To many, the word ‘community‘ elicits thoughts of social networks like MySpace and Facebook, and of popular social media websites like Flickr and Digg. But if you were active on the internet about a decade ago, you probably don’t forget the precursor to today’s social communities: the message board/forum.

They’re still around (there are quite a few massive ones) and while they may not be as sexy as today’s social networks, a Google update that will make it easier for searchers to find content posted in message board communities is likely going to benefit many operators of message board communities.

That Google is indexing message board posts is not new; Google is merely highlighting the most relevant posts from a message board where appropriate. The implication for operators of message board communities: the ability to ‘earn‘ SERPs that are more prominent and thus, more likely to drive traffic.

As you can see from a search for “getting from rome to florence“, the result for Destination360, a travel message board, includes additional direct links to several relevant Destination360’s posts. I’m sure Destination360 won’t complain about that.

Google hopes this update will give searchers “a deeper view into the relevant content available
on sites throughout the web — even when that content spans multiple pages or
discussions
” and I think it will since there’s a ton of great content contained on message boards. In fact, I would go so far as to argue that when it comes to user-generated content, message boards beat modern social networks hands down.

For online publishers, business owners and entrepreneurs, Google’s update is a good reminder to not forget message boards. Today’s social networks are great and look to be increasingly important for SEO. But at the same time, the trusty old message board has significant advantages in terms of fostering certain types of user interactions. And, in my opinion, the product of message board interactions — high-quality, subject-oriented content — is often more valuable than the people-oriented content that typically comes from interactions on modern-day social networks.

If you’re running a message board already or thinking about setting one up, be sure to check out the SEO plugins available for popular platforms: