Forums are a feature that many webmasters have historically benefited from greatly and which have been used to add a great deal to a website. The first and most obvious advantage of using a forum is of course that it gives users the ability to submit content and this means that you can improve your ranking in Google through having more content for the spiders to index without having to put more time into writing it yourself and without having to pay anyone to do it. In fact a forum can be so effective in some cases that it means that a website can continue to thrive and make money even long after the webmaster has stopped bothering with it.
So when you come to design your website, presumably you are going to look at adding a forum as an important feature right? Well yes, a forum can still offer a lot to a website, but there is nevertheless a chance that it might not be as effective as it once was thanks to some of the recent changes to Google’s algorithms. Here we will look at why that might be.
What Do Penguins Have to do With It?
There was a time that, let’s face it, SEO was pretty easy. It was a simple matter of writing lots of content and stuffing keywords into it and this meant that it really only took a quantity of content to get to the top of the SERPs rather than necessarily high quality. In fact there once was a time when the SERPs were dominated by spun content and duplicate content.
At this time then it really didn’t matter what the people on your forums wrote, as long as they wrote a lot. This then meant that you could rise through the ranks of Google just by having a lot of people posting on there.
Today though Google Panda and Penguin have made SEO considerably more complex. You overstuff your keywords and you get penalized. You use poor grammar that suggests article spinning – you get penalized. You use duplicate content – you get penalized. All these things are things that you can avoid yourself, but they aren’t things that someone who is posting on your forum is necessarily going to know to avoid or be bothered to.
What this then means is that you might find that having people post on your forum actually results in some of those pages being penalized and dropping in the SERPs. As your visitors use broken English and repeat themselves over and over, and as they copy and paste the information they’ve found elsewhere and include lots of do-follow links to all kinds of irrelevant sites… well it may start to look a little amateurish and Google might not promote those pages as a result.
So Should You Include One?
This is only really speculation at the moment, and whether or not Google has thought of counter measures to protect community-made-content I unknown. However forums have always had problems and this becomes apparent when someone starts arguing on your forum, or when they start spamming, or when your site gets hacked as a result of the forum.
But none of this is to say you shouldn’t have a forum on your page – they’re still very useful if only to create a sense of community and to bring visitors back. All I’m saying is think about whether your site is right for a forum and be aware that it might not always only do good things for your site left to its own devices. You need to moderate it and watch it closely.
Todd Ramos is a web design expert and works for one of the reputed CT SEO Companies. He studies various page ranking algorithms and writes many articles on determining ranking, seo improvization and website presentation.