then wait 2-3 weeks (or more) and see what impact it has overall. Nothing too bad, then shut down another section.

      Probably a safer approach than just axing the whole thing in one go.
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  • Profile picture of the author King Manu
    If you want to shut it down, just do it. Redirect all links to another page where you eventually explain the shut down for those that came for the forum.

    I don't see why that will have a negative impact on you, especially since that traffic doesn't account for much. If any, you might see positive things from fixing all those 404 errors.
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  • Profile picture of the author expmrb
    Since, your forum is getting only 2% traffic. If you want you can shut down the forum. Just do a redirect like this xyz.com/forums to xyz.com.


    As you are not changing any urls of the blog. I don't see why it is going to be effected.
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  • Profile picture of the author ruige hond
    Another option might be to export the forum so it becomes only static html pages under the same urls's as you have now. Use a script to insert a message / popover / what you fancy on each page telling the user the forum shut down and that they may browse the page but can't post and maybe not navigate. Then you keep the content. When you put a standard link to your homepage on each page the user can easily browse to your site, as can the spiders, and they know what they will find there. The static pages are easier to maintain / keep online than the forum.
    Another thing, where are the 404's coming from? Have the urls of the threads changed? In that case axing the forum might be better than keeping anything online. In that case I like MikeFriedmans solution (shut down per part).
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    • Profile picture of the author MikeFriedman
      Originally Posted by ruige hond View Post

      Another option might be to export the forum so it becomes only static html pages under the same urls's as you have now. Use a script to insert a message / popover / what you fancy on each page telling the user the forum shut down and that they may browse the page but can't post and maybe not navigate. Then you keep the content. When you put a standard link to your homepage on each page the user can easily browse to your site, as can the spiders, and they know what they will find there. The static pages are easier to maintain / keep online than the forum.
      Another thing, where are the 404's coming from? Have the urls of the threads changed? In that case axing the forum might be better than keeping anything online. In that case I like MikeFriedmans solution (shut down per part).

      Actually, I don't think you would need to export it to do that. Most forum platforms have options to turn off registrations and restrict posting. If you can't directly turn off posting, you can take away everyone's ability to post in the group permissions.

      That wouldn't be a bad option either.
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  • Profile picture of the author DarkHydra
    Many great suggestions here, thanks everyone for the input (and so quickly)!

    MikeFriedman made an important point about internal forum links to the main site being lost. We have 2 navigation links on each forum thread linking back to the main site. However, outside of the navigation bar (i.e. in forum posts) there would be very few direct links back to the homepage, it's mainly just the ones in the forum nav bar. It's also worth saying that Google Search Console shows over 370,000 URLs as not indexed (which almost all come from the forums). If they aren't indexed, then the internal forum links probably don't carry much (if any?) link juice anyway? I assume URLs that aren't indexed aren't considered for link juice?

    Why exactly Google hasn't indexed 370,000 URLs I don't understand exactly, but after the switch from vBulletin to Xenforo, Search Engines started to massively hate it and stopped indexing the forums for the most part.

    Originally Posted by ruige hond View Post

    Another thing, where are the 404's coming from? Have the urls of the threads changed? In that case axing the forum might be better than keeping anything online. In that case I like MikeFriedmans solution (shut down per part).
    The thread URLs changed but were 301 redirected and are working properly, those aren't the problem.

    There are 3 types of broken links that weren't redirected properly at the time:
    - Nagivation Links changed. For example, vBulletin used something like this to show 10 threads per page (for navigation purposes): forums/forumdisplay.php?f=176 --> because of the sheer number of threads there were tons of these ?f=### URLs, and they weren't redirected. Xenforo uses a different link layout for navigation.
    - Certain Tags were lost because Xenforo handles them differently
    - Old user profile links show errors, weren't redirected properly (but they didn't get relevant search traffic in the first place)

    Originally Posted by ruige hond View Post

    Another option might be to export the forum so it becomes only static html pages under the same urls's as you have now. Use a script to insert a message / popover / what you fancy on each page telling the user the forum shut down and that they may browse the page but can't post and maybe not navigate. Then you keep the content. When you put a standard link to your homepage on each page the user can easily browse to your site, as can the spiders, and they know what they will find there. The static pages are easier to maintain / keep online than the forum.
    Another thing, where are the 404's coming from? Have the urls of the threads changed? In that case axing the forum might be better than keeping anything online. In that case I like MikeFriedmans solution (shut down per part).
    I like the idea. Turning it into static HTML would also solve a lot of the hosting and database hassle. However, doing so would require new redirects also! Because the Xenforo URLs don't end in .html and it's my understanding that doing the above would lead to the .html URL ending. So would have to redirect every single forum URL, of which there are many.
    It would keep the content alive though, simplify hosting and reduce cost (cause right now the forums need their own dedicated database server, which we could do without when turning it into static HTML).

    Originally Posted by MikeFriedman View Post

    Actually, I don't think you would need to export it to do that. Most forum platforms have options to turn off registrations and restrict posting. If you can't directly turn off posting, you can take away everyone's ability to post in the group permissions.

    That wouldn't be a bad option either.
    Just turning off registration won't solve the key problems in my case, that being the forums costing more to host than they make and the index/404 problems they present. They run on a dedicated database server right now, just to host all that stuff which nobody looks at anymore. So far I like the idea of shutting them down section by section best to measure the SEO impact.


    ...Still if more of you have insight or experience how massive numbers of redirects to a new landing page can affect SEO of the overall domain, please share your thoughts!
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  • Profile picture of the author expmrb
    Changing a script platform will create some 404's. Forums often contains tons of urls and pages you cannot redirect all of them.


    And if you are so worried about the SEO impact then just do what Mike suggested cut of piece by piece. Before doing that you can make the forum only read-only and restrict new registrations & new posts.
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    • Profile picture of the author DarkHydra
      Originally Posted by expmrb View Post

      Changing a script platform will create some 404's. Forums often contains tons of urls and pages you cannot redirect all of them.


      And if you are so worried about the SEO impact then just do what Mike suggested cut of piece by piece. Before doing that you can make the forum only read-only and restrict new registrations & new posts.
      Yeah I think starting with shutting down user registrations will be best and then putting a warning banner to inform the remaining users about a shutdown in x-number of weeks. Then shutting down 1-2 sections every couple weeks. I think all in all, that's the most careful approach and then I can keep track how it affects rankings. Though I have a feeling short term Google may not like this very much (lots of already indexed content disappearing to a redirected landing page), will take a while to see long-term effects.
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      • Profile picture of the author expmrb
        Originally Posted by DarkHydra View Post

        Yeah I think starting with shutting down user registrations will be best and then putting a warning banner to inform the remaining users about a shutdown in x-number of weeks. Then shutting down 1-2 sections every couple weeks. I think all in all, that's the most careful approach and then I can keep track how it affects rankings. Though I have a feeling short term Google may not like this very much (lots of already indexed content disappearing to a redirected landing page), will take a while to see long-term effects.

        Yeah, take it slow. Its just like breaking up with somebody who is very very weepy.


        And keep us informed.
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  • Profile picture of the author aartich
    This type of problem has happened with many forums sites. Suddenly many forums submission sites have been closed. All the links are moved to the home page. So can anybody tell about this?
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    • Profile picture of the author MikeFriedman
      Originally Posted by aartich View Post

      This type of problem has happened with many forums sites. Suddenly many forums submission sites have been closed. All the links are moved to the home page. So can anybody tell about this?
      WTF are you talking about?

      Did you even read the thread or were you just in such a hurry to try to get your post count up that you threw out this nonsense without thinking?
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