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Is Google Increasingly Penalizing or Favouring Forums?

     
12:28 pm on Feb 9, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Once it was directories, then blogs, now forums... maybe.

I have no empirical evidence for this, but it seems to me that Google is increasingly returning results from forum posts.

Once upon a time, it might have been argued that forums were seen as less important to Google. Indeed, many forum owners complained that their software was not being indexed properly - or threads were being relegated to the supplemental index.

Now, not only are forums seemingly indexed more frequently - and with date specific [webmasterworld.com] information - but, it appears that they may be increasingly valued in the SERPs.

I have noticed this increasingly when searching for technical, or troubleshooting tips.

Now, whether this is an algorithmic thing, or simply a result of forums becoming a more popular medium for the dissemination of up to date information, or both - who knows? On the other hand, I may just be imagining it all?

1:42 pm on Feb 9, 2009 (gmt 0)

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I don't think there's any particular favouring of forums by Google. However I wouldn't be surprised if forums show up more than they did previously - because of greater usage, but also because forum developers are increasingly aware of the barriers to indexing and ranking that accompany forum software. It wasn't so long ago that most forum software was practically uncrawlable out of the box.

It may also be a visibility thing - forums now get the tags in results and so are a bit more noticeable.

1:54 pm on Feb 9, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Google News Publishers Help
[webmasterworld.com...]

I wonder if Google Search uses any of the rules from Google News?

Technical Requirements: Forum URLs
Google News is unable to include articles that are set up as posts or threads. For example, if a URL contains specifically one of these following substrings, then it will not be crawled:
  • /board/ or /boards/
  • /forum/ or /forums/
  • /messageboard
  • /showthread
  • ?threadid= or &threaded

Please keep in mind that we're unable to include sites that don't have a formal editorial review process.

But the above would negate what you are saying. Unless of course you don't see any of the above substrings in your results set?

On a side note, I am now getting Google Alerts for my posts at WebmasterWorld. I didn't get those before. Is this Google favoring forums or did Brett make a change?

2:43 pm on Feb 9, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Those strings are to identify forums, p1r, but then, the tagging of forum pages in SERPs proves that Google is capable of much better identification based on page content, rather than URL.

I've always had alerts for WebmasterWorld usernames, incidentally.

7:47 pm on Feb 9, 2009 (gmt 0)

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It is normal for Google to favor forum threads for certain queries. Naturally websites do not optimize themselves for long-tail queries that forums are automatically optimized for by way of user-generated content.
1:21 pm on Feb 10, 2009 (gmt 0)

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that GNews documentation refers to a different search vertical.

Google News:
[news.google.com...]

1:38 pm on Feb 10, 2009 (gmt 0)

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I have noticed this increasingly when searching for technical, or troubleshooting tips.

This kind of topics/queries are mostly made on forums and not on CMS/portals.

1:58 pm on Feb 10, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Since Google clearly devalued links from blogs last year, they devalued forums as well. It has been my experience that most inbound links on forums come from blogs. The top 30 forums last year all lost 1 to 2 pr points on the green fairy dust bar.
3:19 pm on Feb 10, 2009 (gmt 0)

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I think that the recent increased appearance of forum and blog posts in the search results may be due in some part to Google giving more weight or scope to the Minty Fresh index. I've seen a recent rash of webmasters who are reporting such documents appearing briefly in the SERPs immediately after posting, only to disappear completely (ie. not indexed at all) a few days later. I believe that these documents are getting indexed in Minty Fresh, ranking and then expiring before they get into the main index.
11:55 pm on Feb 10, 2009 (gmt 0)

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I've been bounced from my #1 spot for a few phrases by forum threads. Previously I ranked #1 for "City X Widget Stores." Now I find a forum thread about widget stores in City X.

I figure that as the forum thread fades into history I'll likely regain my #1 position.

3:21 am on Feb 11, 2009 (gmt 0)

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when I do a search for our site the forums are first to show and the store is last. Barely any our of store pages show too, mostly the forums.
6:34 am on Feb 11, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Our forum does not come in all that high on the common keywords for us, but because so many things are discussed there, it shows up pretty high on a lot of the more technical keywords.

We don't get a ton of hits from it, but it costs us like 2-3 hours a week and a few bucks a month. And the hits we do get translate into sales at a pretty high rate.

11:07 am on Feb 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

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We've also seen a dramatic improvement in traffic in the new year. This could have been a combination of things,

1) Rewrites of all forum urls
2) Addition of meta description
3) Addition of H1 Tags on all forum threads
4) Nofollowing unnecessay internal urls such as profile pages
5) Nofollowing external links

This led to an increase of average new members registrations from 150 to 250 a day.

Each visitor contributes at least 1 post (free advice) and because there are experts responding, we're getting on average approx 400-500 new posts (fresh targeted niche content)that Google has to spider.

Not sure if that had to do with Google being kinder or with what we did to optimise the forum. I suspect its the former. But I'm not complaining either way!

