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Forum Moderators: mademetop
Google picked up both because it followed the links. At one time I tried to duplicate the content of the info site on the chat site, dumb move. Google barfed. Now I have the content completely separated and it googs fine.
I have PR0 because I don't have a ton of content and I don't have incoming links that I know of really, so that doesn't apply, but I know this setup won't get you a penalty unless you duplicate content. (someone else will answer about redirect and asp)
(Just keep in mind what you want to do is make TWO clearly different sites with similar names, not ONE site with two similar names)
(edited to add P.S.)
As far as optimizing your forum: Yes, discussion forums can be indexed by search engines and good traffic generators. Without writing a tome on this, the key factors are usually friendly URLs (preferably static, definitely no SessionIDs) and good page titles. No submittal should be required if the forum home page is linked from other sites.
When we have a forum forum at WebmasterWorld, we'll have some of this knowledge collected in one place. In the meantime, check some of Alphawolf's recent experience here: [webmasterworld.com...]
I'm not sure why you would want to redirect traffic to get it recorded... I'd say whether you try to merge the sites in some manner depends on your business objectives. In the meantime, having relevant linkage between the sites probably makes sense. This will enable forum visitors to find your main site, and vice-versa. Don't overdo the cross linkage, and be sure to solicit independent links for both sites.