Forum links… not like that!

Blog comments, forum links and directories.

The unholy trinity of 2020 link building.

In the digital PR world they’re disliked almost as much as, “they’ve used it, but they won’t link!”

😠

The history of these tactics is well-known, but the 2012 Penguin update brought the world crashing down around anyone using them extensively. Paddy Moogan’s ‘The Link Building Book’ neatly summarises the brief history of everyone’s Happy Feet-inspired update.

Anyone still promoting these tactics as primary methods for link acquisition is worryingly outdated. Even a cursory Google search shows the effort and concern that so many ‘experts’ still give to finding elusive Follow links from forums.

We all know the industry is better than that.

But, by researching almost any brand, you will find backlinks from forums.

Is this problematic? Will it negatively impact your site’s search performance? Should you be worried?

Not quite.

What’s the deal?

There are thousands of forums across the web.

From Reddit and TripAdvisor to MoneySavingExpert and Mumsnet, to almost every single niche topic you can think of.

These links have the potential to deliver thousands of website visitors with a very real interest in making a purchase.

The forum user might have asked for recommendations on a particular topic, or asked if anyone else has experience with a particular brand to help them reinforce a purchasing decision.

The same also applies to millions of subreddits as well.

The technical bits

Google clearly defines the SEO value of forum links.

Despite the efforts of anyone still trying to find Follow links from forums, the value does not come from the link itself, but from what it brings.

In any event, done correctly, Google advises against passing SEO value from forums – specifically, using the rel=”ugc” qualifier.

Quite simple – but that’s not where their real value comes from.

Being known, being seen

If your brand has enough clout to be ‘part of the conversation’ – do it.

By maintaining the high standards of your product or service combined with a positive customer experience, you will consistently develop new brand advocates via forums.

Aside from the fundamental ability to deliver on your service promises, you need a reputation.

That comes through PR and digital PR.

Developing and increasing brand awareness will play a massive part in attracting website visitors from all its corners – not just your owned media channels.

The numbers

To give this some context and relevance for your brands, let’s explore a number of forums and some of the brands they’re linking out to.

I’ve set a series of link limits to show that it isn’t just massive brands that naturally attract links. Without this limit, it would bias the results solely to brands with enormous public awareness.

Reddit
circa. 1,000 🔗

  • fishkeeping.co.uk
  • transfermarkt.co.uk
  • tunein.com
  • typeform.com
  • open.ac.uk

circa. 100 🔗

  • thisismoney.co.uk
  • qpr.co.uk
  • eurohostels.co.uk
  • autoexpress.co.uk
  • leicestermercury.co.uk

Mumsnet
circa. 1,000 🔗

  • homeaway.co.uk
  • zooplus.co.uk
  • whistles.com
  • pregnancysicknesssupport.org.uk
  • menopausematters.co.uk

circa. 100 🔗

  • sockshop.co.uk
  • thehappyfoodie.co.uk
  • parkers.co.uk
  • whatcar.com
  • crownpaints.com

MoneySavingExpert
circa. 1,000 🔗

  • mhbs.co.uk
  • yazoo.co.uk
  • worksmart.org.uk
  • cargiant.co.uk
  • bigmatts.co.uk

circa. 100 🔗

  • brother.co.uk
  • watersideholidays.co.uk
  • shelterbox.org
  • smartdriving.co.uk
  • trex.co.uk

*Measured using Ahrefs. Correct as of 2 August 2020.

All of these links, while not passing any direct SEO value, result in website traffic.

It’s likely too, in more niche sectors, that these forums might rank highly for long tail search terms which you can research and explore; even exploit.

Website visitors can also be remarketed to via Facebook Pixel or existing cookies for Google Ads ensuring their potential customer lifespan stretches beyond one single visit.

Moving forwards

Not every link will be positive of course. Forums by their very nature will see complainants, but that’s still an opportunity to save their custom or convert them to an advocate.

Additionally, the forums you consider for your brand do not have to be as huge as those mentioned above. From news and magazine websites, to sector or specific trade bodies, there will be a forum for every niche.

For brevity, I haven’t even mentioned Quora, public/private Facebook Groups or even closed Whatsapp chats. All of these exist to explore within your niche, alongside appropriate forums.

Now’s the time to work out what they want.

Quick tips:

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Dave

Dad, digital marketeer at Tank PR, Derby County fan, film buff, book worm and husband. In that order, but don't tell the wife.