Irina is a senior SEO specialist with more than 8 years of search engine optimization experience. At Backlinkers, she shares her experience to help you create a strong link profile to achieve TOP rankings.
Forum Backlinks in 2023: How to Use Them Correctly?
As you delve deeper into the world of SEO, you probably now understand the importance of having high quality backlinks from relevant websites and those with high domain authority. They not only aid with your search engine optimization efforts, but they also boost referral traffic while increasing your website’s authority and credibility.
Over the years, many SEO and digital marketing professionals have found forum backlinks to be a valuable marketing tool for their websites. Wondering how to create forum backlinks? Simply find an online community of like-minded SEO professionals, website owners, and digital marketers within your niche on the internet, create an account, and actively engage on the platform by commenting using links to your website or providing links to your website on your profile.
But is building forum backlinks effective in 2023? This article looks into the definition of forum link building, whether it helps boost your SEO efforts, its pros and cons, as well as best practices.
What Are Forum Backlinks?
Forum backlinks originated from forums, where online communities globally would interact on discussion boards to exchange ideas about various subjects, predating the advent of social media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.
Facebook SEO discussion groups
As the internet continued to evolve, the concept of backlinks emerged. Backlinks, also known as inbound or incoming links, are hyperlinks that direct users from one website to another. Search engines, like Google, consider backlinks as a signal of a website’s reputation and credibility. The more high-quality and relevant backlinks a website has, the more authoritative it appears in the eyes of search engines, potentially resulting in higher search engine rankings and providing valuable insights.
Amidst this backdrop, forum backlinks, sometimes referred to as “forum links,” came into play. A forum backlink is a hyperlink that originates from an online forum and points to a specific webpage, typically on the profile, post, or comment of a forum user. These forum backlinks allow users to navigate directly from the forum to external web content, thereby generating backlinks. Their origin can be traced back to the practice of including URLs in posts on forums, which gradually evolved into a strategic link building technique that has SEO value.
Forum dofollow backlinks serve a dual purpose. Firstly, they drive traffic from the forum’s user base to the linked website, generating potential visitors and customers. Secondly, they contribute to efforts by adding to a website’s backlink profile, demonstrating domain authority and relevance to other search engines. This dynamic helps search engines assess the website’s trustworthiness and brand authority in its field.
In the broader context of SEO and link building, forum backlinks are just one SEO strategy among many. Other tactics offer ways to build quality backlinks, such as guest posting, influencer collaborations, content marketing, and acquiring backlinks from authoritative websites. However, forum backlinks stand out due to their accessibility and ease of creation. Anyone can join relevant forums, participate in discussions, and incorporate links to their website, provided they adhere to the forum’s guidelines and rules.
Different Types of Forum Backlinks
Creating quality backlinks Forum SEO helps boost your link building efforts and increase brand awareness. But did you know there are different types of forum backlinks?
Based on how you generate links from forum sites, here are the main types of forum backlinks:
Links within Forum Posts
When forum posting, you can share links to your website, directing other members to relevant pages on your site. Provided the link adds value to the reader and is naturally placed, such post links build quality backlinks and increase brand awareness.
Reddit and Quora are among the most popular online communities globally. If you create forum posts on any of these platforms and include post links to your website, readers are more likely to visit your website and eventually link to it.
r/SEO group on Reddit
For example, in a discussion about the benefits of different programming languages, a user might include a link to an article comparing Python and Java performance.
When used genuinely and thoughtfully, these links can contribute to the overall quality of the conversation and establish the credibility of the linked website. They can also drive traffic to the linked site if users find that you contribute valuable information.
If overused or not relevant to the discussion, these links can be seen as spammy or self-promotional, leading to negative reactions from the forum community and potential removal by moderators.
Another forum link building strategy is to include a link to your website in your forum member profile. Thus, when you participate in forum discussions and a forum member is interested in contacting you, learning more about you, or having a deeper discussion on a specific topic, they can easily click on your forum profile link.
