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

WebmasterWorld Administrator engine us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month Best Post Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4674984 posted 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]

 

Catalyst

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4674984 posted 5:48 pm on May 27, 2014 (gmt 0)

Thanks for posting that one Engine. It has me concerned. I posted this over in that thread, but wanted to ask opinions from folks here as well.

I own 2 forums and am active on many. I def get the forum spammers that are trying to game Google, that should not be allowed.

However I do legit posting on forums all over the place every day helping folks with Google Local issues. I have a sig and profile on all these forums. It's just common practice to do so.

So based on what John said in that post, do you guys think that no one should set up a profile or sig on forums? That legit posters also should delete their profile and sig links?

That would almost be like posting anonymously and not giving folks a chance to see who you are, that you know what you are talking about and have a site related to the industry. Even over there at the G forum, the profile image is linked to your G+ page so folks can see who you are and what you do.

How can the Google algo tell the difference between a forum link spammer or someone like me who is an active poster and has THOUSANDS of forum links, many of which are at my own forums?

Then Lysis said: "Nofollow. If it's just for marketing traffic, then nofollow shouldn't be a problem."

HOWEVER... Going back and finding all your forum links and changing them if you are very active is a pain. I don't care about the links, but I also don't have time to go through the trouble.

Does not seem fair if you are not a spammer and were linking for normal exposure at that community and not doing it for backlinks, to be classified as a spammer and have to jump through hoops!

Plus does anyone know how to "no follow" a BB code sig link? A good majority of forum sigs are in BB code.

ken_b

WebmasterWorld Senior Member ken_b us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4674984 posted 5:57 pm on May 27, 2014 (gmt 0)

If I found the right thread, the question was about profile links and JohnMu did not specify if he was talking about profile links, post link drops, or signature links.

So when he said "Just to be absolutely clear ..." he wasn't clear at all.

ColourOfSpring



 
Msg#: 4674984 posted 6:07 pm on May 27, 2014 (gmt 0)

So more ammo for those that use automated systems that automatically post forum signatures on dead forums that are no longer admin'd but are indexed by Google.....:( (for negative SEO purposes of course)

engine

WebmasterWorld Administrator engine us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month Best Post Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4674984 posted 6:13 pm on May 27, 2014 (gmt 0)

I don't think he needs to be that specific, ken_b.

It's pretty easy to spot the promotional messages, imho, whether algorithmically, or manually. A drop in in either location (profile links, post link drops, or signature links) will have the same pattern, and i'm pretty sure that all those that are using gmail for their work are also giving Google clues.

I'm sure it's relatively easy to devise an algorithm with a threshold that takes into account a number of factors: Anchor text, profile, positioning of the link in the post, common sense and on/off-topic comments, and the number of times that url is dropped, specifically in forums and profiles, and of course, the IP information, which some forums display. Add the gmail knowledge and you've got a whole bunch of data to be able to draw conclusions. Anything that fails the litmus test gets downgraded automatically. Anything above the neutral ph zone may get a manual investigation, imho.

Catalyst

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4674984 posted 6:14 pm on May 27, 2014 (gmt 0)

Oh good point Ken! I wondered the same thing and forgot to ask.

But I have to think he's talking all forum links?

Maybe I'm wrong but going over to ask now.

Catalyst

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4674984 posted 6:18 pm on May 27, 2014 (gmt 0)

I hear you Engine, but I don't really trust the Google algo to always make the right decision.

I worry that the algo may classify a prolific, passionate poster that has tons of posts at a forum, as a spammer too - just due to the number of posts all with a sig link auto attached by the forum software.

JD_Toims

WebmasterWorld Senior Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4674984 posted 6:21 pm on May 27, 2014 (gmt 0)

Link drops in forums is considered spam by Google and will get the site dropped penalised. There's no advantage any longer.

Sure there is, as long as the links you drop aren't to your site ;)

engine

WebmasterWorld Administrator engine us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month Best Post Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4674984 posted 6:26 pm on May 27, 2014 (gmt 0)

Catalyst, you're right, it's not perfect, and we should all be aware of that.

JD_Toims makes a good point as a reminder, too.

Catalyst

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4674984 posted 6:29 pm on May 27, 2014 (gmt 0)

"Sure there is, as long as the links you drop aren't to your site"

Good point JD_Toims and on some forums I may just switch from my site link to my G+ Profile.

Let Google ding itself instead of my site. :-)

Brett_Tabke

WebmasterWorld Administrator brett_tabke us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4674984 posted 8:41 pm on May 27, 2014 (gmt 0)

An Open Letter To Google:


Dear Google;

Bullshit.

