Google: Forum Link Drops Can Get You In Trouble

May 27, 2014 • 8:13 am | comments (35) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

Google Penalty CardsSometimes you see some of the most obviously painful questions in the forums and you scratch your head, did that person just ask that publicly.

A Google Webmaster Help thread has one person asking if "backlinks from forum profile" can hurt him.

John Mueller from Google responded directly and clearly that it can hurt you. He wrote:

Just to be absolutely clear, if you are dropping links to your site in other people's forums in the hope of gaming search engines, then that's considered web-spam and can be taking into account by both our algorithms and our manual web-spam teams. It doesn't matter how much "PR" the other site has, it doesn't matter if it's a .gov forum -- what you're doing would be considered web-spam by us.

If you care about how search engines like Google view your site, I'd recommend cleaning those link-drops up, removing the link to your site, and not doing that in the future.

One of the more common manual actions I see are those with forum links, to be honest. Just stay away from it.

Forum discussion at Google Webmaster Help.

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Peter Watson

05/27/2014 12:35 pm

Great! So now we can expect the NEG SEO guys to start shooting forum links to competitors! Another reason to check your link profiles on a daily basis! I still can't get my head around why Google doesn't simply ignore bad links.

F1 Steve

05/27/2014 12:46 pm

>>>I still can't get my head around why Google doesn't simply ignore bad links

Peter Watson

05/27/2014 01:03 pm

I doubt there are any company shills at Google. Funny thought though.

Ben Griffiths

05/27/2014 01:18 pm

"Google works very hard to make sure that actions on third-party sites do not negatively affect a website. [..] In most cases, Google can assess which links to trust without additional guidance"


05/27/2014 02:05 pm

F1 Steve

05/27/2014 02:17 pm

Lmao, yes, there's our very own, one and only home boy!!! ;)


05/27/2014 03:16 pm

i know spamming forums is wrong but to say dont use a signature line or you will get a penalty is ridiculous. maybe im reading too far into this?


05/27/2014 03:49 pm

That's becoming an extremely problematic area imo -- as I think non-spamming forum members in good standing may be unwittingly causing manual penalties in some cases. I think it's probably wise to no-follow forum sigs (if you allow them at all) in the current climate. Example: Let's say you're a baker by trade and a car enthusiast, and you put a link to your bakery's website in your sig when you post on auto enthusiast websites. Historically, that's a legit thing to do -- it gives your fellow forum members an idea of who you are, and if you come across as smart in the forum, perhaps you know what you're doing when you're baking as well -- which might ultimately lead to some business. And historically, that's a legit type of interaction that mirrors real-world behavior (you might give some business to a neighbor you've come to know, for example). No doubt it's a tricky area that's wide open to abuses, but... I think it may be limiting people who are just trying to be good forum citizens as well.

Durant Imboden

05/27/2014 03:58 pm

In terms of ranking signals, who's to say that Google doesn't simply ignore bad links? Counting links and penalizing obvious spammers are two different things.


05/27/2014 04:04 pm

Better watch out, next up will be source links within Yahoo Answers. Google is just going to keep squeezing and squeezing. Google needs to become less powerful, so please encourage your friends to use Bing or DuckDuckGo.

Michael Martinez

05/27/2014 04:05 pm

Forum profile links are not displayed in signatures. The vast majority of forum profile spam is created through unused accounts (they never post anything to the forums).

Michael Martinez

05/27/2014 04:05 pm

"...please encourage your friends to use Bing or DuckDuckGo." Or maybe just encourage them to stop relying on spam.


05/27/2014 04:22 pm

This isn't about spam. Nothing good can come from one company having a monopolistic hold over an industry.

Mark Warner

05/27/2014 04:32 pm

Nobody has said that

Mark Warner

05/27/2014 04:34 pm

They do ignore bad links more often than take manual action.

Michael Martinez

05/27/2014 04:35 pm

It's completely about spam and about nothing BUT spam. Nothing good can come from people utilizing every trick in the book to promote themselves at someone else's expense. No one is entitled to traffic from Google any more than Google is entitled to index a Website. The relationship between search engine and publisher is a tacit contract. If people want to benefit from search traffic they need to play by the search engines' rules, just as the search engines need to play by the Website owners' rules when it comes to indexing their sites.


05/27/2014 04:58 pm

Its not about spam... Google is using its monopoly position to financially outlaw links because the patented Page Rank is critically flawed and when PR fails so will their monopoly hold on search.


