Back in the old days, when walking to school was uphill both ways, forums were a great source of inbound links for a website. You could visit several forums a day and leave several posts at each forum and be credited with an inbound link at every one. That seems to have gone by the wayside these days as most forums now nofollow all their links. But not all forums do, which is the point of my post for this morning.
Anyone who posts in forums solely for the link juice is doing it for the wrong reason. That’s not the real benefit of forum posting. It never has been. Even when every forum online gave link juice that wasn’t the primary benefit; it was ancillary.
The real benefit to forum posting has always been the relationship building aspect of being a member of the community. Forums are discussion groups. They are places where people go to get specialized knowledge and information from others with similar interests. It’s a friend-helping-a-friend platform and you always have people with different levels of skill chatting with each other about philosophy, technique, tools of the trade, etc.
As you interact with other members of the group, you are allowed to provide links to resources (even your own), and can even put in signature links with all of your posts to let people know what business you are in and allow them to visit your website. Again, though, not all forums allow signature links. Some forums make you pay for privilege.
Well, in short, spam is what happened. As soon as word got out that forums were a good place to get link juice, every Search Engine Optimization expert and Internet marketer in the world flocked to the forums and flooded the message boards with their “Come to my website and see the fabulous new widget I’ve built for people who never visit this forum” type comments. Yes, without concern for the character of the board or the interests of the people in the forums, Internet marketers only left blatant marketing messages and didn’t bother to be useful or join relevant conversations. This unnerved a lot of regular forum participants who began to complain to the forum moderators.
To cut down on spam, forum moderators did two things. First, they instituted the “nofollow” links policy, which effectively cut down on the amount of spam they were getting almost overnight. Secondly, many forums started limiting the lines you could have in your signature link or not allowing signature links at all. In essence, what they were saying was, “If you aren’t here to join and be a part of our community and all you want to do is promote yourself then we aren’t interested in you being here.”
But not all forums went this route. Most did, but some forums still allow signature links and still give link juice. They’re hard to find, but they’re still there. That doesn’t mean, however, that you should run out and look for all the forums that give link juice and start posting marketing messages. It does mean that if you have relevant information that fits for a particular forum and you use decorum in presenting what you have to offer, not only can you realize the benefit of more traffic to your website, but you can also realize a small Search Engine Optimization benefit. My word of caution: Don’t abuse it.