12 min read

Forum Link Building. Do Forum Backlinks Impact SEO?

Dmytro Sokhach, CEO of Admix Global
Forum Links

Forum links is perhaps the most controversial topic in the SEO community. Some SEO specialists claim that they are effective, while others argue about their uselessness.

I've been involved in SEO and link building since 2007 and have encountered forum links numerous times. In this article, I will attempt to provide a summary with specific examples.

Here’s what we'll discuss:

  • Why are forum links so popular?
  • The pros and cons of forum links.
  • How StopForumSpam works and the consequences of being blacklisted.
  • Do they have an impact on SEO?

Curious about how forum links can yield results? Read on to find out!

Indeed, a lot of website owners understand the importance of backlinks for search engine rankings, so they start thinking about getting them eventually. Forum links, in particular, often appear to be the easiest way to get a bunch of links quickly.

The reason forum links are popular

Forums have been a go-to spot for snagging links for a while now. You can hop on platforms like Fiverr and find loads of sellers offering forum links. They've got their hands full with hundreds or even thousands of orders lined up.

forum links from fiverr proposals

You can get links from certain forums within minutes, right after you sign up.

Forum links are popular because some SEO specialists think that the quantity of backlinks matters. When faced with the choice between one high-quality link, for, let's say, $350, and 100 low-quality links, many would prefer the latter.

However, as John Mueller from Google has stated, the total number of links does not matter. You can create millions of links, but Google will simply ignore them.

John Mueller about backlinks

One of the leading SEO experts, Neil Patel, also adheres to the position that it's not the quantity but the quality of links that matters.

Simply having 100,000 backlinks isn’t going to get you rankings. Spamming your links on a forum or directory or the comments section of a blog won’t get you good links.

Neil Patel, Co-Founder at Neil Patel Digital
Neil Patel

Co-Founder at Neil Patel Digital

As for my opinion, and I can't stress this enough, high-quality backlinks are one of the best investments in your website's SEO.

But you know what puzzles me the most?

No matter how much experienced SEO specialists talk about the uselessness of spam links, people won't stop buying them.

What’s even more perplexing is when an SEO expert earns $5000 a month, yet their budget for links is $500. In an attempt to demonstrate some progress in link building, this SEO expert buys forum links and presents them to the client as the results of link-building efforts.

A year passes, and it turns out that $66K has been spent on SEO, yet the site's traffic has not increased. While the SEO expert focuses on technical SEO (which is, undoubtedly, important), no matter how high the quality of the content or SEO optimization is, your page won’t climb up the top of Google rankings without links.

Disappointed, the client thinks that SEO is nothing but a hoax.

Did you know?

Companies that offer forum posting often refer to this service as Crowd Marketing, Natural Links, or Crowd Links.

The service is presented as organic advertising. A user engages in a forum thread discussing a certain topic, subtly promoting their product or service.

On its own, the concept of crowd marketing sounds quite promising:

Concept of crowd marketing links

But it’s not that simple in reality. And here's why:

  1. Say you're browsing an old forum thread from, like, six years ago. You decide to sign up and drop a comment to help out, right? Well, chances are, your comment will be deleted. It’s unlikely you signed up just to lend a helping hand, with no intention of getting a link.
  2. Fresh faces, especially those brand-new to a forum, don't get much trust. Back in the day, forums were all about sharing knowledge and giving each other a hand. The big shots were the ones dishing out advice and showing off their expertise. So, even if you're dropping a gem of a comment, you won't get the same trust vibes as the forum veterans. Your message might even feel a bit like an ad.
  3. Some of the big players like Quora and Reddit are on top of things with their strict rules and systems to toss out the low-rated stuff.

Therefore, there is a vast gap between forum posting and Crowd Marketing.

Crowd Marketing is nothing but a part of Social Media Marketing (SMM). This service should not be assigned to random performers. Links to your site might end up in unexpected places, possibly harming your brand's reputation.

