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Are Forums and Q&A Sites More Important to Search Now?

Public Conversation Gets More Exposure in Google

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Facebook and Twitter get a lot of the credit for all of the conversation that is going on around the web these days, and they certainly account for a great deal of it. Still there is public conversation happening in many other channels – blogs, Q&A sites, news sites, YouTube, other social networks, and forums.

Google’s newly redesigned SERPs place a great deal of emphasis on conversations, as I mentioned in this article about optimizing for this new design. There is increased emphasis on social search and real-time search, which both utilize Facebook and Twitter to a great extent, but I want to talk about the Discussions option.

When a user chooses to view Google’s "Discussions" results for a query, they are presented with options for time: anytime, past hour, past 24 hours, past week, past month, past year, and custom range. They’re presented with sorting options: by relevance or by date. They’re presented with options for all discussions, forums, or Q&As. They can refine this even further by filtering for discussions of any length, short, medium, or long. In addition, they can sort by standard results, sites with images, and page previews, and by all results and results from nearby locations. That’s some pretty deep down drilling.

Google Discussions option

Anyway, no matter which parameters you choose to search by under discussions, the non-everything options are Forums and Q&A.

Businesses looking for increased exposure and visibility ought to consider answering questions from consumers in areas that they are qualified. This has always been something to consider for a successful online marketing strategy, as forums and Q&A sites not only attract targeted traffic, but appear in search results, not to mention it just helps you sell your expertise in your line of work. The difference now is increased visibility. Google’s search options may not be new, but they’re more visible now, and you can pretty much count on them getting used a lot more.

Q&A sites are also not new, but lately it seems that we’re seeing an increased focus on them from a variety of players. Yahoo, the top Q&A site recently served its billionth answer, but others are bringing different elements to the Q&A table. Some are integrating local business listings with them to provide. Others are finding their own unique spin. Google itself even purchased Q&A property Aardvark recently. It will be interesting to see if this becomes more heavily integrated with the Discussions option.

Read more about why forum participation can benefit your marketing strategy here.

Are Forums and Q&A Sites More Important to Search Now?
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  • http://DCincome.com/blog Matthew Loop

    Nice post, Chris! Online forums are a great way to find out the nitty gritty about any market. So much valuable information can be learned by being a good listener and interacting, getting to know the crowd.

    Google loves forums / online community hubs. More entrepreneurs and marketers should definitely take notice.

  • http://www.supermarinepaint.com Boat Paint

    This is a great strategy for obtaining qualified traffic. You’re enticing/engaging with customers that want to know about a product/service, or curious of what you have to offer. Giving someone advice on epoxy paint or which type of tiles install is a great way to engage with your customers.

  • http://ultimatemarketingstrategies.net Peter Sundstrom

    Google has certainly always placed a relatively high emphasis on social media content. I guess with the new layout, they are making it even more obvious.

  • http://groupemail.gteksoft.com jason

    Forums are great place to get many suggesions and ideas and we can find as many details about what we are looking .

  • http://www.goldcoastsocialmedia.com Cam Gleeson

    As always great post Chris,

    I went and tried the Google discussion tool, that was an interesting exercise. Especially as it seems to bring up some fairly old discussions high in the search results.

    I agree with Matthew above, that discussions are a great way of getting an insight in to the nitty gritty issues of a market.

    The only observation I would make, is that people are usually lazy so they will generally always use the default google search. I would think only a very small percentage of us, would actually know of or even use the other google search options like blog and twitter searches etc.

    However from a marketers perspective, I do like this google discussions search.

  • http://www.websites-marketing.net/Services/LinkBuilding.aspx Houston Link Building

    Forums and Q&A sites are a great source of organic one way links. More marketers should take this into account.

  • http://replyz.com Replyz Team

    This is true. With the introduction of Google Caffeine, the Discussions tab and the “latest” status updates view, Google is warming up in a big way to the social stream. Regarding companies using Q&A to build their reputation, as a Q&A site of sorts ourselves (we display a searchable stream at http://replyz.com/c of the questions people ask on Twitter and enable quick-replies) we see a lot of companies and individuals coming in to help people asking questions through Twitter about their company, product, service or expertise.

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