But are forum profile backlinks bad for SEO? As one of the more controversial topics in the SEO industry, there are many who can attest to the power of forum profile backlinks. This is because, over the years, some have utilized this link building strategy to transfer link juice or authority to their websites.
However, Google’s ever-changing algorithms now prioritize natural and relevant backlinks while categorizing profile links as manipulative link building practices. While some of these links can still provide value, their excessive use can penalize websites. As such, it’s best to create backlinks that are natural and relevant to enhance your site’s SEO value.
Profile links are used to create a more permanent and less intrusive way to promote a website and increase brand awareness. They are often included in the hope that users who are interested in a particular user’s contributions will click through to their website, generating referral traffic.
For example, a user who specializes in photography might have a link to their personal photography blog in their forum profile. Referral traffic refers to the visits that come to a website through these clickable profile links, which can be a valuable source of targeted visitors, enhancing brand visibility and recognition.
Profile links can help establish a user’s identity and expertise in a specific field. They also provide a more subtle way to drive traffic to the linked website.
Some forums have restrictions on the visibility or type of links allowed in user profiles. Additionally, profile links may not be as effective for generating traffic as other types of links.
Some forum posting sites allow their forum members to create custom signatures that automatically appear whenever they publish forum posts. Often, you’ll find that website owners will take advantage and include links to their sites here. While this is another form of manipulative link building practices according to PageRank, it can be of great help when establishing relationships/connections and directing traffic to your site.
Signature links are commonly used for self-promotion, such as promoting personal blogs, portfolios, or online businesses. They can serve as a way to increase the visibility of the linked website among members of the forum. For example, a user who offers web design services might include a link to their portfolio website in their forum signature.
Signature links can potentially generate more traffic over time as the user engages in multiple discussions. They also help with branding and visibility.
Many forums have specific guidelines regarding the size and content of signature links, and some may restrict commercial or promotional links altogether. Overusing signature links can also lead to spammy behavior and negatively impact a user’s credibility.
Dofollow vs. Nofollow Forum Links
While most forum submission sites provide nofollow forum backlinks, some offer dofollow links. So, what’s the difference between dofollow and nofollow forum links?
Well, dofollow links signal search engines to pass website authority or link juice from the site the link is published on to the site the link points to. As a result, such links affect search engine rankings. Alternatively, nofollow links do not pass link juice and thus cannot impact your site’s authority. That said, this doesn’t mean forum backlinks nofollow are useless.
Far from it, they are valuable marketing tools that aid in driving targeted traffic to your site, boosting its online visibility while also diversifying your link profile. An excessive number of “follow” links can give off an unnatural appearance. Nofollow links contribute to the diverse backlink profile process.
Additionally, in 2020, Google altered its approach to handling nofollow links. It no longer entirely disregards them; instead, it can utilize them as a signal for the crawling and indexing process. This involves paying attention to “the textual context of the links pointing to content” to assist Google in gaining a deeper understanding of potentially unnatural linking patterns.
Additionally, forum backlinks nofollow help forum sites protect their users from being directed to spammy sites and forums. Perhaps this is why most of these online communities use nofollow links.
But there are also several dofollow quality forum backlinks sites. How can you find them? Simply search the internet for a dofollow forum posting sites list, or simply get in touch with our team of link building experts. We’re always ready to help.
Are Forums Beneficial for SEO?
Over the years, website owners and digital marketers have used online forums to enhance their search engine optimization techniques. But this comes with its advantages and disadvantages. In the past, such forum links good contributed to search engine ranking as they provided an opportunity to generate backlinks through profile links, signature links, or links within posts.
The SEO landscape has seen significant changes over the years. Search engines have become more sophisticated in assessing the quality and relevance of forum posting backlinks, which is reflected in the evolution of the backlink profile. While forum backlink lists were once considered valuable according to search engine ranking, the emphasis has shifted towards quality over quantity. Search engines now prioritize authoritative, contextually relevant forum post backlinks from reputable sources.
