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Automated Forum Profile Link Building - Does it Work?

 2:43 am on Oct 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

So someone told me about a big reason why he's on page 1 for a particular keyword after a really short period - he's getting 10,000 backlinks a month from an automated software that creates forum profiles.

Can anyone confirm or deny if forum profiles help with SEO? Thanks.



 6:23 am on Nov 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

So you need tons of moderators to fight amateurish forum profile creation. Thubms up!


 6:33 am on Nov 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

No, there are only four moderators and I do most of the spam slaughtering... We're a relatively small forum but we have very high quality traffic for our niche. This attracts a lot of local business in the countries we cover trying to sell their services to our readership. We also get a lot of shill members, especially from Hong Kong. We even had a well known hotel, a subscription TV station, and a major ISP shilling us. They were real amateurs and it was easy to trace the shilling to their office in Hong Kong. Clowns.

When I published the shilling, their IP and the names of the people that shilled us (name and shame) and subsequently that publication of their shilling started showing up in Google for searches of their name, I even got a personal apology from a senior marketing manager that assured me their practices would change. I always name and shame shillers if it's a well known local company.


 7:13 am on Nov 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

Web 2.0 sites send the URLs through a redirector, guess what, Google will crawl and index the redirected URLs.

Not if you block the redirected URLs in robots.txt and physically block bots in the redirector script itself.


 7:25 am on Nov 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

They're easy to spot and delete. Profile builders use a handful of posting patterns. They try to blend in with clever posting strategies but admins and mods with experience can see through it.

So bringing this back to the topic of discussion. Will it work, well, not all admins will catch them.

On the other hand, it doesn't seem like profile builders are rocking out the SERPs.

Yogesh Sarkar

 12:10 pm on Nov 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

It is spam and the easiest way to beat spammers who employ this stupid tactic is to not only nofollow all the profile links but also make user profiles invisible to non-logged in users i.e. including search engine bots.

Let the spammers try to inflate forum registration count as much they want, it won't really benefit them in any way!


 2:37 pm on Nov 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

I put forum spammers in the same category as hackers. One usually leads to the other too. Its all spam, all of it. If you want to go through life with the "bottom feeder" label, that's fine. Bunch of catfish!

Man, there are some really desperate people out there. Ever see what happens to a site after a surge of inbound links like this? I've seen it a couple of times and it isn't pretty. Any time you are dealing with links in bulk like this, there are spotlights on everywhere.

10,000 backlinks per month? That would be highly unnatural for many sites. That's like putting a sign on your back that reads "kick me".

The only person most likely benefiting from this would be the schmuck selling the scripts.

Added: Ya, I know what some are thinking, "if that were the case, a competitor could wreak havoc on your site." Well, from my perspective, that would be the case if the circumstances were right.

Marvin Hlavac

 3:25 pm on Nov 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

Forums and blogs are popular targets for spammers. I run a forum that has a blog attached to it. The blog has the comments feature disabled and readers are encouraged to instead post to the forum.

The forum has numerous filters that attempt to automatically send to moderation queue any post that resembles spam. I'm sure I will forget some, but here are at least a few that come to mind: 1. A filter that watches for typical spam words (in posts by new members), 2. a filter that watches for links (posted by new members), 3. a filter that watches new registrations from geographical areas known for high rate of spam, 4. a filter that uses a 3rd-party database of known spammers, 5. a filter that distinguishes registration attempts done by humans and robots, and it blocks the robots from registering, etc, etc, etc.

Member profiles on the forum are not visible to guests and search engines. They are visible only to logged in members.


 3:58 pm on Nov 7, 2010 (gmt 0)

Another good way of slowing down these forum spammers is, if applicable to your forum, disable registration from certain countries. Blocking all of Asia, Brazil, Russia and several other countries where spam is likely to originate cut down the amount of spam and fake profiles we get by a lot.

You don't need to be a pro to recognize fake profiles, you just need to know your forum membership.


 7:45 am on Nov 8, 2010 (gmt 0)

See it as a chance to introduce your site to a large audience. I will get the 100k profile package, it's only $49.95 ;) But I'm still unsure if I will be using it on my own or a competitors site ;)


 9:01 am on Nov 8, 2010 (gmt 0)

Don't use xrumer. It'll get you in trouble in the long run. However, I do still wonder whether it's a viable strategy to kill your competition >:)


 5:04 pm on Nov 8, 2010 (gmt 0)

Profiles on my forum are invisible to guests/bots and send a 404 header... for precisely this reason i.e. f###*rs that attempt to waste my resources and water down my quality website by creating fake registrations and try to ride on the coat tails of my hard work.

Profiles can sometimes be a good source of traffic (if you've got members who are well known in the industry).

