Alright. So I'm getting fairly tired of seeing people storm in here in hot pursuit of nothing more than signature links. Worse than this, though, are the countless hacks posting on here about how posting in forums to get signature links is a viable SEO strategy. For anyone who is reading this who is:
A) New to SEO
B) Looking at hiring an SEO
C) Posting in this for the sole purpose of trying to get back links
D) Ignorant to modern SEO techniques and methods
Let me sum it up for you. Anyone who recommends posting in a forum solely for signature links is a hack. They don't know what they are talking about and you shouldn't hire them or listen to what they say. They are stuck in the stone age.
That said, posting in forums can be a GREAT benefit to SEO, just not in the way that you might think. So without further adieu, I'm going to guide you through how to use forums to your SEO advantage:
Have you ever heard the saying that it's "All about who you know?"
Well, that's true in business and it's also true in SEO. Meeting other people in your niche can bring with it a HUGE host of opportunities for legitimate link building, not limited to:
- Identifying commonly asked questions or common problems people in your niche are facing. Can you say "HELLO LINKBAIT" ?? Go back to your site and write content about that issue and offer a solution. Then share it everywhere you can. Optimize it well, and you might rank organically for it. As a real world example, one way I've done this is with this post on my blog. I noticed people here would post about having great rankings without any traffic. I figured out why, wrote about it and now I can share this resource when similar questions arise (though I am certainly NOT recommending spamming your articles in forums either. Always answer the question as best you can in the thread for the benefit of ALL users - cite the source after being helpful.)
- Identify hot news items or developments in your industry. Go write content about it. Share it. Just like the above: boom, traffic. Boom, links. Again, it really is that simple, it's just not fast, easy or brainless.
- Identifying others with a common interest. This is so huge. Say you really love animals like Dr. Marie. By posting in a forum for vets, you might meet someone with a great blog that you could guest blog in. Maybe they have a blog you disagree with that you could respond to, and open up a conversation! You might meet someone who hosts a really great resource site and might be willing to link to you. You might meet someone who has contacts you can put to use - or, you just might meet SOMEONE. Never ever underestimate the power of a real relationship - one that can't be fostered by spamming a forum.
- Distinguish YOURSELF as the authority on a subject. Part of what lured me here was great posts by people like EGOL or Fathom and the great advice I saw being dispensed by the experience folks here. Now, I read the blogs of people I respect. I wouldn't be doing that if they had showed up, spammed their links and checked out. I've tweeted links from various members here because I value what they had to say. By actually contributing, you have the opportunity to get a little "Fan base" of your own, and these fans can become your "disciples". If people can see that you know what you're talking about or that you are good at what you do, they're more inclined to pay attention to what you have to say or share.
- The long-tail. Forums like SEOChat, Beyond.ca (A car forum that is HUGE and ranks tremendously well for all kinds of things) and so on tend to rank well organically. That's not to say that your piddly little link now looks important or that Google thinks YOU should rank well organically too. But here's what I'm getting at:
If you are a serious contributor in a thread that ranks very well, people might be inclined to check you out or check out the resources you shared. It's why I keep a link to my blog in my forum sig - if someone thinks I am contributing in a helpful way here, maybe they'll want to read other things I've written. Maybe not - but that's their prerogative. You might also add your Twitter account to your sig so people can follow you if they're interested. But as far as SEO value? Well, you'd need hundreds of posts in well ranked threads to have any noticeable impact on your rankings - and that's if your competitors are wasting the same time spamming forums that you are.
Not only that: If the only reason you're here is for a sig link, we can tell. Your posts usually look spammy. You're not interested in engaging other users. You're more than likely the kind of person who will wind up banned, ignored, or hated by those who are actually trying to contribute. If after investing hours trying to earn that link your account gets banned, then what?
What I'm trying to get at here is that forums serve one significant purpose: to help people find information and connect. While it's not a one-and-done, fast solution, the relationships you foster on a forum can have dividends not only SEO but for business and life in general. Forums can lead to quality linking opportunities. They are not quality opportunities themselves.