Google have released another update to their searching functionality.  This time allowing the user to search specifically within forums.

As an online marketeer, I can see that this creates an opportunity for those managing the reputation of brands, to keep a closer eye on their online presence, and engage in the conversation.

The difference you see in forums as opposed to the general search results, is that people are asking questions, comparing their options, researching, and finding out the best way to approach a particular project.

People are open to suggestions, help and advice.  And as long as you respect the netiquette, you can helpfully influence people in favour of your brand.

Emphasis on help though, because if you’re sole purpose is purely selling your product, you will get some nasty backlash & lose your credibility.

Make sure you’re clear about who you are, that you represent a certain company, but you would like to offer advice.  Because if you play at astroturfing and get found out, the damage to your brand can be dramatic.

If you’re desperate to promote your product as it fits their solution perfectly, then offer it along with some tips on how to achieve the best result, or perhaps offer some alternative brands that they could also consider.  This is counter intuitive, but if you’re seen to be giving an unbiased opinion and suggesting a competitor, people are much more likely to take your opinion seriously and cionsider your narrowed down list in their purchase decision.

But it’s also a great tool if you’re the one looking for information and advice on a project.  You can do a thorough search on the topic, and if that doesn’t give you the answer, you will have a more educated idea of where the best place to ask is.

Here’s a quick look at the Google Groups results:

Here I typed in a search for decorating (as I’m researching this topic at the mo), but originally the top results were related to cake decorating rather than home decor.

So I added in the negative match to exclude references to cake, so that my results were closer to my chosen topic.   Make use of the additional search features and advanced search options to get the information you want.

Now, go and have a play with Google Group search and let me know what you think… is it worth the hype?

  • Ben

    I think this is a non-event. Forum posts are in the main Google index anyway so its not like you can do anything new. You could argue that results are fresher but Google blog search already indexes forums so you could just use that.

  • Katrina Gallagher

    To be honest, I struggled to get excited too.

    It’s an added search function, and you can select to show only forum entries, so I can see the benefit…

  • SimonR

    I think this could be useful for technical queries, where you might want to gather several opinions on a subject.

    I was looking for reviews of an amp at the weekend and it turned out then forums were the best place to find these. However as Ben points, the best and most relevant results will be displayed in the main index.