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How does google determine that your site is a forum?

     
1:36 pm on Jan 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

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I run a couple forum sites using vbulletin. Both have highly customized templates. Recently I noticed that Google stopped putting "x posts - x replies" under the page name in SERPs.

So my question is, what is google looking for on the page to get those numbers? Why would they stop displaying them? Does Google no longer think that the page is a 'discussion'?
3:20 pm on Jan 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

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That's probably some kind of rich snippet markup; whether or not it's implemented correctly you'd have to check out. Also Google doesn't guarantee they'll always use it, and I've noticed sometimes they vary whether or not they use it depending on the query.
4:08 pm on Jan 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

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I checked, and there is no designation in rich snippets for 'discussions'.

The only thing I could think is there is a og:type tag saying that the pages are 'articles'.
4:25 pm on Jan 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

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This is algorithmic detection. Many different types of forums are recognized as such. This has been going on for a few years now, even before rich snippets were rolled out.

And no, there are no rich snippets which designate forum posts from what I can recall.
5:01 pm on Jan 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

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For blogs, Google is simply looking for "posted on <datetime>" multiple times in the text of the page. I know this because one of my clients was a jobs board that had listed the date and time that each job was posted on the site. Their site appeared in the SERPs as if it were a blog (and included in blog search.)

I'm not sure exactly what triggers the forum recognition, but its got to be something similar.
5:25 pm on Jan 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Any type of software such as a blog, forum or CMS will have a common fingerprint unless you can code them out.

Mack.
5:47 pm on Jan 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Thanks everyone.

In WMT Google told me that there was a software update for vBulletin recently (when I've never seen before), so they definitely know it's a forum.

There must be something that I changed at one point and not realized it, because Google used to list the sites under discussions. It's odd that they would know that it's a forum, but choose not to display results as such.
6:03 pm on Jan 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Also, the og: stuff is Open Graph, i.e. Facebook.
7:54 pm on Jan 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

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yeah I know :)
8:51 pm on Jan 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

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In WMT Google told me that there was a software update for vBulletin recently (when I've never seen before), so they definitely know it's a forum.


Google doesn't need any rich snippets or meta data to spot a forum or CMS and they did warn everyone some time ago that they may not trust your site as much if they detect that you aren't keeping the code up to date.

I've caught Google attempting to load backend pages that are never linked from anywhere (I am the only one to see them and I don't use Chrome or have a google toolbar etc). For wordpress they seem to check the remote posting page a lot(xmlrpc.php), perhaps to see if I have it disabled since it provides a different error message when disabled and poses a small security risk when enabled.

I've caught Google requesting that page on a static site as well that doesn't even have a CMS system. I believe Google is equally interested in knowing if your site allows anonymous user content to be generated which might also be why they keep checking that file.
9:32 pm on Jan 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Right, I'm aware of why they would want the webmaster to keep their software updated.

Are you sure it was google trying to weed through security holes and not a spammer spoofing their user agent? Hell, I've seen hits requesting xmlrpc too. Either way, it makes sense in both cases.
9:22 pm on Feb 12, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Update: For some reason google has decided my site is a forum again and is listing the number of authors and replies. I have no idea why.

I guess this is a good sign?
 

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