New 100% Forum SERP On Google

Author: Gab Goldenberg

While googling around to help my sister Dahlia because her Gateway PC broke down (again :( … I think she got that 1/1,000,000 that makes it through QC when it’s a lemon), I saw the following search result. It’s entirely made up of forums, which is the first time I’ve ever seen such a thing (at least, when not searching for forums or info about them).¬† Screenshot after the jump.

100% Forums Search Results Page (SERP) on Google

A few thoughts come to mind.

1) This is a response to longtail queries. Forums have traditionally been a great place to learn subjects in depth, online. The first social media I really got into were forums around 2002-2003, when I was really into hiphop and Counter-Strike. Both had some amazing forums around where you could soak up information to your heart’s content.

2) I think this is part of the May Day update. It’s interesting to see how effective the update probably is in some cases, as I explained in point 1.

It’s also interesting how ineffective it can be.

- I still have no idea what the hell a RAID access failure is, except that it’s something to do with the motherboard, graphics card, or hard drive. And that’s virtually the whole computer, so not narrowing things down much.

- I’m also not sure really how to fix it. I got some idea it’s to do with the drivers, so I had my sister get the latest ones, but the other points were about reconnecting SATA cables etc.

- All these forums are by techies – for techies.

It’s like expecting my mom to come here and understand this post.

I don’t blame the forums mind you – they claim to be for an advanced audience and that’s fine.

- Any search engine that directs a non-techie to them, however, has some important questions to ask.

“How technical is a particular page?”

“Does this query need a more technical or more generalist response?”

3) I wouldn’t jump to the conclusion that Nvidia’s #1 ranking is [mostly] because they have the most posts/authors and thus the richest discussion. By extension, that would often make it the most authoritative thread.

Two arguments suggest that other ranking factors may be predominant, here.

a. From reading other forums, I think this is something that specifically has to do with Nvidia hardware, so it may be some kind of brand association. I could be totally wrong on that – please correct me in the comments if I am wrong.

b. The PC Help Forum has more posts and authors than HP’s forum – yet it ranks lower.

(The counter argument to “b” is that has both a load of link juice and brand factors pulling for it, which overcomes the lower post/author count.)

3.2) Recency also does  not seem to be the driving factor in rankings here, though Google does seem to find it important enough to display.

My guess is because this is not a query that deserves freshness, though some people may have a slight preference for it.

Consider the low – and constant – search query numbers – a newsy item would have seen a spike in searches.

raid access failure keyword numbers from Google Keyword Tool

This also supports my earlier suggestion that this is to do with solving the constantly refreshing long tail …

Raid access failure doesn’t even chart on Google Trends…

What do you guys make of this search result?

Have you seen it before? If so, how long?

What explanations for it do you have, and do you think it ties into May Day?

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  1. I'm wondering if it's directly tied to the updates, or it's just a matter where the topic is tech problem related that the content is going to be heavy on the phrase. I mean, it's not like you're going to find any shopping sites or blogs on it right?

    Comment by Alan Bleiweiss - August 31, 2010 @ 9:35pm
  2. Gab: This is really interesting, to say the least. A couple of weeks ago it was the ALL LOCAL results in NYC, now this. My initial feeling is "raid access failure" isn't a traditional longtail query. It's a three word phrase, that I suppose could be considered longtail. If we are saying that longtail is not mainstream query, then ok, I can go along w/ that. I'm getting the feeling that we (SEOs/SEMs) are going to start considering the Mayday Update akin to the Florida Update. The question I have is how many searches did you conduct before getting this SERP? Was this the one right out of the box? If it wasn't, and you conducted a handful of other searches, perhaps this SERP was in response to the 3-5 searches you made prior. I think it's a lot to ask of an engine to know the level of sophistication of a user, but Eric Schmidt wants to go there, so I suppose this a valid complaint. I've never seen a SERP like this before, but it may or may not be coincidence that this occurs after the Domain-Intent update. May this is a sister update to that? Lots of guesses at this point, not much to go on, but I think it's really interesting how Google is reducing width of search for longer vertical search. Nice pick-up Gab!

    Comment by Tony Verre - August 31, 2010 @ 9:49pm
  3. I think yes, it's just due to the term being used - if it's also a common problem then the shear quantity of queries must count for something. Have tried the same search and don't get the same results - which is interesting but not conclusive in the slightest!

    Comment by Tim - September 1, 2010 @ 8:48am
  4. Shopping sites no, but I would have expected some blog tutorials. "How to Fix A Raid Access Failure" could easily be an evergreen piece for a techie blog (or ;) ). It may be that it's tech related. I'd be curious to dig through music longtail queries and see what things are like...

    Comment by Gabriel Goldenberg - September 1, 2010 @ 12:34pm
  5. hey Tony, I think we have a tendency to think long-tail = long character count. Normally that's true, but recall that long tail just means non-mainstream, as you said. Something esoteric, highly specific etc. This was the first query out of the box. I'm not familiar with the all local results in NYC - can you show me what you mean? I thought of the domain-intent update too, but I struggle to see the link. Perhaps you have an idea what the relationship might be? Thanks for the kudos Tony!

    Comment by Gabriel Goldenberg - September 1, 2010 @ 12:37pm
  6. It's "common" in that a number of people have had it - but it's "uncommon" in that search volume overall is low.

    Comment by Gabriel Goldenberg - September 1, 2010 @ 12:38pm
  7. I do agree that I think it's partly query-specific, but I'd be curious to find out more about the parameters of this. What triggers an all-forum SERP?

    Comment by Gabriel Goldenberg - September 1, 2010 @ 12:39pm
  8. I think you will find that the highest ranking forums are those with the largest and oldest archive of information. Another top indicator is if the forum is extremely active. These get crawled very often and are usually optimized to the hilt. As for getting to the pertinent information, the larger forums are also more difficult to pin down exactly what you need. Strangely enough, I find most understandable tech information from quick little blogs created by people who are just so happy to have resolved their problem that they want to share it with the world. I don't know if my comments help at all or if I got the jest of your inquiry, but I hope I did. I did notice the date of these posts, but your subject was fresh on my mind, so I had to jump in. - Ralph

    Comment by ralphslatton - July 2, 2011 @ 12:33pm
  9. hey Ralph You make some excellent points about the depth, activity and optimization of forums being important signals of quality. And you're on the mark about the little blog posts, imho because those are written by non-technical people, which answers my point above. Search engines need to do a better job at offering non-technical sources of information to people with these kinds of queries. Thanks a bunch for your great comment and hope to see you here again Ralph! Do you run any forums btw? What's your interest in the topic due to?

    Comment by Gabriel Goldenberg - July 3, 2011 @ 8:40am

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