Post Penguin: How Forums Can Still Help Your SEO

by John Kline on August 23, 2012

Hey, search engines and social networks: we may be down, but we’re not out!

In today’s world of search engine optimization, there’s a new kid on the block. Not the prepubescent music from a once “boy band” in the 90′s, this new kid is “Social”. To be more precise, the kid is now living in an entirely new neighborhood of Social Networks. What many are missing as they jump over to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and the myriad socially engaging networks are forums. Some SEOs suggest that forums have been depreciated in the eyes of the major search engines, mainly Google. In many instances, this is true. However, in most cases it isn’t the forums themselves that are depreciated, it’s the users and their inability to use forums to their advantage.

baby in forum bathtub
Don’t even throw out the baby – or the forums – with the social bathwater.

Let’s start by taking a closer look at the forum setup and its correlation to social networks. The obvious first point I need to make is they both encourage human engagement. Social networks allow users to post to “walls” for their “friends” to read and comment by posting back to the “wall”. The forum allows starting a “thread”, and forums members can reply, participating in the discussion. Sounds pretty similar, right? So what are the big differences? Social networks give you the ability to keep the information away from just anyone. You need to be “invited” as a “friend”, or “followed”, etc. When things are public, most often than not, only friends and followers ever see it anyway. In the case of forums, anyone can see it, yet only members can comment. This is a real plus when it comes to “adverting your websites” and giving SE’s another “page” of the forums to chew on, and hopefully rank the thread well in the search results. The obvious down side is spam. It always comes back to spam. I’m not talking about the completely blatant “Buy Gucci” knockoff threads that get deleted almost as quickly as they’re added. The spam I’m referring to comes from the forum members who post merely to get their signature links in as many threads as they can. This is referred to “sig link dropping”. Most often the URLs have nothing to do with the forum’s subject matter, and may impact the forum and the thread negatively in the SERPs.

How do you then use forums to your advantage, and to the advantage of the forums themselves? It’s simple. Join forums that are related to your website’s subject matter. But not just ANY forum that’s related. First visit the forums and see “who’s posting what”. Look at the quality of threads and replies. Look at frequent users signature links. Look for obvious spam threads and see when they were posted. If the spam is a day or more old, the forum isn’t being well moderated. Once you find a forum that suits you, join and start to think “social”. Engage in discussions, which is easy because the forum is about your site’s subject matter. Never add links or mention your site in posts. If you need to because of the subject, be vague (i.e. “with my site…” or “being a professional in the field, I suggest…”). When participating in debates or you disagree on something, post why you disagree, back it up, and ALWAYS be friendly. Many simply need to be educated, and if you know the answers, teach, don’t taunt. Make friends and connections by asking advice through private messages to other users, and return the favor to those who PM you. When starting a new thread, keep the forum’s search ranking in mind by using clear and concise titles and text. If the thread ranks, you’re SIG links will be seen, and in turn may rank better as well. NEVER cut and paste other’s content to start threads or in posts. Most importantly (I write this as a forum owner) ALWAYS read and understand the forum rules before you do anything. Just think before you act!

Like anything in life, it takes time to see results. Following these simple forum tips can help you and your online communities achieve SearchBliss. No pun intended, or was there?

Guest author John Kline offers free webmaster tools and an SEO/webmaster forum community at SearchBliss Webmaster Tools.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

mjtaylor August 23, 2012 at 12:24 am

John, thanks for your post. This is a perfect example of how forums can still work for you for your SEO – our acquaintance on V7N.com and our mutual respect led to my inviting you to post and your willingness to share. As you know I am a big fan of forums and have spent a lot of time on them over the years. I don’t believe a few hundred forum links can make a significant impact on the SERPs, but I know that a few thousand can.

John Kline August 23, 2012 at 8:27 pm

MJTaylor,
Thank you for allowing me to post my views about forums. You have a very insightful blog, and I plan to return often to read the many useful posts. Thanks again!

Wayne S Sullivan January 14, 2013 at 9:06 am

Thank you for this information. I have been searching for forums about real estate and new homes. I came across some articles that said forums are useless with the new google penguin. I see your page ranks high and I value your information. I will continue to search for good forums.

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