ColourOfSpring - 10:07 pm on Jun 12, 2013 (gmt 0)
I guess when looking for the right 'widget' to buy (failing 'word of mouth') I personally end up trying to find expert forums and see what the threads say. If this was 5 years ago, i'd say: 'you should start an expert community on that!' - now, pfff - noooo :)
hitchhiker, that is a good point you raise - high quality UGC *IS* word of mouth when a forum/blog/social platform is trustworthy enough (and I'm sure yours are). A niche forum with genuine contributors is a good proxy for offline word of mouth. If Google are hitting these communities then that's a real shame - a shame for Google's actual customers (searchers) - because they need a proxy to the offline "word of mouth" way of understanding the quality of a business or service. Maybe Google think they're good enough and might even see such communities as competition to Google? If a forum gets big enough and has enough content that it becomes a "Google-in-a-niche", might Google be afraid that they lose out in that niche? Kill the forum and people default back to Google.