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Google: Link Drops In Forums Is Spam and Will Get The Dropped Site Penalised
engine




msg:4674986
 5:09 pm on May 27, 2014 (gmt 0)

We knew it was bad form, but it's confirmed by Google's John Mueller, dropping links in forums to your site will get your site into trouble, either algorithmically, or manually.

John goes on to indicate that you should clean up those link-drops, too.

For those many people that are still carrying on with the practice, i'll repeat it in plain English: Link drops in forums is considered spam by Google and will get the site dropped penalised. There's no advantage any longer. Give it up! :)

Here's a link drop. ;)

[productforums.google.com...]

[edited by: aakk9999 at 6:55 pm (utc) on May 27, 2014]
[edit reason] typo [/edit]

 

diberry




msg:4675896
 6:26 pm on May 29, 2014 (gmt 0)

I have to laugh. I took a few months off from this place to clear my head of the Google FUD, and now I can see how absolutely silly it really is.

Genuine users post links to site big and small all the time because they want to discuss something from the site in the forum. That's not spam.

I keep thinking of a webhosting forum I used to frequent for deals on hosting. All the host representatives had elaborate signatures advertising their companies - that was the culture. Some of these guys would post something as inane as "You should be able to find something that meets your requirements" just to shoehorn that signature into the forum, but others gave REALLY thoughtful responses that were valuable. I felt *I* could tell which ones were useless self-promotion, but I do not remotely see how an algo can reliably make that determination.

That forum was allowing people to promote their companies but (a) that benefited users who were shopping for hosts and (b) the ones who abused the privilege looked bad to users, and I don't know about everyone else, but I sure didn't try their hosting.

Ah, well. The EU courts have ruled that Google controls the content of the internet rather than just pointing to it, so I guess they're taking that seriously! Time to get back to work beefing up my social media traffic.

Ralph_Slate




msg:4675960
 10:20 pm on May 29, 2014 (gmt 0)

I assumed that Google penalized for spammy forum links 2 years ago.

I have a forum on my site. I had put in some effort to keep it spam-free, deleting obvious posts that were spammy, but I didn't put a ton of work into it because that takes a lot of time and it is a minor part of my site.

After a while, the spam posts abated and I figured that the spammers got tired of having their posts deleted and went away. I did now notice a lot of low-quality posts, sometimes people would register, quote a previous post, and say something like "can you tell me more about this?". No obvious spamming taking place. I couldn't figure it out.

When I got hit with an algorithmic penalty on April 24, 2012, one of the Google forum "top contributors" pointed out that my site was listed on blackhat forums as a PR6 forum site without nofollow (again, forum traffic is about 1% of my traffic). I honestly didn't know what that meant - I didn't even know what nofollow meant up until then. But I dug into my forum a bit (VBulletin) and noticed that all those low-quality posts (which I often deleted) were made by users who had placed links in "public" private messages which they were sending back and forth to each other. It was a feature of VB that I had never heard of. Google was picking up those pages and indexing them.

Basically spammers were using the inner bowels of VB on my PR6 site to boost their own sites.

I upgraded my VB software and set everything to nofollow (the older versions didn't allow for that). I also set up server directives to noindex all forum page types with the exception of three explicit types - the forum index, the post index, and the post itself.

In the past week, I decided that since the forum is so minimally important to my site, I'm going to deindex the whole thing. It doesn't get much traffic, but those are 23,000 pages in Google's index that might be devaluing my other pages. I noindexed the entire forum with the exception of the forum index (i.e. the names of the forum categories).

incrediBILL




msg:4675967
 12:20 am on May 30, 2014 (gmt 0)

Just remember, a few weeks ago they went after guest blogging, today it's link drops in forums, tomorrow it'll be links from websites in general.

The only links Google wants you to have is for site navigation and the rest should all come from AdSense.

Really, they don't even want you to build your own sites, you should be using blogger, G+, or whatever else they provide for you to store your content.

Google doesn't really want to index the web, they want to BE the web. They're basically getting all the weak minded sheep to do whatever they say like they're the only game in town, which they are in some cases, and the sheep mindlessly follow.

