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Recently when I have seen Stack Overflow results in Google, I have seen something like this:

Google SERP

Note the text, "9 answers". Does Stack Overflow do anything special to get this shown? I have noticed a similar Rich Snippet on Yahoo Answers, which also said "Solved".

I skimmed the source of both pages and couldn't see anything specific that looked like a microformat. There is nothing on schema.org specifically about Q&A. Is Google treating these sites specially?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

It certainly does look like Google is treating these sites specially. When you see results from discussion forums in Google search results it contains various helpful bits of information, like dates and numbers of replies. So it looks like Google has written custom parsers for various popular forum engines. This blog post from 2009 announces it as a feature but doesn't say how they do it.

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Is Google treating these sites specially?

As paulmorriss mentioned, Google does apply an algorithmic means for identifying forums and, interestingly enough, Yahoo Answers and Ask.MetaFilter show similar snippets (search "Does my dog have fleas?" or "What does my cat think I am?" ... ?!) so it's quite possible that Google is treating sites with a few key indicators (i.e. 90% of <h1>'s include a question mark, words "question" and "answer" appear on every page, etc) as Q/A sites pending the introduction of a formal schema.

From a review of sites in question (Y!A, Ask.MetaFilter, Quora) there does not appear to be any consistent formatting beyond the aforementioned use of "?" in the heading and the appearance of the words "question" and "answer" throughout most pages.

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I think they have a different parser for each site's structure. That's how they can pull out the number of threads/answers, and number of people answering etc. –  paulmorriss Jul 26 '11 at 10:57

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