Forum Links Explained (& Do They Impact SEO?)

Adam Steele
Apr 10, 2024
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Just a few years ago, the idea of getting links from online forums seemed laughable. Spammers had ruined their reputation, and Google was cracking down hard. But something interesting has been happening lately…

With recent Google updates heavily favoring online forums, there’s an argument to be made that forum links are making a comeback. This begs the question: are they worth a second look?

Let’s find out.

What Are Forum Links?

Forum links are backlinks to external websites placed within online discussion forums. They can appear in the original post, within replies where a user shares a relevant resource, or in a user’s signature block (though signature blocks are less common than they once were).

Why Forum Links Fell From Google’s Graces

Historically, forum links, especially those in signature blocks, were easy targets for spammers, making them very low value in Google’s eyes.

And what is a signature block?

Most online forums of old (some modern forums still use them) allow users to create a small block of text and sometimes links that automatically get attached to the bottom of every post a user makes. The intended use is to share a bit about yourself, the website you run, and your social media handles. It’s like a tiny, persistent business card.

Unfortunately, in the past, signature blocks were a quick way for spammers to drop links all over the web with minimal effort. Bots could create thousands of forum accounts and blast out posts with spammy signature blocks filled with links, artificially boosting a website’s rankings in the early days of search engines. Many forums weren’t well-moderated, so even the most obvious spam would slip through.

However, times have changed. Many forums are heavily moderated and have begun adding “nofollow” to links within signatures, telling search engines to pass little to no PageRank value to those links for ranking purposes. Forums also have better anti-spam tools, and Google is much better at spotting low-quality content patterns.

Why Forums Are (Potentially) Back on the SEO Radar

Google has gotten much better at identifying low-quality forum spam. Links that survive MAY come from more reputable forums with higher moderation standards, making them scarcer and potentially more valuable signals. Possibly. Just a hypothesis.

Something else to ponder: since the Helpful Content Update (HCU) and 2024 March core update, Google appears to be placing more emphasis on reputable online forums like Reddit. While most forum links are nofollow, a few might be dofollow. Even with the nofollow status, though, forum links are valuable as they help build a diverse backlink portfolio, which Google likes to see.

Beyond direct SEO impact, forum links can drive traffic, build brand awareness within your niche, lead to organic backlinks over time, and boost conversions. For instance, if someone finds and participates in a relevant forum thread and then clicks through to your site, they’re likely to be on the business end of the conversion funnel and ready to make a purchase.

I mean, just look at the boost in traffic Reddit has seen since HCU’s rollout. If you can get your site mentioned in prominent subreddits, there’s serious potential to drive high traffic to your website.

Considerations and Caveats

Before we move on. Allow me to cover some quick caveats:

  • Remember, nofollow is the norm, so although forum backlinks will help build a diverse backlink portfolio, direct PageRank benefit is limited.
  • Building forum links isn’t a quick-win scheme. Like any other backlink-building strategy, it will take time and effort.
  • Google is still wary of forum link manipulation schemes. There ain’t no ignoring that.
  • Although forum links have the potential to drive high-quality traffic, positive SEO results from forum links at this stage are largely anecdotal.

What Makes a Good Forum Link?

Alright, if you’ve reached this point and think that, besides the anecdotes, you still want to give this thing a shot, let’s examine what makes a good forum link.

Content and Domain Relevance

The most important factor, by far, is page relevance. Ideally, you want your link to be within a thread that’s directly related to your target page. But it’s not enough for just your post to be on-topic. The broader conversation in the thread should be relevant as well. Domain relevance isn’t as crucial, but it’s a nice bonus. Get this right, and you’re well on your way to building topical authority in Google’s eyes.

For example, let’s say there’s a forum thread about “Gluten-Free Baking Struggles.” You could potentially link to a page within that same category. Ideally, it would be something closely related to the original poster’s (OP’s) question, like a specific gluten-free cookie recipe.

Anchor Text

A forum link’s anchor text—the clickable words that contain the link—is a bonus if it’s relevant to your domain or web page. Building on our gluten-free example, a forum link with the anchor text “gluten-free cookie recipe” signals to Google that your linked page is about that topic, helping build topical authority.

