Robert_Charlton - 10:39 pm on Sep 10, 2012 (gmt 0)
steerpikegg - I'm thinking that you're right about too much text on the home page, not only in stealing the rankings that you'd like for inner pages, but also by fuzzing up semantic signals sent by your navigation. I'm guessing also that you may have too many links from home, perhaps not well prioritized, which may be obscuring the inner pages by draining away too much of your available link juice.
Perhaps the only semantic signals clear enough for ranking come to Google from your home page. Check this out in the general serps by digging down into the Google results to see whether your internal pages are ranking further down. If so, how far down are they?
The site is a forum, so the organisation of content is very much like this one, probably with a similar number of links from the homepage too.
You can't do exactly what this forum, does, though, because this forum is a large enough gorilla that it will support more linking from home than most sites will.
Again, what's the percentage of links on your home page to individual threads, as opposed to links on your home page to your deeper nav structure? Linking to too many posts will drain the link juice available for the deeper posts. Similarly, how clearly organized are your categories?
Regarding custom search...
the homepage always ranks well above them in general serps, custom search is fine.
Is this true on all Google Custom Search Engines, or just the one that you've set up to search your specific site? To see what I'm getting at, take a look at this discussion...
Google "Custom Search" ranks my site normally, but not regular search?
Google CSEs have their own quirks, including not displaying Google Universal results. My guess is that these quirks aren't the problem, and that the problem is more likely your nav structure and home page content, but it's hard to be very precise without more description of what's going on.