Links and the Walled Garden Approach to Forum Management

Thread Title:
Dissapointed about Removal of Live Links
Thread Description:

Here's a good one for your weekend thoughts:

  • SEOChat have disabled live links in posts. Randfish kicks the complaint thread off and seochatters express their displeasure or approval.
  • Searchenginewatch have an ongoing poll on the very same subject.
  • Webmasterworld members are scared half the death of even mentioning an outside source.
  • Crea8asite have made their outgoing links search engine unfriendly rendering them less prone to abuse.

So, what is it with all this? On one hand I can understand that live links in an forum environment present some unique challenges for board administrators when the membership is primarily made up of newbie search marketers but on the other, why run a forum if you aren't prepared to put the work in?

Since I started TW and actively got out and about a lot more in order to find good stuff to post here, a few observations that in retrospect seem obvious have come very much to the fore.

  • Client trolling forums dont care either way about links.
  • Some forums appear to resent the time and effort it takes to run one
  • Some guard their borders so tightly you cant help but pitty the mentality
  • Forum members in a very general sense often appear to not realize there is a world outside of the garden
  • I was once one of those people
  • There are many people that would call themselves a professional search marketer that think links from their forum posts are very, very important
  • I think those people need to re-work their promotional strategies

Open for general debate...


I think you have to look at t

I think you have to look at the context: if a forum in the past had a lot of people dropping links just for link pop then I think it perfectly okay to run links through a frame or redirect to make it SE unfriendly but still clickable. The people dropping links just for PR were in effect taking time away from legit posters that really needed help.

The links are still there and still clickable, in many ways going with a redirect means a lot of links that are borderline are allowed to remain where they otherwise might have been deleted of made unclickable. I'm not sure that is a walled garden at all.

One reason why you see so little comment spam on blogs is that comments run through a redirect - no PR.

I presume that on SC...

... being quite an open SEO forum, the fact that people get PR from their blatant live links is not so much the problem. It's the fact that the openness attracts lots of noise-makers, which in turn obscure the "regular stuff".

It's bound to tick people off, especially since SC is quite large: a daily visit can render up to 100 "new posts" :) Too much for most to handle. This new rule COULD control things a bit... wonder if it will...

Imagine that we'd all have one or two blatant links in our posts, what would your wife say about that, Nick?

P.S.: I got my new site indexed from forums posts and ~ profiles. So, I can't blame others for trying... ;)


I do agree that if you have to do it, a redirect would be favorable over a dead link or no link at all.

I do wonder why some places let it get so bad that have had to implement drastic measures to combat it. To me it just seems like poor commitment to the job..


I'd prefer the C8S approach... provided it's made clear to potential spammers. (And provided they get the point)

It's not such a big deal

At the HRF, we allow posters to link to relevant sites after 20 posts (when they are an active member.) The point being relevant.

It does take some active moderation to keep forum spammers in line, but they don't hang around long once they realize it isn't going to work.

I like having the ability to have useful links spiderable and clickable- if they aren't useful links, you don't need to click them anyway, right?

I have a real issue with reading forums where the thread is interrupted by people looking for a reason to post a link to their site. Everytime they mention themselves, they link to their site. Every point they make is a link to an article they wrote... it just doesn't have a lot of credibility to me and it's noise that drives people away, IMO.

Bad Neighborhoods and Redirected URLs

There's another reason for the redirects at Cre8asite that hasn't been mentioned in this thread, so I'll add it so that it can be considered, too.

Google's practices involving bad neighborhoods was one of the reasons why we implemented redirects.

We wanted people to be able to post a link to their sites if they had been penalized or banned for being in a bad neighborhood, and wanted advice or suggestions on how to remove the penalty.

We didn't want to be placed by Google into one of those bad neighborhoods ourselves by having those links. That would keep us from being found by people who wanted help.


Forum staff - admins and moderators - in my opinion, are supposed to be present on a regular basis at their forums, with the ability to deal with such matters.

If a forum feels that it's staff cannot even deal with issues of "spam" link and signatures, etc, then really such forums should entirely rethink their staff lists and practices.

The only justifiable reason I can see for any moderated forum crippling outbound links is to hog-PageRank.