When Google tells people how to run their websites, and has the market dominance to make it happen, that's when they step over the line from just being just a search engine to doing things that smack of antitrust. I think it's time the DOJ started to take a look at these predatory anti-competitive practices.

While we still have other viable choices people really need to embrace Bing, Yandex and other alternatives before it's too late.

EditorialGuy




msg:4675970
 1:19 am on May 30, 2014 (gmt 0)

Just remember, a few weeks ago they went after guest blogging, today it's link drops in forums, tomorrow it'll be links from websites in general


Google Search wouldn't exist without links and Web sites.

Google is just trying to bring back the notion of links as citations, not as SEO currency or spam tactics. What's wrong with that?

Ralph_Slate




msg:4675979
 2:17 am on May 30, 2014 (gmt 0)

I tend to agree with incrediBILL.

How did we navigate the web before Google? With distributed linking. Things like Webrings, where one site told its visitors about the 10 other sites it thought was great. Or people telling others about sites in forums (or Usenet, back then).

Google has effectively outlawed Webrings - which existed before Google. If you try and cross Google, your penalty is invisibility. You're exiled to a place where you have to go it alone, get visitors by yourself, expect help from no one because people are afraid that they will be banished too.

Google is dictating your site structure. If Google doesn't like it, or it claims that "51% of the people don't like it" (as in an A/B test), then you're also exiled via Panda.

Google is assimilating your content. You have to structure your site so that Google can understand the content, so that they can suck it in. If you don't, you will be exiled.

What are your options? Exile yourself via your robots.txt file. Or be assimilated. That's it.

JD_Toims




msg:4675980
 2:53 am on May 30, 2014 (gmt 0)

What incrediBILL said.
-- The analogy of frogs in slowly boiled water comes to mind here.

lucy24




msg:4675985
 3:34 am on May 30, 2014 (gmt 0)

The analogy of frogs in slowly boiled water comes to mind here.

Eeuw.

"And then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out"? Like that?

rish3




msg:4675990
 4:07 am on May 30, 2014 (gmt 0)

Google is just trying to bring back the notion of links as citations, not as SEO currency or spam tactics. What's wrong with that?


The issue is that there's not a reliable way for an algorithm to determine what's a real citation.

How can Google, with a relatively high accuracy, divine who posted the link, and why they posted the link? They can guess, with all the caveats that accompany that kind of approach.

At the very least, they should ignore links that they feel are "bad", versus penalizing.

EditorialGuy




msg:4675993
 4:37 am on May 30, 2014 (gmt 0)

What are your options? Exile yourself via your robots.txt file. Or be assimilated. That's it.


Or you can just do what you'd be doing if there weren't a Google (which is what Google would prefer anyway, so it's a win-win).

martinibuster




msg:4675998
 4:42 am on May 30, 2014 (gmt 0)

How can Google, with a relatively high accuracy, divine who posted the link, and why they posted the link?


I am not certain, but I believe it's not the who. I believe it's the niche. Every niche has a linking pattern. I suspect the real problem for Google is that Google can't do this on the fly in real time as a query is entered. That's why we see penalizations come in waves, sometimes limited to specific niches. It seems like they are doing a round up of a specific footprint and tossing the "guilty" in jail and moving on to the next sector.

There are some footprints that are general in nature. But that doesn't catch all the manipulators. That's my suspicion. Haven't you ever thought it was odd how specific niches would get attention?

Clay_More




msg:4676003
 5:38 am on May 30, 2014 (gmt 0)

Or you can just do what you'd be doing if there weren't a Google (which is what Google would prefer anyway, so it's a win-win).


I tend to believe there is an elephant in the room. We can all try to ignore it, but it is still there.

lucy24




msg:4676004
 5:39 am on May 30, 2014 (gmt 0)

which is what Google would prefer anyway

Google wants everyone to go back to webrings, so proprietors of search engines can sell up, retire and rest on their laurels? Who knew :(

Dymero




msg:4676006
 5:45 am on May 30, 2014 (gmt 0)

@Ralph_Slate

I remember Webrings. Usually, though, they had a "previous site" and "next site" link when I used them. Today this would no doubt be called an unnatural way of linking.