To do Crowd Marketing the right way, an agency would need seasoned individuals from industry-specific, well-visited, and well-moderated forums. And this would require maintaining a full in-house team of experts from different fields.

However, such links will never come at a low cost.

Imagine this: after registering on an automotive forum, you provide daily answers and recommendations to various questions over several years. This builds trust, people start reading your posts, and seeking your advice. When your post includes a link to an online store selling auto parts, people are inclined to trust you.

Now, consider another scenario: you order forum posting for your auto parts store from a link-building agency.

What will they do for you?

They will register new accounts on automotive forums and leave one or several messages with a link. After a while, moderators, upon seeing messages with links from new users, may consider these messages as spam and delete them.

In practice, companies selling forum links as part of Crowd Marketing are essentially involved in large-scale spam. They generate a significant number of forum links every month, which can have adverse effects.

I know a company that employs 6 people, and each one of them creates over 3000 links per month. Yes, you heard it right, more than three thousand links per month.

How do they do it?

Their entire process revolves around creating accounts on numerous forums in advance. When they start working with a client, they post links to the client’s website on these forums.

They generate forum responses using Chat GPT, adding a link to the promoted website to each message.

For heavily moderated forums, spammers usually warm up their profiles before dropping any links to their promoted site (check out the example below).

example of spammers on forum

So, this user signed up and dropped a few messages across different threads to make it look like they were really into the conversation.

In one of those messages, they casually slide in a link to the website they're trying to promote:

one more example of forum spammers

At first glance, such a link building approach seems quick and cost-effective, but let's examine its pros and cons.

Benefits of forum links

Low cost

Getting links from well-respected websites can be a time-consuming and pricey method, but forum links are dirt cheap.

For instance, you can grab these links on Fiverr for as low as $3 each.

Referral Traffic

Certain popular forums like Reddit and Quora can be a consistent source of clicks. These forums have significantly increased their visibility on search engines after Google's Helpful Update.


Quora organis traffic growth


Reddit organic traffic growth after HGU

Ivan Palii shared a case exactly like this on his LinkedIn.

Why Your should invest in Reddit after Google Helpful Content Update

Downsides of forum links

Brand association with spam

Forums that don’t follow strict moderation rules are easy to join, and you can drop a link in your message that same day.

The bad news is that such forums are usually flooded with spam.

In the example below, you can see links to completely unrelated services within the same forum thread.

unrelated services within the same forum thread

In this example, a user named "Robert" placed links to different clients, all within the same forum thread.

one more example how user spam on forum

Ending up on StopForumSpam's Blacklist

Aside from the risks of getting banned from forums for promoting your site and damaging your product or service's reputation through spamming, there's another headache associated with forum posting: getting listed on www.stopforumspam.com.

StopForumSpam is like a free database where they keep track of people who spam forums and blogs. Lots of forums use their system so if a moderator on one forum flags your post as spam and reports it, you’ll be automatically blocked by other forums using StopForumSpam.

stopforumspam main page

For instance, the StopForumSpam database lists the user from one of the examples above. As we can see, both the IP address and the corporate email used for forum registrations ended up in the database.

How StopForumSpam banned ip

Ending up on this spam list is more serious than it might seem at first.

There's a good chance that even Google pays attention to this database. So if you've been spamming from your work email like in the example earlier, it could have a significant impact on where you rank on the search resuts. I've seen a few cases when a site’s Google rankings took a hit right after getting blacklisted like this.

Quick Loss of Links

Some forum link builders employ a sneaky tactic: initially, they post a message on the forum, and after some time (when the moderators have already read the message), they edit it to add link.

In the example below, the user added "Cheers, Anna" to their message a day later. Here, "Anna" became a link to the promoted website.

Here, Anna became a link to the promoted website.

Some forum link-builders have another trick up their sleeves: they make links invisible by changing the link color to match the background color of the forum.

However, administrators and moderators eventually delete such messages and links, so this is unlikely to play out in the long run.