HR (as with WHT and my own) has the right policy, IMO - you disallow the ability to post links untill x posts is achieved, then simply put faith in your forum staff that they are experienced or educated enough to spot when links are dropped entirely for advertising puproses - and then deal with them appropriately.

SG uses a non-spiderable redi

SG uses a non-spiderable redirect script. Why?

Pre-script - lots of link droppers
Post-script - very few link droppers

Yes it's the moderators job to moderate but if there's a methodology that allows you to reduce *volunteers* workload without impacting on the user experience of the site then what possible reason is there not to do it? It's not about not being willing to put the work in, it's about being able to put the work into the areas that really matter: the conversations, the knowledge, the help and the environment. Disabling live links is a bad thing in my opinion but redirecting isn't. Let's put it this way - do you have a spam filter on your email? If so, why given that you know that it's eventually going to block an email you're going to need to read? I'd take a wild guess that because otherwise it would be impractical for you to focus your attention on the emails that were genuine.

Brian - to a forum big enough to have a problem with link dropping generally means that the forums has enough PR and huge enough number of pages on the site to not have any idea what their going to do with it all. Hogging PageRank!!!! Pull the other one.

Not an Effort

I'll have to say that editing links is a pretty tiny part of what I do around the forum- with only a few a day that need attention, it's just not much of an issue.

Even at IHY in it's heyday, editing "bad" links wasn't much of an issue. Doug allows links but will de-link them if they aren't relevant. Even with such an open policy regarding links, it wasn't a major headache to police them. In a year and a half, I think I maybe had to delink 6-8 links.

When at Cre8asite, we had the usual number of drive-by link spammers, but everyone gets those. I don't recall having issues like I see at some forums, where people feel the need to link repetitively to their own site. Whether or not they knew about the redirect at Cre8, I don't know. But it really wasn't a huge drain on anyone's time.

The problems happen when toads see other toads getting away with link dropping, when it's subtly encourged by allowing any and all links to remain. One guy reads a post and thinks, well, if he can link to HIS site I can certainly link to MINE... and before you know it you are wading through a bunch of posts meant to build link pop instead of a community.

The one size fits all approac

The one size fits all approach does not work. There is not only one right solution. Every forum has to find what works best for them. Every single forum is going to approach things differently to suit the owner, the staff and their audience.

Technology and programming work best when they are adapted to your needs not you adapting to the dictates of technology or a program (Google take note).

links are not always spam..

regardless of whether the links are de-linked are made spider unfriendly..

As Brad says one size does not fit all! .. it really depends on the Forum. Links out to "here's the page for reference" site can be used and abused (i.e. changed later) and even if a mod/admin then makes a judgement and decides to delink/allow it to allow a discussion to propgate, it's not going to help *anyone* (user or owner) if that page then disappears or changes, in fact it may be harder to correct after the fact (supposing they even had time to keep up with them all?)

I know I don't bother visiting certain forums if they show up on my search because I know even if the search is good, it throws up some forum sites, and that if I was to follow the link I'd be wasting MY time, because if that discussion is based on a link, it's very likely that even if the page still exists it's not the same as the original, whether it's been tweaked or used for spamming purposes is neither here nor there with me.

Are you saying we shouldnt link at all?

Is that your point Suzy?

Dead links are a fact of life, this site is only 2mts old and probably has a dozen dead links already, there's just not much you can do about that with a site that spits out content at a very fast rate like forums and blogs...

Would be a very dull place with no links no?

"to a forum big enough to hav

"to a forum big enough to have a problem with link dropping generally means that the forums has enough PR and huge enough number of pages on the site to not have any idea what their going to do with it all. Hogging PageRank!!!! Pull the other one."

A forum big enough to have a problem with link dropping can address it in various simple ways. I'm never going to buy into that the larger forums don't have the staff to deal with unwelcome links. As for PageRank hogging - 1-2 years ago it was all the rage, and *some* of the "old timers" have had a darn hard job even thinking about letting go of PageRank and the hogging of it.

I spoke to Amon in London not long ago, and both he and Grumpus maintain that it was intended to stop "bad neighbourhood" linking. Fine - but if I'm going to have to buy that, it's as an exception.

I'll be pretty incredulous if anyone's going to claim that all the bigger commercially-powered forums jump or disable live links because they are incapable of policing their own boards.

Then again, I'm a cynic. :)

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