Google Explains Why It Shows Reddit & Forum Threads In Search So Often

Apr 5, 2024 - 7:51 am 46 by
Filed Under Google

Confused Robot By Computer

Google's Search Liaison, Danny Sullivan, explained that while SEOs hate to see Reddit and other forum threads show up so often in the Google Search results, searchers like seeing them. In fact, he said that searchers seek content out from these forums, and this is why Google shows them so often in the search results.

This came up when Lily Ray posted on X an example of the discussion and forums section showing Quora and Reddit threads for the query [weight loss]. She wrote, "Why, then, is it ok for Google to add a "Discussions and Forums" carousel above all of these E-E-A-T-driven medical results when we are seeing very clearly how Reddit is being overtaken by affiliate spam and scammers?"

Google Weight Loss Discussons

She said, "For 6+ years, and throughout the QRG, Google has shared that YMYL queries - presumably like "weight loss" - require the highest levels of E-E-A-T. For 6+ years, we've seen sites like the CDC and Harvard ranking prominently for these queries, plus Google's own "symptom search" knowledge panel, which was also supposedly curated using information from the Mayo Clinic and Harvard." Asking" Isn't this a big dangerous for Google?"

In which Danny Sullivan from Google replied that first, he will send the feedback back to the ranking team. But then went into explaining why Google currently does this.

He said on X, "That unit appears automatically if the systems think it might be relevant and useful. I's not like someone said "put it first for that particular query" -- which I know you understand, but others reading this might not."

Why does Google show it so often? "I also know some of the SEO folks who tend to be vocal on this platform really dislike seeing more forum content in our search results. But actual searchers seem to like it. They proactively seek it out. It makes sense for us to be showing it to keep the search results relevant and satisfying for everyone. We explained more about the value last year here," he wrote. We covered that over here in November. Google actually started showing these forums back in 2021.

That being said, Google has changed the perspectives filter to forums and even tested a web results filter in search.

Sullivan added:

Some actively seek content. Others appreciate that we might show relevant content -- including forums, blogs, websites, whatever -- as part of a results set overall. It's similar to other things. If you search for some news event, people generally don't expect to type in the topic and add "news" at the end. They expect we'll show news-related content naturally. Same thing with forum content. If they're looking for help, for example, about why their smart window blinds are disconnecting from an app, they may appreciate both what a manufacturer has to say, what some blogger that has reviewed them might say, as well as what people who have used them and shared on a forum have to say. That's a real example I did yesterday, and the forum results I got solved my issue quickly. But I wouldn't have thought to name any particular forum to get there.

Then after getting more push back, he added:

I did understand that point and concern. I didn't say "because users all seem to like something, we show it regardless of relevancy." But let me take a swing at some of those points again:

1) We want to ensure that *any* content we show in results -- including forum content -- is relevant and useful. Where reliability is important, we have systems that work to surface this type of information.

2) With the example you pointed out, again, I appreciate the concern there about surfacing forum content so highly in relation to medical queries. As I said, I passed along that feedback -- as I've done with previous issues like this that have been raised -- to the search team. Perhaps our systems will change to show these less often for such queries. Perhaps we might do a better job with messages / disclaimers if we do show a forum unit -- "people here are sharing experiences but many might not be medical professionals" etc. Forums probably do have a role for people seeking information. People suffering illnesses, for example, might want to hear how people are coping generally outside of potential treatments. I'd expect we'll keep looking at how to improve here.

3) As for forum content generally, a lot of people do indeed like it. That doesn't mean we're just going to always show it if it's not relevant to a query -- and again, it's also not what I said. But we show video content, news content, image content and so on when our systems think that might be useful to show. Forum content is like that, too.

That brings me back to what I said before. I understand the concern, appreciate it, have raised it with the search team -- and some are already looking further at this. The goal, as always, is to see how we can further improve things. Thanks for the feedback.

He actually spent a lot of time defending the rational here but I only included some of his responses.

In short, searchers tend to like these forum posts, they actively seek it out and Google is trying to give searchers what they want.

Forum discussion at X.


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