When you come to think about, the web was probably at least half built on webrings, blogrolls, and link exchanges, all of which are now unnatural links.

Sgt_Kickaxe




msg:4676009
 6:37 am on May 30, 2014 (gmt 0)

Google, I appreciate your constant suggestions that I scour the web for things you deem "naughty" and that I take the time to "clean them up" but if it's not on my domain it's not my concern, period. I have better things to do with my time than worry about sites I don't own and very likely have never visited before.

Also, for future reference, when you say something is "bad" then the negative SEO types take that to mean it's a good thing to do to their competitors which very likely makes the problem worse for some, not better.

martinibuster




msg:4676040
 11:13 am on May 30, 2014 (gmt 0)

When you come to think about, the web was probably at least half built on webrings, blogrolls, and link exchanges...


It was the crappy state of the search engines that made AOL possible, remember that? The difficulty finding things gave rise to Yahoo. Yahoo exists because of a useful directory some university student coded.

jmccormac




msg:4676050
 12:33 pm on May 30, 2014 (gmt 0)

Google's big problem is that it has taken a wrong turn and it is being led by people who really haven't a clue about the context of links and Social Networks. Thus in their limited view, they try to recreate the "Star Trek computer" without ever realising that it was a just an actress's voice and a box with flashing lights and was rarely consulted. The Google PR flunkie that suggested this probably never even watched Star Trek:TOS.

This is why Google's "Knowledge Graph" idea, which is in reality just a Wikipedia scraper with a few tweaks, sucks. Google failed at social networks because Google doesn't understand people. They are the zombies of the dead web, always crawling the dead web while people have conversations on social media like Facebook and Twitter.

Since Google sucks at social networks, it also sucks at the "social" networks of websites. The problem of linkspam is very easy to solve. However it would render large swathes of meatbots unemployed overnight and make some people in Google look like complete numpties because it is such an easy mathematical problem to solve.

Regards...jmcc

frontpage




msg:4676414
 11:36 pm on May 31, 2014 (gmt 0)

Thanks Google Logic - Now all I have to do to get a competitor website delisted is to pay to have their domain spammed in thousands of forums. Thanks Google! Morons.....

Clay_More




msg:4676459
 6:01 am on Jun 1, 2014 (gmt 0)

@frontpage,

Sorry,I understand your frustration but forum spamming isn't going to delist competitors or make your site rise. That ship sailed.

CaptainSalad2




msg:4676524
 11:56 am on Jun 1, 2014 (gmt 0)

Google is just trying to bring back the notion of links as citations, not as SEO currency or spam tactics. What's wrong with that?


So your with google on forum/forum profile link drops? They should all be nofollow or they are breaking Googles guidelines, at least the ones we drop to our own sites? What about forums where other people start talking about our sites and drop links, are these not true organic links?

Should all forums bring in a global nofollow rule?

incrediBILL




msg:4676632
 9:17 pm on Jun 1, 2014 (gmt 0)

Google is just trying to bring back the notion of links as citations, not as SEO currency or spam tactics. What's wrong with that?


Google has the technology to determine what links are relevant to the page and which links aren't in most cases. Just like AdSense knows the topic of the page to show relevant ads, the search engine also knows what links are relevant.

They can determine what are citations and what are spam in the majority of cases but multipurpose forums are troublesome because the topics meander and it's more complicated to determine what links are truly related vs. spam.

One solution would be to ask the software makers to alter the software so that new members always get their links set to NOFOLLOW while Junior and Senior members would get the full citation value of the link.

Not only that, but Google itself could just read the member status and if it's NEW, discard the damn link as probable spam! Most forum software displays the member status right there on the page and if it doesn't, Google can follow the link to the member profile page and figure it out. They've already crawled every page on every website on the planet so they ALREADY KNOW your member status.

This isn't rocket science and any good scraper could do this so why can't Google?

I'm a software engineer for 30+ years, most of them spent in Silicon Valley, with just a HS diploma, and if I know how to do it I'm sure the people with alphabet soup behind their names that work at Google could figure it out!

Instead they're just throwing out a blanket statement about links in general.

