• Sat. Jul 20th, 2024

Is 2024 the year of Reddit for Google SEO?

Byadmin

Jun 18, 2024 #Google, #Reddit, #SEO, #year

Google is always looking for new ways to engage with users and facilitate stronger searches. Often, this comes via regular algorithm updates. Other times more extensive changes are made to alter how searches are conducted and the kinds of information that are disseminated to users, as seen in the Helpful Content Update and the recent AI Overviews addition. Another recent change has been the increase in visibility of forum sites in search results, particularly Reddit, something that’s been noted by digital marketers, SEO experts and regular users alike.

So, what exactly is happening, and why is Reddit emerging as such a force to be reckoned with in online searches nearly 20 years after its inception? The answer is actually quite complicated.

The rise of forums in search results

Forums like Quora and Reddit have grown in popularity in Google’s search results for the last six months or more. Google’s initial promotion of forum search results came in 2021 as part of its Discussions carousel. More recently, the search engine has added a “Forums” section for searches alongside longstanding sections like “Images,” “News” and “Videos.”

Beyond this, however, more and more search results are including posts from subreddits, regardless of whether a user is indicating they are looking for forums or the kinds of information they provide. Smaller sites that have posted original content have actually seen posts about that same original content on Reddit outranking them, and one study showed that Reddit now appears over 97% of the time for product review queries, making up nearly two-thirds of the Discussions and Forums feature.

Part of the reason for these developments, as the article from Search Engine Land speculates, is in response to the growing trend of users adding “Reddit” to the ends of their queries in recent years to facilitate different results. Google would then be trying to give users what they want, removing an extra step and offering up Reddit and other forums in a more prominent way.

Response by digital marketers and SEO experts

In light of these changes, some in the digital marketing and SEO spaces have become increasingly frustrated with Google’s forum push. These professionals regularly follow Google’s algorithm updates and attempt to alter their strategies and approaches to adhere to Google’s best practices for quality content on the web, especially after the aforementioned Helpful Content Update.

To these experts, the idea of putting in considerable effort to meet Google’s guidelines and then being regularly outranked by forums is especially troubling – considering that many forum posts lack expertise and can often be wrong. 

Things get a bit murkier, however, when you consider why users often add “Reddit” to the end of their queries. Largely, this is being done to find information on and discussions about a topic from actual people, rather than articles crafted around SEO keywords to benefit a brand, or, more recently, AI-generated copy of questionable value.

Thus, while some digital marketers and SEO experts may object to Reddit’s prominence, users may prefer it due to the real opinions, expert or not, the forum can supply.

But wait, there’s more

As if things weren’t complicated enough, Google closed a licensing deal with Reddit for a reported $60 million annually. The deal allows Google to use Reddit’s forums to train its AI products, such as Gemini and the recent AI Overviews.

While the forum push began as early as 2021, many in the digital marketing and SEO communities have questioned this new partnership and its implications for search results.

The argument goes that if Google is using Reddit to train its AI, then it’s in Google’s best interest to promote Reddit in searches to drive more people to its subreddits, increasing the number of posts and amount of content to further aid Google’s training efforts.

Google representatives maintain that it is favoring Reddit and other forums in searches because users themselves are desiring them, but not everyone is convinced. As SEO strategist Lily Ray noted in a LinkedIn post in May.

“I am pretty sure the recent SEO visibility growth of Reddit.com is unprecedented in the history of Google Search. Please feel free to correct me if I am wrong, but never has a site seen this massive of an increase in SEO rankings, traffic, and visibility in this short amount of time. …

“Reddit has moved from the ~80th biggest SEO site on Google.com last July, to the 6th biggest today. Its visibility index score has increased from 77 to over 1,000 VI points during that time.”

Still others are concerned about spam and affiliate links they have seen populating on subreddits in response to Reddit’s newfound popularity, worsening the quality of posts. Reddit’s representatives have called such criticism “flawed and misleading,” reassuring users that their moderators regularly remove such content.

So where do we go from here?

At the end of the day, users want quality information when they conduct a search, and more often than not, they rely on Google to deliver that. If Google is experiencing some growing pains currently in terms of its changes to search, users will simply have to be careful in what they trust from their searches and cross-reference against high-value sources.

In fact, Google’s AI Overviews – one of their tools being trained in real time by information pulled from Reddit – has recently come under fire for giving misleading, bizarre, and, at times, dangerous answers to queries. With such public pressure on Google, the search engine may well pull back on its reliance on Reddit and other forums for the time being, or alter how it distributes its information. 

But what about those in the SEO and digital marketing sectors, or those trying to boost their own businesses online? Being conservative and adhering to previous guidance from Google, such as the Helpful Content Update, is still likely the best course forward. 

The prominence of forums can certainly be seen as problematic for numerous reasons. However, forums and their “person on the street” commentary do have their place online. The best we can all hope for is that Google is able to strike the right balance going forward so that quality information wins the day, whatever its source.

 

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