Ranking Forum and Bulletin Board Pages

One of the recently discussed topics captured by Search Engine RoundTable posed a question on whether individual pages of singular forum posts are read by search engines.

The significance of the accessibility issue for millions (or perhaps billions) of individual posts could provide a hint as to how search engines treat pages of similar content and how they fare against other pages that have aggregate content culled from related individual posts.

Let’s take a thread out of DigitalPoint for the sake of discussion. One of the forum posts asks about creating a sitemap file for a Blogger account.

The first post authored by rukshankb was simply asking about how he can create a sitemap for Blogger, essentially repeating the forum title.

The second post was from windtalker, who made a suggestion.

Now, shall we consider that the first and second posts carry more weight for specific search phrases than the whole thread where content of both posts also appear?

I haven’t made an extensive research on this but here’s my take anyway:

  1. Search engines probably index individual posts, such as the first and second posts above. However, they’re indexed to a lesser degree than the thread they were linked from.
  2. I don’t think individual posts command greater value than the aggregated thread post, and therefore, won’t rank higher.
  3. A little caveat to (2) is that if a considerable number of sites link to an individual post, it could rank higher. But then again, I see little or no reason why pages are going to do this.

My above comments are based on experience. For example, my Living in Hong Kong blog category pages (1, 2, 3) are often ranked higher than individual posts even if these posts appear to be very related to search queries.

An interesting read to this post is about Google’s Agent Rank Patent.