A Guide to Forum Link Building

Guide to Forum Posting Sites for SEO

Backlinks have been a key ranking signal for many years, but Google has been cracking down on dodgy or spammy backlinks for a long time now. 

Previously, it was exceptionally easy to hop from forum to forum, building up a bit of posting history and then posting some content with links for instant SEO juice.  

Prior to 2005, Google followed pretty much every link which meant it was a case of quantity over quality. 

Fast forward to now and we now realize that Google wants quality over quantity. They’ve understandably made it harder to jump between forums posting backlinks embedded in thin or low-quality content. 

So, are forum backlinking tactics dead? Not quite!

The Chronology of Backlinking

Backlinks have a turbulent history. Google has long considered them an important ranking signal since they provide a means for one site to vouch for another by means of a referral. 

However, the tricky element is, Google needs to discern when a site is referring to itself. Prior to recent updates, it was quite easy to self-submit stacks of links to various indexes, databases, spammy forums, and directories. These tactics could provide instant SEO juice to any site, regardless of the value it offers internet users. 

In 2005, Google added the nofollow attribute so webmasters flag poor quality or user-generated links to prevent Google from crawling them. This gave power to credible website forums that could be abused by link spammers looking for quick-win backlinks. However, according to Moz, data shows that even nofollow links are considered a ranking signal when other factors are also favorable (e.g. the authority of the site). 

The 2011 Panda update further clamped down on so-called ‘article marketing’ where SEOs published low-quality, often templated content to article databases to embed some quick-win backlinks. This terminated the rankings of article submission sites that had been taking a handsome sum in return for hosting poor-quality articles solely for the purpose of backlinking. 

The war on spammy backlinks has continued, with Google announcing a series of algorithm changes that gave webmasters the ability to add two new attributes to links on their site in addition to nofollow. Webmasters can now mark up sponsored or paid links as well as links embedded in user-generated content. This gives webmasters another way to provide Google with clues as to what a link means and how they should rank it. 

Google has even taken a dim view of backlink exchanges which are a genuine white hat link building technique for the most part. 

Generally speaking, the quality of a backlink still depends on:

  • The authority of the linking site
  • The authority of the linking page
  • Traffic
  • The content surrounding the link

It’s clear that most backlinks likely yield some benefit for SEO, even those earned via backlink exchanges or legitimate quick-win methods. 

For forum posting, what does matter is developing a strategy that both Google and the forum owner respect. 

That means sticking to relevant, higher authority forums, and not skimping out on content quality and posting authenticity. 

These principles are fundamental to building backlinks. 

Why Bother With Forum Posting?

So why bother with forum posting for SEO; what are some of the benefits of forum backlinking tactics?

1. There are thousands of forums

There are thousands of still-active forums on the internet, many of which receive thousands of posts and comments every single day. 

Forums cover pretty much every single niche, subject, industry, or topic you can think of which provides you with an opportunity to find forums that are directly relevant to your site(s). 

2. It’s quick and easy

So many sites don’t have any backlinks – some 66.31% in fact, according to Ahrefs. 

Building backlinks undoubtedly takes time and effort, which is why quick-win tactics like forum posting, directories, and link exchanges have always been popular. 

Whilst it’s true that Google has broadly devalued synthetically-earnt backlinks in recent years, they still matter, especially for smaller sites. 

3. Many forums are high-authority sites

Many forums are part of high-authority sites. That’s not to say that Google will treat your backlink like any other link embedded in content created by the site itself, but still, there’s some genuine value to be extracted from forum posting. 

You can check the domain authority (DA) using various SEO tools – Moz has a free one here. 

4. Network and drive traffic to your site

Engaging in forums is a solid way to drive traffic to your site and build community engagement and awareness. 

Many forums are targeted at startups, DIY entrepreneurs, and SEO beginners or novices. Being active in forums relevant to your niche is valuable beyond backlinks. 

Finding Dofollow Forums

Whilst there probably is some (limited) value to nofollow links, there are plenty of forums out there that don’t mark links as nofollow. These are the forums you want to hunt down. 

It’s worth mentioning that the vast majority of social media sites, Q&A sites, and major messaging boards like Reddit mark all links as nofollow by default. On rare occasions, sites like Reddit do allow Google to crawl links. BacklinkSEO provides a good explanation of this here. 

Aside from searching manually, there are many sites that post lists of dofollow forums:

Search for ‘dofollow forums,’ ‘link follow forums,’ ‘backlink forums,’ etc, yourself and you’ll find tons of similar databases and lists of dofollow forums. 