What works very well for the forum in my profile is blocking new members from editing their profiles till they've made a certain number of posts and have been around for a specific amount of time. Some idiots create their profile and keep coming back to edit it later, but find that they never get editing privileges. And they keep coming back again and again, he he. I feel terrible for wasting their time :)

Since it's difficult to get post count (we have a very high anti-fluff threshold), these spammers end up never getting access to their profiles. Periodically, I delete all zero post accounts.


 5:16 pm on Nov 8, 2010 (gmt 0)

@johnnie, xrumer is fine and can be very effective. you just can't blast it too aggressively. using filter sites as protection can also be good.


 7:04 pm on Nov 8, 2010 (gmt 0)

Your custom forum software is not being targeted here. It's forum software that leaves footprints and is "vulnerable".

It's why you'll see forums that have 25,000 members and only 118 posts. The accounts aren't set up for posting - just getting the profile page indexed and sending out linkjuice.


 12:50 am on Nov 9, 2010 (gmt 0)

No way this still works. At least not if you get 10 000 backlinks quickly, the spike will trigger all the spam-alarm bells for Google. Also, this is a well know spaming technique, it's been around for at least 5 years, so it's definitely a spam signal built in the SE algorithm. Don't do this, don't pay for this, unless you're a spammer. And I hate spammers.


 5:13 am on Nov 9, 2010 (gmt 0)

Yea, we locked down all link benefits to registering for our forums ages ago. You have to become a contributing member, and it takes a while to earn that trust.

Yeah, I do that also for my forums.

Speaking of forum profile (and blog comments), I did a test a week ago:
- registers a new domain (.com) with 2 words, cost $7.66.
- create index page with description for my new domain for near future development.
- create a profile & signature in my owned two high traffic forums.
- submit a couple of on topic comments in my owned blog (other domain)
- sit tight, let the feeds do the magic.

A couple of days later, when I do a search in goog .com, my new site already in position #8 for ten mill. results.

With $7.66 cost and little extra works, the result is priceless.


 5:22 am on Nov 9, 2010 (gmt 0)

Good to mention StopForumSpam [stopforumspam.com] here, I think.

The technique mentioned is well-recognised as an alternative method to SPAM. I report to SFS & remove several such accounts every day. A wonderful feeling: each one removed means yet another spammer auto-banned at thousands of other sites.


 7:20 am on Nov 9, 2010 (gmt 0)

stopforumspam.com may be good but Matt Cutts is better.

Think how much time he'd save webmasters if he came out and said:

"The Google algo has been updated to discount all forum profile spam."


 3:14 pm on Nov 9, 2010 (gmt 0)

>>>>like profile builders are rocking out the SERPs

Something has changed very recently. I'm seeing profile builders kill it in some very tough verticles.


 4:19 pm on Nov 9, 2010 (gmt 0)

So you need tons of moderators to fight amateurish forum profile creation. Thubms up!

If you're using phpBB by default for bots there isn't even links pointing to the profile/membership list. They'll get a 401 trying to access those pages if a link is found somewhere else.


 4:48 pm on Nov 9, 2010 (gmt 0)

Didn't know about Stopforumspam so thanks for that information. I've written a quick script which does an hourly download from Stopforumspam and automatically blocks the IPs listed in their database. Added to the arsenal of tools I already use, this should keep some more of the scumbags out.


 9:55 pm on Nov 9, 2010 (gmt 0)

does an hourly download from Stopforumspam

A very good way to get your IP banned on SFS. Try to imagine the bandwidth load if a few thousand people start to do that each day...

The rules are:
"All IPs in CSV (one line, comma seperated) - Updated once per day, limited to 3 downloads per IP per day"


 11:27 pm on Nov 9, 2010 (gmt 0)

Oops... typo. I meant daily. According to the site, I can download twice daily from it, but I only do so once per day. I was even extremely careful with the script, downloading the file ONLY on the first test run (then commenting out that part of the script on subsequent tests).


 4:56 pm on Nov 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

There's absolutely no need to build links from forum profiles except on the few related to your business. Then again you shouldn't worry about the profile's link, and more about the quality participation you're doing within your niche(on said forum).

Forum profiles barely stay indexed and if you're doing "tons" of these profiles, it's going to be easy to spot and devalue.

francie brady

 10:35 pm on Nov 12, 2010 (gmt 0)

I'd stay as far away as possible from anyone that recommends this type of activity; It's a sure recipe for disaster.

'docbird' is right, 'Sgt_Kickaxe' explains why, and 'SEOPTI' tells you how to go about things the correct way... you'd be wise to heed their advice.