Sincerely,
-Brett Tabke


netmeg

WebmasterWorld Senior Member netmeg us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4674984 posted 8:45 pm on May 27, 2014 (gmt 0)

I put a link in my profile and I don't use any anchor text except for the link itself, and so far it hasn't been an issue.

Catalyst

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4674984 posted 8:52 pm on May 27, 2014 (gmt 0)

LOL Brett!

I'm with you on that!

kokopoko

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4674984 posted 8:55 pm on May 27, 2014 (gmt 0)

We hundreds of links from niche forums from people posting a link to an item for sale on our site. WTH Google.

Catalyst

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4674984 posted 9:03 pm on May 27, 2014 (gmt 0)

@nutmeg, you are right now that I think about it. On lots of forums the forum software just has you add link to site and there is no anchor text, so that's probably fine.

As a forum user I'm still worried about sig links though and I asked John to clarify if he was only talking profile links or sig links too.

As a forum owner I'm paranoid now about everything now.

My main forum has every type of spam filter under the sun and is heavily moderated - so we never get spam. Plus I personally verify that everyone is 'real' and is in the local search industry. So I'm not too worried about junk profiles and bogus link drops.

But we still have tons of valid, legit sig links, profile links and links to industry news. I've never done a lick of SEO for that forum and yet we rank #1.

I'd hate to have it unfairly penalized because an algo thinks legit links are spam, just because it's an active forum.

I'm sure Brett has some of the same concerns although this forum does not allow sigs or outbound links except to authority sites, so the issues are reduced here. But my forum is all about networking and sharing helpful posts and tips and there are a lot of legit links posted many times per day.

Atomic

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4674984 posted 9:18 pm on May 27, 2014 (gmt 0)

I have a small site that has links coming to it from about three domains. Two of those domains provide a single IBL. The other domain provides thousands of links places in my forum sig. The result: PR 4 and really good traffic and rankings considering.

martinibuster

WebmasterWorld Administrator martinibuster us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4674984 posted 9:35 pm on May 27, 2014 (gmt 0)

Forum links are genuine citations
Forum members liberally create link citations to sites 24/7 for many good reasons.

Forum links are citations I tend to trust
It's the ultimate quality citation when a forum member posts a link to a commercial site as a source for a particular product or service that they use and vouch for. I trust the word of an established forum member who has used and recommends a product over a blogged review by a stranger. It's one of the few citation contexts that are trustworthy. I would be unhappy if my favorite forums started discouraging links to favorite products.

Not bullshit
It's nothing for Google to analyze sites within a niche and establish a baseline for normal inbound link patterns from forums. The Google engineers were talking about this way back at Pubcon New Orleans 2005, nearly ten years ago. It was a bombshell nine years ago. Why is anyone surprised at this now?

If there is a pattern of forum links to businesses within a specific niche then that becomes the baseline for normal. Any patterns outside of that baseline are spam. I don't think it's bullshit. Google can do it. I know of major brands who have been hit for penalties because their well known "white hat" SEO agency outsourced the link building to someone else who then outsourced it to spammers.

Clearly there are certain niches that are abnormal. I'm not talking about those.

Will Google start identifying and banning forum links?
This is where the bullshit factor comes in. John Mueller said that forum spam can be taken into account. He didn't say it will be. So that can be a warning of something that can but won't necessarily happen. It could be scare tactics.

But it could also be that Google is warning businesses before Google starts taking action at some point in the future. Personally I believe they'll do it. You know why? Because Google has already been doing it here and there.

[edited by: martinibuster at 10:06 pm (utc) on May 27, 2014]

lucy24

WebmasterWorld Senior Member lucy24 us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4674984 posted 9:46 pm on May 27, 2014 (gmt 0)

wtf? So what am I supposed to do when I need to post a screenshot-- find some third-party image-hosting site that may disappear next year? register an extra domain purely to host any images?

And how the ### are you supposed to nofollow a profile or signature link when it isn't even your own forum? Those links are for the benefit of humans; they're people who know me and want to see what I'm about. I should delete them just to save a search engine the bother of figuring out which links are built-in (which is not fantastically difficult if the forum uses something ubiquitous like php/bb)?

###.

Incidentally, it was a nasty jolt to learn that WebmasterWorld's profile page is indexed. I'd always assumed it was private. The individual page it points to is noindexed, though, so what more do they want?

