When it comes to link building, forum backlinks are easy to overlook.
Posting on forum sites can be a great way to generate backlinks for your website, but it has to be done in the right way – just like the rest of your SEO efforts.
But what do these links offer, and are they actually an opportunity worth taking over other potential sources of traffic and site-boosting SEO benefits?
Table of Contents
- What are Forum Backlinks?
- Do Forum Backlinks Help With SEO?
- The Benefits of Forum Link Building
- Do Forum Backlinks Work?
- Do Forum Sites Mark Forum Backlinks Nofollow?
- Are Forum Links Nofollow On Any Specific Site?
- How To Get Forum Backlinks
- How to Earn Forum Backlinks Properly
- When Shouldn’t You Use Forum Links?
Forum backlinks are any links to your website that come from forum sites. This could be in a post, in a user comment, on a profile, or even in a user signature.
The main reason that forum links are worth considering is that they are incredibly easy to generate.
Having an account on online forums allows you to place forum backlinks in a range of locations, each featuring small snippets of content that you get to write yourself.
In theory, creating forum backlinks would be a perfect way to boost SEO and direct more targeted traffic to your website. Unfortunately, this is not always the case – especially since many forum links have little to no value in SEO.
On their own, forum links are not that useful for SEO purposes. They do not provide much ranking value, and links in forum posts may be marked as nofollow links – meaning no valuable link juice for your site.
Google representatives have also confirmed that Google’s algorithm does not value forum links as highly as many other kinds, so forum link building for SEO is not necessarily going to be that effective.
However, that does not make a forum backlink pointless. Forum backlinks can provide some benefits that make them a great link building method, just not in the way that other links do.
Standard forum backlinks might not be ideal for direct SEO efforts, but that does not make them useless.
A good forum backlink option can still give your site valuable link juice and traffic – it is just that most sites find links on a forum valuable in a different way.
While forum backlinks are not going to be valued as highly as other link types in many instances, they are still links.
Building links from online forums related to your site will still boost your SEO, especially in an ongoing forum discussion on an active and trusted platform.
Since the site’s reputation and perception by search engines influences your own, you can still bolster your website’s rankings by dropping links into the right forums.
Even with a reduced SEO value, there is still some benefit, and adding these links usually does not cost anything.
The other main reason to seek forum backlinks is the traffic.
Forums provide a great way to drive targeted traffic to your website since people within those forum discussions are on that online forum site for a specific reason.
This means that finding industry-related forums can allow you to put a link on a site that is entirely about your industry within a discussion about your industry.
This relevancy not only boosts SEO but also means that your forum backlinks may start to grab traffic.
Even if only a small percentage of forum members click the links in your profile or signature, that is still more relevant traffic coming to your site with no extra effort required.
Each online discussion site you sign up for can become another place to spread awareness of your brand name.
Setting up forum membership on many forums at once can get your name in more online communities, even if it is just in a very passive way.
Depending on the forum rules, you may even be able to join in discussions about your own brand.
This can be useful for established companies since it can serve as another PR tool if you are willing to take the risk of direct conversations on an open online discussion site.
The biggest question you need to ask is whether or not forum backlinks actually work. While typical forum backlinks are not going to hold much SEO value, they are not worthless.
If you want to make your forum links good SEO tools, then you need to do more than just basic forum posting to get your signature links out there.
That means approaching forum membership and posting in the same way as other SEO methods.
Put quality above quantity. A forum post is like any other content – a good forum post can be worth dozens of awful forum post examples, and the post links will have value to match.
Participate in the discussions. If you join an active and vibrant community, you do not just want to drop a forum link and leave. Whether you build valuable relationships with a new community or just boost your site’s reputation, forum backlinks work well if you take the forum seriously.
Stay relevant. Forum backlinks work best in relevant situations, and some forums have a diverse range of discussions going on at any time. Each forum post is like a blog post: make sure you keep relevancy in mind whenever you post a link.
Don’t spam. While forum profile links may be allowed, some sites may prohibit brand links in signatures, and users may get frustrated if you are shoehorning links to your site into all of your forum comments.
What about services that sell forum backlinks?
Never buy anything from services that sell backlinks on forums.
While this might sound like a great way of scoring valuable, authoritative backlinks that would otherwise take time to build yourself, there are some serious risks involved, especially for smaller businesses.
- Many of these services are automated and produce low-quality forum backlinks, getting you penalized and removing a valuable marketing tool in your arsenal.
- These poor links can damage your site’s reputation or even get you in serious trouble if you purchase too many too fast.
- Links are often unrelated or come from spammy forums with no real value behind them, damaging your site’s standing even further and offering very little link juice.
- Most search engines will detect spammy forums and penalize sites that purchase links from them, which can obliterate your website’s SEO rankings if you rely too heavily on them.
It is usually better to focus on building links on sites you trust and seeking out relevant forums where you can form relationships with the community there.
This leads to high-quality organic forum backlinks that you know you can rely on.
Nofollow links can be a problem for SEO, and unfortunately, some forums make almost all links nofollow.