Marvin Hlavac

 11:33 pm on Nov 12, 2010 (gmt 0)

'SEOPTI' tells you how to go about things the correct way

That may not be the correct way, if the forum owners are telling you your activities are not wanted.

francie brady

 1:20 am on Nov 13, 2010 (gmt 0)

You are right Marvin :-) Sorry, I was referring to this SEOPTI post:
"This is even better, create 20-30 profiles manually on PR 6-9 sites" which in my post-PubCon exhausted mind, I misunderstood as... "create 20 or 30 *posts* manually on PR 6-9 sites" which would have been nice advice ---> thanks for pointing this out Marvin.

Marvin Hlavac

 1:31 am on Nov 13, 2010 (gmt 0)

Yes, I welcome posts (on my forum), even with links to the poster's own sites, as long as the posts and the links are on topic, and helpful.


 4:16 am on Nov 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

It might just be a coincidence, but forum profile spam on our site has risen twenty-five-fold over the weeks since this thread was posted on WebmasterWorld's front page. Today alone we had 125 new spam profiles. Since 2002, there have never been such high numbers.

I think a thread like this belongs on a blackhat forum, not on WebmasterWorld.


 6:29 am on Nov 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

I think a thread like this belongs on a blackhat forum, not on WebmasterWorld.

I thoroughly disagree.

If you don't discuss it openly both sides don't know what's going on.

Would you know to look for such a problem if the conversation didn't happen on WebmasterWorld?

While some on WebmasterWorld create those BH problems, others create solutions.

The real question is "Why stop the conversation?"

Everyone learns, BH & WH alike.

It's those with their head in the sand that never learn, and they aren't on WebmasterWorld in the first place, BH or WH, and we can't help those that won't help themselves.


 10:59 am on Nov 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

profile spam on our site has risen twenty-five-fold over the weeks since this thread was posted on WebmasterWorld's front page

There are some aspects of this that are interesting on a larger scale, in addition to your personal concerns.

On October 7 all spam reported to SFS stopped virtually dead in it's tracks - an unprecedented event. I was in the process of adding Bad-Bot-Blocking [webmasterworld.com] to a previously-issued RBL + SFS report + block tool [download.modem-help.co.uk]; as part of that work, I was logging all scrape attempts on my site forums. At the same moment that spam stopped worldwide, almost all scrapes stopped on my site.

SFS [stopforumspam.com] (a registered-only forum link on SFS)
Public link [forums.modem-help.co.uk] (a public-accessible report on my site)

As best as can be confirmed, an authentication-server used by the issuer of the tool used to spam countless millions of sites went down. That remained true until Oct 11, when it came back up. Sure enough, spam reporting on SFS leapt back into life, as the monthly stats on SFS [stopforumspam.com] show. If you look at the SFS yearly graph [stopforumspam.com] (bottom of page, though I am uncertain whether you need to be registered or not to see it), after the mid-month October hiatus, reported spam has doubled in November.

I got my combined rbl, spam + scrape report + block routines working on 15 Oct (same date as the OP) and fully automatic on my site on 18 October. The initial reduction was ~95%, but a couple of weeks later was ~67%. As you can tell from the live report [forums.modem-help.co.uk], spam + scrapes are ramping up, in spite of being permanently excluded daily. In addition, I'm reporting up to 30 new spammers daily, in spite of auto-banning attempts from all known spammers, and my forums are hardly in the premier league (SFS reporting on my site is mostly manual, although the prevention is automatic, and is a separate matter from the scrape prevention/report/ban, which is fully automatic).

In conclusion, and in all seriousness, I think that you are committing the classic, Cleopatra mistake, of confusing the messenger with the agent that caused the message. It is the individual that originated & manages the software that should be the target of your abuse. Better, you might want to approach your civic authorities to ask them why they allow such activity to continue unmolested, when the evidence is that to stop the server would prevent 99.99% of forum spam worldwide. The greatest majority of those people that make use of it are unlikely to read WebmasterWorld, and most certainly do not need WebmasterWorld to know that it exists.


 10:40 pm on Nov 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

I agree with both of your points, incrediBILL & AlexK; however this thread seems to somehow legitimize the use of certain programs as a method of advertising. Until now, I had never even heard of 'Xrumer' but some people might believe that because such a well-respected site like WebmasterWorld mentions it and some members say "xrumer is fine and can be very effective", its completely legit.

I just wanted to point out that before it was mentioned here on WebmasterWorld, I'd never see such a high amount of forum spam on our forums since we started them in 2002 like I'm seeing today.

After digging around for information on 'xrumer', I came to the conclusion that it's a very popular program among blackhats, mostly people who wish destroy the open and democratic nature of the web and social communities just to make a quick buck (usually) trying to scam people.

On actual forum spam posts, we've seen a pretty sizeable decline, mainly because its so difficult now to get past some filters I've created, along with some anti-spam services; posting is also banned from much of the third world now.

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