[edited by: aakk9999 at 11:12 pm (utc) on May 27, 2014]
[edit reason] Spelling at poster's request [/edit]

jay5r

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4674984 posted 10:15 pm on May 27, 2014 (gmt 0)

Gotta say this strikes me as completely lame. Basically Google is saying they can't figure out what's spam and what's not spam, so they're going to consider them all as spam.

Links are part of the culture of forums. It's not Google's place to try to change that culture. They need to put in the work to figure out what's legit and what's not.

Atomic

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4674984 posted 11:15 pm on May 27, 2014 (gmt 0)

Basically Google is saying they can't figure out what's spam and what's not spam

Hasn't this been clear since we started submitting link disavow files? Every time I submit one I feel that I should be able to go to linked In and add "Link evaluator for Google" into my job history.

Dymero



 
Msg#: 4674984 posted 11:19 pm on May 27, 2014 (gmt 0)

I was an admin at a decently sized forum for several years back in the 00's. We had some issues with overly promotional signature link spam, but I can't recall having a lot of issues with odd anchor text, and this is the time period considered to be the "wild west" of SEO.

Granted, I knew nothing about SEO at the time, so maybe I just wasn't recognizing some of the anchor text for what it was. Still, if there was exact-match anchor text and I didn't think it overly promotional, I just didn't see a problem.

gmb21



 
Msg#: 4674984 posted 11:50 pm on May 27, 2014 (gmt 0)

How does Google know who posted the link?

I was hit by Penguin in 2012, although I have never bought a link or done anything that I know of that is "spammy".

A few months ago, after more-or-less giving up on my site since 2012, I decided to try to find and analyse my back links. I was stunned to discover that someone had posted junky, broken English comments on several different blogs with their username linking back to a page on my site! (Different blogs and different usernames, but they all pointed back to exactly the same page on my website.)

I never thought anything like this would happen to me as my site is fairly obscure, doesn't get very much traffic, and is not in a highly competitive niche.

So now forum links can be added to the ways available to bring down a competitor. Things like this make me feel helpless. I simply don't have the time (or the know-how) to track down and monitor every back link, so I am at the mercy of Google and whoever decides they would like to devalue my website. :(

dethfire

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4674984 posted 11:58 pm on May 27, 2014 (gmt 0)

I agree it has to be almost impossible for Google to be efficient with this rule. Everyone can spot a forum spam post. I can even trust that Google can detect that with precision.

My problem is when Google uses vague terms like "link drop". wtf exactly does link drop mean? Google ends up spooking everyone into a hysteria and it breaks the web. I seriously can't post a link to my site on another forum even if it's a great resource? It's complete and udder baloney. Big brother Google.

dethfire

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4674984 posted 12:00 am on May 28, 2014 (gmt 0)

gmb21, I'm with you. Negative SEO is a real and damaging thing. It's crazy that we get penalized for what spammers do.

Catalyst

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4674984 posted 12:16 am on May 28, 2014 (gmt 0)

I linked out (haha) from the G forum to the post here in hopes John would see all the comments here.

And I quoted jay5r's comment about links being part of the culture of forums.

Robert Charlton

WebmasterWorld Administrator robert_charlton us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4674984 posted 12:37 am on May 28, 2014 (gmt 0)

I linked out (haha) from the G forum to the post here in hopes John would see all the comments here.

We may be called upon to disavow that link someday. I hope Google doesn't charge much to remove it. ;)

kenroar

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4674984 posted 12:39 am on May 28, 2014 (gmt 0)

Let me guess, Google is considering links in social media to be spam now too. If so, why even use social media with our websites?

JD_Toims

WebmasterWorld Senior Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4674984 posted 1:38 am on May 28, 2014 (gmt 0)

Dear Google;

Bull#*$!.

Sincerely,
-Brett Tabke

I doubt what I [and it seems many of us] think about things like this could have been said any better.

Totally unbelievable they'd open up another hole in the algo/rankings like this for people who choose to engage in negative SEO to take advantage of -- It doesn't make their results any better to not only have, but announce another way for quality sites to be tanked by competitors either manually or algorithmically, imo -- Sometimes I wish I didn't have ethics :/

JD_Toims

WebmasterWorld Senior Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4674984 posted 2:04 am on May 28, 2014 (gmt 0)

We may be called upon to disavow that link someday. I hope Google doesn't charge much to remove it. ;)

LMFAO!

Roaming Gnome



 
Msg#: 4674984 posted 3:02 am on May 28, 2014 (gmt 0)

So now Im a spammer because I have my website linked in my signature?

Holy crap.

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