3:10 pm on Feb 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

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A few months ago I noticed that Google News was showing forum results for a niche sport that I follow. It was there for several weeks/maybe months, and now no longer shows up. Kinda strange.
7:14 pm on Feb 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

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i am not sure if this is a particularly new finding; i have always seen forum threads rank competitively. i originally found WebmasterWorld through google.
7:21 pm on Feb 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Many of our forum threads appear high up in Google rankings, the traffic is nice for brand name recognition, but they rarely convert in to sales.
7:29 pm on Feb 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

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On my forums I do get some good traffic for threads posted in my off-topic and tech-help sections, none of which are any bit related to my main forum topic, nore to any seo work other than ensuring the design of the forum is seo friendly (no-follows,h1's, etc)

A friend of mine achieved a similar result with a topic on his forum discussing a "scam company" before the company turned out to be a scam, so the thread url had around 2 weeks age compared to all the news sites discussing this scam (it made the national news) and for the duration it ranked top 1,2 for search queries for the companies name.

7:34 pm on Feb 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

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My forum, which i use as a CMS mostly is ranking well in google, as well as the images in google images. Hard to tell over time though if its getting better.
11:01 pm on Feb 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Is Google Increasingly Favoring Forums?

I will say that I recently installed a forum and it is less than 2-3 weeks old. Almost every thread that I post got some google traffic. (little traffic, less than 15 visitors/day) but still good for a new site. I have a few decent backlinks... from 2 popular .com's and one .edu site.

Since I am new to the forum business Im not sure how much traffic to expect. But so far so good. Ill get back to you in a year :)

11:41 pm on Feb 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

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forums and blogs, messageboards/bulletinboards (i.e.forums) are becoming the focus of big companies who sell market research to other big companies

people come out here and scour messages all day - a lot of the stuff we users write... ends up in spreadsheets and then sold on to companies as valuable market data to help them work out what to sell us, what we don't like, what we do, etc

it's big business

1:17 am on Feb 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Has anyone noticed whether the 'favoured threads' are from 'nofollow' forums, or Google ain't so fussed?
6:09 am on Feb 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

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I have a vbulletin with vbseo making the url's friendly. Recently an old but still contributed to thread went from page 3/4 to number 3 (page 1) in the SERPs for the name of the company someone was warning about "Avoid (this company) - warning!" Two days ago that company started bleating on to me about legal action (I replied I would simply take the thread, stick it on blogspot, redirect to it and expand upon it if they tried). I have not seen my pixie green meter go down as Brett has suggested might apply to forums.
9:26 am on Feb 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

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I replied I would simply take the thread, stick it on blogspot, redirect to it and expand upon it if they tried

Nice one! A friend tells me that confiding you have web sites based in Bulgaria and Albania is useful - but apparently nothing beats saying you have a site in China. Lawyers are paralysed - from the neck up, as usual ;)

9:45 am on Feb 16, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Blog Spam..Next authorative source..old forums. Seems like a reaction I'd apply.
2:54 pm on Feb 16, 2009 (gmt 0)

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We are going to notice forum results in the SERPs more often simply because of the new special tagging they get. There could actually be less forum results but we're going to notice them a lot more often now.

Whenever Google adds the "blog" tag (whatever form that takes) next to any blog result, then we'll think there's more of those, too. Human nature. ;)

3:50 pm on Feb 16, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Technical Requirements: Forum URLs
Google News is unable to include articles that are set up as posts or threads. For example, if a URL contains specifically one of these following substrings, then it will not be crawled:

  • /board/ or /boards/
  • /forum/ or /forums/
  • /messageboard
  • /showthread
  • ?threadid= or &threaded

Please keep in mind that we're unable to include sites that don't have a formal editorial review process.

I think for any forum to perform, it must first pass the above criteria. For those of you seeing these forums being increasingly favoured by Google, do you see the above strings in the URIs?

I do believe that footprints are going to keep a lot of forums from being included in this favouring effect being reported. I don't really see it and I perform searches all day, every day that would usually bring up forums. Truthfully? WebmasterWorld is usually the one I find in the top results. I wonder why that is?

  • Trust
  • Tenure
  • Reputable
  • Moderated
  • Pre-Moderated
  • Discussion Quality

^ The Pyramid of Forum Success

I wouldn't expect that many forum topics to start flooding the SERPs. Not unless Google is testing something and slipped in the process, they do it all the time. ;)

9:27 pm on Feb 16, 2009 (gmt 0)

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So I'm guessing everyone's going to build forums now. I had one on one of my sites which I removed cause it wasn't getting much attention at all, but maybe the software has improved since then, I never had the chance to tweak it much. We'll see. Interesting topic.

[edited by: CWebguy at 9:27 pm (utc) on Feb. 16, 2009]

10:27 pm on Feb 16, 2009 (gmt 0)

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Hang on, those requirements are for Google news, which is a good policy, they can't include any news on their site that doesn't have an editorial policy.

Having forums appear int eh serps is a totally different matter ....

12:39 am on Feb 17, 2009 (gmt 0)

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One thing that is different about Google is its ability and willingness to spider deep content, such as one finds in larger forums. In my experience, this is quite different from Yahoo and MSN.

One result of Googles penchant for deep spidering and indexing is that I use ONLY Google for topics like technical troubleshooting, where the answer I am looking for is likely to be buried in a forum thread.

3:36 am on Feb 17, 2009 (gmt 0)

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I've couple of sites w content pages plus forums.
Used to have forum pages performing about as well as regular pages: even when had clunky cms URLs (which I later cleaned up). Helped, too, to ensure descriptions not all same.
I changed cms (Joomla to Drupal), and tho sites overall doing as well or better, forum pages been underperforming I think. Might be to do with internal linking, which wasn't as good as for regular articles, so I've made changes to improve linking between forum threads; some improvements in results.
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