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If, for example, there are 4x rotating news items with 250 words per piece, what would be the effect on the indexing process? Any postives/negatives? Should this be avoided?
Stability is the key in SEO. Therefore, if you maintain some rotating content on your website that can only harm and not work for your optimization anyway.
FYI, this issue has little or nothing to do with news, per se. We're trying to address the issue as outlined by the OP: Rotating links to featured items from the site. That might be news, events, special pages worth featuring, whatever.
As I've said, we own numerous sites that employ this feature. It has an overall positive effect for the reaons bouncybunny has outlined. Just don't make it most of what your homepage is about ... well, at least not until you're a TBPR7 or otherwise have plenty of authority. At some point, none of that sort of stuff matters much.
I'm with you: it's good/interesting for the users and happens in the off-line media for similar reasons ("coming up soon" "don't miss our magazine section today" etc), so the SEs should not penalise with the possible caveat IMHO that any content in the rotation should have a permanent location on site where it is always available.
What the SEs might/should punish is needless churn of (say) the vast majority of the front page with random/crap content with the sole aim of fooling the SEs. The OP is not proposing to do that or anything that looks like it, ergo, no problem IMHO.
Isn't it possible to add fresh stuff regularly, instead of rotating?
This would actually be the case. It would be fresh news items (or items relevent to users of the site) that would be added on a weekly basis. The idea of rotating them was that the news is kind of 'disposable' (there's probably a better word...), - but at the same time useful to the site's users, *without them having to leave the forum environment*. The information would be directly relevent to them there on the forum. Having users leave and visit a separate page would possibly irritate them (short attention spans and all that) and maybe even 'overvalue' the content to be honest.
What I mean is that the snippets of news would be of the "oh that's interesting and useful to me right now" variety. But to click a link and go and visit a page with that content on it, might be more of an unnecessary detour. It might also be out of context.
In some ways it might be like the "Help on Creating Messages" text that I'm looking at right now as I post this. OK, I appreciate that this isn't rotating (or indexed by SE's either I imagine). But it is also relevent to what I am doing right now and I would be unlikely to click on a link that offered me help on creating messages. The rotating news/messages that I would use might be less specific than this (hence the rotation), but they would still be relevent to the general context of the forum 'space' that the user is ineracting with.
But yes, I do appreciate that it would be better from an SEO point of view to put this stuff on separate pages. I suppose what I am thinking is that I would settle for no 'negative' effects from SEs.
I was also generally intruged as to what Google et al might show in the cached versions of my page. Would they simply show the last version that their spider cached? I guess so.