This trend started several years ago with the industry noting a trend in people appending forum based websites into searches such as “[my_query] Reddit”. This trend is driven by a user perception that they will surface more useful, genuine content from platforms such as Reddit because the content is far more untouched by commercial intent and marketing efforts.
In May 2023 Google announced “Perspectives”, which was Google’s answer to this trend (as well as a further integration of their AI efforts). This feature provided experiences of others directly in search results to add a layer of social proof to results.
Recently, there has been gathering noise about forums gaining traction in search. Joy Hawkins (owner of the Local Search Forum) noticed big gains in traffic: https://www.sterlingsky.ca/site-getting-144-more-traffic-2024/ and other notable figures in the industry have seen dramatic increases in similar platforms recently too:
At the end of 2023, Google released new discussion forum markup or structured data allowing Google to better identify online discussions (likely to help feed its AI and Search Generative Experience to which ‘Perspectives’ is closely tied). When Google releases things like this, it’s a bit of a hint of things to come or things already happening.
Primarily it means things are changing and those changes can impact how visible you are in search results and how much traffic you are getting from that visibility. Secondly, it highlights a potential threat but also opportunity in that we should all be taking a bigger interest in the wider narrative of brands across such forums. They are of course, places where people both praise and complain. This can have an impact on that brand’s online performance. Lastly, if marketers are running forums or similar, taking advantage of this new markup will be to their advantage.
We don’t know when but we know it is coming our way. As I mentioned in November, we’ve not been able to get our hands on it as we would like due to its availability being limited geographically. None the less we have fervently been watching for studies to be released and a recent one shows some interesting trends, which you can find here: https://searchengineland.com/google-sge-impact-industry-436613.
What is interesting is that ‘healthcare’ came out top in terms of biggest impact from SGE in search results. 76% of queries related to healthcare topics triggered an SGE search result to display. Second on the list was eCommerce with B2B tech third.
This is a potentially significant change to Google’s interface and therefore could dramatically impact visibility and traffic through the organic channel. No actions as of yet other than we know it is on its way.
If you need any Google advice or help with your wider digital marketing, please don’t hesitate to drop us an email [email protected] or call 02392 830281.
Dave is head of SEO at Vertical Leap. He joined in 2010 as an SEO specialist and prior to that worked with international companies delivering successful search marketing campaigns. Dave works with many of our largest customers spanning many household names and global brands such as P&O Cruises and Harvester. Outside of work, Dave previously spent many years providing charity work as a Sergeant under the Royal Air Force Reserves in the Air Cadets sharing his passion for aviation with young minds. He can often be found in the skies above the south coast enjoying his private pilot licence.
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