HP's decision to add two extra ads to the bottom of forum posts to supplement those as the top raises some interest in whether adding a forum to your own website is a good idea or not. There are over 2 million forum posts on HP, but not all of them are indexed. Google searches often include forum posts in the SERPS. Some of the issues:
# Brings extra users to the site, who may click other pages
# Extra source of revenue
# Probably has good time on the page metrics
# Perhaps Google deals with forums in a special way to offset the cons
# Posts would be mostly classed and thin content and could attract Panda squat
# Hard to monitor and maintain integrity - Spam and other rogues
# May be detrimental to the reputation of the site - negative comments + Contributor downgrades -bad associations
# Forums are essentially internal and not really designed for broadcast.
PS Are forums on other sites similar to HP indexed?
Too open ended of a question. It really depends on the niche and topic of your website, whether a forum will help or hinder it. Two of my favorite forum sites (Digitalpoint and WarriorForum) started out strictly as forums before they added blogs. Digitalpoint even shared the revenue in the forums with members, a few years ago.
For individuals running websites, I think by adding a forum you are over taxing, not only your servers but also your time. Unless you want to let your forum run amok you will have to enlist moderators and then make it worth their time.
Negative comments in a forum are not going to be detrimental to the site. It shows that the audience is engaging. So long as the comments are monitored for 'bad words' then I see no downside to allowing controversy stir in a forum.
Engagement is what keeps thin content alive and ranking. Just look at any site that shows in the SERP's, like yahoo answers, wikihow, and other forum type listings. Thin content does not always equal bad content as long as it is engaging the users.
"Thin content does not always equal bad content as long as it is engaging the users"
Google have stated that they don't use Analytics for ranking pages. So do they assess engagement in other ways? This flies in the face of the great quality debate (Panda) and mega stuffed pages. It is remarkable how often Pinterest boards appear in the SERPs and also forum pages. Similarly thin pages often outrank the long and comprehensive ones. Perhaps Traffic is King! Long Live Traffic!
Traffic is exactly what is measured but I think there must also be a combination of traffic and bounce rate and some sort of share metrics. If there is no bounce rate measured then traffic measurements can be artificial. Thin content with a low bounce rate and high traffic seem to be a clear indication that the page has importance to the search query.
Tracking the progress of several new hubs and websites on the SERPS is an interesting experience. Ranking must depend on different things at different times if traffic is a factor. The bot re-crawls pages every day and the ranking must evolve with time, with different aspects applying.
Some pure speculation.
Stage 1 - Founder-effect - Rating purely based on on-page stuff + authority - page or website given an inflated rank to start.
Stage 2 - After a few weeks - takes into account traffic + links + how many other pages within the site are related and their ratings via links. Boost or drop in SERP position
Stage 3 - Month or so - Traffic + bounce + time on the page more important, also links - These aspects tend to get greater emhpasis than on-page stuff. A fab page or site that gets no traffic tends to fall down the SERPS.
Stage 4 - Freshness or staleness test applied, pages get a ranking penalty if they have not been freshened.
I'm sure Google knows the difference between forums and site content. Forums have been part of the net since before the web began, after all, and it's not hard to program a bot to recognize them.
Since Google is trying to reward engagement and "useful stuff for users," generally, I imagine that forums help, unless you fail to moderate them and allow a lot of link spam and random advertiser posts.
What about Pinterest?
The boards rank higher than perhaps they should in the SERPS, and the many people appear to carefully craft the "titles". I guess the same applies to videos, but they get labelled as such.
Pinterest is a great example of how thin content can rank highly in the SERP's. I can only imagine that the bounce rate on an image is very high but the share factor has to measure in some how. If you take into account too that the image is linked to an actual site, the search query, and the image caption (keywords) must play a huge role in ranking in the SERP's.
I have reworked the titles of my boards to resemble what people are searching for using the keyword tool. It seems to have helped because I'm getting twice as many pins and likes as I did before the rework. But also, since Pinterest is also sort of a social network, it helps to pin and like other peoples images as often as possible. Karma helps out a lot on that site.
It will be interesting to see how long the gold rush lasts. Choosing the most appealing images, of very high quality, with a 'quirk' or 'twist' seems to help.
Reminds me of a song by The WHO
Ever since I was a young boy,
I've played the silver board.
From Soho down to Brighton
I must have played them all.
But I ain't seen nothing like him
In any amusement hall
That deaf dumb and blind kid
Sure plays a mean pinboard!
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