Another option is to manually search Google for forums specific to your niche. 

Use the inurl:/ search string. 

For example, if your industry or niche is photography then search for:

“Photography inurl:/ forum” 

This particular search string returned tons of photography forums. It’s worth mentioning that many of these will be ridden with spam whereas others are filled with a decent level of quality content. 

Hunt down the more authoritative, relevant forums and target those first. The more authoritative and the more relevant, the better. 

Next, you’ll need to check the forum to make sure their links are follow and not nofollow. 

One solid strategy is to use the forum’s search box to search for ‘www.’ This will locate links in forum posts. You can see the result for searching ‘www.’ on PhotoForum here.

We can see a couple of links here – probably people posting for backlinks.

Now we need to check if the links are follow or whether they’re marked with nofollow. 

  1. (on Chrome) Right click > View page source.
  2. Hit Ctrl+F and search ‘www.’, or search some text from the link (in this case, I typed in ‘417’ to find the link pictured in the screenshot.
  3. Find the link and look for a nofollow tag. If there’s no tag then you’re good to go – the link should be crawled by Google, unless there’s something else going on with the site. 
  4. Backlinko has a good guide to finding follow/nofollow links here. There are a few methods you can use. 
  5. You can also use a Chrome browser add-on like this one which automatically scans backlinks as you browse.
  6. You can also analyze your competitor’s backlinks using a competitor analysis SEO tool. You’ll be able to quickly find forum backlinks and other quick-win backlinks that you can then go and claim yourself. 

Finding whether or not links are marked with nofollow should be quite straightforward. 

Once you’re certain that the forum is good for linking then it’s time to make a profile and get posting. 

Posting Strategy For Forum Backlinks

Once you’ve located a solid forum, it’s time to make a profile. You should be able to insert your site(s) into your profile signature and possibly even a bio/about section. This is well worth doing. 

Next, it’s time to engage with some posts. 

If you’ve found a genuinely good, active forum, then genuine engagement shouldn’t be too difficult. Some very general forums (like SiteOwnersForums) contain all sorts of posts on almost any topic imaginable – you’re bound to find a few topics to get stuck into immediately. 

It’s good practice to build up some posting history before you embed any links whatsoever. It can’t do any harm – making one to three short comments a day across say, 10 to 15 forums, should take just 15 minutes or so.

Bear in mind that many forums (especially the better ones) will have robust anti-spam bots and moderators in place to clamp down on spammy backlinks. 

After all, allowing spammy backlinks will damage the authority of the host site. 

Embedding Links

One common tactic is asking for others to ‘critique their site’. It’s a fair tactic and it’s hardly unreasonable to want to collect some feedback on your site. Make sure your site is absolutely secure before you place your first link, as you can’t be sure as to who is lurking in the forum. 

It’s probably best to avoid being too direct with your links if possible. This might seem tricky but you’re not looking to place your link loads of times – placing it in a couple of active, high-volume conversations should do the trick. 

All forums have different tolerance to linking, and many users will be none-the-wiser that you’re inserting your links for backlink purposes anyway, so long as you’re being authentic. 

Analyzing your Backlinks

Once you’ve placed some links, you can use an SEO tool to check your site’s backlink profile. 

Your backlink profile should reveal whether or not any links pointing to your site are indeed ‘follow’ and not ‘nofollow’. You’ll also receive a breakdown of the quality of the backlink and whether or not Google trusts it. 

Any spammy/dodgy backlinks that might harm your SEO are also highlighted by most SEO tools’ backlink analyzers. If you’ve accidentally placed your link on a dodgy site then you should remove it. 

Summary: Guide to Forum Posting sites for SEO

Posting links to forums remains a solid quick-win backlink strategy today. 

Quite how far these links will go to rank your site is up for debate, but the general consensus amongst SEOs is that forum posting is a solid strategy for smaller or medium-sized sites at least. 

Once you’ve identified some forum candidates, setting up your profile and posting some content doesn’t take long. 

Always pay attention to the relevance and authority of the site, and make sure that any links posted by users are marked to follow and not nofollow. 

That’s about it – it’s time to win some quick backlinks!” 

I have been doing SEO in one form or another for the past 12 years. Currently, I have several clients and a small portfolio of websites. My aim with this site is to give beginners everything they need to get started in SEO.

SEO Administrator