History of forum links?
Forums or discussion boards are online communities for like minded people to hang out and discuss various topics and issues about a common interest. Forums are generally free and open for everyone to join. And every member can jump into an existing discussion (or start one) to speak his voice. One useful feature of most forums is that members can quote a link in their posts. And this ability to link to any website gives them opportunity to build a backlink to their own website/blog. There was a time when forum links were easiest and fastest method of link building.
There are three kind of backlinks you can build using forums. When you sign up on a forum/discussion board in related niche and mention your website/blog in profile section. This backlink is called a forum profile link. It takes only few seconds to make a profile and get a forum profile backlink. Then you can join a discussion and along with your response post a relevant link in your post. Let’s call it a forum post link. And then most forums have a feature called signature which appears below each of your post. If your signature is allowed to contain a link then backlink such made is called a forum signature link.
Why forum links were so popular?
Some highest authority brands and organizations (e.g. MySQL, CNET) have forums for customer support. Even .edu and .gov websites have open forums. Since forums are open and free for everyone, you can use those forums to get high authority backlinks even .edu and .gov backlinks.
What happened then?
Automation software like scrapebox and xrumer abused forum links to the extreme. These software can build thousands of forum profiles per hour. And solo purpose of such profiles is link spamming. They can even go steps ahead of spam protection by solving simple captchas, verifying email and even post on discussion threads to activate certain features of forum membership. All major forums are now constantly bombarded with spam profiles using these software.
So search engines had to intervene and with introduction of nofollow attribute most forum links are now devalued. Moreover there is a risk of google penalty for forum spammers after penguin update. Even forums have updated their criteria for users who want to publish links in their posts.
Should you use forums for SEO now?
Those SEOs (and their customers) might still be in deep sleep all this time who are still selling link building services using forum profiles. You can easily get services on fiverr selling tens of thousands of backlinks to your blog for mere $5. One philosophy or rule of thumb I always follow in SEO is that backlinks which are easiest to get are most worthless. No matter are they dofollow or nofollow, high pr, edu, gov, authority, tiered or anything. Never buy such services.
Also do not buy/rent signature link spots of established members or use your own signature to build links. Because signature links are bad anyways. Any automated link is bad for SEO and a signature link is automated because signature appears automatically whenever you post something. Even if you use signature to build a link do not use keyword anchors to avoid penalty.
The effective way to forum link building today
It may or may not be worth the time and efforts depending upon your niche and the forum you are building links on. In some niches forum can be better for link building than other niches. If you are already an established member of a popular and active forum very much related to your niche, it makes much more sense to use that forum even if it is a nofollow forum than to register as a new member on a dofollow forum or high authority or high pr or .edu forum. Do not think about nofollow or dofollow. Because even dofollow links will not bring much link juice. Do not think about keyword anchor either. If fact you will increase your chances of penalty with exact keyword anchors in forum links. And do not think about SEO at all but look from marketing perspective.
Try to help other members with your post to solve a problem. link one of the most valuable post of your blog in and try to attract forum members to your website. If not a valuable dofollow backlink, atleast you will earn new readers/visitors and buyers to your blog. Focus on building relationship with the forum members so that they trust your link, find it useful and be grateful for it. If you are answering to someone thread make that answer authoritative and complete enough. If you are opening your own knowledge sharing thread make it so compelling that everyone wants to post a thank you message.
From SEO point of view you won’t gain much link weight. But you will certainly gain:
- Variety in your link profile.
- Very relevant new readers to your website/blog.
- A recognition in a community of your niche.