This can stunt your SEO efforts before they even start, which makes it important to understand where the dofollow links actually are.
That depends on the owner and site designer. Nofollow links block any kind of link juice transfer, while dofollow links ensure that the forum backlinks send some link juice over to whatever page they are linked to.
If you are going for traffic, the link type does not matter as much.
However, if you want the full SEO benefits, then you need to focus on dofollow links. However, nofollow links can still be useful for things like:
- Getting traffic to your website, since nofollow forum backlinks are forum backlinks that users can still click on.
- Increase brand awareness since many nofollow links are forum backlinks in up-front places like forum posts or profiles.
- Diversify your backlink profile since nofollow links are forum backlinks that still count as a link, just with no authority attached. This can still be important if you want a diverse range of links and connections behind your site.
How easy are forum backlinks to get? Again, that depends on the site. However, you can often secure some basic forum backlinks through these simple steps:
Identify some relevant forums. Do your own research into forums and discussion board sites within your industry or niche, then focus on the ones that have the biggest populations or match your particular products and services the most.
Create a profile. Sometimes a direct branded profile is better than trying to sign up under your own name – that way, you can make more people aware of your business just by being on the forum, posting occasional posts, and responding to questions.
Join in with the discussions. If you are on a forum, posting and being an active member of the discussion can make it much easier to promote your site via link building without seeming spammy or breaking any forum rules about how to behave.
Share your useful content. Only post links to your site when it is relevant: this avoids anti-spam rules and allows you to come across as an authority to the other people on the forum, as well as limiting your do-follow forum backlinks to relevant situations that have the biggest SEO impact.
Build solid relationships. Network with other users or advise them on problems that they are stuck in related to your field. Do not take every opportunity to push link building – being genuinely helpful can paint your brand in a better light and lead to some solid customer relationships.
If you want more do-follow forum backlinks, then you need to use the forums well.
- Follow the rules. Make sure you understand the rules of each forum and follow them closely to avoid penalties or bans that could wipe away your link potential.
- Be helpful and contribute. Make yourself a part of the forum.
- Take your time. Be patient, and do not rush into a flood of forum posts with do-follow links.
- Keep track of your progress. If you want to generate backlinks across multiple forums, make sure you understand what counts as success.
- Treat each forum like a different project. Know each forum’s guidelines, do not double-dip in places where there are forum backlinks to your site already, and do not start link-spamming on the same page or site.
Understand other forum backlink benefits
Remember that a forum backlink is not just about the SEO. They can be a very valuable marketing tool in general.
A good backlink can secure more traffic and drive more attention to your website, making forum backlinks good for general organic advertising and growth.
Beyond that, they can draw in users who find the forums through a search engine, allowing for more organic traffic outside of the forum.
Being visible on more sites means more brand awareness, and actively participating in a forum can put your brand in front of people who would otherwise never see you on a search engine.
This can capture the attention of people that would not be easily marketed towards using standard internet marketing industry tactics, such as users on private forums that you manage to join.
Even if you have to use nofollow backlinks, you can still drum up more interest for your brand, even on private forums.
Whether you are going for a generic discussion platform or something highly specific like Warrior Forum (itself a digital marketing forum), a forum platform can be a good way to get more people looking at your brand or even signing up for newsletters.
Building brand authority makes a big difference – if not to Google’s algorithm, then to the people who hear of your site and the way that they talk about your business.
If you can cement yourself as an authority and/or trustworthy body within your industry or niche, you can build up a stronger reputation that will guide even more traffic toward your site.
Forum backlinks are not perfect. Within the SEO industry, there are a lot of mixed feelings about forum backlinks, and they are not always the search engine optimization goldmine you want them to be.
Risky Uses of Forum Post Links
It is very easy to fall into a habit of treating forum backlinks like free links, but that is not the case.
While they are a great link-building tool, you can’t just throw them together and reap the search engine optimization benefits.
For example, creating a huge amount of do-follow links on a forum can get your posts removed as spam, which might also lead to the website owners banning you and removing that entire avenue of high-quality backlinks.
In industries where forums are rare, you do not want to get banned from any major discussion sites, especially not ones where you were already making some headway.
Search Engine Penalties
There is also the fact that you can easily slip into black-hat or grey-hat tactics when doing this, as well as being penalized by search platforms if you make the wrong moves.
Adding do-follow links to your forum signature might be fine, but setting up links in specific ways could get you penalized for misleading users or abusing the link options you were given.
It can be important to play it safe when working with forums since one mistake could backfire quite badly on your site. You need to be careful that you don’t overstep any boundaries or cause any unwanted conflicts.
Scott Calland is a highly regarded content specialist with an English Degree. He has a passion for creating compelling content as a UK journalist that engages, informs, and entertains readers. With over 10 years of experience in creating news publications as a reporter, Scott has developed a keen eye for detail and a deep understanding of how to craft content that resonates with audiences. Working closely with data analysts Scott’s research on topics is unrivalled for latest news updates.
Scott is also an investor in Searcharoo.