However, getting too aggressive with keyword-rich anchor text can backfire and make your post look spammy. Here’s a breakdown of what works and what to avoid:

  • Ideally, a relevant keyword or phrase (“gluten-free cookie recipe,” “tips for gluten-free baking”).
  • Generic anchor text (“click here,” “this website,” “more info”) sucks and is unhelpful to other users. It’s a good way to get your account banned.
  • Unrelated keywords stuffed into the anchor text (“buy cheap electronics”) scream spam. Avoid using these spammy phrases at all costs.

A note on branding: If the context is right, your website or brand name can be a perfectly natural anchor text choice. Just keep this tactic for super-relevant occasions. Don’t kill your brand by getting on the bad side of forum regulars.

How to Find Good Forums

Nearly every industry has topical forums, so you should be able to find something relevant with a bit of digging. My favorite method is using Google search operators, like:

[topic] inurl: viewthread/viewtopic/showtopic/viewthread|forum

Replace [topic] with your keyword. This will surface active forums and conversations about your topic. You can refine further by using the “Tools” option to filter results from the past month for the freshest discussions.

Alternatively, you can use dedicated forum search engines like Just enter your topic and it will return relevant posts—handy if you don’t want to mess with search operators.

Getting Past the Moderators: Techniques That Actually Work

The biggest challenge with forum links is getting past vigilant moderators who are looking for spammy, link-dropping posts. Some subreddits have content policies that explicitly call out “self-serving” links, so be careful. If you blatantly add links to your posts or comments, the mods of these subreddits will ban your account with little to no arguments.

Here are some tips for passing forum moderators’ sniff test.

Technique 1: Infiltration (The Long Game)

Some experienced link builders play the long game by “infiltrating” forums. They create multiple accounts on relevant forums, carefully age them using different personas (varying IPs, devices, posting patterns), and track everything in a spreadsheet.

Once the accounts have matured, they can naturally participate in discussions and selectively insert links that are unlikely to raise suspicions. With multiple aged accounts, you could even have them interact, with one asking a relevant question and the other “naturally” recommending your link as a solution.

Truth is, mods get to know their regular members. They recognize names and can easily spot newbies who are out of place. The best approach is to have mods get familiar with you days, weeks, or even months in advance before attempting to post any links.

Technique 2: Become the Eager Power User

Another way to quickly build credibility without socking multiple accounts or building trust with mods is to become an enthusiastic new member. Mods know these users well. They’re keen to join a new community and will post regularly.

To play the part, join relevant threads, and contribute meaningfully to discussions—just don’t overdo it by replying to every single post. Aim for 1-2 quality responses per day. After a week or two, mods will recognize you as an eager new member who is genuinely interested in the topic. Then, you can selectively sprinkle in a helpful, relevant link where it makes sense.

Technique 3: If All Else Fails, Money Talks

As a last resort, some turn to sponsorships. As there isn’t much money in founding or running forums, most forum owners are eager to monetize, so you can sometimes get good rates for a paid post made by the site owner on your behalf. Owner posts tend to attract more replies and “official” weight.

One caveat—I don’t recommend contacting individual power users and offering them money to shill for you. Most established members are loyal to the community and will likely report such offers to the mods, getting you banned. Stick to official paid placements via the forum owners.

Conclusion and Next Steps

Think of building forum links like building relationships at an industry conference. You wouldn’t just walk in, drop a business card on everyone, and leave. You’d participate in discussions, share your expertise, and build relationships. The same goes for forums. When you contribute thoughtfully and provide genuine value, you can establish yourself as a trusted voice and naturally earn those clicks back to your site.

Now, navigating the ever-evolving world of SEO and link building can be tricky. But that’s where Loganix comes in. Our team of SEO experts will help you develop a comprehensive link-building strategy that includes high-quality forums, guest blogging, and other effective tactics. We’ll help you establish yourself as an authority in your niche and get your website seen by the right audience.

🚀 Let Loganix be your guide. Check out our link-building services today. 🚀

Hand off the toughest tasks in SEO, PPC, and content without compromising quality

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Written by Adam Steele on April 10, 2024

COO and Product Director at Loganix. Recovering SEO, now focused on the understanding how Loganix can make the work-lives of SEO and agency folks more enjoyable, and profitable. Writing from beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia.