Hi Brad, I'm not ready to say forums are the solution either but like you said people have already done testing and I don't do any. I'm just going by the Google alerts and by links back to my sites, both do-follow and no-follow.
There are certainly more but here are the forum links I could find in a few minutes:
12/19/2008 Google Alert for The Internet Marketers Guild • Moxxor Omega3 earning potential ... (page missing 404)
10/19/2008 Google Alert for my profile on WarriorForum
01/26/2008 Google Alert for WebProWorld.com
02/17/09 The Internet Marketers Guild • Blog Co-op - Marketing Help - Flickr Follows
I do have a lot of blog links but I'm more active on blogs. But before I changed Extreme Ezine to blog format it had a Google PageRank of 05/10 and now it's just 03/10 after dropping to 00/10 right after the switch. The problem was that my index page changed but I have more links back to my site now. It looks like those links have less weight than those I had before blogs.
I do think you are right about the length/quality of the post and comments making a difference in Google weight. I fully expect to see something from this thread for example. If they don't see value in this discussion then Google's evaluation methods have failed.
That's funny you brought up Web 2.0. I'm a little embarrassed to admit it but when I first started hearing the term Web 2.0 I thought it was going to be a second internet. I pictured a separate but parallel internet or perhaps an intra-net. I was even hearing things like, "it's going to be cleaner and faster" so there was a lot of confusion in the beginning. It really is a silly name that confuses people even today.
All in all I feel the best way to build an honest online businesses is to develop relationships within our niche, help each other succeed and continue to discuss these types of issues as part of the learning process. When used properly we have all the tools we could dream of now. Blogs, forums, social type directories, networking and bookmarking sites. I think where many are failing, including me, are by leaving the traditional marketing methods that worked for years for social networking. I think we should use both. They should compliment each other rather than social networking being a replacement.
One last thing I promise.
I think PageRank and back links are over-rated too. It's important but neither will make us a cent if everything else isn't in place. Here's an example...
Search Google for 'john chow' without the quotes. You won't find johnchow.com anywhere on the front page. His twitter account is number one and then everyone talking about him after that. While he still gets traffic from Google indirectly I have to believe that he's not dependant on it for the traffic he gets and the money earned from the site. I think Google is just one of those tools we need to use but unless our niche is SEO focusing all of our time on it is a mistake. We still need things like products, call to action, lists in various forms, tracking, joint ventures, marketing campaigns and sales pages. All the things that many in that Web 2.0 are against lol
Wow, far too much thinking this early in the morning