05/27/2014 05:07 pm

Well then I hope that your site is penalized the next time I drop A link in a forum about the Hobbitt. EVEN though I'm citing you as the source of great information, you are likely to be penalized!! Of course things are going way overboard now because of the actions of a few from years ago. If Google didn't have such a dominate position in search they wouldn't be able to pass these laws, errrr rules, errr guidelines for penalties, errrrrrr actions.


05/27/2014 05:41 pm

Its an arms race and Google mistakenly thinks all SEOs are black hat. They may not say it, but they behave that way with their tactics. They encourage SEOs to play backlink whack-a-mole and neglect the fact that algorithmic punishments can easily be weaponized by black hats who now have and even better toolset to work with. Do you think black hats spend one second worrying about bad backlinks and link removal requests? It costs the blackhat a new domain name and hosting package to get a clean slate... thats about $15 and 3 minutes at GoDaddy... All the rest of this BS is for WHITE HAT SEOS... Google hates ALL SEOs equally and their punishments help black hats beat white hats.


05/27/2014 05:45 pm

My retail sites get hit by negative SEO attacks weekly... Google's claims are untrue.


05/27/2014 05:49 pm

I think you got it backwards... Google is penalizing links and counting spammers. Don't get me wrong. I like your way better. It just doesn't match what I see happening.


05/27/2014 07:36 pm

I wonder how John feels about the forum itself that maybe doesnt manage this tatic the best they can? I assume they get smacked as well? I would be nofolllowing signitnure links and then possibly noindexing thin forum posts that are usually/clearly spam. This would be threads that have no replies or ones started by forum memebers with less than 10 thread starts. Something like that?

the joker

05/27/2014 08:35 pm

Spam is what you eat for dinner... Get a life and your own opinion. Grow a set while you are at it.

the joker

05/27/2014 08:37 pm

Have you seen the Google SERPS lately!!!!! Open your eyes man!!! wow! You can not have had that much of the Kool-Aid!

the joker

05/27/2014 08:42 pm

Go post 10,000 low quality url's in some blog in Russia and you are fine though right? Send that blog reporter at Huffington a SBUX coffee card and your not buying links right? Come on man Black Hats are killing this algo. big time! And, when the next stop is the Huffington post links and the blog resource links (real citations MLA or Chicago style) then what will the spam angle on those be??? Dude open your eyes Google is Stalin, Castro, and Ivan the Terrible all rolled into one!

the Joker

05/27/2014 08:43 pm

This is the crux of the problem Google is weaponizing links!!!! This does not end well for anyone... including Google! Everyone will wear nofollow party hats and links will be dead! Googbye Hummingbird!

Michael Martinez

05/27/2014 09:30 pm

"Grow a set while you are at it." Says the person posting anonymously as "the joker".

Daniel Cuttridge

05/27/2014 10:58 pm

So how will Google be discerning what is a link to game the SERPs and what is just an innocent person trying to share a link to their site, or something related to a topic? Are all links from forums going to get slapped? No. Just more BS from a Google spokesperson. I don't doubt they'll slap penalties left right and center, but the day they start penalizing any external links from forums is the day they lose all credibility once and for all. Hope it happens soon!


05/27/2014 11:08 pm

so if your in a plumbing forum, and a question is asked about repiping, and you happen to post a link to self hosted blog post on repiping, with the intention to educate and share info, what side does this belong on, and let's not fool ourselves on what the end game is.

Ashutosh R

05/28/2014 08:26 am

Well de r already doing so...

Ben Guest

05/28/2014 11:22 am

Guys, if you're sharing a link in a discussion, you're fine. It's when you do it over and over and over and over that you'll get into trouble. Geez. Calm down. Why not someone test the threshold rather than thinking if you do it once, Google will penalize you.

Michael Moesch

05/28/2014 11:30 am

Thank you! Most forums nofollow links in posts now a days anyways. Anyone who relies on back links and the hopes of receiving referral traffic through forum posts probably isn't gonna last long anyways. There's a lot more things to worry about than this.

Stephane Brault

05/28/2014 12:05 pm

What credibility?


05/28/2014 12:31 pm

Michael, have you ever once included a link to your own site for the sole purpose of trying to improve its appearance? If so, you might want to tone down the "I'm perfect because I have never done it" attitude you spew around here.

Michael Martinez

05/28/2014 04:08 pm

So, instead of sticking to the topic you choose to cleverly switch to an irrelevant ad hominem attack. Why not just stay silent since you have nothing of value to add?

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