I don't normally post such things in forums, esp. WebmasterWorld but I'm quoting Brett Tabke here as this is:

"BULLSHIT!"

A big steaming heap of it.

Google is a big bully pushing webmasters around at an alarming rate and the funny thing is most of the SEO tricks out there they complain about can be dismissed in software with little collateral damage.

If they aren't smart enough to do it, they know my email address and my phone number. If I can't crack it all by myself, I know a small team I could assemble that could crack this problem.

Sheesh.

Sorry if that came off sounding a little egotistical but I don't see why the whole problem is so complicated that instead of internally giving the links demerits that they continue to clutter the web with new nonsensical link values and when that doesn't work they piss off webmasters on a global scale.

jmccormac




msg:4676638
 9:38 pm on Jun 1, 2014 (gmt 0)

I'm not really surprised that Google can't fix the problem. Google waffles about its "Knowledge graph" (just another Wikipedia scraper) and wanting to emulate the Enterprise's computer which was really a box with flashing lights voiced by an actress. Apple, on the other hand, created Siri. Google has a very serious management problem in that rather than fixing the problem, they run away from it and try to tweak things. It might be more effective to revert to the link based system - something that has the solution to the problem within it.

Regards...jmcc

EditorialGuy




msg:4676645
 9:44 pm on Jun 1, 2014 (gmt 0)

I'm not really surprised that Google can't fix the problem.


Just because Google is able to detect unnatural link patterns (see IncrediBILL's post) doesn't mean Google has no interest in discouraging unnatural linking.

jmccormac




msg:4676646
 9:50 pm on Jun 1, 2014 (gmt 0)

Just because Google is able to detect unnatural link patterns (see IncrediBILL's post) doesn't mean Google has no interest in discouraging unnatural linking.
That whole thing about "unnatural links" is complete rubbish from a bunch of third rate minds. Mere PR flackery from the people who waffled about the Star Trek computer. It is easy to see why fanboys and fangirls who have no real expertise in search engine development would believe it. It is a problem that could be solved in seconds. However it would put a lot of meatbots out of work.

Regards...jmcc

EditorialGuy




msg:4676651
 10:18 pm on Jun 1, 2014 (gmt 0)

That whole thing about "unnatural links" is complete rubbish from a bunch of third rate minds.


Well, those third-rate minds are handling about six billion searches a day, so they can't be doing everything wrong.

Sometimes it doesn't hurt to step back and view the whole picture.

jmccormac




msg:4676652
 10:33 pm on Jun 1, 2014 (gmt 0)

Well, those third-rate minds are handling about six billion searches a day, so they can't be doing everything wrong.
No they are not doing everything wrong. A bunch of computers are running those searches. Good search engines provide good results and should have a bounce rate approaching 100%. Bad search engines make money from having lower bounce rates so that it can shovel more adverts at the searcher.

Sometimes it doesn't hurt to step back and view the whole picture.
It is the third rate minds who came out with the excuse about "unnatural links" that are the problem for Google. Perhaps I am just in Bad Will Hunting mode at the moment but I don't think that these people even have a clue about how to solve the problem because they don't have a view of the whole problem. They are twiddlers throwing stuff at a wall of data and hoping that something will stick. The fundamental aspect of links as an indication of authority isn't really broken. It just needs to be updated.

Regards...jmcc

incrediBILL




msg:4676677
 2:58 am on Jun 2, 2014 (gmt 0)

The fundamental aspect of links as an indication of authority isn't really broken. It just needs to be updated.


Exactly.

Seems like after the founders wrote the original Google which used the link hubs to discover the web that all the engineers that followed in their footsteps have just been flailing.

This stuff would best be left to a consortium and not the big web tyrant currently bashing our sites to death and penalizing anything with a link.

Time to roll up their sleeves and do some real engineering work instead of thrashing and flinging mud at the wailing wall of links to see what sticks.

What's next, directories will be outlawed because they have links?

Ooops! They did that already, I forgot.

That was before outlawing others to blog on your blog, aka guest blogging.

Wait, isn't guest blogging similar to posting on a forum?