As a result, just a few years later, a website that had placed around 3,000 forum links (see the example below), lost almost 90% of them.

quick loss forum links

When you lose a bunch of links like this, Google takes notice, thinking something fishy's going on. And sure enough, your site starts slipping in the rankings and losing traffic.

Low Link Indexing Rates

I did an experiment once. I splurged $500 on 100 UGC links. That's $5 a pop. Month later, i decided to check up on the links.

Well, 28 out of 100 links got wiped off the map entirely. And of the remaining 72, only 41 made it into Google's index.

Fast forward three years, and only 11 links from the original hundred, are still indexed.

Bottom line, each link ended up costing me $45.

If you're tempted by the cheap allure of forum links, do yourself a favor and peek at the Lost report on Ahrefs for websites that are heavily into forum link-building. You'll likely stumble upon a graveyard of dropped links.

Do forum links work for SEO?

Many forum engines use attributes like "ugc" and "nofollow" for all external links.

There's a lot of debate over the usefulness of links with these attributes. Some argue they're needed for diversification, while others claim they add more of a natural look to the link profile.

But can we really call forum spam "natural"?

And if forum or blog comment links are just meant to diversify other types of links, what if Google doesn't even take them into account?

Turns out, this whole diversification thing might just be a dud.

Check out the link profiles of those heavy hitters climbing the top of Google search rankings in competitive niches. You might scratch your head because, surprise, surprise – they're not milking forums for links.

And how on earth are they surviving without that diversity?

In Google's documentation, we get a straightforward explanation for the "nofollow" attribute:

What is nofollow attribute

Moreover, John Mueller has made it crystal clear that Google doesn't take into account links from user-generated content sites, which include forums.

John Mueller about forum backlinks

So, if you dig into sites that go all in on forum backlinks, you'll likely notice they're not exactly traffic magnets.

Take the sites Robert dropped links for in our earlier example – you'll find they're basically ghost towns in terms of traffic.

forum links doesn't work

Here's a clear example of the forum link-building impact.

In 2017, over just six months, this website cranked out over 100 articles and slapped on more than 3,000 forum links. While the content was fresh and attracting a heap of links, the site was on the up and up. But, about 8-10 months later, those links started dropping off at light speed, and the site started losing traffic as well.

example how forum links unimpacted website

How to Get Results from Forum Links?

Well, it's evident that forum links don't directly impact SEO. If we were promoting this site with forum backlinks, chances are, you wouldn't stumble upon this article in a search engine.

However, if we shift our perspective on forums from an SEO standpoint to building a personal or company brand through quality content, the results can be promising.

Take Alex Savy, for instance – he snagged some leads from Reddit by dishing out helpful tips in relevant discussions.

example how links from reddit give lead

Say, I want to hype up my link-building services using forums and Q&A sites. Here's how I might go about it.

First off, I'd scout out sites that are ranking high for relevant keywords. A handy tool like Ahrefs lets me dive into the "Organic Keywords" section and punch in something like "link building".

As you can see, Reddit is at the top of Google for the query "Best link building agency"

reddit ranking on top with keywords best link building agency

In the actual thread, users are hunting for recommendations. If we spill the beans about our service in a way that sets us apart from the competition, there's a good chance our efforts won't be in vain. After all, this Reddit topic is like a stream of traffic flowing in from Google.

quastions on reddit about best link building services

On the downside, the person who asked the question likely already found what they needed and might not be interested in our service anymore. Plus, chiming in on an old thread might not come off too well.

The second idea is to join the right forums and jump in with answers to users' burning questions.

Let's break it down with a real-life example (using Quora):

life result on quora saas link building

Check out this screenshot. It shows the search results for the phrase I'm interested in. If you spot a new question with no answers yet, that's gold. When you reply, your comment goes right at the top, grabbing everyone's attention.


Besides just hunting for SEO and links, being active on forums and social media can really boost your personal brand and bring in leads for your business. It's all about engaging with others and lending a helping hand.

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