In the current scenario, forum backlinks have somewhat diminished in importance due to factors such as nofollow attributes, spam concerns, and changing user behavior. However, this doesn’t mean forum link building is useless for SEO. Valuable, informative forum posts can still attract traffic, establish authority, and indirectly contribute to SEO efforts.
Limited SEO Value of Backlinks
Note! Not all forum backlinks provide the same value in terms of SEO. Why? Because it depends on the quality of the forum sites and several other factors, like dofollow/nofollow link attributes.
Ahrefs conducted a study analyzing the impact of nofollow links from forum discussions on search rankings. The study found that the majority of nofollow links had limited or even non SEO benefits, and had little impact on improving search ranking. This suggests that while nofollow links might still provide other benefits, they are less influential in terms of direct SEO impact.
While they don’t provide any ranking benefit, they’ll drive more targeted traffic to your website. For instance, if a user enters a specific keyword in a search engine and one of your forum posts provides a comprehensive answer, your post will appear at the top of the search engine results pages (SERPs). In turn, this results in more traffic and increased brand awareness.
Likewise, if you participate in spammy forums or engage in overly promotional activity against most general forum rules, it can lead to the community deleting or ignoring your forum posts, as such websites can be penalized.
Google’s Stance on Forum Backlinks
Generally, Google updates its algorithm to better detect natural and relevant links. In particular, the 2012 Penguin update prioritizes the reward of high quality sites while diminishing the authority of sites with many spammy links.
Penguin update on Google
Regarding forum backlinks, Google representatives say they are ideal for boosting online visibility and increasing referral traffic. But they don’t increase your chances of ranking better on Google.
Further, Google’s Link Schemes guidelines specifically state that building links on forums by over-optimizing anchor texts can lead to a penalty. Today, it’s better to focus on generating natural and relevant backlinks since Google is better at recognizing manipulative link building practices.
Some of the potential algorithm updates that could affect forum backlinks are:
- A stricter evaluation of the relevance and quality of the forum;
- Higher penalties for spammy or manipulative forum backlinks;
- More sophisticated detection of low-quality user-generated content.
How Do Forum Sites Work?
The typical forum consists of a number of topics, also known as threads, that users can create or reply to. Provided you’ve created a profile, you can engage with other members and share ideas/thoughts on various topics on an online discussion site. These platforms are usually community-driven as they provide space for members to freely interact with other members with similar interests.
Every member must follow forum guidelines and general etiquette practices. They include:
- Providing valuable content relevant to the topic discussed,
- Maintaining respect and avoiding offensive language,
- Observing relevant formatting guidelines to ensure forum posts are easy to read and understand,
- Including accurate sources to justify claims,
- Avoiding overly spammy or promotional content, etc.
A forum moderator is responsible for ensuring that forum members observe general forum guidelines and etiquette practices. They also approve/delete posts and mediate conflicts that may arise during forum discussions.
Direct and Indirect Traffic Benefits
The primary benefit of forum backlinks is driving targeted traffic to your website, whether directly or indirectly. But what do we mean by directly and indirectly?
Direct traffic benefits are when you gain referral traffic to your site through your forum posts or profile links. As such, forum members who find your contribution valuable are likely to click on such a forum link to learn more, with some even linking to you. Such direct traffic to your website leads to increased engagement and possible conversion if your site meets the user’s needs.
Alternatively, indirect traffic benefits are where a site receives a boost in search engine rankings due to receiving backlinks from reputable forums. Upon receiving quality backlinks from high authority forums, search engines are likely to associate your site with a certain level of credibility and authority within your niche. As a result, you’re likely to rank higher in the SERPs and gain more organic traffic to your website.
For this reason, it’s best to consistently engage on such forums, trying to provide valuable insights related to your niche. After all, consistent participation and the sharing of insightful content are key to enjoying direct and indirect traffic benefits, search engine results, and non-SEO benefits;
Best Practices for Using Forum Backlinks
Effectively leveraging forum backlinks in SEO for traffic generation requires a strategic approach. Here is a step-by-step guide to best practices for using forum backlinks to elevate your SEO efforts:
- Identify relevant SEO forums within your niche or industry. This aids in ascertaining that the audience will be receptive to your content.