I can't tell if this is an anxiety, panic or Penguin attack I'm having ;)

atlrus




msg:4676902
 5:35 pm on Jun 2, 2014 (gmt 0)

It's just a small part of the war Google is waging against forums. Why not throw in some FUD or real actions, as well?

Over the past year or so, I have seen a complete disappearance of forums in the search results in places where forums naturally should pop up in the top 10. Instead - I get tons of "seller" results with some "answers" websites (wikianswers, yahoo answers, etc.)

I don't run a forum (too much work to keep them clean), but I am a heavy forum user and I have resorted to use "forum" after every search where I prefer a forum to be displayed as an option. If I don't do that - the returned results are pure garbage.

Great tool for negative SEO, though. There are tons of services that would place links on thousands of Polish/Russian/Whatever forums for 10 bucks overnight...

EditorialGuy




msg:4676912
 6:53 pm on Jun 2, 2014 (gmt 0)

I don't run a forum (too much work to keep them clean), but I am a heavy forum user and I have resorted to use "forum" after every search where I prefer a forum to be displayed as an option.


It might be nice to have an advanced-search form with checkboxes to include or filter out results from information sites, commerce sites, forums, and so on.

For what it's worth, I continue to see forum results in quite a few Google searches. (Often they're badly out of date, though.)

fearlessrick




msg:4677427
 1:27 pm on Jun 4, 2014 (gmt 0)

I think it's time the DOJ started to take a look at these predatory anti-competitive practices.


Thanks, IncrediBILL, for making me LMAO. Just thinking about what a complete waste of time and money our current DOJ is and the abject failure of political hack Eric (Place) Holder offers a choice between projectile vomiting and uncontrollable laughter.

Fortunately, for my computer screen, I have opted for the latter.

There will never be another anti-trust case brought against an American company by the DOJ unless it actually threatens some diminution of campaign contributions.

Have you noticed that the planned merger of Time Warner and Comcast is sailing along?

Here's the current thinking: If a merger gives consumers fewer choices and a big company a monopoly, it is not an anti-trust violation.

You should read some articles at ZeroHedge (just add .com... is that a link drop?) to get a better view of the outrage in what used to be America.

I generally don't get very political at WebmasterWorld, but I had to respond in this instance, if only because of my complete and total disrespect for the DOJ under Eric Holder.

Have a nice future, but, forget about anti-trust. There's no such thing in the USSA anymore.

mrengine




msg:4677439
 2:02 pm on Jun 4, 2014 (gmt 0)

Just thinking about what a complete waste of time and money our current DOJ is and the abject failure of political hack Eric (Place) Holder offers a choice between projectile vomiting and uncontrollable laughter.

Too big to fail and too politically connected to regulate comes to mind. I would agree that the chances of another antitrust case being brought against a USA company by the DOJ is slim. The political hurdles are just too high for those companies that have extraordinary market control, Google included. Also, most government workers have the reputation of working very little for their salaries. Launching another antitrust case would mean that the white collar investigative department of the DOJ would have to commit itself to a lot of work.

fumanchu




msg:4677447
 2:14 pm on Jun 4, 2014 (gmt 0)

Bill, I couldn't agree more with what you said. I have been recommending DuckDuckGo to everyone I know to steer people away from Google. Google is stupidly generating massive amounts of anger and even outright hatred with their behavior. Right now they are still king of the hill, but the ground is shifting beneath their foot though they don't realize it.

Wait and see. More and more people will begin to abandon Google for search. Their results stink, and who wants to have their searches logged and tracked in this day and age?

DuckDuckGo works great as my default search engine, and I will keep trying to move as many people as possible away from Google. Thankfully, I am seeing more and more search engine traffic from DuckDuckGo and other search engines. I think that will continue as people begin to abandon Google.

At this point I no longer worry about trying to make Google happy with my sites. It's a pointless waste of time that will only result in having to do it over and over and over again, each time they change their algorithm. Screw them, I just don't give a damn any more. I used to use nofollow on my links but I turned that off in the plugin and all of my links are do follow and I don't give a #*$! if Google likes it or not.

[edited by: fumanchu at 2:34 pm (utc) on Jun 4, 2014]

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