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The problem is- you can locate pages from this site easily when searching for the city name AND something else. But our ranking for the city name alone sucks. Like 50th or 60th.
I have read that the word "forum" can reduce a site's rankings. One meta tag analyzer calls it a "poison keyword."
Is there any truth to this?
Don't know how your forum is optimized, but common things to do are to unlink member profiles from everywhere except maybe the post. You don't want a crawler getting distracted crawling a member profile from the main page of the forum, or as in phpbb, the "view forum" oveview page (viewforum.php in phpbb). You want to unlink profiles from everywhere except perhaps from the actual post.
Remove links to all uneccessary pages. That means remove the link to the member list, remove the who is online link, and install an instant sitemap generator.
Also tweak it so that the title tag reflects the title of each post, then moderate those post titles so that they are meaningful. Rewrite all vague post titles. You should be looking for titles like, "HELP!" or "This was fun." Every post title that doesn't contain a meaningful phrase with a keyword in it is not going to help your traffic.
I completely agree with martinibuster, "forum" is not a poison word. Just look at WebmasterWorld for the proof.
And I have reviewed the sites that outrank me. Some are defunct businesses that haven't been updated in years. We have the most active board in town and a larger link directory too.
But searchers tend to look for something much more concrete and 2 and 3-word queries are much more common, AND generally produce some sort of transaction with the site (i.e. purchase a product). The 1-word searchers are generally just browsing for the moment.
I can't quote any studies right now, but over the last couple of years I've read a number of reports saying how people are getting search-engine savvy and are tending to use the longer searches.
Having said all that, generally speaking if you can rank for that 1-word, it means you're more than likely to rank for the longer searches as well. But if you're already doing that I wouldn't lose too much sleep over it.