- Create a profile that showcases your prowess in your niche. Don’t forget to add a professional photo or avatar and a profile link.
- Familiarize yourself with forum guidelines and policies to ensure you maintain the required etiquette standards while engaging with other members on the platform.
- As you create forum backlinks in your posts on the forum, customized signatures, and profiles through consistent participation, ensure that you’re always providing value. Focus more on quality than quantity. It’ll increase your chances of attracting high-quality traffic to your site.
- Always maintain a respectful tone on such platforms. Establishing yourself as a reputable authority on a forum is key to driving more referral traffic to your site.
- Prioritize joining online forums that provide dofollow links since they transfer link juice to relevant sites.
- To avoid receiving a penalty from forum moderators, avoid being unnatural and spammy.
How to Obtain Forum Backlinks?
Forum link building is among the easiest strategies to implement. Here are some ways to obtain quality forum backlinks for your site.
Identifying Relevant Forums
The first step entails finding niche specific forums. You can do this by searching for niche-specific keywords in a search engine or following related discussions on Reddit, Quora, Stack Exchange, or other social media platforms.
Stack Exchange SEO threads
These platforms are a good place to start when searching for relevant forums, as the right forum backlink can result in significant traffic.
Placing Your Dofollow Links
As mentioned earlier, it’s best to prioritize selecting an option from a reliable dofollow forum submission sites list. Not only do they pass link juice, but such forums can also boost your ranking position and maximize your efforts to obtain maximum visibility.
Nonetheless, whether you join a forum that offers dofollow forum links or nofollow links, it’s crucial to know where to place your dofollow forum links. This could be your signature link, profile link, or forum link for a post. Strategically placing your links here increases your chances of earning traffic and valuable backlinks.
Developing a Posting Strategy
Keeping forum rules and policies in mind, develop a forum posting SEO strategy to establish yourself as an authority in your field and boost your website’s reputation.
Here are tips for effective forum posting:
- Choose Relevant Forums: Join forums that are relevant to your niche or industry. By participating in forums where your target audience frequents, you can be sure that the right people will see your contributions.
- Complete Your Profile: Fill out your profile with accurate information, including your expertise, skills, and a professional-looking avatar.
- Understand the Rules: Familiarize yourself with the forum’s rules and guidelines. Abiding by these rules shows respect for the community and its standards.
- Add Value: When participating in discussions, provide thoughtful and informative responses. Focus on genuinely helping others rather than solely promoting your content.
- Engage in Discussions: Initiate and contribute to discussions that align with your expertise. Share insights, ask questions, and encourage meaningful conversations.
Pay attention to a weekly posting schedule you can follow:
|Initiate threads by posting a discussion statement or question||Contribute answers to other users’ questions on Quora
Follow Twitter conversations
|Promotional (naturally promote our links while answering questions)||Initiate threads and contribute answers||Promotional (naturally promote our links while answering questions)|
Ensure that you maintain professionalism at all times and don’t blatantly promote yourself to avoid going against community guidelines. The more insightful content you provide consistently, the more referral traffic you will receive and the higher your chances of building a strong backlink profile and receiving backlinks.
Providing In-depth Responses
Always make the extra effort to provide detailed responses to forum posts and threads as opposed to answers in one or two sentences. Link to the relevant authorities and make your content easy to read by including bullet points/lists. Don’t forget to write in a conversational tone and respond to other members who comment on your thread.
Here is an example of a good response on Quora where the author has promoted their site naturally:
And here is a not-so-detailed response that doesn’t offer lots of value to readers:
What to Avoid
You may be tempted to comment on every topic or post on your preferred forum. But it’s essential to avoid spammy tendencies, as it will lead to flagging by forum moderators. They include:
- Creating fake accounts or profiles to promote your site.
- Posting irrelevant or low-quality comments with your links.
- Hijacking popular threads or topics with links.
