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Old forum signature links... are they hurting me now?

     
11:16 pm on May 2, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Over the last ten or twelve years I've become an active member of many forums in my niche. As time went along, I added anchor text links to my signature on many of the forums, with the intention of getting some link juice (emphasis on "some") and also to get visitors. It works getting visitors.

At any rate, I see mentions of forum links in the Panda discussions, and wonder if my links are hurting me. I have over 200,000 links from one forum I frequent every day and where I post several times a day. Take thousands of posts and a few anchor text links, and you get to 200K pretty fast.

On other forums I have varying numbers of links (this all according to WMT).

I don't want to ditch the anchor text links if they're not hurting me, as they do bring traffic.

Has anyone been able to establish what effect if any such links have, or in such quantities?
11:35 pm on May 2, 2011 (gmt 0)

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If you don't want them I will take them off your hands :) But seriously if they have been built up over time I don't see it being an issue. Panda discussion has reached the point of hysteria, its getting blamed for everything, I heard just today that Panda got Bin Larden..
1:12 am on May 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I heard just today that Panda got Bin Larden..

LOL. Yeah, Navy Seals implemented this optimization:

<head class="binLaden">
<ul>
<li/>
</ul>
</head>

Now he's de-indexed and penalized due to some sort of anchoring issue.

Back to the OP... I've no hard data but have also wondered whether signature links could be misinterpreted. My current plan is to assume (hope) that Google can differentiate between proper participation in a well-run forum that's on-topic and the bad stuff, especially in moderated forums where bad links are regularly weeded out. If this isn't true, I'd be interested to know too.
2:56 am on May 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Some of these links have been on these forums for years. You'd think Google could figure that out but, as we've seen, Google is far from perfect.

Links that drive traffic are supposed to be good. We'll see.
7:49 am on May 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I take it this is not a forum where the pages are built completely on the fly then?

Some of those I used to frequent didn't have the pages 'set in stone', so if you removed or amended your signature that would actually affect all your existing posts.
8:42 am on May 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

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i'm always confused with forum signature links - i only run a couple of tiny ones but i don't serve signatures to Robots anyway - surely most forum operators do the same?

so good for traffic maybe but not ranking.
11:09 am on May 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

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i'm always confused with forum signature links - i only run a couple of tiny ones but i don't serve signatures to Robots anyway - surely most forum operators do the same?


A big forum for a key topic for one of my sites does serve to crawlers -- tracks in WMT.
1:38 pm on May 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Frantic Fish, the signatures are changed for all posts if the user's signature is changed in his profile. So, if I wanted to change the anchor text for a link for all of my 5,000 posts on one forum, I'd just change it in my user profile.

All of these forums use the Vbulletin forum software.

Some forums are nofollow on the links, others are follow. It doesn't really matter to me, as they do bring traffic. If they're contributing to my site being Pandalized, though, I'd look at dropping the links. However, I've seen no solid indication that signature links do or do not contribute to Panda.

BTW, Webmaster Tools is way, way off on the links. I don't have more than 5,000 links on any single forum, nor more than five or six anchor text links on any single forum. So, the highest number of links I could have would be 30,000 per forum, yet Webmaster Tools is showing 200,000 for one forum, 100,000 for another, etc. I don't know why WMT is so screwed up.
1:54 pm on May 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Dick, regarding WMT's counts being higher than expected, don't forget to account for duplication in the forums for post copies in quoted follow-ups and separate in-line vs stand-alone (for individual linking) copies of the post.
2:18 pm on May 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

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i used to enjoy traffic from forum links, but came a period when Google appeared to penalise sites with them and that was that for me,

wish i still had them
3:10 pm on May 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I dunno, one of my clients has a boatload (i.e. thousands and thousands) of backlinks from some hunting forum (completely unrelated to his niche) and I think they're signature links from one of his employees, but I can't tell for sure without taking out an account. Doesn't seem to have hurt him any. I suspect that Google knows how to deal with forum signatures by now. If it's just you participating in a forum, that's going to probably leave a different footprint than if you paid 500 people to spam the net with your site in their signature files.