- Using signature links or forum banners unrelated to the forum niche.
Likewise, you should also avoid platforms that sell forum backlinks. These spammy forums provide no SEO value and could potentially lead to a manual penalty since they resemble backlink farms, a black hat link building technique that goes against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
JCPenney is a well-known example of a website that has suffered from Google penalties in the past for using spammy link building. They were revealed to be buying links from low-quality sources, including unrelated forums and directories.
Non-SEO Benefits of Forum Backlinks
Forum backlinks are not useful in enhancing your efforts. But they are a valuable marketing tool for several other reasons. They include:
Increasing Brand Awareness
When you provide a forum link to your website on a discussion board, you’re inviting other community members to visit your site, thereby increasing its visibility. With this visibility, more people stand a chance of discovering your site, leading to increased brand awareness. The more familiar people become with your brand name, the more traffic you’re bound to receive.
For consistent branding, follow these strategies:
- Unified Username: Use the same username on all platforms.
- Profile Picture: Maintain a consistent profile picture.
- Bio or Signature: Craft a uniform bio or signature.
- Visual Elements: Stick to a common color scheme and font.
- Content Style: Keep a consistent writing tone.
- Topic Expertise: Focus on specific subjects you excel in.
- Regular Engagement: Engage consistently in discussions.
- Value-Driven Posts: Share valuable content regularly.
- Positive Interaction: Maintain a respectful attitude.
Attracting Clients and Newsletter Subscriptions
It’s possible to boost your clientele and newsletter subscriptions by posting on relevant forums. If you create posts about your e-commerce brand or products/services, it can increase potential sales if the client can easily access your site and find value from it. The trick is to identify relevant forums that consist of people who’ll find your product useful.
Subtly promoting services or products without appearing overly promotional requires finesse and a focus on building genuine connections with your audience, which can also positively impact your backlink profile. Here are some tips to help you achieve this:
- Share content that provides value and educates your audience about related problems and solutions.
- Incorporate your product naturally into anecdotes or stories for a genuine touch.
- Encourage engagement with open-ended questions and requests for opinions.
- Showcase customer experiences and testimonials to subtly demonstrate your product’s benefits.
- Share insights that position you as an expert in solving relevant problems.
Risks of Forum Backlinks
Leveraging forums for backlinks is a simple and enticing link building method that can increase brand awareness. However, there is a fine line that can result in this method becoming spammy and blackhat. You should be as ethical as possible, and be aware of the risks of forum backlinks:
Google’s Quality Guidelines and Penalties
Strictly posting forum links is against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, as the search engine views them as a manipulative link building practice. Its algorithm actively scans thousands of websites to detect spammy links and ignores them, causing a bad reputation for your website.
That said, these strict guidelines can lead to the removal of your site from Google’s ranking index due to the nofollow links offered by forums. Therefore, instead of focusing on how to publish links on various platforms, it’s best to focus on sharing helpful content that naturally attracts links.
Black Hat vs. White SEO Approaches
Forum backlinks can be either black hat or white hat SEO tactics, depending on how they are used and where they are posted. Black hat forum link building is when you post irrelevant, low-quality, or deceptive links. And when you employ techniques such as posting links on unrelated forums, using fake accounts, or hiding links in signatures or images. White hat forum backlinks entail posting links that are relevant, high-quality, and honest. You contribute meaningfully to forums related to the website topic, using real accounts and disclosing the link’s purpose and affiliation.
Forums and Question/Answer websites are more popular than ever, attracting the attention of many marketers and SEO professionals. While the popular ones don’t offer any value in terms of link equity, they are still a place to showcase your expertise and increase your brand awareness.
You can still contribute meaningful answers and recommend your links naturally. But don’t solely use them to post weak answers with links that come off as promotional. It may negatively harm your site, for instance, if it comes across an elaborate scheme to increase brand authority.
There are also future algorithm updates to consider as you select this method. Rules and updates could become more strict about links in the future. So, even though sharing links on online forums may be okay, don’t rely on it as your primary method of link building.